Filtered news 8/19

82nd Airborne blasts Bush Today, champions of the Bush administration's Iraq policy suffered another indignity with a from seven infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division, who will soon be returning home frustrated and jaded. Joe Klein the troops' piece "puts to shame -- and shame is the appropriate word -- all the Kristol, McCain, Lieberman, Pollack and O'Hanlon etc etc cheerleading of the past two months." I think that's exactly right. From the op-ed:

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. [...]

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side. [...]

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.

, but keep a couple of things in mind. First, these seven members of the 82nd Airborne are showing courage on the battlefield, but they're also showing political courage in writing this piece while serving on active duty. This isn't an op-ed that is going to be well received at the White House, so kudos to all of them.

Second, like , I can't help but wonder how the right will respond to something like this. I suppose there will be a temptation to kick the Smear Machine into high gear, but it's probably more likely that conservatives will simply pretend the op-ed doesn't exist. It would be far easier than challenging the piece's conclusions.

Obama's H.S. basketball days

Holy crap An evangelical group promoted by the Pentagon to “entertain the troops” has available. Reverend Wiley Drake, former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention (yeah.) against church/state separation advocates . Wiley mentions that his followers should pray for God to “smite” the AU folks. Punchline: Drake was challenged by AU for using church letterhead to endorse Mike Huckabee. I was having a hard time holding back the laughs before, and then to Drake.

World's worst person Melanie Morgan has been on a ">rampage of hate and fear mongering this week and we’re not about to let her get away with it — and neither is Keith Olbermann. Keith calls her out for her hateful, violent threats toward Vote Vets’ Jon Soltz referring to this comment: (3555) | (4868) (1380) | (2798) (thanks to Scare for the video) “(Soltz is a) hypocritical cockroach. He needs to be stomped on and neutralized…”

Via : (h/t Gregory)

Plumbers are notorious for excessive bills. But none has come even remotely close to matching an extravagant claim by a South Carolina firm: almost $1m (£500,000) for two metal washers worth 19c each.

Charlene Corley, 47, co-owner of the plumbing and electrical firm C&D Distributors, who supplied parts to the military, is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty yesterday to defrauding the Pentagon. She faces 20 years in jail.

The most expensive washers in history were part of $20.5m the company stole from the Pentagon over the last 10 years. The company shipped plumbing and electrical parts to US bases round the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spies like them Walter Pincus in the Washington Post reports the Defense Intelligence Agency on contractors outside the U.S. to do its dirty work. What work? Collecting and analyzing intelligence information. Can you say data-mining? That's my interpretation.

How soon they forget National Review's Victor Davis Hanson is by the criticism of the war in Iraq from congressional Democrats. ()

[I]t is hard to recall of any war in our history -- the Vietnam hysteria aside -- that a sitting Senate majority leader declared it lost in the middle of hostilities. We have not previously witnessed senior opposition senators alleging that their own American servicemen were analogous to Nazis, Stalinists, Cambodian mass murders, Saddam's Baathist killers, or engaging in habitual terrorizing and killing of innocent civilians.

Now, I suspect Hanson is taking a few liberties when he suggests senior Senate Dems have said U.S. troops are comparable to Nazis, but Hanson may be surprised to go back and look at what senior congressional Republicans were saying as recently as 1999 when then-President Clinton sent American servicemen into Kosovo.

William Saletan one specific weekend in May 1999.

Every time the United States goes into battle, anti-war activists blame the causes and casualties of the conflict on the U.S. government. They excuse the enemy regime's aggression and insist that it can be trusted to negotiate and honor a fair resolution. While doing everything they can to hamstring the American administration's ability to wage the war, they argue that the war can never be won, that the administration's claims to the contrary are lies, and that the United States should trim its absurd demands and bug out with whatever face-saving deal it can get. In past wars, Republicans accused these domestic opponents of sabotaging American morale and aiding the enemy. But in this war, Republicans aren't bashing the anti-war movement. They're leading it.

Specifically, Saletan comments from then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, then-Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma, and then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, who, over the course of a few days, said Milosevic's atrocities are America's fault; the failure of diplomacy to avert the war is America's fault; Congress should oppose the war while troops are in harm's way; Congress should micromanage war policy instead of the Commander in Chief; and the mission is doomed to failure. If memory serves, Dems didn't question their patriotism, label them "traitors," accuse them of undermining the military, or condemn them for aiding and abetting the enemy.

I have a hunch Hanson's forgotten about the whole period of time. Come to think of it, current congressional Republicans probably have, too.

Hillary's boobs and Dubya's boots What do you think would have happened if Hillary Clinton had publicly objected when the Washington Post talked at length about her showing a fraction of an inch of cleavage? It probably would have been seen to reflect poorly on her in some way, right? Well, Bush apparently can't take even a tiny little hit to his fashion sense - he had Dana Perino call the author of a piece on his Crawford-wear to complain. Steve Benen at and have a few thoughts. Benen:

Indeed, if we take the White House pitch at face value, Bush is a tough guy, hardened by war, and unconcerned about pettiness -- unless the Austin American-Statesman says something vaguely derogatory about his clothes?

Being Repulican means never saying you're sorry This time it's Bill Sali, Idaho's first congressional district representative, who said :

"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali....

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."

then followed up in a "clarification" to a local paper by :

multiculturalism is in conflict with the national motto "E Pluribus Unum," or "out of many, one." He said multiculturalism would mean "out of the many, the many."

"The question is, is multiculturalism good or not?" Sali said. "I don’t think the Founding Fathers were multicultural. Multiculturalism is the antithesis of (the motto)." Sali said the United States was founded on principles derived primarily from the Scriptures. And he said drifting away from those principles could put the country in danger.

"If we’re going to move away from those principles ... we better consider the blessings of God that have been bestowed on this country and the protective hand of God that’s been over this country," Sali said.

Having come under fire in Idaho (one paper a "Capitol Hill sideshow") and nationally for his bigoted remarks, Sali has extended an to Congressman Ellison.

Sali responded days later, sending Ellison an e-mail explaining he meant no offense.

"He said that he wanted to make sure that Congressman Ellison understood that he meant no harm or disrespect," Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said.

Meant no harm. Uh huh. Rep. Ellison graciously accepted the apology, but that has to leave a lot of people hanging. First of all, the people of the state of Idaho--the majority of whom (I promise) don't enjoy being embarrassed on the national stage, despite the propensity they have to sending embarrassing types to D.C. Then there's all the non-white, non-Christian citizens of the country who Sali apparently considers detrimental to our national experiment. Sali's got a lot more apologizing to do, and next time a little sincerity would be appreciated.

Lying, openly, and getting away with it Given that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' ongoing trouble with the truth again this week, and his record for dishonesty can now be summarized into an , the NYT's Adam Cohen broaches a subject by the Times' editorial board last month: .

Impeachment of Mr. Gonzales would fit comfortably into the founders' framework. No one could charge this Congress with believing that executive branch members serve at the "pleasure of the Senate" or the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that impeachment of President Bush is "off the table," and there has been little talk of impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney or others in the administration.

Congress has heard extensive testimony about how Mr. Gonzales's Justice Department has become an arm of a political party, choosing lawyers for nonpartisan positions based on politics, and bringing cases -- including prosecutions that have put people in jail -- to help Republicans win elections.

Mr. Gonzales's repeated false and misleading statements to Congress are also impeachable conduct. James Iredell, whom George Washington would later appoint to the Supreme Court, told North Carolina's ratification convention that "giving false information to the Senate" was the sort of act "of great injury to the community" that warranted impeachment.

The United States attorneys scandal is also the sort of abuse the founders worried about. Top prosecutors, most with sterling records, were apparently fired because they refused to let partisan politics guide their decisions about whether to prosecute. Madison, the father of the Constitution, noted in a speech to the first Congress that "wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject" an official to impeachment.

By the way, for those keeping score at home, Rep. Jay Inslee's (D-Wash.) House resolution on Gonzales' impeachment has an underwhelming %7C/bss/d110query.html%7C">27 co-sponsors.

Cohen's piece makes a compelling case that the remedy is legitimate in Gonzales' case, but if there's little political will for impeaching the AG, it's largely an academic exercise.

Good new tool MoveOn has released a bunch of reports on the by Congressional district. I'd like to see some comparative analysis here, to see where the greatest sacrifice has been made, etc., so hopefully they're still working with this data.

Giving new meaning to the 'permanent campaign' As a helpful companion piece to the from , the Washington Post moves the ball forward today on Rove & Co.'s legally dubious, partisan political briefings, with an informative .

With a few details we haven't seen before, the Post explained that Rove established an "asset deployment" team in the White House early in Bush's first term that was responsible for coordinating official announcements, high-visibility administration trips, and declarations of federal grants based on Republican congressional candidates in need of a boost.

Investigators, however, said the scale of Rove's effort is far broader than previously revealed; they say that Rove's team gave more than 100 such briefings during the seven years of the Bush administration. The political sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and a handful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providing grants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the State Department's Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee are investigating whether any of the meetings violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using federal resources for election activities. They also want to know whether any Bush appointees pressured government for favorable actions such as grants to help GOP electoral chances.

"What we are seeing is the tip of a whole effort to make the federal government a subsidiary of the Republican Party. It was all politics, all the time," Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the oversight committee, said last week.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the 2002 chairman of the NRCC's efforts, said Rove "didn't do these things half-baked. It was total commitment." Davis added, "We knew history was against us [in '02], and he helped coordinate all of the accoutrements of the executive branch to help with the campaign, within the legal limits." It was good of Davis to add those last four words, wasn't it?

The Gavel on this today.

The ever-expanding powers of the King Scarecrow at and Marcy at are covering today's New York Times article suggesting that the FISA Amendment than previously thought to intercept phone calls and obtain call and e-mail records of ordinary Americans not suspected of being involved in terrorism.

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

I'd like to focus on one other aspect: deficiencies in reporting requirements. How will the American whose conversations, business records, call records or e-mails are intercepted by virtue of the FISA Amendment find out and how will they be able to challenge it? The answer, as far as I can tell, is they won't know about it and they won't be able to make a legal challenge. The ACLU describes the paltry reporting requirements .

Suppose Fox News is going to disclose this little conflict of interest? In a little noticed event this month, Hannity -- co-host of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" and host of a popular WABC radio show -- introduced the Republican front-runner at a closed-door, $250-per-head fund-raiser Aug. 9 in Cincinnati, campaign officials acknowledge.

I can appreciate the fact that Fox News exists to blur the line between reporting and advocacy, but this seems over the top, even by the network's standards. Indeed, when Dan Rather's daughter organized and hosted a Democratic Party fundraiser in Texas in 2001, and the then-CBS anchor made an appearance, Bill O'Reilly blasted the ethical impropriety.

"Now Rather gave a speech at a fundraiser, so money changed hands," O'Reilly said on the air. "I mean, I wouldn't do that."

Dirty miners Over at the AFL-CIO blog, Tula Connell puts the recent mine accident into .

It’s says a lot about this country that for more than 100 years, our nation’s coal miners have been forced to continually fight for workplace safety. But keeping up the fight to literally stay alive is essential because no matter how far we’ve advanced technologically, miners still must battle "irresponsible coal operators."

When your government is incompetent Yesterday we learned that there's a of Purple Heart medals for injured veterans. Today we learn there's a shortage on , too.

Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol.

An Associated Press review of dozens of police and sheriff's departments found that many are struggling with delays of as long as a year for both handgun and rifle ammunition. And the shortages are resulting in prices as much as double what departments were paying just a year ago.

'You're going to look super in a burka' There was a fascinating example of far-right ideology on "Hardball" yesterday, when Chris Matthews asked Melanie Morgan -- , even by contemporary far-right standards -- to respond to how right Dick Cheney about Iraq before he became Vice President. C&L has , which is worth watching, if for no other reason because Morgan helped highlight a twisted worldview for a national television audience.

After Matthews asked Morgan to explain why 1994 Cheney was right while 2002 Cheney was wrong, Morgan refused to engage and suggested Iraq was somehow involved with 9/11. She also attacked the host for bringing up the subject.

Matthews then asked Naomi Wolf to weigh in.

Wolf: It gets back to what I was saying earlier about the nature of lying. Let's not forget that they got us into this war on the basis of a series of lies.... This weaving out of lies was a pretext for an invasion that served their own political purposes. In the wake of the invasion, they were able to terrify the American people, subjugate the American people, drive through a series of laws that dismantled key checks and balances, allowed overreaching executive power, and completely eviscerated what the founders set in place, thus weakening America.

Morgan: Keep attacking, keep attacking Naomi, because you're going to look great in a burka. You're going to look super in a burka.

Perfect. Wolf makes a substantive point about American laws, institutions, and traditions, so Morgan insists Wolf's criticism will lead to radical Muslims seizing control of the United States, forcing women into burkas. This, in effect, encapsulates too much of the left-right debate of the last eight months.

Indeed, Glenn Greenwald the broader dynamic perfectly the other day.

Every now and then, it is worth noting that substantial portions of the right-wing political movement in the United States -- the Pajamas Media/right-wing-blogosphere/Fox News/Michelle Malkin/Rush-Limbaugh-listener strain -- actually believe that Islamists are going to take over the U.S. and impose sharia law on all of us. And then we will have to be Muslims and "our women" will be forced into burkas and there will be no more music or gay bars or churches or blogs. This is an actual fear that they have -- not a theoretical fear but one that is pressing, urgent, at the forefront of their worldview.

And their key political beliefs -- from Iraq to Iran to executive power and surveillance theories at home -- are animated by the belief that all of this is going to happen. The Republican presidential primary is, for much of the "base," a search for who will be the toughest and strongest in protecting us from the Islamic invasion -- a term that is not figurative or symbolic, but literal: the formidable effort by Islamic radicals to invade the U.S. and take over our institutions and dismantle our government and force us to submit to Islamic rule or else be killed.

This description may sound hyperbolic, but a surprising number of high-profile conservative voices actually believe that we're this close to an invasion and the replacement of our constitutional system with a radical Muslim theocracy. If you disagree -- about the nature of Islam, or the war in Iraq, or the president's national security policies, etc. -- then you are necessarily helping advance the Islamists' drive for international hegemony.

It's precisely why Morgan, instead of responding to Wolf's substantive points, quickly leapt to her reflexive conclusion: criticizing the president will contribute to the downfall of the United States and the imposition of sharia law.

Morgan probably didn't intend to be helpful, but she captured the gist of this worldview surprisingly well.

The dog and pony shows About a month ago, Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a on "Meet the Press" about Iraq. In one contentious exchange, Webb told Graham, "You know, you haven't been to Iraq." Graham snapped back, "I've been there seven times." Webb, a decorated veteran and a former Secretary of the Navy, replied, "You go see the dog and pony shows. That's what congressmen do."

Jonathan Finer today that Graham isn't the only one basing opinions on scripted tours.

Policymakers should be commended for refusing to blindly trust accounts from diplomats, soldiers or journalists. But it's worth remembering what these visits are and what they are not. Prescient insights rarely emerge from a few days in-country behind the blast walls. [...]

It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I've stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it's like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.

The next time you hear a pol saying, "I've just returned from Iraq and I saw..." keep Finer's piece in mind.

Giuliani of the jungle Rudy sure loves to dress up in costumes. (1048) | (1289) (531) | (863) His welfare statements are disturbing…

Corruption watch The for partisan ends.

John McCain, war 'critic' Say what? Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was on CNN yesterday, positioning himself of the president's Iraq policy.

KIRAN CHETRY: It seems you've been painted as being a huge supporter of the president's Iraq strategy. Is that an inaccurate portrayal?

MCCAIN: It's entertaining, in that I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years. I came back from my first trip to Iraq and said, "This is going to fail." We've got to change the strategy to the one we're using now. But life isn't fair.

Poor John McCain. All he did was support the current Iraq policy every step of the way for five years and, for some reason, foolish Americans have come to believe he supports the president's strategy. How terribly unfair.

Look, this notion of who qualifies as a "critic" of the White House's war policy came to a head recently when far too many news outlets Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack as opponents of the war. Their support for Bush's strategy was given greater weight because the media and the GOP establishment told the public they have been war "skeptics." They're not -- O'Hanlon and Pollack supported the invasion, endorsed the so-called surge, and have consistently opposed withdrawal. (Ironically, Jon Stewart, the fake newsman, was one of the few to .)

Similarly, we now see McCain characterizing himself as "the greatest critic of the initial four years." Perhaps it's best if we establish some kind of criteria for who counts as a "critic" and who counts as a "supporter."

Did you:

* endorse the invasion?

* buy into the Cheney vision of a quick, easy-to-resolve conflict?

* support the administration's position on every piece of Iraq legislation since 2002?

* consistently support the status quo? ("I'm confident we're on the right course" -- McCain, March 7, 2004)

* endorse the escalation policy?

* oppose any and all measures to include timelines, scheduled withdrawals, or enforced benchmarks?

If you're McCain, the answer to all six questions is "yes." With that in mind, you don't get to call yourself "the greatest critic" of the president's policy.


August 19, 2007 - 9:33pm