Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What patriots do

Glenn Greenwald's new book is #1 at Amazon - after one day, with no marketing or PR blitz, for a book that hasn't even been released yet. If nothing else, here is powerful evidence that the blogosphere is a force to be reckoned with. New voices are forcing their way into what used to be a closed media system and changing the terms of political debate. New arguments get a hearing outside of DC's airless pundit pool and come back sharper than they went out. Online citizens - as a group wealthy, well-educated, mature, and voraciously well-informed - are furious at the state of their government and appalled at the lapses of the fourth estate. And now they can do something about it.

But Greenwald, thrilled and grateful at the response, hopes for even bigger impact. He wants his book to start at long last (and have you no decency, sirs, at long last?) a nationwide debate on this administration's radical theories of executive power, theories that are well on their way to changing our nation forever. Whatever you think of this president and his policies, change of this scope deserves full, measured hearing and debate. Which we're not getting.

Says Greenwald:

Americans are instilled from an early age with a commitment to our political values and liberties, even if it buried by other distractions and life concerns, but that deeply felt commitment has been triggered and galvanized to great effect many times before in our history, and can be again. If the media fails to perform its central function to serve as a watchdog over the government and to ensure that citizens are informed about what the government is really doing -- and it has been failing in that function, dreadfully -- citizens who are committed to defending the principles of our country will find other ways -- will create other ways -- for that to happen.

(Emphasis mine.) So read Digby's powerful endorsement and if you can spare $12, pre-order a copy of this book. Share it with politicians and other activists. Be ready to defend our constitution and American values. It's what patriots do.

P.S. Bloggers, we need to thank Tom Allen for doing the right thing on today's internet vote.
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Monday, April 24, 2006

Chicken-stealing dogs

Illinois and California legislatures are calling for impeachment, using an obscure Jeffersonian rule that empowers state legislatures to initiate proceedings by joint resolution. If either succeeds, the measure will arrive at the House as a "highly privileged motion" on which they are obligated to act.

We're talking four high crimes & misdeanors and one felony:

WHEREAS, President Bush has publicly admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to violate provisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony, specifically authorizing the Agency to spy on American citizens without warrant; and

WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that President Bush authorized violation of the Torture Convention of the Geneva Conventions, a treaty regarded a supreme law by the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, The Bush Administration has held American citizens and citizens of other nations as prisoners of war without charge or trial; and

WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration has manipulated intelligence for the purpose of initiating a war against the sovereign nation of Iraq, resulting in the deaths of large numbers of Iraqi civilians and causing the United States to incur loss of life, diminished security and billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses; and

WHEREAS, The Bush Administration leaked classified national secrets to further a political agenda, exposing an unknown number of covert U. S. intelligence agents to potential harm and retribution while simultaneously refusing to investigate the matter....
Whereupon the House will take it up, refer it to the Judiciary Committee, and vote no along party lines, right?

Whereupon we will have forced them to defend the indefensible, kept the scandals alive throughout the campaign season, highlighted the venality of the Republican rubberstamp Congress, and nationalized the midterm elections.

It's called tying a dead chicken around the neck of a chicken-stealing dog. Let Senator Snowe and her compliant fellow Republicans wear the stench of this administration with them wherever they go. May they have trouble sleeping. May they sicken themselves and quit.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It's hard to be gay in Lodgepole, Nebraska

Completely fascinating set of maps on America's religious distribution, with links, over at Kos. Author Devilstower sums it up: "One thing's for sure, if a religious shooting war ever starts in this country, I'm staying the heck out of Nebraska."

Interesting that so much of the country, Maine included, is "default Catholic" blue. My own denomination, Protestant Episcopal, is too small at 2 million to show up on the big map. (There are more Muslims in the U.S. than Episcopalians.) But if you want to live in an enclave where they dominate, you can choose from several counties in - I find this astounding - South Dakota or Alaska!

I think Devilstower has offered us sound advice on Nebraska. We had family members - nondenominational variety - take up residence there for job reasons and they didn't last a year. Aside from the freight trains running through town every 3 minutes and the astonishing flatness and the Christ-and-football culture, they couldn't hack being asked "What church do you belong to?" by every passerby.

Note: The title of this post is from the song "Cornhusker Refugee" by the Austin Lounge Lizards. They're the same group who brought us "Jesus Loves Me But He Can't Stand You."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's official: we need help

Robert Jensen reads the DSM-IV and draws the only possible conclusion - the United States is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder:
  1. a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. believes he or she is special and unique.
  4. requires excessive admiration.
  5. sense of entitlement.
  6. interpersonally exploitative, taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  7. lacks empathy.
  8. often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Online and outraged

The Washington Post has a piece of schlock journalism up today on Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing, portraying her work and by extension that of the whole lefty blogosphere as a faintly amusing and ineffectual out-of-control ragefest. Now, MSOC is not my favorite blogger, and God knows I indulge in swearing and ranting on, ahem, a few occasions. Also I am willing to concede that I, personally, am largely ineffectual. But as Jeffrey Feldman points out, what is so amusing about hundreds of thousands of American citizens gathering every day for no pay to discuss politics, social issues, and change? And where exists the editor who would read a submission like this, red-ink the Karl Rove talking points, and send it back for a responsible rewrite?

Not at the Washington Post. And where was the examination of what the community has achieved?

Not at the Washington Post. Here's my letter to (sigh) Deborah Howell:

Dear Ms. Howell:

I’m a member of the liberal blogosphere and I’m not a caricature. So are hundreds of thousands of other American citizens. Yet today David Finkel has scribbled a cartoon sketch of one member of my community, Maryscott O’Connor, and served it up as if it were a meaningful portrait of her and by extension our whole community (“The Left, Online and Outraged,” April 15, 2006).

Yes, we’re angry; there’s a lot to be angry about. But there is a great deal more purpose to the work of Miss O’Connor and the liberal blogosphere than anger, swearing, and ranting. “Ineffectual” is not the term a thoughtful journalist would use to describe this new phenomenon in American politics. In a recent essay, Bill McKibben – a thoughtful journalist if ever there was one – credited the liberal blogosphere with helping to revive the Democratic party. “In my view,” he said, “nothing more interesting has happened in American politics in many years” (“The Hope of the Web,” New York Review of Books, April 27, 2006).

A short list of what this community does on a daily basis:

  • Obsess over strategies for defeating Republicans
  • Raise money for favored politicians
  • Rethink and debate issue positions
  • Harass lazy or ideologically biased journalists and commentators
  • Break stories missed by the mainstream press
  • Link people and organizations to share ideas and tactics
  • Organize supporters and volunteers for meetings, projects, and actions
  • Channel the energy of legions of interested citizens formerly frozen out of the political process (those of us who aren’t pols, pundits, journalists, big donors, issue advocates, or gravy train consultants)
  • Stake out new political territory for the Democratic party and help shake the grip of big money.
It’s not an insubstantial list. The community and Miss O’Connor deserve more thoughtful treatment than your cartoon portrait today.
You can add your two cents at or 202-334-7582. I'm off to think up another swearing, ineffectual rant.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The military speaks out

The New York Times has the goods today (hat tip Americablog). Here's the full list of generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation so far:
  • Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who had troops on the ground in Iraq through 2004.
  • Retired two-star Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq and turned down the no. 2 military job in Iraq rather than work under Rumsfeld.
  • Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of the U.S. Central Command under Clinton.
  • Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who oversaw training of Iraqi forces.
  • Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He now regrets that he and others did not speak out more forcefully: "When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction."
  • Ret. three-star Army Gen. John Riggs, a 39-year veteran who led the Army's 21st century transformation task force and was demoted and cashiered in 2005 following two infractions so minor they were not even placed in his service record. Riggs had clashed repeatedly with Rumsfeld about overstretching the military.
And for good measure let's throw in some other ex-military personnel in a position to offer pointed criticism, even if they are not calling directly for Rumsfeld's ouster:
  • Former Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who was forced out of his job by Rumsfeld in 2003. Said White, "Rumsfeld has been contemptuous of the views of senior military officers since the day he walked in as secretary of defense."
  • Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who retired in 2003 following a heated dispute with Rumsfeld over the proper troop strength needed for the invasion force.
  • Former Marine Capt. Christopher Sheppard, a "true believer" who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a combat engineer. Said Sheppard, "I now know I wrongfully placed my faith and trust in a presidential administration hopelessly mired in incompetence, hubris and a lack of accountability.... I will never trust any of them again."
On Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters, "The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation's history."

Heckuva job, Rummy.

UPDATE: Digby has written a fascinating analysis in which he posits that the generals are speaking out to stop an Iran invasion, and says we are witnessing a "coup by media."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Field & Stream

The nation's ninth butchest magazine attacks the Bush Administration for its environmental record.

Why do they hate America?

Count 'em: one, two, three, four generals now calling for Rumsfeld to resign.
  1. Retired two-star Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq
  2. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of the U.S. Central Command
  3. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who oversaw training of Iraqi forces
  4. Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tsk, tsk. Emboldening the enemy and practically committing treason in broad daylight, just like Newt Gingrich.

UPDATE: Whoops, make that five, or possibly six generals....

Monday, April 10, 2006

We are America

Aravosis has very moving photos from today's massive immigration march in DC.

Book review

Shorter Kevin Phillips: The Republican party is the party of oil, fundamentalism, and debt.

Every time I think of those guys I still get ticked off

I love MyDD. They're so clear-headed, über-geeky, and tactical. And now Chris Bowers has come through again with a distillation of the precise difference between Democrats and Republicans. In case you were wondering, it boils down to different House voting majorities on exactly 28 issues, from stem cell research, immigration, trade, energy policy, civil liberties, and tax cuts to the budget itself.

These data will be useful in building a Democratic voting majority (as distinct from a governing majority) on important pieces of legislation. And they also highlight some past progressive follies: as Bowers says (though in much more
clear-headed, über-geeky, and tactical words), "Fuck you, Nader supporters."

Presidentin' is hard work

Martini Republic reports that Bush flunked another oral exam in international relations:

Q: Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that very much. I wasn’t kidding — (laughter.) I was going to — I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I’ve got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation — I don’t mean to be dodging the question, although it’s kind of convenient in this case, but never — (laughter.) I really will — I’m going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That’s how I work. I’m — thanks.

No, thank you, Mr. President.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The emperor has no clothes

Harry Taylor, American hero:
“‘I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration,’ Taylor said, standing in a balcony seat and looking down at Bush on stage. ‘And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself.’”

UPDATE: Compare the photo at left with this famous Rockwell print illustrating freedom of speech. And you can thank Mr. Taylor personally here.
UPDATE II: Scrolling through the thank yous, I came across this beautiful statement:
Mr. Taylor, thank you for speaking truth to power with grace and dignity. The shame you describe is so painful to people like you and me who love this country.
Some years ago I read a quote to the effect that Republicans love America like a child loves a parent -- they think everything it does must by definition be perfect -- whereas Democrats love America the way adults love one another -- in a serious, reflective way, such that we are not blind to flaws and want to help our loved one do better when they make mistakes. You have expressed this grown-up love of country in a way that brings me near tears, because I share your shame and fear with respect to our country and leadership at this time, and it is a terribly painful thing.
I hope your public statement can be a small step toward some healing for our beloved country. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Operation Yellow Elephant

New and improved, with bingo cards. Take to your nearest college Republican rally.

How to tell when a law is unconstitutional

Glenn Greenwald deconstructs Orrin Hatch on FISA:

(1) The Congress has the right to restrict the President's eavesdropping activities, and to make certain eavesdropping activities a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

(2) Therefore, Hatch votes several times for FISA.

(3) Every President since then complies with the law -- including President Reagan and Bush 41 during the height of the Cold War - and no Administration or member of Congress challenge its constitutionality.

(4) George Bush gets caught violating FISA by engaging in the precise eavesdropping which FISA criminalizes.

(5) Hatch says that the Leader did nothing wrong because the law which the Leader violated -- the same one Hatch voted to enact and to amend repeatedly -- is unconstitutional.

I trust that clears it up for you. If Bush violates a law, then by definition it becomes unconstitutional.

Happy reading

The Koufax winners:
Congratulations, and thanks again to Maine's own Wampum for all the time, effort, and money they put into hosting the awards.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Caught red handed

MoveOn is raising money to show a new series of ads. They're simple, memorable, semiotically loaded, and pack an emotional wallop. In other words, not like any other Democratic ad you've ever seen....

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Unspinning the war

This is pretty stunning - Gen. Zinni on Meet the Press:

I saw the - what this town is known for, spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses or shading the context. We know the mushroom clouds and the other things that were all described that the media has covered well. I saw on the ground a sort of walking away from 10 years’ worth of planning. You know, ever since the end of the first Gulf War, there’s been planning by serious officers and planners and others, and policies put in place - 10 years' worth of planning were thrown away. Troop levels dismissed out of hand. Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion.

The lack of cohesive approach to how we deal with the aftermath, the political, economic, social reconstruction of a nation, which is no small task. A belief in these exiles that anyone in the region, anyone that had any knowledge, would tell you were not credible on the ground. And on and on and on, decisions to disband the army that were not in the initial plans. There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the Secretary of State say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here. Don’t blame the troops. They’ve been magnificent. If anything saves us, it will be them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Remember when

Selections from another email making the rounds:

REMEMBER WHEN you displayed your flag on the front porch on the 4th of July, and you didn’t have to worry about whether it would be misinterpreted as support for a corrupt president and his administration?

REMEMBER WHEN ‘Support the Troops’ meant equipping our military with everything necessary for battle, instead of just being a catchy phrase that looked good on a bumper-sticker?

REMEMBER WHEN your tax dollars paid for things like improved education and social programs, instead of making Halliburton shareholders millionaires?

REMEMBER WHEN you watched movies about WWII, and it was the enemy who tortured captured American soldiers, instead of American soldiers torturing the people they’d allegedly ‘liberated’?

REMEMBER WHEN the president upheld the law of the land, instead of coming up with ‘legal loopholes’ to support the idea that he’s above the law?

REMEMBER WHEN your parents worked all their lives to ensure you a better life, instead of worrying about how bad the life they’d be leaving their children might be?

REMEMBER WHEN ‘patriotism’ was judged by your words and actions, and not by whether you were a member of the party currently in power?