Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bush's Free Trade failure

The South American summit was clearly
a disaster for the United States. There is no hope of getting the Free Trade Area of the Americas plan approved.

"A two-day summit meeting of leaders of 34 Western Hemisphere nations in Argentina, attended by President Bush, broke up Saturday without a clear agreement on when and how to resume stalled talks aimed at achieving a hemispherewide free trade agreement.
Mr. Bush had hoped to persuade his counterparts from Latin America and the Caribbean to deliver a resounding endorsement of the plan, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. But suspicions of American intentions prevailed in the end, and by late Saturday no final communiqué had been issued.
The White House, smarting from the failure of the talks, sought to play down the importance of an agreement."

The only message to come out of the summit was the one that protesters made as they angrily denounced the U.S. in general and President Bush in particular.
It's a real shame because the free trade agreement is something the U.S. has been working on for a long time, but now that Bush has turned the U.S. into and international pariah it is unlikely to ever happen.

Oh, but wait, you say! 29 of the countries are on board in supporting the U.S. plan and only five countries are opposed.
That sounds promising until you look at a map of South America and see that those five unhappy countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela - make up the vast majority of the South American continent.

George W. is without a doubt one of the worst presidents we have ever had when it comes to diplomacy. I have no doubt that Daddy Bush could have pushed this deal through with no problem, (same with Clinton) but then Daddy Bush was a 10-times better diplomat than Junior even when he was throwing up all over the Japanese prime minister.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Another missed opportunity

I remember before the war there were reports that Saddam had completely caved on all the U.S. demands and was willling to allow U.S. troops to come in and inspect any suspected weapons sites they chose. Now it turns out that Saddam was even working on a deal to go into exile.

Days before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein agreed in principle to accept an offer of exile from the United Arab Emirates, but the deal fell through, a UAE government senior official told CNN.

Wow! So a little more prodding by the U.S. might have swayed the deal the other way and we could have achieved regime change in Iraq while avoiding this whole debacle of the never-ending invasion that has cost the lives of 2,000-plus U.S. troops and left U.S. taxpayers with a rapidly expanding $200 billion tab.

Unfortunately, Bush and Cheney were much too impatient to get their war going. After all, they knew it was going to be a slam-dunk victory that would be all wrapped up in a matter of months with a huge political payoff in the end.

Oh, here is the payoff, by the way: Bush's job approval falls to 35 percent

Watch your back, Karl

Well informed sources at the White House are telling the Washington Post that Karl Rove’s future in the Bush administration may be in doubt whether or not he is eventually indicted for his role in the CIA Leak case.

Top White House aides are privately discussing the future of Karl Rove, with some expressing doubt that President Bush can move beyond the damaging CIA leak case as long as his closest political strategist remains in the administration...
he may at a minimum have to issue a formal apology for misleading colleagues and the public about his role in conversations that led to the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame...

Oooh! Look out, Karl! It looks like someone is getting ready to stick a shiv in your back and shove you out the door.
Meanwhile, the Post reports that the Plame investigation is continuing to move forward with Rove in its crosshairs.

...there are new indications that he remains in legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of the Plame leak... Fitzgerald is considering charging Rove with making false statements in the course of the 22-month probe...

But even if he escapes indictment, there may be efforts to jettison Rove from the administration.

But some top Republicans said yesterday that Rove's problems may not end there. Bush's top advisers are considering whether it is tenable for Rove to remain on the staff, given that Fitzgerald has already documented something that Rove and White House official spokesmen once emphatically denied -- that he played a central role in discussions with journalists about Plame's role at the CIA...

Getting it Right on Valerie Plame

Look here! A conservative who actually takes the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA cover seriously!

William F. Buckley Jr., the godfather of the far-right, thinks that exposing covert CIA agents is not a good thing. His sensitivity to this topic is no doubt influenced by the fact that he was himself once a covert CIA operative in the early 1950s.

...the root cause of the disturbance... had to do with revealing that Valerie Plame Wilson was secretly in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency, using a cover employer to disguise her affiliation.

The revelation of a covert affiliation can have terminal consequences, as the interrupted career of Colonel Penkovsky (1919-1963) bloodily illustrates....

We have noticed that Valerie Plame Wilson has lived in Washington since 1997. Where she was before that is not disclosed by research facilities at my disposal. But even if she was safe in Washington when the identity of her employer was given out, it does not mean that her outing was without consequence. We do not know what dealings she might have been engaging in which are now interrupted or even made impossible. We do not know whether the countries in which she worked before 1997 could accost her, if she were to visit any of them, confronting her with signed papers that gave untruthful reasons for her previous stay — that she was there only as tourist, or working for a fictitious U.S. company....

The importance of the law against revealing the true professional identity of an agent is advertised by the draconian punishment, under the federal code, for violating it. In the swirl of the Libby affair, one loses sight of the real offense, and it becomes almost inapprehensible what it is that Cheney/Libby/Rove got themselves into. But the sacredness of the law against betraying a clandestine soldier of the republic cannot be slighted.

Thank you, Mr. Buckley, for illustrating that even broken clocks can be right twice a day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Methodist mistakes

I was really saddened to see this news about the Methodist Church taking a hardline stand against gays the other day.

In a series of rulings handed down Monday, the nine-member Judicial Council, the ultimate court of the Methodist Church, removed a practicing lesbian minister from her Philadelphia church, voided a decree by Methodists in the Pacific Northwest that there was a "difference of opinion among faithful Christians regarding sexual orientation and practice," and reinstated a Virginia minister who had not allowed a gay man to join his congregation.

I’ve been a Methodist all of my life and I’m not about to change because some intolerant right-wingers have apparently hijacked the church’s governing body at the national level.
I was heartened to see the church I currently call home coming out against these misguided rulings.
Homosexuality, as I’ve argued many times before, is not a sin. It is a biological condition over which people have little to no control.
When a spokesman for the church says “It's not the orientation, but the practice” that they oppose, it is like telling someone who was born left-handed that they are only allowed to use their right hand to be in the church.

There is no excuse for this kind of blatant bigotry based on ignorance and superstition. It is no different than this stupid, stupid Proposition 2 that is on the November ballot. I’ll never understand why some people think that the sanctity and happiness of their marriages is somehow dependent on making other people miserable and unhappy by not allowing them to marry.

They started it

Kevin Drum at Political Animal points to this excellent post at The Carpetbagger Report that helps clarify exactly where the blame should lie for the recent bit of unpleasantness in the Senate chambers the other day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Give ‘em hell, Harry!

Democratic Leader Harry Reid forced the Senate into a rare closed session today in an aggresive move to highlight the failure of Republicans to clean house and provide oversight on the Bush administration.

?Here is the full text of Reid’s speech made prior to the closed session.

"This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff and a senior Advisor to President Bush. Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges.  It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant.  

"The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm's way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress.  

"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about:  how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.

"As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration.  This cloud is further darkened by the Administration's mistakes in prisoner abuse scandal, Hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.

"And, unfortunately, it must be said that a cloud also hangs over this Republican-controlled Congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican Administration accountable for its misdeeds on all of these issues.

"Let's take a look back at how we got here with respect to Iraq Mr. President.  The record will show that within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized these attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq.  

"The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq.

"There are numerous examples of how the Administration misstated and manipulated the facts as it made the case for war.  Administration statements on Saddam's alleged nuclear weapons capabilities and ties with Al Qaeda represent the best examples of how it consistently and repeatedly manipulated the facts.

"The American people were warned time and again by the President, the Vice President, and the current Secretary of State about Saddam's nuclear weapons capabilities.  The Vice President said Iraq "has reconstituted its nuclear weapons." Playing upon the fears of Americans after September 11, these officials and others raised the specter that, left unchecked, Saddam could soon attack America with nuclear weapons.

"Obviously we know now their nuclear claims were wholly inaccurate.  But more troubling is the fact that a lot of intelligence experts were telling the Administration then that its claims about Saddam's nuclear capabilities were false.  

"The situation was very similar with respect to Saddam's links to Al Qaeda.  The Vice President told the American people, "We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know he has a longstanding relationship with various terrorist groups including the Al Qaeda organization."

"The Administration's assertions on this score have been totally discredited.  But again, the Administration went ahead with these assertions in spite of the fact that the government's top experts did not agree with these claims.  

"What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration's manipulation of intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq?  Basically nothing.   Did the Republican-controlled Congress carry out its constitutional obligations to conduct oversight?  No.  Did it support our troops and their families by providing them the answers to many important questions?  No.  Did it even attempt to force this Administration to answer the most basic questions about its behavior?  No.

"Unfortunately the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities is not limited to just Iraq.  We see it with respect to the prisoner abuse scandal.  We see it with respect to Katrina.  And we see it with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration.

"Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security.  They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican Administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why.  

"There is also another disturbing pattern here, namely about how the Administration responded to those who challenged its assertions.  Time and again this Administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course.

"For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career came to an end.  When then OMB Director Larry Lindsay suggested the cost of this war would approach $200 billion, his career in the Administration came to an end.  When U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix challenged conclusions about Saddam's WMD capabilities, the Administration pulled out his inspectors.  When Nobel Prize winner and IAEA head Mohammed el-Baridei raised questions about the Administration's claims of Saddam's nuclear capabilities, the Administration attempted to remove him from his post.  When Joe Wilson stated that there was no attempt by Saddam to acquire uranium from Niger, the Administration launched a vicious and coordinated campaign to demean and discredit him, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA agent.

"Given this Administration's pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, what has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress?  Again, absolutely nothing.  And with their inactions, they provide political cover for this Administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq.  

"This behavior is unacceptable.  The toll in Iraq is as staggering as it is solemn.  More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives.  Over 90 Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice this month alone - the fourth deadliest month since the war began.  More than 15,000 have been wounded.  More than 150,000 remain in harm's way.  Enormous sacrifices have been and continue to be made.  

"The troops and the American people have a right to expect answers and accountability worthy of that sacrifice.  For example, 40 Senate Democrats wrote a substantive and detailed letter to the President asking four basic questions about the Administration's Iraq policy and received a four sentence answer in response.  These Senators and the American people deserve better.    

"They also deserve a searching and comprehensive investigation about how the Bush Administration brought this country to war.  Key questions that need to be answered include:

How did the Bush Administration assemble its case for war against Iraq?
Who did Bush Administration officials listen to and who did they ignore?
How did senior Administration officials manipulate or manufacture intelligence presented to the Congress and the American people?
What was the role of the White House Iraq Group or WHIG, a group of senior White House officials tasked with marketing the war and taking down its critics?
How did the Administration coordinate its efforts to attack individuals who dared to challenge the Administration's assertions?
Why has the Administration failed to provide Congress with the documents that will shed light on their misconduct and misstatements?

"Unfortunately the Senate committee that should be taking the lead in providing these answers is not.  Despite the fact that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly committed to examine many of these questions more than 1 and ? years ago, he has chosen not to keep this commitment.  Despite the fact that he restated that commitment earlier this year on national television, he has still done nothing.  

"At this point, we can only conclude he will continue to put politics ahead of our national security.  If he does anything at this point, I suspect he will play political games by producing an analysis that fails to answer any of these important questions.  Instead, if history is any guide, this analysis will attempt to disperse and deflect blame away from the Administration.  

"We demand that the Intelligence Committee and other committees in this body with jurisdiction over these matters carry out a full and complete investigation immediately as called for by Democrats in the committee's annual intelligence authorization report.  Our troops and the American people have sacrificed too much.  It is time this Republican-controlled Congress put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political interests."

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bush declares war, again

Man the battle stations!! Sound the alarms!!! George W. Bush has just launched a pre-emptive attack on the American people by tapping a totally unhinged, far-right wingnut for the Supreme Court. (Photo illustration courtesy of Whiskey Bar.)

I think it is appropriate that Bush would choose Halloween as the day to nominate the scariest Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork. Booooooo!!! Judge Samuel Alito is a treat for the far-righties and a nasty trick for the rest of the country.
But it is a shame too, because as Sen Harry Reid made clear the other day, Bush owes us an explanation about his administration’s complicity in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal.
Rather than give us that explanation, however, Bush would rather change the subject and thus he rushes out another Supreme Court nominee within days of throwing Harriet Miers overboard.

Far from being a stealth nominee, Alito (or Scalito, as he is known is some circles) has a long and loopy track record of demented decisions.
There is no doubt that he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and would support any and all restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. I’ve always assumed that as a given with anyone who would be nominated by President Bush. But that is just the beginning of Alito’s extremism on judicial issues.

Most disturbing to me is Alito’s opposition to the popular Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA which guarantees workers will not lose their jobs if they are forced to miss work to take care of a newborn or an ill family member. This strikes home especially hard with me since my wife is due to give birth to our second child next month and I am planning to take a couple of weeks off. God forbid that I would have to stay home longer than that, but if I did I might not have a job to come back to if Alito had his way. Ironically, it was the late-William Rehnquist who slapped Alito around for that bizarre opinion.

There is no question that Democrats are going to have to fight this nomination - filibusters and all. They will most likely lose the battle, but as long as they put up a good fight they will make significant progress in the war. Just like Bush is tapping Alito to satisfy his wingnut base, Democrats will have to oppose it to hold up their moderate-to-liberal base. There is not much else that can be done at this point other than prepare to take back the reins of government from these dangerously incompentent and corrupt people in 2006 and 2008.