Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush's Role in the New Orleans Disaster

Days after Hurricane Katrina hit shore and became the worst natural disaster in American history, questions are being raised about how much of the death and destruction was avoidable and, more important, what effect did Bush Administration policy and budget cuts have in contributing to this Southern nightmare. The answer is, plenty. New Orleans has always been vulnerable to potentially devastating flooding and damage from a direct hurricane hit. Since the 1960's, the federal government has worked with local governments to bolster precautionary measures as well as relief efforts. In 1995, after a huge rainstorm that killed several people, Congress enacted the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA, and appointed the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the task of fixing the area's hurricane protection levees and to build pumping stations. We now know that it was the breach of three levees, caused by the overflowing Lake Ponchartrain, that has caused the most death and destruction this week, one day after the hurricane itself appeared to spare the city the worst of the storm's impact. What's infuriating is that the levee repair projects were adequately funded until recently, when President Bush wrote out of his 2004 budget most of the spending which the Corps had been receiving. Further, Bush ignored desperate pleas by Corps officials for the additional funding it said was urgently needed to properly protect the city from the kind of horrific chaos that Katrina has now brought. And the reason for the cuts? The cost of the war--the unjustified, unnecessary, 1000% elective, makes-me-mad-as-hell war--in Iraq was spiraling out of control, and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans took much needed revenue out of the Fed's coffers. Simply, Bush needed the dough to feed his neo-con macho war fantasy, as well as fatten the already swollen wallets of his rich Republican constituents. So, screw the poor and screw the vulnerable down in N'Orleans. The levees project was not completed, and they were never fully raised to levels that could adequately protect the city from a ruthless beast like Katrina. And from his 2005 budget, Bush cut all funding for the repair project as well as funding for much-needed research studies to determine better methods for safeguarding the area and minimizing future destruction from major hurricanes. It is both unfortunate and inescapable that Hurricane Katrina is a red-state disaster, and that those it has devastatingly affected, at this point, have no idea just how significantly, and callously, Bush has let them down. Perhaps the horror caused by Katrina in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will be the tipping point. As the months pass and the region regains some semblance of normalcy, and as more news about the SELA/Corps projects is unearthed, the harsh realization for many will be that the man they voted for, the man they trusted with their best interests and their lives and those of their families, betrayed them. As he has been betraying them all along. It's just that the other betrayals have been subtle and easily whitewashed. Sadly, they weren't so lucky with Katrina. And I expect many of them, whose increasing disenchantment with Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress is reflected in the dismal 38% approval rate, will take out their highly justified anger and frustration inside the '06 mid-term elections voting booth. Andy

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Mission Adjusted"

Poor President Bush. His job approval rating has sunk below 40%, only 48% of Americans think he's honest, and 56% think he's too cocky and arrogant. And, a majority now disapprove of the war in Iraq and Bush's handling of it. A pretty dismal picture, I'd say. Perhaps it's time for a little PR move. Let me suggest a sure-fire points-scoring mea culpa photo-op for the prez. I think he and his advisors should stage an event outside the Crawford ranch, with a huge banner draped across his house that reads "Mission Adjusted." As he famously did with that firefighter atop the Ground Zero rubble in the days following the 9/11 attack, Bush could stand in the foreground, bullhorn in hand, arm-in-arm with protestor Cindy Sheehan, and boldly declare that the administration's made some terrible mistakes in Iraq, and that the mission has been adjusted to reflect the realistic strategy needed going forward. He can start by saying the grounds for war were unjust and unfounded. No WMD, no Saddam ties to Al Qaeda. He can then apologize for his pathetic G.I. Joe grandstanding moment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003 in which he prematurely and pompously declared "Mission Accomplished." Next, he can admit he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld grossly miscalculated the number of troops needed to safely and effectively handle the post-war occupation ( might also be a great time to offer an apology to Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, whose opinion that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq was summarily dismissed as "wildly off the mark" by the Bushies). Bush could also say he misjudged the effect that several milestones--Saddam's fall and capture; the deaths of his sons Uday and Qusay; the handing over of sovereignty; the Fall of Fallujah; the Iraqi election--would have on weakening the insurgency. He can admit that he, Rummy and VP Dick Cheney incredulously, and wrongly, believed that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, and lavish us in the streets with roses and hero-worship. Bush can also say it was bad judgment and highly unpresidential to challenge the murderous jihadists with macho Texas rhetoric such as "Bring 'em on." He can admit that America's original goals for Iraq will not be met. He can admit that we will not see an American or even European-style democracy there. He can admit that the Iraqi draft constitution is woefully inadequate in protecting the rights of women and minorities, and calls for the country to be led by Iran-leaning religious clerics with Islam as the law of the land. He can admit that our military forces there are under-manned and illequipped, and most often just sitting ducks for an invisible enemy. Once cleansed of the past, he can then talk about how the plan going forward needs to change, as do our expectations for the mission. And in the same breath he can level with the American people in saying that, while the invasion and occupation was/is a huge blunder, we need to figure out the most realistic exit strategy now so that we can minimize the amount of future U.S. casualties. He can announce that he is going to immediately pull together a bi-partisan think-tank of the nation's brightest political, military, business and academic minds for a weeklong summit to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the three primary options at hand. These are a complete and immediate pull out; a gradual withdrawal of troops over an extended window; or an increase in troops and an escalation of the war in order to victoriously complete the mission. Bush can also announce that he will immediately reach out to our allies, as well as to Iraq's neighbors, apologize for previously failed diplomacy, and earnestly seek to enjoin/entice them into the post-war effort, building a true coalition. He can also show some administration accountability by immediately and unceremoniously firing Rumsfeld, whose battle plan, unlike Gen. Shinseki's, was indeed wildly off the mark. It'll be more than just a symbolic move; Rummy was the major architect for this military fiasco, and his pink slip is long overdue. (In case Bush needs a replacement idea, let me recommend Fmr. Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Clark is a brilliant combat veteran and military chief; a master strategist; a skilled diplomat; highly articulate; and a truly fine, compassionate human being). Finally, as he stands there outside the Crawford retreat talking to the increasingly hopeful, galvanized crowd before him, and to the millions watching at home, he can take Cindy Sheehan's hand in his, raise their arms up high, and proudly say that from now on we have one America. Now, wouldn't all this be something. A president who admits his mistakes, is honest with the American people, realistically plans for the future, and is a uniter not a divider. Andy

Monday, August 29, 2005

Novak Sees Weakness in GOP

In his column Monday, embattled right-wing pundit Robert Novak suggests that there's a chink in the Republican armor, and that the '06 mid-term elections could be a disaster for the GOP if it cannot find the best candidates to run against what he believes are weaker, politically vulnerable Democratic incumbents such as Debbie Stabenow (MI), Bill Nelson (FL), Robert Byrd (WVa), Kent Conrad (ND) and Ben Nelson (NE). Not only could Republicans fail to pick up seats, said Novak, but they could lose seats as well. Exactly, Bob. The war, the economy, astronomical gas and oil prices, the increasing rejection of the religious right (the spectacle that was the Terry Schiavo case; the Ten Commandments displays; the failed "Justice Sunday" propaganda events; stem cell research; privacy and the pro-choice movement; etc) will play a major role in the next Congressional and Senate elections. Novak's worried, and so are his pals in Washington. And they ought to be. While Novak did mention Florida's Rep. Katherine Harris as being weak and lacking in GOP support for her Senate bid, he failed to mention key Republican Senators who are quite vulnerable as well, among them Rick Santorum (PA), the third-highest ranking member of the Senate, and who's trailing PA State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. in the polls by about fourteen points. Another is Missouri Senator Jim Talent, whose challenger is Robin Carnahan, the recently elected secretary of state with a strong state political pedigree: his late father was governor and his mother was the incumbent whom Talent beat for his current seat. Also vulnerable are Arizona Senator Jon Kyl; Montana's Senator Conrad Burns; Ohio's Mike DeWine; Virginia's George Allen, who's got Gov. Mark Warner hot on his trail; and even the big fish himself, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN). With his breaking ranks with Bush over federal funding of stem-cell research and a growing disenchantment among Americans with the Senate and Congress's overall performance, Frist could very well find himself playing golf with Tom Daschle next year. The Republicans should be very worried indeed. Andy

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Former General Blames Iraq Quagmire on the Media

The war in Iraq is a quagmire indeed. Damned if we leave, damned if we don't. No end in sight, no plan in place. Just steadily increasing U.S. military deaths; an insurgency that gets stronger every day; a sham of a constitution; a soon-to-be radical Islamic state; and a cost of over $1-billion per week. Lil' Vietnam...and getting bigger every day. This invasion, and the ensuing under-manned, under-equipped and grossly under-planned occupation, is a military and political blunder of epic proportions. So who's to blame? President Bush, VP Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and former National Security Advisor/current Secretary of State Condi Rice? Not if you're Fmr. Gen. Wayne Downing, U.S. Special Operations Command. On NBC's Meet the Press today Downing, a former member of the Bush posse, downplayed the violence and death and instead adopted the standard administration talking points about success in Iraq, blaming the media instead for choosing to focus on the mounting casualties rather than on the progress being made. Progress, by the way, which seems invisible to just about everyone outside the administration. Downing, a major hawk, was a key figure in the Bush administration's pre-9/11 neo-con planning to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. The Pentagon devised what was then known as "Desert Storm Lite," which would rely heavily on a combination of armor, infantry and aircraft. Downing opposed the plan and instead aggressively offered up an unconventional alternative that relied on air power, special operations forces and Iraqi defectors to oust Hussein. Having been enticed out of retirement following 9/11 to serve as a deputy national security adviser, Downing ultimately resigned from the White House post just nine months later. In response to host Tim Russert's question this morning about the American public's growing opposition to the war, Downing said: "Quite frankly, I think that one of the problems that we're having is that the news media--the opposition to the war--are framing this discussion in terms of casualties and casualties only. I think what we don't have is a serious discussion about why you take these casualties." After again regurgitating a few of the Bush "progress" talking points, he challenged Russert directly: "I really think that it's incumbent upon you and the others in the responsible American press to put the casualties into these kind of contexts. In other words, what it is they're accomplishing." And then the standard GOP historic analogy to WW II: "I mean, can you imagine us...judging the D-Day invasion of Normandy back in 1944 by the casualties that were suffered?" In short, what Downing is saying is that the media should stop reporting the truth. Stop showing death and destruction. Show some happy Iraqis instead. Show a school here and there. Find a Sunni who welcomes the occupation, and who eagerly awaits the autonomous Shiite region in the oil-rich South. Surely there must be at least one . No more discussing the non-existent WMD; the lack of a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda; the Americans being blown to bloody smithereens daily; the growing resolve of the insurgents and their more powerful, lethal weapons arsenal; or the complete lack of an exit strategy. Yes, to focus on these things renders the American media irresponsible, according to our war-mongering former general. What we need to do instead is whitewash. Sugarcoat. Spin. Deceive. Lie. That's what Americans want. And that's precisely what the Bushies are best at. Andy

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bushwacked: Iraq's Draft Constitution a Sham

The war in Iraq is spiraling out of control, as is the U.S's efforts to form an Evelyn Wood-style speed-democracy in what had been a dictatorship for 35 years. The constitution drafting process has fallen apart, with the Sunnis apparently getting the shaft from its countrymen and from the U.S. Bush couldn't care less about the Sunnis. His only concern is to rush through an Iraqi constitution so that he can once again claim "Mission Accomplished" despite a clear lack of actual accomplishment. The Shiites and the Kurds don't care much for the Sunnis either, and have dismissed them from the negotiating table after the Sunnis held firm requiring certain changes to the draft. The draft constitution also fails to fully protect and ensure the rights of women and minorities. Overall, this is a huge blow to the Bush administration, which is now experiencing the Iraqi hat trick: failed military, political and diplomatic policy. The country's status is more chaotic with each passing day, and civil war seems more imminent than ever. In simple terms, the Sunnis have two major problems with the draft constitution. First, the Shiites are looking for an autonomous region encompassing all of the oil-rich South, which many Iraqis fear would divide the country along ethnic and religious lines. Next, the Sunnis also want an end to the unofficial de-Baathification process, where former Saddam loyalists have been rooted out of government and society. The Shiites and Kurds, in opposition to these demands, have decided to move forward with the draft constitution as is and let the Iraqi people decide its fate. Sunni leaders have urged voters to reject the draft in the 15 October referendum. The Sunnis are the minority party with 20% of the population but ruled the country under Saddam. The Kurds and Shiites, with 80 percent, are banking on the draft winning approval in the referendum. Under existing rule, if two-thirds of the voters in any three of the eighteen provinces reject the constitution, it will be defeated. Sunnis form a majority in at least three provinces. But the question is, can they rally support within these provinces to obtain the necessary two-thirds in order to send it back to the drawing board? That remains to be seen. So does whether or not the Bushies' grand neo-con plan for democratizing the Middle East ultimately proves to be the colossal flop it resembles at the moment. Most unfortunate is that after thousands of U.S. soldiers killed, after hundreds of billions spent, we'll probably end up with an Islamic state with strong ties to Iran and its religious clerics...where women and minorites lack civil rights; a country mired in civil war; a training haven for terrorists; a U.S. homeland less safe than before the war. Nice going, George.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bush Predictably Mum on Robertson

Pat "Thou Shall Not Kill...Unless We Can Save $200 Billion Avoiding A War" Robertson went on international TV Tuesday and called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He did so on his hugely popular mega-hit show "The 700 Club" (does 700 stand for the amount of times Robertson has put his foot in his mouth?) I immediately wondered what President Bush's reaction would be. It's now three days later--ample time for a response from the leader of the free world--and not a peep. Oh sure, we've had a couple of lame statements from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the State Department. But nothing from Bush. How predictable. Let's understand the magnitude here. Robertson, a devout Christian, called for the murder of a head-of-state. In an even more bizarre twist, he backpedaled yesterday, saying he meant "kidnapping" not murder. But we all know what he actually said and what was his intention. In fact, he said it multiple times during his broadcast. His call for Chavez's head was irresponsible and reprehensible on so many levels. First, good Christians do not condone murder! Robertson needed only to check his own website to learn that "Thou Shall Not Kill" is one of the Ten Commandments. Next, the United States has a ban on assassinations, imposed by executive order by President Gerald R. Ford back in '76 after it was learned that the CIA could be involved in plots to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro and others. Lastly, Robertson most likely violated FCC indecency regulations. Enough "meat" here ya think for our president to publicly condemn Robertson? Fat chance. Dubya's having too much fun "working from home" down on the Crawford ranch (read: biking, clearing brush, playing fetch with his intellectual sparring partner Barney, napping, noshing). So all we get is innocuous wrist-slaps like that from State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who called Robertson's remarks "inappropriate. "This is not the policy of the United States government. We do not share his views," Or from Rumsfeld, who enlightened reporters in saying that assassinating foreign leaders is "against the law....Our department doesn't do that kind of thing." Robertson is "a private citizen," he said, and that "private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Hey thanks, Rummy. That was brilliant and straight from the heart. As I said earlier in the week, can you imagine this administration's reaction had the assassination comment come from an Islamic cleric and not Robertson...and be directed at Bush instead of Chavez? Perhaps the next time he gets off the bike to talk with reporters he can take a moment to rebuke Robertson instead of reminding us yet again why he won't meet with Cindy Sheehan. Andy

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gas Prices: Michael Moore Was Right

Remember in Michael Moore's brilliant yet disturbing documentary "Fahrenheit 911" when he predicted that President Bush's cozy relationship with the Saudis will result in lower gas prices around election time? How the Saudis will lower prices before Election Day as payback for getting them and their friends quickly and easily out of the U.S. just after the attacks on September 11th. Well guess what? The price of gas did drop as the election neared, and they indeed have gotten significantly higher since. According to the US Department of Energy, last August the average cost of a gallon was $1.88 versus $2.61 this year. That's a whopping 39% increase in just one year. Coincidence? I think not. Moore took a lot of heat and was vilified for making what many said were outlandish, unsubstantiated claims about Bush and his administration. But the facts always win in the end, and on this issue he's clearly been vindicated. As the years pass, and as more light is shed on the manipulation, deceit and dirty politicking of this administration, Moore's prescience and critical role as docu-journalist will be recognized accordingly, and I believe America will realize just how right he was. The manipulation of gas prices is just the tip of the iceberg. Andy

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Can Bush Be Any More Delusional On Iraq?

He reads. He bikes. He naps. Noshes a little. Chats with his old pal Barney. Strolls with the wife. Watches ballgames. Goes to bed at 9. Wait a second...are we talking about our president here or my Grandpa Max? Seems like the president is living the good life down in Crawford while much of the world is in a state of unrest. And the comic irony of it all is that, truly, he doesn't seem to give a rat's ass. "I'm kind of hangin' loose, as they say," said the ersatz leader of the free world this week. How cute...just a boy and his bike. And not only has his pace been slowing a lot lately during his yet-again mega-vacation down at the ranch, but so has his capacity to understand and accept reality. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Utah yesterday he declared that the hot-off-the-press draft of Iraq's new Constitution "honors women's rights, the rights of minorities." Yeah, and there's a ton of new all-you-can-eat buffets springing up throughout Niger and Darfur too. Also during the speech Bush once again changed the justification for war and outlined the overall mission. In the absence of WMD, 911 connections, a credible Constitution and a U.S-style Democracy, Bush now declares that we must stay in Iraq out of obligation to the soldiers already killed. "We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for." That makes perfect sense. Let's send more kids to die in battle simply because others have died. I'm not sure what's more incredulous, this statement or that fact that he actually made it. In any event, it's clear he's on his own very special wavelength. He continues to highlight the progress in Iraq despite the fact that (a) the country is torn apart, with land grabs by the Kurds in the North, Shiites in the South and Sunnis stuck in the bloody middle; (b) the violence and deaths have escalated to record levels; (c) the insurgents have obtained bigger, more lethal weapons; (d) the Constitution achieves little if any of America's real goals for a true Democracy; (e) Islam will likely be the rule of law; (f) essential services are still woefully inadequate; and (g) there's no exit-strategy in place or in sight. Sound like progress to you? Yet Bush keeps pounding the drum. Perhaps this is exactly the Bushies' strategy. Think about it. They lied to us about Iraq, lied about Saddam, lied about WMD, lied about bin Laden, lied about 9-11 and now they're lying about progress. I've said repeatedly that the administration, led by Turd Blossom Rove, has brilliantly and masterfully recognized what no other administration has ever discovered: that you can outright lie to Americans and they will never know the difference. It's how they won two elections. So now Bush will relentlessly point to progress and simply say the mission is a success, and therefore it will be. He'll do it as effortlessly as he made Iraq responsible for 9-11, and morphed bin Laden into Saddam. And once the Bushies have lied to Americans about this success, then a full or partial pullout is likely, perhaps even before the mid-term elections next year. How convenient for Republican incumbents on the Hill. And then the rest of us, the ones who truly care, the ones who actually take the time to read and seek out the truth, will sit back, as we did after Vietnam, and wonder what the hell it was all about and why so many had to die for nothing. Andy

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson Finally Goes Nuts

For years we've wondered about Pat Robertson, the staunch conservative founder of the Christian Coalition of America and star of that thrill-a-minute TV show "The 700 Club." Seems like the older he got, the more bizarre his comments and behavior became. Well, it looks like Roberts has finally gone certifiably mad, publicly calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. It's no secret that Chavez is no fan of the U.S. and of President Bush. But these days, neither is half the world. Chavez accuses Bush, the CIA and Israel of plotting the failed military coup against him in April 2002. Further, the administration hugely miscalculated the situation, announcing its support for the new Pedro Carmona government, only to see Chavez regain power after three days of violence. Chavez also survived a nationwide strike in 2003--including state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA)-- by opponents who called for an early referendum on the President's rule. The strike was fueled by fears that Venezuela under Chavez would become a Cuban-style communist state. Segue to Robertson, who believes killing Chavez will prevent him from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism." His rationale? "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." Venezuela is the world's 5th largest exporter, and supplies the U.S. with 13% of our oil imports. The U.S is Venezuela's largest client. Robertson continued: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." So what do we think will happen to Robertson now that he has insanely injected himself into the political landscape once again? What will the Bush administration's reaction be? Will the president publicly rebuke Robertson's comments? Can you imagine the reaction in reverse if, for example, some lunatic Islamist cleric in Iran or Iraq called for the assassination of Bush? Rightly so, we'd be outraged at this reprehensible, despicable act and would call on the world community to denounce and condemn, and probably would seek a U.N. resolution for same. Let's wait and see what Bush's reaction will be. Hopefully we'll be surprised. Andy

Monday, August 22, 2005

Afghanistan & Iraq: U.S. Deaths Climb at Record Pace

The War on Terror. Whatever that may be exactly, it sure doesn't feel like we're winning it lately. August is shaping up to be the bloodiest, deadliest month since the Iraq war began, and as the New York Times reported today, the GI death toll in Afghanistan is the worst since 2001. To the president, we're making great progress. Despite the chaos that's taking place in both of these countries, the administration's holding firm in its public stance: the plan's working, and we'll stay until the mission is is completed. Over 1860 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far, and the occupation is costing us over $1-billion per week. To most rational people, the insurgency is getting stronger, deadlier and more bold by the minute, using more lethal weapons to kill and maim our soldiers. The country is on the verge of a civil war, with the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds all in a land and power grab. There's still no constitution, and services are poor. In Afghanistan, where elections are to take place September 18th, the violence is the worst we've seen since the war began in 2001, with sixty-five American soldiers killed so far this year (13 in August alone). For proper perspective, 181 have died since the military operations began, so this year's death toll is indeed startling. Al Qaeda is still a force to be reckoned with, and the ousted Taliban is doing everything in its power to regain control and force out the Americans. Foreign fighters from Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran and elsewhere have crossed the borders to aid the insurgency. And funds are pouring in as well. And here at home, support for the war, and Bush, is at an all-time low. A majority of Americans now believe the war is not worth the cost, and most disapprove of how the president has handled it. And, Bush's approval ratings are at a pathetically low 42%, considerably lower than Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton at the same point in their second terms. Some in the GOP, especially those eyeballing next year's mid-term elections--which could very well prove to be a fiasco for Republican incumbents--are starting to question what that mission is, and how and when it can/will end. Outspoken Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel is now making comparisons to Vietnam. Hagel, standing by earlier statements that the Bush administration is disconnected from reality and losing the war, said last week that while Iraq and Vietnam still have more differences than similarities, "there is a parallel emerging. The longer we stay in Iraq, the more similarities will start to develop, meaning essentially that we are getting more and more bogged down, taking more and more casualties, more and more heated dissension and debate in the United States." And while the Bush message remains steadfast and one of "progress," Hagel pointed to the rapidly rising death toll and a situation he called a quagmire: "more dead, more wounded, less electricity in Iraq, less oil being pumped in Iraq, more insurgent attacks, more insurgents coming across the border, more corruption in the government." Hagel, I'm sure, speaks for many among the GOP who are not yet ready to split publicly with the president. But as we inch closer to the mid-terms, and especially if the situation stays as bad or gets even worse, many more self-preservationists will break ranks as well. What's most unnerving and infuriating is that, amid all this death and chaos, Bush is on the longest vacation in presidential history. To reporters who caught up with him early Saturday on the Crawford ranch and asked about his plans, Bush said: "I'm going to have lunch with Secretary of State Rice, talk a little business; Mrs. Bush, talk a little business; we've got a friend from South Texas here, named Katharine Armstrong; take a little nap. I'm reading an Elmore Leonard book right now, knock off a little Elmore Leonard this afternoon. Go fishing with my man Barney; a light dinner and head to the ballgame. I get to bed about 9:30 p.m., wake up about 5 a.m. So it's a perfect day." Just ask all the dead soldiers and their families just how perfect a day they think it is. Andy

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Karen Hughes: "Operation: International Bullshit"

The NY Times reported today that President Bush has dispatched his most talented, trusted talking head, Karen P. Hughes, to create an international public relations war room of sorts to provide 24/7 damage control in response to political attacks. According to the Times, these "rapid response" teams will "counter bad news and defend administration policies around the globe," particularly in Muslim countries. Hughes, who's been Bush's left hand to Karl Rove's right since his days as Texas governor, was recently appointed under secretary of public diplomacy, charged with the mission to repair America's ailing stature abroad. What amazes me about all this is the Bushies' arrogant logic. I can actually hear Bush's smug Texas drawl in my head saying, "Heck, I ain't gonna change one damn thing I do, not even if it pisses the whole world off. We'll just send the "High Prophet" (Dubya's nickname for Hughes; the prez just loves those nicknames...) over there and throw some bullshit around, make nice-nice, and all these dumb bastards will be least that's what "Turd Blossom" (Rove) tells me. We'll call this..."Operation International Bullshit!" And there you have it. God forbid Bush should actually stop making dangerous, incompetent, unpopular policy. That's what he'd do if he'd really like to regain the world's trust and respect. But not this president. This president never makes mistakes. This president never makes bad policy. This president never says he's sorry. This president doesn't need to change anything. Anything. Because nothing's wrong. Ever. With the war, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, N. Korea, Iran, the's all good, all the time. So screw the world, and when the shit hits the overseas fan, the High Prophet will assemble her mighty band of bullshitters and blow some compassionate conservative smoke up the world's ass in an attempt to appease and distract those who hate us. Jeez, Hughes's so insincere and swarmy I wouldn't buy an umbrella in a rainstorm from her. Can you imagine how she's gonna go over in the Arab world? Andy

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Republicans' Twisted Values

The Republican Party and its legion of faithful spin-monkeys have a perverse sense of logic about who's a patriot and who is anti-government. To the GOP, people like George "Bring 'Em On" Bush, who used his family wealth and political connections to leapfrog the National Guard waiting list in order to dodge the Vietnam draft, only to go AWOL later in Alabama, are the real heroes of our nation. Or big tough-talkin', nails-chewin' neo-cons like Dick Cheney, who took advantage of multiple student and marriage deferments to avoid the war. "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service," said this true American patriot. The GOP seems to revel in this fantasyland of mythical heroes, with their John Wayne-like uber-courage and valor (Wayne, BTW, never served a day in the military either). And while they shower these cowards with heaps of praise and respect they've attacked people like Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whose years of military service and five medals truly makes him a combat hero. Or former Georgia senator Max Cleland, who served his country honorably and lost both legs in the process, only to be vilified and dishonored in the GOP political witch hunt of 2002. And now, in 2005, the conservative smear machine is at it again. They're piling on Cindy Sheehan, who's captivated the nation with her brave protest outside the Bush mega-vacation headquarters in Crawford, Tx. Sheehan's son Casey, 24, died in combat last year after just five days in Iraq. The right-wingers claim she's dishonoring her son and all those who died. They mock her and call her a commie kook who's being manipulated and exploited by subversive left-wing groups. To most of us, she's just a grieving mom tired of the bullshit; tired of all the lies, deceit and claims that "we're making progress" in Iraq. (Take a good look at the photo above of the young Cheney and his mentor Donald Rumsfeld back in the early 70's. Was probably the last time either of them told the truth). She's tired of seeing our young men and women dying in droves even though the WMD didn't exist and the Saddam-Al Qaeda terror connections weren't there. And she's taken a highly public stand to demand accountability from Bush. If this makes her anti-American and unpatriotic, count me in that group. The latest object of the GOP's scorn is former Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who blew the whistle on the Bureau after ignoring her warnings about "20th highjacker" Zacarius Moussoui, and who's now running for Congress as a Democrat. Talk about dishonor and disrespect. This woman showed real bravery, yet her service to her country is being both questioned and discredited. Had the inept heads of our intelligence community heeded her warnings perhaps September 11th, 2001 might not have gone as well for the other 19 hijackers. It's mind-numbing how orchestrated and relentless and brutal the right-wing smear campaigns are on true American heroes, and how shameless the GOP is in putting on the pedestal so many who are glaringly undeserving. All in the name of partisan politics. Is there anything more truly unpatriotic? Andy

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan: A Grieving Father Goes on the Offensive

There's an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today written by Ronald R. Griffin, whose son, Spc. Kyle Andrew Griffin, a highly decorated war hero, was killed in Iraq in May of 2003. It's titled, "Cindy Sheehan Doesn't Speak For Me." Obviously, Griffin disagrees with Sheehan over her much publicized war protest taking place outside President Bush's Crawford, TX ranch. I don't have a problem with that per se. What is most disturbing to me however is his reasoning. Griffin, clearly a Republican--as evidenced by his overall position and the legion of fans he has on the conservative blog circuit, uses the all-too-familiar GOP smear that Sheehan, in protesting the war and demanding accountability from Bush, is dishonoring the sacrifice her son made. How infuriating. Please explain something to me, Mr. Griffin. Just how is Sheehan dishonoring her son Casey, who, at 24 died in Iraq? She's a grieving mother who, after seeing no WMD or no direct connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda--the Bush justifications for war--seeks answers from our president as to why we're fighting this war; why we're seeing thousands of our soldiers killed in combat; and when the troops will return home. To the contrary, Mr. Griffin, Sheehan is honoring her son in the most noble way possible by demanding accountability from his commander-in-chief. Demanding to know why her son, and 1850 others, had to die in a war that, to this day, is grossly lacking in justification. No sir, Mr. Griffin, this spunky lady has more courage than most people, and I'm sure her son would be damned proud of her tenacity and determination. Griffin writes that "we as a country made a collective decision" to invade Iraq. "We must now live up to our decision and not deviate until the mission is complete." And herein lies the biggest misconception, and deception, of all. Griffin clearly is forgetting the millions of Americans who were against this invasion from the get-go. We did not think it was justified then, and we don't now. We saw right through the Bush/neo-con plan to use the war as a diversion from 9-11, Al Qaeda and the hunt for Osama bin Laden...the real enemy of, and grave threat to, the U.S. We were not part of this "collective decision" Griffin refers to. And those on the left who did support the war did so based on the Bushies' faulty and misrepresented intelligence pertaining to WMD and Iraqi terror connections. In short, these poor saps, including our almost-president Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), were flat out duped.. As for not deviating "until the mission is complete," well, exactly what mission is that, Mr.Griffin? Until terrorism is wiped out? Until the ever-growing, increasingly violent Iraqi insurgency is snuffed out? Until there's a U.S-style Democracy in Iraq? Iran? Have we not learned anything from Vietnam? These are missions, unfortunately, that cannot be accomplished. Griffin goes on to write that "those who lost their lives believed in the mission. To honor their memory, and because it's right, we must believe in the mission too." Here too Mr. Griffin is misguided. It's been well documented that a great many soldiers in Iraq have grown quite disillusioned with the war and are confused over why we're there, what we're accomplishing, and the lack of a coherent exit strategy. If we are to truly "honor the memory" of those lost, we should do everything in our power to protect and return home safely those still fighting. That would be a real show of support, rather than simply throwing yellow ribbons on our cars and calling ourselves patriots as we head to the mall or to our favorite restaurant. As for Griffin's comment that "we must believe in the mission too"'s where his naivete is most glaring. Most Americans today, according to virtually every credible poll, are against the war and disapprove of Bush's handling of it. We do not believe in the mission. We will not stick our heads in the sand and blindly follow the lead of our stubborn, shoot-from-the-hip commander-in-chief. We will not willingly allow thousands more of our young men and women to die in a war that has no reason for being. We will continue to protest, and we will be thankful for people like Cindy Sheehan, who has become the public face of this unjust war. Mr. Griffin, who we have great sympathy for as a grieving parent, is unfortunately on the wrong side of this issue. Andy

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ms. Gorelick...Tear Down That Wall!

It's been five years since the Bushies have been in office, and they're still blaming terrorism and 9-11 on Bill Clinton. Forget that former terrorism czar Richard Clark pleaded with Bush officials for almost 9 months to take the Al Qaeda threat seriously. Forget the 2001 "Phoenix memo," which the FBI downplayed, in which FBI agent Kenneth Williams warned that eight Arab males enrolled in flight school could pose a terrorist threat to the U.S. Forget Minneapolis FBI agent Colleen Rowley's 2001 memo, which the FBI also downplayed, which warned of Zacarius Moussoui, now referred to as the 20th hijacker. Forget how inept the CIA was, and it's inability to coordinate and communicate with the FBI. Forget the now infamous August 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing (PDB) entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US" which Bush shrugged off amid the golf course and brush-clearing during his month-long vacation in Crawford that fateful Summer. And forget Condi Rice, who incredulously said, "I don't think anyone could have predicted that . . . they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile" even though the White House had suspected this for months as evidenced by the August PDB. That's right. Forget all this, because it's all Bill Clinton's fault. If it wasn't for Clinton, we could have avoided 911. At least that's the premise of the NY Post's Deborah Orin in her utterly asinine and irresponsible column today. Seems the GOP, and Orin, are going Pink Floyd on us, blaming everything on "The Wall." The wall, that is, that existed during the Clinton years between the CIA, FBI and the Justice Department. According to Orin, then-US attorney Mary Jo White, in her best Ronald Reagan Soviet-era impersonation, "pleaded" with Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to "tear down the wall." Orin makes White out to be the great sage who foresaw the tragic events of 9-11, but whose warnings fell on deaf ears. Orin mentions "the wall" eleven times. Ya gotta hand it to these Republicans. Once Ken Melhman and Karl Rove devise the talking points, the spin monkeys like Orin, Rush, Hannity, etc regurgitate it ad nauseum. What's really amazing is how Orin blames the blunders of 2001 not on the Bush team, but on this old wall that was created by the Clintonites. What I don't get is, if White was so smart, with the prescience into 9-11, she certainly had plenty of time to share her insights with the Bush team in '01, right? Wouldn't it make sense that if the Clinton crew failed to listen, that White would've/should've had a receptive bunch in the Bushies? Let's all remember that Bush was in office a full eight months before 9-11. But the GOP is relentless in its quest to confuse Americans and pin 9-11 on Clinton, as if Bush took office on September 12th. But no amount of spinning by Mehlman, Orin, Rush and Hannity can erase the truth. And the truth is, there's been more acts of terrorism, more lives lost, and more hatred towards the U.S. on Bush's watch than during any other presidency in American history. Despite the fact that there's been no acts of terror here at home in four years, Americans are less safe. The seven year gap between the first and second WTC attacks is but a frightening reminder of our constant vulnerability. The truth is, the Bush administration was totally inept on terrorism prior to 9-11. They had too big a hard-on for Saddam, and were too busy planning the Iraq invasion. They'll continue to blame Clinton however, just as they do for all of Bush's failings. And I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about "The Wall" in the days and weeks to come. Andy

A Change of Mind Over Roberts

When the news first broke of John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination by President Bush to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor I initially thought he's only moderately right of center, with an ambiguous record of positions, and not a right-wing ideologue. I was also resigned to the fact that his confirmation was inevitable and that Democrats should move on to the next, bigger and more important battles. But in the month since the announcement, so much insight and documentation has surfaced about Roberts that I am now compelled to be firmly against his appointment and hope our side gives Republicans a helluva fight on the Hill. While the confirmation may still be inevitable--the Dem's only hold 44 of 100 Senate seats--we should nonetheless use the hearings, which commence September 6th, to aggressively question the nominee and force him to share his views and confirm that he'll put his judicial oath to the Constitution before his religion beliefs. Let's not make this easy. If we focus on the statements and documents that have been made public these past four weeks we can safely conclude that Roberts is one scary dude. On issues that include abortion, civil rights, voting rights, school prayer, church and state, big business, employee rights, school integration/busing and the environment he demonstrates an extremely radical conservative bent. Sandra Day O'Connor he's not. Don't expect many 5-4 rulings with Roberts playing swingman. Among those leading the Senate charge against Roberts are Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Leahy said Roberts' views were "among the most radical being offered by a cadre intent on reversing decades of policies on civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, privacy and access to justice." Leahy is co-chair of the Judiciary Committee and will lead the questions of Roberts at the hearings. Kennedy's been just as harsh, saying the documents on Roberts "show he was on or beyond the outer fringe of that extreme group eager to take our law and society back in time on a wide range of issues of individual rights and liberties, and on broad issues of government responsiveness to public needs." Schumer says, given what we now know about Roberts' record, the burden is on Roberts to prove he'll be a "restrained and independent" judge who "doesn't want to impose his personal views" on Americans. And Reid said: "All this talk about whether Democrats will support the Roberts nomination is laughably premature. . . . The White House has so far refused to produce relevant documents, and the documents we have seen raise questions about the nominee's commitment to progress on civil rights." Further, several leading Liberal advocacy groups are turning up the heat on Democrats to press for a more aggressive stance against Roberts. They include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; People for the American Way; Alliance for Justice; and the Human Rights Campaign. Most are planning to publicly reject the Roberts nomination even before the hearings begin. What's most frightening about a Roberts appointment is that it likely will set the judicial process in this country back 30-40 years, erasing all of the progressive gains we've made on important matters of health, civil rights and social reform. The fanatical Right wants desperately to overturn Roe v. Wade and other key landmark cases it deems "too liberal." That is why the Roberts fight is terribly important, especially as we ponder the likelihood that Bush may have two other opportunities soon to shift the Court even further to the right in the event Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the 85-year-old John Paul Stevens should also retire as expected. At that time, America will be a very, very scary place. Andy

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gunshots Ring Out in Crawford

And on the seventh day...some Texas lunatic decided he'd had enough with grieving Army mom Cindy Sheehan's protest vigil outside the Bush ranch/home office in Crawford. So what's a frustrated redneck to do? Why, drive by and blast a few rounds into the air, that's what! Yeah, surely that'll rattle these unpatriotic anti-Americans joined together by the simple fact that their sons, friends and relatives died in Iraqi combat so some bloated ignoramus named Larry Mattlage has the Constitutional freedom to grab his shotgun off the pick-up truck gun rack and let his Smith & Wesson do the talking. Seems 'ole Larry is pissed at the growing legion of demonstrators banding together in solidarity with Sheehan, who's been camped outside the ranch since Aug. 6 to demand answers and accountability from Bush over the 1845 deaths of U.S. soldiers, including her son Casey, 24, who died last Spring after being in Baghdad just five days. "I ain't threatening nobody, and I ain't pointing a gun at nobody," Mattlage said. "This is Texas." Can you believe this cretin? Yeah, Larry, we know all about Texas. Have you forgotten that our supremely arrogant good 'ole boy president is one of yours? We haven't. Maybe you think it's ok for Texans to speak with their shotguns, but the rest of the civilized world might suggest another form of expression. So you were just firing into air, you say. What's next? Grazing someone's temple? A shot in the leg? This guy's a nutcase who would be locked up in most other states. But not good ole' Texas. And what was it that's really irking this despicable neanderthal? "They moved one port-a-potty. Now we got two port-a-pots. And now we got three, and if this keeps up, they'll be all the way at the end of the road." That's right, Larry. And hopefully there'll be more and more pottys until your whole town is one giant protest over this arrogant, inept and deceitful president and his fiasco of a war. Andy

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Here's Why Democrats Find it Hard to Win

Under mounting pressure from Republican Senator Arlen Specter (PA) and key Democrats, the abortion rights group Naral Pro-Choice America, has decided to pull its 30-second TV ad which sharply criticizes Supreme Court nominee John Roberts for the controversial friend-of-the-court brief he filed in the 1991 Supreme Court case of Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. Roberts argued that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, designed to protect slaves, could not technically be applied to abortion protesters who tried to blockade clinics because the protestors were against a process, abortion, not women in particular. The ad portrays Roberts as "one whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans." I can accept Specter turning on the heat. He's a moderate, pro-choice Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee. He's trying to keep the Roberts confirmation process civil. What infuriates me are the namby-pamby Democrat apologists who are denouncing Naral's ad as well. People like former Clinton official Lanny Davis, who calls the ad "inaccurate, filled with innuendo and shameless" and urges liberal groups to denounce it. Or Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) who said he wished Naral hadn't run the ad. There's such a political double standard today mainly created by the Left, which lacks the toughness to fight the GOP and its slick media spin machine. Democrats seem more concerned with being, reasonable, rational and politically correct than they do about winning. When's the last time you saw a Republican denounce an attack ad against Democrats? Can you name a conservative group that buckled under pressure from a leading Democrat senator? Can you name one prominent right-winger who opposedd the slanderous and shameful Swift Boat ads? Hell no. Because the GOP wants to win, ands they'll do whatever it takes to do so. And they saw the Swift Boat ads as extremely effective, and they reveled in it. Memo to the apologists: the GOP does not respect you or hold you in high esteem when you join with them to attack your own. Rather, they laugh at you and exploit you. Republicans are relentless in staying on message, and doggedly defend those who spread their gospel. Until the left recognizes this, and starts fighting like this is the life-threatening political battle that it is, we will win nothing. Andy

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cindy Sheehan: America's Spokeswoman

President Bush yesterday stepped up to the mike at the Crawford ranch and in his persistent delusional state declared yet again that "we're making progress in Iraq." Forget that August is shaping up to be the deadliest, bloodiest month since the war began; that over 1840 U.S. soldiers have now been killed; that armed militia stormed Baghdad's municipal building this week and deposed its mayor and installed a Shiite leader; that the insurgents are obtaining and using bigger, more lethal bombs; that the Constitution still seems eons away; that Shiites want a separate, autonomous region in the South; that Fallujah is now a terrorist haven again; that elections in December promise even more violence; and that Iraqi armed forces and police appear years away from being ready to take over, if ever. Will someone please tell the jihadists that the "insurgency is in its last throes," as VP Dick Cheney recently declared, because they sure as hell don't seem to know this. So now along comes Cindy Sheehan from Vacaville, CA, the soft-spoken yet highly articulate and media-savvy mother of 24-year-old Army SPC Casey Sheehan, who was killed just five days after arriving in Baghdad last Spring. Looks like Bush has finally met his match; someone who will not buckle under his arrogant bullying and condescending dismissals. Sheehan has parked herself outside Bush's Crawford ranch in protest of the war, demanding answers as to why her son and 1840+ others have had to die. "This is George Bush's accountability moment," she said. "That's why I'm here. The mainstream media aren't holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So I'm not leaving Crawford until he's held accountable." Bravo Cindy! It's about time someone demands accountability from this president. And she's the perfect spokesperson for most of us Americans who also happen to believe this is an unjust war with no end in sight. Sheehan won't let up. In fact, she's being joined by hundreds of others. This weekend she's staging a mass protest and expects one thousand or more supporters including many other grieving parents of soldiers killed in action. As the saying goes, Bush can run, but he can't hide. Sheehan's getting massive media play, and has the sympathy of a majority of this country. Said Sheehan of Bush: ..."my message is a simple one. He's said that my son, and the other children we've lost, died for a noble cause. I want to find out what that noble cause is. And I want to ask him...If it's such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?" Seems like pretty reasonable questions to me. Bush has so far refused to come out to speak directly with Sheehan saying the two spoke one-on-one last year and that he's also repeatedly stated his position--that the war on terror needs to be fought and that the troops must stay until the task is completed. Clearly, Bush is shuddering in his big ole' Texas boots about the mere prospect of facing this woman and the nation, unscripted, to answer direct questions about this fiasco of a war. Conversely, Cindy Sheehan stands tall, looms large, and speaks for us all. Andy

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Specter Set to Grill Roberts at Confirmation Hearings

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's moderate Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, intends to question Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. on a number of key cases during the enigmatic conservative's confirmation hearings slated to begin September 6th. Specter, amid cheers from Democrats and jeers from the GOP, shot off a three-page letter to Roberts indicating that the nominee will be asked to share his views on landmark cases where rulings on issues ranging from abortion, civil rights, environmental protection and interstate commerce have shaped the court since. At issue in particular is the power Congress has to enact broad legislation on a number of social issues, and whether the court believes that it has the authority to do so. To be sure, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce. The court seems to lately have a different interpretation. In the mid 90's the court ruled in two key cases--U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison--that clearly diminished this power and set the stage for the ensuing legal debate and battle between the two branches of government. In Lopez, the court overturned law that made it a crime to possess a gun within 1000 feet from a school. In Morrison, part of the Violence Against Women Act was invalidated. In both cases, the court ruled that Congress lacked the authority to pass such laws, citing lawmakers' "method of reasoning" as the basis for overturning legislation. The court, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, seems to have a general disdain for politicians. Specter sees this as the court saying that "Congress is incompetent." And that's ruffled his feathers and those of many other senators on both sides of the aisle. On the left, Chuck Schumer has lead the charge against Roberts and the need for the White House to release documents relating to Roberts' tenure as deputy solicitor general in the Reagan and Bush administrations from 1989 to 1993. The hope and expectation is that these documents will shed some light on Roberts and his beliefs. To date, Bush has refused to provide these papers. This has set the stage for the September showdown between the Judiciary Committee, Roberts and the court. Specter will ask Roberts to comment on the Lopez and Morrison cases, which in the Senator's view, "overturned almost 60 years of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause," as well as on the always volatile subject of Roe v. Wade. Whether Roberts responds or pulls a Ginsburg and refuses to answer the committee's questions a la Clinton appointee Ruth Bader-Ginsburg in 1993, is anyone's guess. But it's now abundantly clear that Roberts will face the music from both the right and left. Kudos to Specter for putting duty to country before partisanship. Andy

Monday, August 08, 2005

Religion: What Goes Around Comes Around

The Republican Party's talking points these days very conveniently suggest that there should be no religious testing of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr., whose Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, slated to commence September 6, promises to be a partisan battleground. The GOP has consistently tried to minimize the role of religion in this process and warns Democrats not to press Roberts with questions about his personal faith or of that of his feverishly anti-abortion wife. The problem with all that is that the GOP expects to have it both ways. The role of religion has been firmly planted in today's political landscape by Republicans, not Democrats. The GOP has used religion, faith and "values" against us in unprecedented fashion since the 1990's. They've used it as a political weapon to draw distinctions about candidates, and they've placed it front and center in the battles over abortion, gay marriage, life support and judicial appointments themselves (see "Justice Sunday I and II). It's been weapon #1 in the movement to divide not unite. The GOP, urged on by the radical evangelical wing of its party, has tirelessly and shamelessly used God and faith in an effort to control our bodies, our bedrooms and matters of life and death. They've used it as wedge to further the political schism in our country today. The not-so-subtle inferences have been that only "people of faith" are true Americans and patriots, and that only Republicans can be people of faith. That if you don't support Bush's war in Iraq then you are anti-American, and therefore not a person of faith. They've used and abused religion and faith at every turn, and now they want to play secular games when it comes to Roberts' confirmation hearings. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing.
Well, Democrats have another plan. Roberts will have to climb out of the vacuum and shed light on his views. Knowing his opinions on Roe v. Wade and other key rulings is a must. He needs to be asked if his personal religious beliefs will hinder his ability to serve the court and to carry out his oath to have the Constitution as his only frame of reference. If the Republicans don't like it, tough. They changed the rules, not us . Andy

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Roberts Instrumental in '96 Gay Rights Case

Just when we were starting to believe Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. was right-wing all the way, we find out that he's the little-known sixth member of the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" team. Ya know, the one that provides free legal advice. News came out yesterday that Roberts provided critical pro-bono advice to advocates for gay rights in a case that resulted in a 1996 landmark ruling that's considered by the gay community as the cornerstone of their civil rights movement. The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, had struck down Colorado constitutional law which stripped gay men and lesbians of certain civil liberties and barred the state from passing future antidiscrimination laws. While working as a lawyer at DC firm Hogan & Hartson, Roberts provided key guidance to the plaintiff's lawyers in the case, Romer v Evans. He advised them of their need to snag the middle in order to get a majority, and then specifically outlined strategy to counter the challenges expected from hard-line conservative justices like Scalia and Rehnquist, who Roberts once clerked for. Essentially, the lawyers were advised by Roberts to show that the court would not have to overturn a previous case, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld a ban on homosexual sodomy, in order to overturn the Colorado legislation. To make a long story short, the Romer case was won by gays, and it paved the way for future rulings crucial to the gay rights movement. So what do we make of Roberts? Where does this fit in to the picture that's been painted lately of a staunch conservative who should be feared by the left? Well, he's not only scaring liberals. Conservative groups are now wondering as well just who this guy is and what his true beliefs are on a number of sensitive issues. The Romer case makes him more of an enigma than before. Will he surprise the right and become another Souter? Doubtful. But can he still disappoint the hard-liners who were all too sure that he was their man in the Scalia/Thomas mold? Absolutely. Andy

Friday, August 05, 2005

Novak Down! Will Rove Be Next?

CNN yesterday indefinitely suspended right-wing pundit Robert Novak, a key figure in the Valerie Plame outing case under federal grand jury investigation, for throwing a fit on the set of its "Inside Politics" program. Novak, along with Democratic campaign guru James Carville, was discussing the Florida senate campaign where former state secretary and Bush operative Katherine Harris, aka Cruella de Ville, will be seeking the GOP seat. She currently is a congresswoman from the state's 13th district. The crusty old Novak, great at dishing dirt, barbs and inflammatory rhetoric, is evidently lousy at taking it. Carville was pushing some serious buttons about Novak needing to look tough to the GOP. Irate at Carville's badgering, he stormed off the set. A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, said Novak's behavior was "inexcusable and unacceptable." She added that Novak had apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers. Alas, is this the start of something big? Could Karl Rove, pictured here with his chat pal Novak, be next? Is the proverbial house of cards crumbling? It's about time these guys start paying the price of their monumental arrogance and unethical behavior. The abuse of power, and disrespect for the rule of law, has gone unchecked...hopefully up until now. Novak's suspension could be a signal that the GOP's armor is starting to crack. Andy

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rejoice! The "Global Struggle" Is Over!

The United States government just fought the shortest global struggle against violent extremism in our nation's history. G-SAVE, as it was known, just one week ago replaced the war on terror when it apparently became clear to the Bush administration that a war was/is exactly what we seem to be losing. But, can't lose a war if you're not fighting one, right? So let's subtly transition from a war to a global struggle and lower the expectations bar and hope no one notices. G-SAVE was especially drilled into the media by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers and others. But it backfired big time among Democrats, Republicans, military personnel, the media and others. Were the Bushies signaling a shift in Iraq policy? Was this a de facto admission of defeat? Was Bush planning to cut and run since we're no longer at war? On the surface, GSAVE is moronic and offensive. That any of us were expected to swallow this crap shows how arrogant the Bushies are and how naive they think we are. Sensing a major PR screw-up, Bush himself, in a speech yesterday in Grapevine, Tx, ended GSAVE and re-ignited the war on terror. Just like that. Goodbye GSAVE, hello war! He emphatically reiterated that we're fighting the same war on terror that we started after September 11, 2001, and that we're fighting the same enemy. "Make no mistake about it, we are at war," he said. Bush must've concluded that with 20 soldiers killed in just the last two days, GSAVE wasn't going too well either so he might as well bring back the war. I guess being on the ranch down in Crawford clears the head of BS. At least his red-state lemmings have a misguided patriotic fondness for the war. They didn't know what to make of GSAVE though. Memo to self: stick with what works. He's even got Rummy using those crazy "war" words again. So, back to war it is. Here's a little secret though: with more soldiers being killed than ever before; with the Jihadists growing in ranks; and with insurgents using bigger, more lethal bombs; none of us really ever bought the GSAVE rhetoric. Shame on Bush for even trying. Andy

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Federalist Society: Just What the Hell is it?

Ever since President Bush unleashed his mighty Karl Rove Weapon of Mass Distraction, Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr., we've heard a lot of talk about The Federalist Society. Roberts, like many prominent jurists, legal professionals, academics and politicians, is a member (although he disputes this despite the fact that his name appears in the organization's 1997-1998 leadership directory). Other notable members include former solicitor general Theodore Olson, Kenneth Starr, C. Boyden Gray, Robert Bork and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who said "I am on the board of advisers of the Federalist Society, and I am darn proud of it", adding that the group is a bunch of lawyers "who are just sick and tired of the leftward leanings of our government." Furthermore, almost half of Bush's judicial appointees are members. This is like a Who's Who of conservative all-stars. So just what does this group do? What does it stand for? What kind of power does it yield? How influential is in today's political scene? It was founded 23 years ago by disgruntled law students who felt that academia was decidedly biased towards the left. It's mission is to foster debate of and promote conservative views. According to its own web site, it is a "group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the current legal order. We are committed to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks to promote awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities....We have fostered a greater appreciation for the role of separation of powers; federalism; limited, constitutional government; and the rule of law in protecting individual freedom and traditional values....Finally, the Federalist Society provides opportunities for effective participation in the public policy process. The Society's ongoing programs encourage our members to involve themselves more actively in local, state-wide, and national affairs and to contribute more productively to their communities." It has about 35,000 members including 5,000 student members and 20,000 lawyers. On the surface it seems like any other partisan outfit, so why should we care? Because what's alarming is what we don't know about this group. Like Skull and Bones, this is a secret society. It does not publish its membership roster; it takes no official positions; and many who do belong either deny or lie about their membership, or feign ignorance about the group's mission/purpose. Some even claim to belong without having any idea why: "I am a member of the Federalist Society, and I do not know, quite frankly, what it stands for," Viet D. Dinh incredulously said during his confirmation hearing for a top job at the Justice Department. How much more vague can one be about a group that has had a pivotal role in several infamous political events such as the Clinton impeachment; the Florida Bush v. Gore recount; and the Swift Boat smear campaign on John Kerry? What many Democrats fear is the collective power the Society has. At issue, and of gravest concern, is the Society's influence in the war being fought by the GOP, evangelicals and other partisan hard-liners over the federal judiciary and the Constitution itself. Among the Society's power elite, just what does a wink and a handshake obtain? No one really knows. But one thing for sure is that the group is extremely influential, does wield significant power, and most likely is the engine driving a lot of radical positions being taken today on a range of sensitive issues including abortion, civil rights, privacy, separation of powers, federalism and judicial appointments. Oh, and by the way, Sen. Hatch just happens to be on the judiciary Committee which will soon commence confirmation hearings of Roberts. Andy

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bush Yet Again Divides Not Unites

You may remember the NY Daily News headline of October 30, 1975 concerning then-president Gerald Ford's reply to Gotham's financial crisis: "Ford to City: Drop Dead." Tomorrow's papers could carry the headline, "Bush to Congress, America, the U.N. and the World: Screw You." As expected, the president today made his recess appointment of John Bolton as U.N Ambassador despite public outcry and intense opposition from Democratic and key Republican Senators. Yes, the man that said "There's no such thing as the United Nations.... If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," has just had the most important, highest-ranking diplomatic job in the world bestowed upon him. You got it. The same guy who exaggerated intelligence to fit his aggressive accusations about Iraqi, Cuban and Syrian WMD. The same guy who derided and abused subordinates who disagreed with him. The same guy who chased a woman around a Russian hotel (my favorite of all Bolton folklore) throwing shoes and screaming obscenities. Welcome to George W. Bush's never-ending quest to unite not divide. Here he is once again demonstrating absolute disregard for the economic, social, emotional and political schism in our nation today. Hell, he's the cause of it. It's not bad enough that the world has lost respect for us and loathes our leadership. It's not bad enough that we're occupying a sovereign nation that posed no threat to us and was invaded under false pretenses. It's not bad enough that our citizens and military face death from venomous, hate-filled suicide bombers and terrorists who view us as the world's bully. Our brilliant president has decided that the answer to our diplomatic problems...that the person best suited to recapture our once-great standing in the diplomatic John Bolton. Bush arrogantly defies reality. He doesn't care that this temporary appointment goes in as "damaged goods" as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) stated, and does not have the support of our country and congress (Bolton, as a recess appointee, under law will serve until January 2007). How will he be viewed? Will he garner the respect from our allies? From the Third World nations whose relationships with the U.S. are already strained? Will he, can he, truly get anything done with such a flimsy mandate? The answer is no. On the world's stage, he will be viewed as illegitimate, just like his boss. As far as I'm concerned, 2008 can't come soon enough. This country needs to get back to being the greatest nation in the world, not a cheapened replica that's led by thugs and theocrats. Andy