Monday, October 30, 2006

Rove 101: The GOP 'Get-Out-The-Vote' Gambit

(Rove 101: A series reporting on the tactics and talking points of the Grand Ol' Propagandists.)

The GOP 'Get-Out-The-Vote' Gambit

WHAT IT IS: A tactic that the GOP is using to discredit polls that show Democrats in front.

WHAT IT DOES: Allegedly, the rationale is that, because of the massive GOP 'get-out-the-vote' machine, a Democrat has to be leading by at least 5% in the polls to be able to beat a GOP challenger. This will, of course, be used as the explanation if, on election day, results show the GOP has performed much better than the polls actually showed.

For those who think that hackable voting machines with no paper trails are a problem, this tactic should be of prime concern, because it will be used to cut the legs out from people who challenge results that are contradictory to polling numbers.

WHO USES IT: GOP spokespeople and their enablers in the media.

Unfortunately, this RNC talking point has become a regular part of the language of allegedly non-partisan news outlets. In today's continuous pre-election coverage on MSNBC, for example, the anchors were referring to it as 'fact' even more often than the GOP spokespeople.

From NPR,
The vaunted Republican Get-Out-The-Vote machine is credited with President Bush's victory in 2004. And Republicans are hoping it will play a similar role in this year's congressional elections. Democrats are fighting back, but will it be enough?

From the Rocky Mountain News:
The Republicans are counting on that precision for their best get-out-the-vote results ever.

"We've seen a get-out-the-vote program move an election five percentage points," Jones said. "That's out of the norm. But if you don't think I'm oiling the machine to overperform, you're crazy."

Steve Welchert, adviser to O'Donnell's Democratic rival Ed Perlmutter, says the Republican machine is particularly troubling this year when a presidential race isn't on the ballot to drive more voters to the polls.

"If it's usually worth three points, it might be worth 4 1/2 points this time," he said. "It keeps us up nights at the Perl-mutter campaign."

Prior to 2000, Democrats were known as the party that could come from behind in the final stretch.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Republican expertise in microtargeting is credited with helping reelect President Bush two years ago. This year, advisers to embattled Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) say that the party's high-tech turnout machine can bring him victory if the race with Democrat Bob Casey Jr. tightens.

"I truly believe we can move our numbers 4 to 5 points on Election Day," said Vince Galko, Santorum's campaign manager.

It's not necessarily true and it is being sold as truth.

Whether or not the GOP is better at getting out the vote, current polls are all showing far more 'passion' when it comes to Democrats and our prospects. A perfect example of this is the 2-1 margin by which voters 'strongly' disapprove of the president, as opposed to those who 'strongly' approve.

It has been emphasized repeatedly in the media that the GOP base is demoralized and hardly enthusiastic.

Conversely, continuing lack of representation has made this election a rallying point for Democrats of all stripes.

The problem is not necessarily that Democrats can't rally the troops, the problem is that the GOP has laid out a minefield for voters in Democratic districts.

There have been repeated instances of voter disenfranchisement, where people have had to stand on line for hours, in heavily Democratic districts (remember Ohio?).

Has there been any similar problem in traditional GOP polling places, that resulted in equivalent long lines?

The GOP has trotted out the story about their great 'machine' to explain discrepancies between poll numbers and results in the last 2 election cycles.

By the way, for those who would like more complete specifics on GOP attempts to frustrate Dems from voting, I link to useful sources here.

1) Take the GOP at face value and vote. Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to do the same.

2) Volunteer in the final days to help the get-out-the-vote effort in your area.

3) Challenge the media assumptions on talk shows and in letters to newspapers. Ask why instances of Democratic voter disenfranchisment, or instances where results did not match EXIT polls have raised no eyebrows. In your letters and calls, encourage others to vote.

4) Especially, if the results do not come close to matching 'exit' polls, challenge them. And challenge the results loudly.

Some may consider this to be the imaginings of a conspiracy theorist, but I fully believe that this tactic may be the first salvo to get the fix in. If the GOP can convince the public that election polls are really that far off, Diebold and friends have an easier time working their magic.

Do not let them.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halliburton & War Profiteering

Halliburton, the military contractor that has made the most money from our incursion into Iraq, has been charged in a government report with abusing federal contracting regulations. The allegations charge that Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, routinely hid information on their contractual work to prevent oversight.

Considering these contracts amount to $17 billion, this practice of marking their data 'propietary' and making it unavailable to the public, leaves a huge opening for potential abuse.

According to Reuters,
The company's actions were an abuse of federal contracting rules designed to protect truly proprietary information, said the report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Information as fundamental as the daily number of meals being served to U.S. soldiers at a dining facility was labeled "not releasable to the public," the report said.

Under a multibillion-dollar contract awarded in December 2001 to KBR, the company has been feeding, housing and providing other services to U.S. troops worldwide.

Hallibuton's 'defense'

The Houston Chronicle refers to Halliburton's defense of their practices...they just don't want their competitors to get a leg up on them:
While Bowen's office only examined the task order related to providing basic support services such as serving food and washing clothes for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, KBR's "inappropriate" use of the proprietary designation could be "a systemic problem" throughout the $17 billion logistics contract with the Pentagon, the report said.

When asked by the Defense Contract Management Agency about the practice of marking so much information as "proprietary," the company argued, "KBR has encountered situations in the past where extremely competition sensitive data has found its way to the press and/or to the Internet."

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann, in an e-mail, said the logistics contract is "currently being reviewed to potentially be divided among several contractors. As (Bowen's) report ... states, it is clearly appropriate to mark data as proprietary that could potentially be used for competitive purposes, as would be the case in a potentially new (logistics) contract in the future."

Investigation by Democrats

A Democratic congressional panel has found that many instances of abuse have already taken place.

The Chronicle, in conclusion, had this to report:
On Friday, the Democratic Policy Committee issued a Top 20 list of "oversight outrages" the panel had investigated.

Fifteen related to Halliburton.

"Clearly, there is an urgent and compelling case for taking a close look at what is going on with these contracts," Dorgan said.

California Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, called Halliburton "a case study in corporate profiteering during wartime.

"Halliburton billed the taxpayer for millions of meals it never served and charged the government vastly inflated prices for fuel," Waxman said. "The company has now tried to conceal key information about these abuses from the inspector general and the public."
Considering how much money BushCo has funneled into the corporation once helmed by Vice President Dick Cheney, one would think that some attempt at oversight would have been instituted, simply as a way of being fiscally responsible. But Halliburton and KBR have seemingly been given free reign, thanks to a GOP House and Senate that has continuously looked the other way.

If the Democrats regain some degree of power after the mid-terms, one of the first priorities, and a way of saving America billions in wasted taxpayer dollars, should be to start a process that will eventually lead to the criminalization of war profiteering.

How many pre-emptive invasions do you think the neo-cons would be able to start if their corporate backers had no economic benefit from such incursions?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Bush Chat With Conservative Journalists

After his news conference, President Bush had an hour-long meeting on Wednesday with some conservative journalists to amplify his positions in a more friendly setting.

Some of his talk was off the record, but a substantial portion is available for viewing. The transcript, as provided by the National Review, is linked below.

The "Grand Ideological Struggle"

It's enlightening, and scary, to hear President Bush begin his comments. He refers to a "grand ideological struggle, which he defines as follows:
It is a struggle between moderate people, and a struggle between ideologues who are totalitarian and kill to achieve an objective without conscience. It's interesting, here in America, I ran into a kid the other day who used to work here and he goes to a famous law school, and he said, the problem, Mr. President, is people don't believe we're at war. I not only believe we're at war, I know we're at war. My biggest issue that I think about all the time is the next attack on America, because I am fully aware that there are people out there that would like nothing more than to have another spectacular moment by killing the American people. And they're coming. And we've got to do everything we can to stop them. That's why I believe we ought to listen to their phone calls, obviously on a limited basis, one coming out of the country, and why I know we need to interrogate these people. That's why we need the Patriot Act. That's why we need to be on the offense all the time. Iraq is the central part of this global war right now. The extremists, radicals have made it clear that they want us to leave. You know, it's an interesting world in which people are not willing to listen to the words of an enemy, but in this case, we're able to listen to the enemy and find out what the enemy thinks and publish their thoughts. The Commander-in-Chief must listen carefully and take their words extremely seriously.
It's fascinating to hear him refer to himself as the Commander-in-Chief, as if he is stepping into somebody else's cowboy boots.

How soon after Bush proclaimed "mission accomplished" did this "war" begin? We invaded Iraq and ousted their leader. If we are at war, who are we at war with and how will we know if the war is won?

As for his rationale for the removal of civil liberties in the name of 'the war on terror,' I don't believe a word of it. If George Bush were sincere he would have admitted that he always had the power to listen in on the phone calls of terrorists. The ONLY reason for seeking to spy without a warrant is that it gives one the opportunity to spy on political enemies. But then, he is Commander-in-Chief.

Bush The Lecturer

Something one notices right off the bat is his quirky way of talking to these reporters. Hey, I realize that many of these people are actually GOP cheerleaders, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and use the 'j' word.
The first question that you must ask a President — you can put this any way you want — I'm not asking myself questions, but you should be asking me — is, do you trust Maliki? Is he the right guy to show the courage necessary to achieve the objective? And the answer is, I think he is.
He's not asking himself questions, but this is the question! It's obvious that Bush has a serious need for maintaining complete control over his environment. His completely staged campaign stops when he was running for re-election fit neatly into this scenario.

Stay The Course, Defined...Again

Stay the course means we win.
(General Casey's) judgment is a lot more refined than anybody else's that I hear from, because he's there, he's living this issue, he wants to succeed. He is constantly adjusting our game plan. This stuff about "stay the course" — stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change.
How many times are we going to be subjected to a new definition of "stay the course" that Bush thinks will cause the perception of what he is doing to turn positive? Just like our 'mission' in Iraq, I am sure we will find many new incarnations of this definition down the road.

The President Doesn't Control Iraq Policy, General Casey Does

How else to explain the following, a variation of what was said earlier:
I told them in the press conference today, last spring I thought we were going to be able to say to the American people, we'll have a lot fewer troops in Iraq. You know why I thought that? Because that's what General Casey thought. He felt like the situation was progressing to the point where he was going to be able to let them go, to a much greater extent — let them go defend themselves to a much greater extent than turned out to be, because of this al Qaeda-inspired sectarian violence. And so he says, look, this thing isn't going to — we need more troops, not less. And so what happens is, is that I say, okay, whatever you need. You want more troops, you've got more troops. You want less troops, we'll have less troops, but please give me the rationale why.
Oh, and in case you missed it, it's not sectarian violence between the Sunni and the Shiites, it's "al Qaeda-inspired sectarian violence."

There is much more to this presidential meeting with the conservative image-peddlers and I urge you to read the full text yourselves to see what rationale people, grounded in reality, are up against.

The transcript is available at NRO here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Bush News Conference: GOP Propaganda

I will admit that the presidential news conference today was easier to read than watch. I was able to catch snippets of the conference earlier today, but what I did see was not easy on the eyes. Is it me, or does George Bush don his signature smirk at the most inappropriate times? And will somebody ever have the temerity to tell him that pronouncing nuclear as 'nucular' doesn't make him sound cute and folksy, just stupid.

Fortunately, there is a full transcript of the news conference available from the International Herald Tribune, which I will link to below.

Just a few points about some of Bush's comments. From his speech:

If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East.
Bush could have stopped at the first part of that sentence, because he told the truth. The occupation of Iraq has always been about oil. How dare they seek access to their own resources!

The way to succeed in Iraq is to help Iraq's government grow in strength and assume more control over its country as quickly as possible.

I know the American people understand the stakes in Iraq. They want to win. They will support the war as long as they see a path to victory.
The definition of 'victory' in Iraq keeps changing. I thought we were in Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein? Or was it to set up a democracy? After 5 years of allegedly training Iraqis to stabilize their own government, we are seeing the violence spin out of control. What, exactly, are we supposed to win? What is victory? Keeping the oilfields secure?

But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war. We must look at every success -- we must not look at every success of the enemy as a mistake on our part, cause for an investigation or a reason to call for our troops to come home
Interesting that Bush is concerned about a possible investigation. If one doesn't investigate what went wrong, how can one possibly learn from one's mistakes? That comment actually explains much about why we have been so adrift with respect to our Iraqi policy.

We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems.
Make no mistake, it is the Democrats that Mr. Bush is accusing of propaganda. Polls that show the majority of the Iraqis want us gone have obviously fallen on deaf ears. This man can't handle the truth.

We mourn every loss. And we must gird ourselves for the sacrifices that are yet to come. America's men and women in uniform are the finest in the world. I'm awed by their strength and their character.
This is BushSpeak for we must 'stay the course.'

From the questioning:

QUESTION: Are we winning?

BUSH: Absolutely we're winning.

Al Qaida's on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks, is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account.
So now, Osama bin Laden is not the mastermind?

This answer again ignores the reality of the sectarian violence and ongoing civil war. Bush and his advisors may be the only people in the world who refuse to recognize that this sectarian warfare is the major ongoing problem in Iraq, not Al Qaida.

QUESTION: Are you considering sending more U.S. troops to Iraq?

What would be the justification for it? And how reliable is this new timetable of 12 to 18 months?

BUSH: The -- I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says, "I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory."
If General Casey said, "Mr. President, it's pronounced 'new-klee-uhr,' not 'new-cue-luhr,' would he listen? There's hope!

QUESTION: Does the United States want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq?

And I would follow that by asking, are you willing to renounce a claim on permanent bases in Iraq?

BUSH: Any decisions about permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government.

And, frankly, it's not in much of a position to be thinking about what the world's going to look like five or 10 years from now. They are working to make sure that we succeed in the short term. And they need our help. And that's where our focus is.

But remember, when you're talking about bases and troops, we're dealing with a sovereign government.
This was not the first time in this news conference that Bush referred to Iraq's 'sovereign government,' but why should that matter to Bush? Sovereignty certainly did not factor in when we made the choice to invade.


QUESTION: Is the coming election a referendum on Iraq? Should it be?

BUSH: I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: which party has got the plan that will enable our economy to continue to grow and which party has a plan to protect the American people.

And Iraq is part of the security of the United States. If we succeed and when we succeed in Iraq, our country will be more secure. If we don't succeed in Iraq, the country is less secure.

The security of this country -- and, look, I understand here in Washington, some people say we're not at war. I know that. They're just wrong, in my opinion.

The enemy still wants to strike us. The enemy still wants to achieve safe haven from which to plot and plan. The enemy would like to have weapons of mass destruction in order to attack us.

These are lethal, cold-blooded killers. And we must do everything we can to protect the American people, including questioning detainees or listening to their phone calls from outside the country to inside the country.

In other words, as you know, there was some recent votes on that issue. And the Democrats voted against giving our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people.

I will repeat, like I've said to you often: I do not question their patriotism; I question whether or not they understand how dangerous this world is.

And this is a big issue in the campaign. Security of the country is an issue, just like taxes are an issue.

If you raise taxes, it will hurt the economy. If you don't extend the tax cuts, if you don't make them -- in other words, if you let the tax cuts expire, it will be a tax increase on the American people.
Once again, Bush is deceptive, misrepresenting the reasons why Democrats were not in favor of allowing warrantless surveillance. It's called civil liberties, and preventing you from spying on your political enemies. The only reason you benefit by repeating the lie is that Democrats have done a poor job of articulating the valid reason for opposing your invasive policies.

Furthermore, could it be any clearer that this entire news conference was one big GOP campaign ad. The president hijacked the networks so he could simply give prominence to partisan campaign propaganda...there's that word again.

Unfortunately, for the GOP, putting Iraq front-and-center is probably not the best strategy for 'victory.'

Bush offered nothing new. Just the same old tired rhetoric.

The only thing left to determine is whether Diebold and friends will be able to subvert the will of the people on November 7th.

The full transcript of the press conference is available here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Olbermann: Republicans As Terrorists

With his latest 'special moment,' Keith Olbermann once again is creating a buzz, and justifiably so. This time, Olbermann has called the GOP out on their tactics and identified them for the fear-mongerers that they are. The sensation he creates is due to the fact that he isn't using code words. Mr. Olbermann simply dispenses with 'polite' speech and cuts to the chase.

What is causing the latest uproar is his use of the term 'terrorists' to describe the GOP.

After referring to a GOP campaign ad that uses apocolyptic imagery of Osama bin Laden to attack the Democrats, Olbermann makes the following observation:
You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee!

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

By this definition, the people who put these videos together—first the terrorists and then the administration—whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking—they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

The fact is, using that definition of what a terrorist is, Olbermann is right.

Furthermore, the GOP tactic of fear-mongering is one that many of us on the left have been identifying for quite some time now. It is the only card remaining that the Republicans can play. They certainly cannot run on their record of challenging, or keeping any sort of checks-and-balances on, their leader.

Since it has worked for them in the past, the party has been Roved into believing that it will work for them again.

I am sure that I am not the only one who finds it ironic that a clueless figurehead who has admitted in the past to being "not all that concerned" about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden...a man who went months without even uttering the man's name...can't get enough of Osama now.

Could it be that the recent passion of Bush and the GOP to invoke the fear of terrorist attack and nuclear holocaust, should the Dems win, is coming back to bite them in the butt?

Has America forgotten under whose watch 9/11 occurred?

Keith Olbermann just gave George Bush and the GOP what they so richly deserve. He identified them for who, and what, they really are.

Olbermann concluded his piece with the following:
Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat yourselves on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq, and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America;

Just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government, in time of crisis, in this country’s history!

“These are the stakes,” indeed, Mr. President.

You do not know what you are doing.

And the commercial—the one about which Zawahiri might say “hey, pretty good—we love your choice of font style”?

All that need further be said is to add three words to Shakespeare.

Mr. President, you, and that advertisement of terror, are full of sound and fury—signifying (and competent at) nothing.

Has there ever been a better representation of what this administration, despite all of its bluster and empty rhetoric, truly stands for?

(For the full transcript and link to the video, point your browser here)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Nightmare Before Election Day

It's a sequel to the holiday classic, currently playing in 3-D across America.

The plot: Karl Rovington, joining forces with the Ooga Busha man and the forces of Neo-Con Town, scurry down chimneys at polling places on Election Day, and perform unspeakable acts on vulnerable voting machines. Can they be stopped before Election Day is obliterated from the calendar forever?!

As scary as the plot sound, reality is even spookier.

Here are some election fraud updates to start the week. Click on the hyperlinks for the full story.

Maryland: Computer diskettes from '04 election get delivered anonymously to a former Democratic legislator with a warning to "save the state from itself."

From the Baltimore Sun:
As the FBI continued its review of the possible theft of the computer code used in Maryland's voting machines two years ago, Diebold and elections officials assured voters that the electronic voting system set to be used in next month's election is safe and tamperproof.

But critics of the state elections board and its touch-screen machines said the anonymous package left at a former legislator's office this week was another disturbing sign that Maryland's voting system could face a security threat.

From ABC News, which covered the Maryland story on Sunday, in a report they titled, "Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew Elections":
Diebold, the company that makes the voting machines, told ABC News, "These discs do not alter the security of the Diebold touch-screen system in any way," because election workers can set their own passwords.

But ABC News has obtained an independent report commissioned by the state of Maryland and conducted by Science Applications International Corporation revealing that the original Diebold factory passwords are still being used on many voting machines.

The SAIC study also shows myriad other security flaws, including administrative over-ride passwords that cannot be changed by local officials but can be used by hackers or those who have seen the discs.

California: From the land of 'we don't need no stinking tests'...

The Berkeley Daily Planet had an article, citing incomplete testing of the Sequoia voting machines, and quote a "voting rights activist," Phoebe Anne Thomas Sorgen,
“Last June, we succeeded in having them include security and hack-testing, and that’s not what was ultimately done” by the consultants. The problem, Sorgen said, remains with the electronic touchscreen voting machines which are part of the system, which are required by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) for the use of disabled persons, and which Sorgen calls “hackable.”

“There will only be one hackable machine per precinct,” she said, “but that could be enough to throw an election. We are all in favor of giving disabled persons private access to the vote, but that shouldn’t be on a machine that is hackable.”

Sorgen said that voting activists in the county will be urging citizens not to use the touchscreen machines “unless they have to for disability reasons.”

Op-Eds: A must-read is Dick Polman's column from Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Among his astute observations, this comment on 3-year old legislation from New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt, seeking to establish a paper-trail for touch-screen machines,
Republican leadership has shown no interest in pushing for a paper-trail law that, politically speaking, might appear to validate the concerns of their opponents. Even though Holt's paper-trail idea has 219 backers, only 22 of them are Republicans.

Equally valuable, Diane Carman, in the Denver Post. In a Sunday column, entitled "It's a Must: Hackerproof Democracy, Carman writes,
It's been four weeks since a judge said the secretary of state had done an "abysmal" job of certifying the security of the state's voting system and ordered emergency measures to try to ensure the integrity of the voting process.

That's 19 business days for clerks in all 64 Colorado counties to install video surveillance of voting machines, run background checks on anyone charged with transporting the equipment, put numbered security seals on all machines, provide climate-controlled storage and fulfill the rest of the judge's requirements before early voting begins.

Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle has called it "craziness."

He said the increased security measures could cost taxpayers $300,000 to $400,000, and "I felt very secure in what our processes were before."

Additionally, Carman refers to a stern courtroom ruling,
"The court concludes that the secretary has not established minimum security" as required by state statute "and did not adequately test" the electronic voting machines, Manzanares wrote. The secretary's office "did not carefully evaluate the county security plans and in some cases approved plans that do not substantially comply with the minimum requirements" of the law.

The judge's stinging criticism was particularly worrisome in light of the testimony that computer scientists from Prince ton University hacked into a voting machine made by Diebold Election Systems Inc. and reprogrammed it in one minute.

Diebold is one of four companies providing voting machines in Colorado.

Not just incidentally, it's also the company that was represented by lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff while the House Government Operations Committee was establishing rules for electronic voting systems. And that committee was chaired by Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, another convicted felon.

Finally, Carman blasts the GOP powers-that-be for dragging their feet and concludes,
If the U.S. is willing to sacrifice life and limb for the cause of democracy abroad, the least it can do is find the money to keep it from becoming a laughingstock at home.

I think we can all say "Amen" to that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iraq: Perception Vs. Reality

In the latest Newsweek poll, by a 65-25% margin, Americans say we are losing ground in Iraq.

Imagine how those 1-in-4, who think we're making progress, would feel if they actually got a glimpse of day-to-day life there?

In today's Christian Science Monitor, a story that referred to a new 2-year high in violence in Iraq had this grim assessment from a Shiite contractor, who needs 6 bodyguards to accompany him to work,
"I've never seen a situation like this. We have killings, people fleeing our neighborhoods, joblessness and the government has no control. They're completely failing."

One of the best Iraqi blogs, A Star from Mosul, is written by an 18-year old Iraqi girl. Her most recent entry is from Thursday. 'Aunt Najma' writes,
Mosul is a mess today.. I woke up late today to know that a fuel tanker exploded near the university: A place full of people and shops and cars waiting in the long gas station line, with a police station nearby.

In the meanwhile, two big explosion happened in my neighborhood today. Many explosions and shooting in several other areas. A total of six car bombs as reported in the news..

In the most sacred month, most sacred day, some people have the heart to kill and orphan and widow.

At least 12 families in Mosul will have sorrow and sadness in Eid, instead of happiness, because someone decided to kill himself in a way many won't forget..

I have been unable to write any post that relates to the situation for a long time now.. I think I am in denial. I am not watching the news, and when I happen to watch: at least 50 people are reported to be killed.. and I do not really seem to care.

I only shed a tear when I hear of security, of safety.. or of the many Iraqis who have left Iraq.. I do not know why.

Speaking of denial, The Washington Times today, reported on the president's Saturday radio address,
President Bush yesterday acknowledged that U.S. commanders are changing tactics in Iraq nearly every day but declared that the mission "is clear and unchanging."

"Our goal," he said, "is victory."

And later,
Mr. Bush vehemently rejected pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

"There is one thing we will not do: We will not pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," he said. "There are some in Washington who argue that retreating from Iraq would make us safer. I disagree."

Putting aside what 'victory' in Bushspeak means, what about the Iraqi people? What has become of their quality of life? When journalists and politicians dare not venture outside of the green zone bubble to effectively communicate the living hell that Iraq has become, is it any wonder that there is still a significant number of people who don't get what is happening there?

In the Newsweek poll I referred to, 39% of respondents still feel America did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, and 7% were unsure.

How anybody could read these accounts and still feel that way is hard to fathom.

Obviously, if one ignores reality, they are more likely to maintain a belief system based upon illusion.

Having a news media that, partially due to their own safety concerns, has not portrayed the true picture of life in Iraq, does not help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

How Lieberman Could Keep The GOP In Power

A rather short post today, but an important one.

There is more than one race going on in Connecticut that can have a vital impact upon the balance of power in the Senate.

The first, or course, is the battle between Sen. Joe Lieberman, running as an Independent, against the Democratic pick Ned Lamont. According to a poll released today from Quinnipiac University, the Lieberman lead has increased to 17 points.

Equally meaningful, for reasons which I will explain, is incumbent GOP Governor M. Jodi Rell's 26-point lead over her Democratic challenger, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.

Here's where the potential for trouble exists.

Let's say that the Democrats make huge gains in the Senate. Assuming Lieberman wins, it would not be a stretch to see a breakdown of 50-49 either way, with Lieberman as the Independent (Indy Vermont Senator Jeffords is retiring).

Shortly after the election, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld decides that the time is perfect to finally resign and George W. Bush accepts.

Who does Bush pick as the next Defense Secretary? Why Joe Lieberman, of course.

And who replaces Sen. Lieberman as Connecticut Senator? That person gets selected by GOP Governor Pell.

Suddenly, without benefit of an election, the GOP is back in business.

So, why isn't this scenario even getting a spin?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thankfully, Olbermann Gets It

Tuesday, when George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, I blogged about how serious that monumental event was.

The implications of that bill signing were enormous and totally against the principles of justice that our nation was founded upon. I was truly astounded that various publications and broadcast outlets in the mainstream media absolutely buried the story and neglected to look at what such a statute meant to democracy in America.

For example, the New York Daily News, in a small article buried deep in the paper, headlined their piece,"W:Terror law will strike at top 9/11 thug."

Even newspapers with allegedly higher standards, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, were guilty of incomplete and uninformative reporting, according to the watchdog organization Media Matters.

It is no wonder that the GOP had the audacity to declare that Democrats who opposed the bill were soft on terror, as opposed to being strong on civil rights.

So, it is with great relief that we were afforded another home run by the terrific orator, Keith Olbermann.

Once again, I recommend you click on this link, so you can read the entire transcript and also hear his delivery, but here is just a slice of what he had to say, in a piece referred to as, "Beginning of the end of America.":
...on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

Further on, Keith states:
In times of fright, we have been only human.

We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said, “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.”

We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Challenging Bush directly, Olbermann says:
Sadly—of course—the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “unlawful enemy combatants” and ship them somewhere—anywhere -- but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “unlawful enemy combatant” and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

Mr. Olbermann makes the vital point that others in the media should have been making, namely:
If you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant”—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

He also poses the question that nobody is willing to ask:
This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope he has not lied about how he intends to use it nor who he intends to use it against?

There is far more to Olbermann's eloquent defense of the Constitution, in light of the media's overall deafness and ignorance on matters of basic civil rights, so please go to the link and read the entire transcript.

And, be thankful that at least somebody in the mainstream media has a spine...and a voice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So Much For "The American Way"

Today marks a very sad day for those who value our Constitution and the principles that it embodies. It is the day that George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Among other things, this bill allows the President, or Secretary of Defense, to set up a "competent tribunal" to declare anyone, even American citizens, an "unlawful enemy combatant" of the United States. Good luck in finding out how these tribunals would be set up, or how they would operate.

The American Civil Liberties Union used justifiably strong language in their response to this bill, calling it, "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

Anthony D. Romero,ACLU Executive Director, put it best when he wrote:
"With his signature, President Bush enacts a law that is both unconstitutional and un-American. This president will be remembered as the one who undercut the hallmark of habeas in the name of the war on terror. Nothing separates America more from our enemies than our commitment to fairness and the rule of law, but the bill signed today is an historic break because it turns Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. facilities into legal no-man's-lands.

"The president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."

The ACLU on this is dead on, of course.

So how is this important story being covered and responded to?

From the AP:
Some of the most notorious names in the war on terror are headed toward prosecution after President Bush signed a law Tuesday authorizing military trials of terrorism suspects.

The legislation also eliminates some of the rights defendants are usually guaranteed under U.S. law, and it authorizes continued harsh interrogations of terror suspects.

Imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and awaiting trial are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

"With the bill I'm about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice," Bush said in a White House ceremony.

Really? I thought Osama bin Laden hadn't been caught yet. I must have been mistaken.

If you read the AP article further you find the following dishonest assessment from Bush,
"It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."

That then gets followed by this acknowledgement:
Civil libertarians and leading Democrats decried the law as a violation of American values.

While buried deep in the story, the AP article does address comments by the ACLU and one of our few courageous politicians, Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin:
"We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history."

"It allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court," Feingold said. "And the new law would permit an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony and even allow someone convicted under these rules to be put to death."

This is what America has become? This represents American 'values?'

Predictably, because so few Democrats have chosen to speak out forcefully against this, fearing it makes them look weak on 'national security,' the GOP has been given an opening.

What Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert proclaimed today has to be read to be believed. In a press release subtitled, "Democrats Choose to Pamper Terrorists and Defend Their Rights," Hastert claims:
“The Democratic plan would gingerly pamper the terrorists who plan to destroy innocent Americans’ lives. While House Republicans work to deal with these dangers like establishing Terrorist Tribunals that will prosecute enemies of America, Democrat Leader Pelosi and 159 of her colleagues voted in favor of NEW rights for terrorists.

“The House Democrat Leader does not understand that our fight for freedom does not just happen on the battlefield but also on the floor of the House of Representatives. It should come as no surprise that the Democrats in the House put their liberal agenda ahead of the security of America.”

He then lashes out in a specific attack on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's voting record.

I suppose when people are calling for your head for helping to cover-up a scandal, you venomously attack to take the heat off of yourself. But it exemplifies why the GOP needs to become the minority party.

Numerous times today, various Republican mouthpieces have also implied that Democrats who did not support this bill were on the side of terrorists. That is blatantly false. Anyone who thinks this law is good are the real supporters of terrorists because they have allowed those who commit terror to alter the American tradition of justice and fairness.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why Are These Men Smiling?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Michael Abramowitz, in today's Washington Post, writes that President Bush and trusted pit bull, Karl Rove, seem convinced that their House and Senate majorities will remain secure after this coming election.

Abramowitz writes:
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are bracing for losses of 25 House seats or more. But party operatives say Rove is predicting that, at worst, Republicans will lose only 8 to 10 seats -- shy of the 15-seat threshold that would cede control to Democrats for the first time since the 1994 elections and probably hobble the balance of Bush's second term.

In the Senate, Rove and associates believe, a Democratic victory would require the opposition to "run the table," as one official put it, to pick up the necessary six seats -- a prospect the White House seems to regard as nearly inconceivable.

So, what exactly does Karl Rove know that we don't?

2 things concern me.

First, as I have previously blogged, Democrats are allowing themselves to be severely outspent in the most competitive races. If we manage to win those seats in question, it will be despite the handicap of being bludgeoned by more numerous GOP political ads.

Second, I question the integrity of the entire electoral process.

Robert Kennedy Jr., Mark Crispin Miller, The Brad Blog and others have warned about past efforts to manipulate election results.

If you are not aware of the prior writings, please click on the above hyperlinks to read what they have to say.

Charges of election fraud and deliberate voter disenfranchisement have not been cast frivolously. They have been accompanied by exhaustive references to support those claims. A reading of "Fooled Again," by Miller, or Kennedy's essay in Rolling Stone, as just 2 examples, are backed up with a plethora of supportive facts.

Unfortunately, when this important questioning of the process is initiated, the right-wing, and their willing accomplices in the media, simply scream 'paranoia' and the discussion comes to an end. One rarely hears specific charges rebutted. Instead, we are treated to charges that Democrats allow dead people to vote and how everything allegedly balances out with irregularities on both sides.

As we head towards the mid-terms, I urge you to be reading about some of the tactics that have been used in the past and be prepared to respond if the same tactics are used in the upcoming elections.

Considering that the GOP base is supposed to be demoralized and hardly passionate about supporting their party, keep something in mind. If the GOP retains their majority, in direct contradiction to polling, especially exit polling, challenge them when they claim that their passionate base, and well-organized political machinery, is behind their victories.

For starters, if hackable voting machines without paper trails were used, demand that your representatives in Washington begin taking action to help ensure that the votes one casts is the vote that gets recorded.

To answer the question in my headline...Karl Rove and George W. Bush know that, despite major questions of voter fraud in '00 and '04, the Democrats never challenged the results. They crawled away with their tail between their legs.

I suspect they are smiling because they don't expect a challenge in '06 either.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bush's Fuzzy Math...Where 30,000 Equals 655,000

It was just over 6 years ago, during his first debate with Al Gore, that George W. Bush first used the phrase "fuzzy math." At the time the Bush handlers gave him the term so that he could mock Gore for citing statistics:
Look, this is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math.

I might also add that Bush followed that up with a charge that Gore was trying to use 'fear' as a tactic to get people to vote, but I will save that hypocrisy for another post.

I refer to Bush's comment, because he apparently has a very difficult time getting his numbers straight.

During his news conference earlier this week came this enlightening exchange:
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Back on Iraq, a group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war.

That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure? And do you consider this a credible report?

BUSH: No, I don't consider it a credible report. Neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials.

I do -- I do know that a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me. And it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence.

I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to -- you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate.

And it's now time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods so people can feel -- can feel, you know, at peace.

No question it's violent. But this report is one -- they put it out before. It was pretty well -- the methodology is pretty well discredited.

But I, you know, talk to people like General Casey. And, of course, the Iraqi government put out a statement talking about the report.

QUESTION: So the figure's 30,000, Mr. President? Do you stand by your figure, 30,000?

BUSH: I, you know, I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life. 600,000 or whatever they guessed at is just, it's not credible. Thank you.

Not credible?

The study, a scientific effort led by Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was in line with standards used to determine casualties of other wars, as well as deaths caused by disease and natural disasters. A very high percentage of the data collected was verifiable by death certificates, which also revealed that the majority of victims died from gunfire.

For those who would like to get a fuller idea of the methodology, a useful story on the report can be found here.

What is especially troubling about the president's cavalier dismissal of such numbers is that it indicates a propensity for rejecting reality and attempting to pass off the Bush cabal's worldview as 'truth.'

We see it all the time with this White House. It is the reason that they continue to tie in Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda. It is the reason that we still hear about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It also explains many other troubling policies that reject arguments about global warming and stem cell research, to name just a couple of examples.

The Bush doctrine on 'facts' seems to be that if deliberate distortions are floated consistently and repeatedly in the public arena, they will be accepted by some as 'truth.' There will be no need to back up this illusionary truth with anything factual. And the media can be counted upon to display those who are grounded in facts as merely having a contrary opinion.

To be a bit more blunt about this, there is no factual equivalency here. George W. Bush lies. He lies often.

If the Bush figure of 30,000 Iraqis killed is not a deliberate lie, than he should defend the methodology behind the arrival of that number. He should also refute the process used to obtain a figure that is more than 20 times the one he so dishonestly rejects.

That will not happen because Bush does not care about dead Iraqis. Actually he doesn't care all that much about dead Americans. Dubya is already on record, referring to our own soldiers as bait. After all, didn't he say that we should be fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we don't have to fight them here?

President Bush, our soldiers are not supposed to be used as cannon fodder, and far more than 30,000 Iraqis have been slaughtered thanks to our 'liberation' of their country.

Please, somebody get this man a calculator for Christmas. While you're at it, throw in a conscience.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The GOP Scapegoats Gays Yet Again

Very predictably, the GOP, in trying to woo back its hard-core base, is using the Foley scandal to demonize gays.

First of all, regarding Rep. Foley's sexual orientation, I am sure that gays and lesbians everywhere felt the need for a long, hot shower after his revelation. It has as much validity explaining his behavior as his supposed alcoholism (which conveniently gets him to rehab, and out of the media spotlight).

As I wrote on another blog, perhaps we need to make special glbt community awards for people like Foley and former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey (who attempted to put an Israeli boyfriend on the state payroll as Homeland Security advisor, and later hired him as a special counsel). I suggested something I initiated back in the 90s, a Roy Cohn Memorial Award. Gay role models, these men are not.

However, equating homosexuality with pedophilia is a convenient way of both changing the subject, and evading the real story...that Republicans do not believe in accountability and refuse to police their own, all while claiming an illusionary higher 'moral' ground.

It wasn't Foley's sexual orientation that made him immoral. It was his inappropriate contact with pages. The many heterosexual politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who have been engaged in sex scandals of their own, do not tar all heterosexuals. So why apply a different standard here?

It's reassuring that some responsible writers in the media are drawing attention to this most recent chorus of demonization.

Today, Eugene Robinson, in his Washington Post column writes about how he feels the GOP right-wingers might be about to
purge its gay staffers, maybe symbolically burn a few at the stake, and continue to pretend that you can legislate what is permitted to reside in American hearts and minds.

In the Boston Herald, Margery Eagan, critical of the gay-bashing, noted the following instances of it in the public arena:
“Here is the real problem. It has been known for many years that Congressman Foley was a homosexual. Homosexuals tend to be preoccupied with sex,” said conservative commentator Paul Weyrich on left-leaning National Public Radio, of all places.

Last week on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Counsel, told Chris Matthews, “There’s clear research that shows that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men.”

Commentator Patrick Buchanan went on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” and said of Foley, “Did you know he was this kind of flamer?” Buchanan then implied, with no evidence, that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are sympathetic to NAMBLA, the man/boy love association.

The fact that some in the media are objectively drawing attention to this GOP strategy is refreshing.

In an editorial in Saturday's Washington Post, it is noted,
the ugly undertone of homophobia surrounding the uproar over Mr. Foley's conduct also cries out for comment and condemnation.

Some anti-gay conservatives who have anointed themselves protectors of family values have been peddling the misguided notion that Mr. Foley's sexual orientation made him more likely to prey on children.

The editorial's headline is, "Anti-gay Ugliness: What's homosexuality got to do with it?"

The answer is clear.

Such a deflection allows these shameless pols to avoid taking responsibility for their lack of oversight and accountability. Gay-bashing has worked for them in the past and, faced with dire poll numbers, they are marching out the same tired strategy again.

The only difference this time is that it seems America is catching on to the deception.

For the sake of America's true moral high ground, let's hope so.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The GOP's Hanging Curveball

Every once in awhile, A leading Democrat will actually hit a home run when given the ammo.

In this case, a hanging curveball was supplied by GOP Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia. Kingston had the chutzpah to send a letter to both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean demanding answers.

The letter wanted to know what the Democrats knew and when they knew it, concerning Rep. Mark Foley's 'overly friendly' chats with teenage pages. Rep. Kingston, in effect, was the GOP sacrificial lamb, who would allow the Republicans to obfuscate the facts of the case by trying to make the entire Foley scandal seem like a dirty trick perpetrated by the minority party, right before an election. It was a page directly out of the Karl Rove playbook. Predictably, it is a charge that is being floated as a GOP talking point. I suspect not for long.

You see, in this case, the GOP has totally misread the impact of this scandal.

It was refreshing to hear the following from Pelosi, through her spokesperson, Jennifer Crider:

"Republicans still don't get it.

"Every mother in America is asking how Republicans could choose partisan politics over protecting kids, and the Republicans are asking who could have blown their cover-up."

That is exactly the point.

It is also a response that other emboldened Democrats are confidently using, because it sets the right tone. In the past Democrats might have scurried to defend themselves. In this case, however, they appropriately stayed in attack mode, refusing to take the bait.

In a rare sense of unanimity, many talking heads on Sunday, from both sides of the political aisle, were conceding that the handling of the Foley case has been a PR disaster for the party of piety. I guess the internal polling is revealing this to be a serious drain on their hopes of maintaining their majority in Congress.

Now, I realize that the GOP House and Senate under Bush has made brazenness and lack of accountability an art form, but there is something I cannot yet comprehend.

Regardless of the specifics of what details certain members and leaders of the GOP knew about Rep. Foley's interaction with underage pages, it seems rather apparent that some knew about his indiscretions going back at least months and, more likely, years.

So how is it possible that this man was allowed to co-chair the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus?

Sadly, the only answer I can think of was that somebody reasoned that exploited kids was an issue that was part of Foley's area of expertise. And $100,000 in donations by Foley to the National Republican Congressional Committee possibly helped to convince others to let him continue his 'research.'

Good idea GOP.

Let's have an investigation and find out just who knew about Foley and when they knew it.

Just one condition.

Let's have it out in the open.

There it goes...that hanging curve is being slammed deep to center field and it's...outta here!

Much like the Republican majority come November.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Olbermann Dissed By Froomkin In Washington Post

Today's Washington Post contained an unpleasant surprise. It reminded me that even comparatively progressive pundits can get it wrong. Dan Froomkin certainly did.

Froomkin, who writes the online Post column, White House Briefing, a generally excellent media-watching column, dissed Keith Olbermann in his latest post.

Referring to Olbermann's provocative and stirring segment, "Special Comment," which last night skewered President Bush for recent remarks attacking the patriotism of Democrats who had the audacity to criticize him, Froomkin wrote,
"the increasingly shrill Olbermann is fast becoming the Howard Beale of the anti-Bush era: He's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore."
Let's take this one insult at a time.

Shrill is defined by Webster's as strident and intemperate. It is a word used to describe something annoying, something that grates. It is used to describe people like Ann Coulter, or Nancy Grace...when Nancy is interrogating someone she suspects is dispatching their children.

Shrill is not a compliment, yet Froomkin offers nothing substantive to validate that assessment. He just reprints some of the text of the segment and links to the complete transcript.

In case his readers didn't understand the putdown, he compares Olbermann to the Howard Beale character from the movie "Network."

In the movie, Beale is a charismatic television broadcaster who warns about the evils of corporatism in network news. The movie spawned the famous phrase that Froomkin quotes, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

Beale, through his fevered oratory, develops a messianic-style and generates his own populist movement. That's the upside. He's also revealed to be pretty much a nut job and easily manipulated. The man is bonkers and ultimately gets assassinated by the network.

With all due respect Mr. Froomkin, Keith Olbermann is not shrill and he's no lunatic.

Perhaps the truth sounds harsh, because we're not used to hearing it.

Maybe if more people were honest in talking about the president, and stopped using words like 'misled,' and started using words like 'lied,' we could have a real dialogue. There is no effort at bipartisanship by the ruling party. It's what it is. Mr. Olbermann is just stating the truth when nobody else is even attempting it.

Going one step further, these are incredibly dangerous times for America. Our civil liberties, the very fabric of our society, is under assault. The mainstream media is allowing the Bush regime to get away with every over-reach of power.

What a wonderful injection of sanity to have a clear-headed voice, skilled in both text and presentation, cutting through the mediocrity and passionately presenting what is at stake.

For a man who has demonstrated, through his column, that he gets what is happening to this country, I'm disappointed to say that Froomkin did a disservice to his readers with his description of Olbermann.

I guess that's the price for honesty. You'll always find others trying to tear you down.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foley Whistleblowers Concerned For Safety

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has reason to be sweating these days, but why should the whistleblowers?

The website that was instrumental in getting e-mails and IM's between Rep. Mark Foley and White House pages exposed has been the object of threats.

According to the Stop Sex Predators website, in a post dated yesterday (Wednesday),
In case you didn't notice, all of the comments on the blog are gone? Wonder why? Because there are so many awful people out there. I started getting threats, so I decided that if somebody was going to threaten me, they were going to have to email me directly. So, they have continued to do so. There is no logical reason for someone to be so angry. I understand that the ramifications of these emails is far and wide. Much farther than I could ever have imagined. Regardless, think about how awareness has been raised.

The blog's creator, choosing to remain anonymous, also assures his readers that,
I am not Karl Rove, Mark Foley, or John Boehner. I am not employed in Democratic politics. I am not 'funded' by George Soros. I'm nobody that anybody should care about. So, please, go about your day as if I don't exist. If you have something that needs to be posted on this site, please let me know.

A new post today (Thursday) expresses amazement over the priorities of House Speaker Hastert and makes an additional observation about FBI involvement,
I can't believe that Speaker Dennis Hastert is blaming this blog on people like George Soros and Bill Clinton. That's just an attempt at escaping responsibility. What does it matter who actually posted those first emails? Which leads me to my next point.....

How the heck can the FBI investigate this? Media reports say that they had the emails that I posted over a year ago. How are they investigating the House leadership for not handling it when they got the emails and they didn't look into it either?

That blogger is not the only one voicing concern for their well-being.

The family of the page whose online contact has been most scrutinized has issued a statement asking to be left alone. The statement reads, in part,
As a young man with integrity who had the courage to question the intention of the e-mails, we respect and honor our son as a hero. Despite his courageous actions, he is becoming a victim due to the harassment by some of the media. Please honor our request that we be left alone. There is nothing more that we can contribute to this ongoing matter. He is not the story, and we feel this intense media scrutiny could endanger our son and family.

Earlier today, I actually heard a right-wing pundit remark that one of the pages may have been complicit, because he may have been 18 at the time of the contact. I have previously reported the astounding comments of Matt Drudge, who complained about "16 and 17 year old beasts."

Don't be surprised if the entire strategy of the GOP in the coming days will have little to do with seeing that justice is served and everything to do with attacking the messengers.

We know that the GOP has a vested interest in turning this into a partisan issue and it should come as no surprise that the administrator of the Stop Sex Predators website, or even the pages themselves, should be concerned.

We now live in a nation where anybody, for any reason, can be branded an enemy combatant by the president and simply disappear.

Just because we might be paranoid, doesnt mean....well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

GOP's Revealing Response To Foley Scandal

Notice the political cartoon by Mike Shelton in the Orange County Register. I point it out, because it is one of the many variations of a GOP theme to take no responsibility for the Rep. Mike Foley scandal.

I have assembled the responses of various GOP spokespeople, politicians and talking heads, because the next time this pious party clothes itself in the myth of superior moral values we will be able to remind them of their hypocrisy.


Tony Snow (White House Press Secretary):
"Look, I hate to tell you, but it's not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill and there have been other scandals as you know that have been more than simply naughty e-mails."

Michael Savage (Right-Wing Talk Show Host):
"I think it's a very dangerous trend. Not only the obsession with child molestation, which is an obsession, by the way, with the American media right now because they don't have the guts to take on radical Islam so they make a big deal out of child molestation. It's like a new hysteria. It's the new witch hunt. Going after child molesters today is the equivalent of witch hunts in Pilgrim times. Everyone is suspected of being a witch or a child molester because -- well, many different reasons."


Rush Limbaugh (Right-Wing Talk Show Host):
"This constantly being on defense and waiting for the next shoe to drop, it is time for the Republicans to fight back and point out, and it should led by Hastert, point out how the Democrats continue to avoid the real issues of importance that we as a nation face.

"Nancy Pelosi knows the person who planted the story about Foley five weeks before the election. But, Rush, but, Rush, but, Rush, tell us what you know, how can you be sure she knows? Well, I can almost guarantee it. She might not know who specifically did it, but she knows where it comes from, all the liberal Democrats do. She knows the person because these e-mails were held by a liberal, they were planted by a liberal, and they were timed to the 2006 election cycle by a liberal, and liberals know liberals, and so Pelosi knows who Deep IM is. There's a Deep IM here, not Deep Throat, but there's a Deep IM."
Dennis Hastert (Speaker of the House):
(Continuing the unproven charge that Democrats leaked the sexually explicit messages) "We have a story to tell, and the Democrats have — in my view have — put this thing forward to try to block us from telling the story. They're trying to put us on defense."


Brit Hume (Fox News Anchor):
"It is very serious misbehavior on the part of Congressman Foley, whether it stems from arrogance or just weakness of the human flesh is another question. It’s probably worth noting that there’s a difference between the two parties on these issues. Inappropriate behavior towards subordinates didn’t cost Gerry Studds his Democratic seat in Massachussetts, nor Barney Frank his. Nor did inappropriate behavior toward a subordinate even cost Bill Clinton his standing within the Democratic Party, even though indirectly he was impeached for it. Mark Foley found out about this, was found out to have done this, and he’s out of office and in total disgrace in his party."


Matt Drudge (Right-Wing Blogger & Talk Show Host):
"And if anything, these kids are less innocent — these 16 and 17 year-old beasts…and I've seen what they're doing on YouTube and I've seen what they're doing all over the internet — oh yeah — you just have to tune into any part of their pop culture. You're not going to tell me these are innocent babies. Have you read the transcripts that ABC posted going into the weekend of these instant messages, back and forth? The kids are egging the Congressman on! The kids are trying to get this out of him. We haven't got the whole story on this."


There you have it. According to the GOP, Rep. Mark Foley, who was allowed to continue as co-chair of the Missing and Exploited Children's caucus despite his party knowing of his behavior months, if not years, before this revelation, is not the true problem. And his party has a myriad of ways of denying responsibility.

They invoke Clinton, who never had sex with a minor, as if his behavior was morally equivalent. They blame the Dems for the fact that the truth got out, as if it should have stayed hidden until after the election. They have suggested that child molestation is a non-issue. And they have had the audacity to blame the victims.

If the GOP holds onto the House and/or Senate now, either the American people are truly blind, deaf and dumb, or Diebold will have done a heckuva job.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rove 101: Moonbat Attack

(Rove 101: A series designed to report on the tactics and talking points of the Grand Ol' Propagandists.)


WHAT IT IS: A favorite tactic of the neo-Cons. Marginalize the position of the opposition, by portaying the left as 'extreme,' 'fringe' and 'out-of-the-mainstream.'

WHAT IT DOES: The tactic is used in an effort to destroy the credibility of anyone with a divergent viewpoint.

WHO USES IT: Usually, sympathetic pundits on the news nets, right-wing talk hosts, and especially, bloggers. It will often be found in the form of extremist-right trolls who make a habit of using this tactic when writing replies on progressive blogs.

Politicans have been utilizing the strategy more and more, as they become less willing to even attempt to appear bipartisan.

EXAMPLES: Let's look at the use of the word moonbat.

According to, the word is "a political epithet coined in 2002 by Perry de Havilland of a libertarian weblog."

Moonbats On Parade: Michelle Malkin column, where she refers to a "bizarre array of grim-faced parade organizers on the extreme edge of anti-Americanism."

Moonbat cheerleader Olbermann lauds Clinton's psychotic episode:'s column, dismissing Keith Olbermann as crazy, without trying to rebut his comments with logic.

Clinton put the capper on his crazy moonbat-fest by wrapping himself in unwarranted sanctimoniousness: Ben Shapiro made this comment in his column at It excuses him from making a serious attempt to rebut the former president's specific charges.

Trolls: Notice how this first poster to a Huffington Post blog uses the phrase "typical moonbat journalism" to avoid having to make any sort of intellectual refutation. You can find the term used often as right-wing replies in blogs everywhere.


1) Identify the tactic.

Be aware of what is at play here, each time you see terms of ridicule, such as 'moonbat,' being used.

2) Make it public.

You immediately undercut the power of the 'moonbat attack' strategy when you point out that this sort of attack is done so that the attacker does not have to respond with a logical argument. Challenge the user of the term to stick with specific facts, in defense of their positions.

I plan on linking to this blog post when I see it being used on other blogs. If a columnist uses the term, write a letter to the editor. If a TV or radio personality uses the term, contact their network and challenge them on it.

3) Put the opponent on the defensive.

The school of Rove has always been about being pro-active and we too easily fall into the trap of trying to fight back from a re-active stance. Make those who ridicule our positions defend their own credibility. Refuse to play by their game rules.

In effect, force the right-wing to defend their indefensible positions.