Monday, April 30, 2007

Israel demonstrates how a healthy democracy handles incompetence

Last July, Israel launched a war against Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah rocket attacks and the capture of two Israeli soldiers during a skirmish that killed three others.

Launching attacks across the whole country, with the apparent intention of pressuring the Lebanese to act against Hezbollah, they instead predictably united a typically fractious population. The already fragile democracy, which had just rid itself of Syrian occupation, was put teetering off balance and Hezbollah used the opportunity to gain more political power. Condoleeza Rice would eerily be sent to the Lebanese capital to explain why it was OK for Israel to bomb Beirut.

In the end, Israel failed to achieve any of its core objectives. They were unable to dislodge Hezbollah, unable to recover their lost soldiers and unable to end the Katyusha rocket attacks. A month after the war began, it ended.

Only George Bush would claim that Hezbollah lost the battle.

JERUSALEM, April 30 — An Israeli government commission excoriated Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday for “severe failures” in last summer’s war against the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, setting off a furious debate on whether he should remain in office.

The commission accused him of having decided hastily to go to war, neglecting to ask for a detailed military plan, refusing to consult outside the army and setting “over-ambitious and unobtainable goals.”

The commission also sharply criticized the defense minister, Amir Peretz of the Labor Party, whose career is already in tatters, and the chief of staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, who has already resigned.

“We single out these three because it is likely that had any of them acted better, the decisions in the relevant period and the ways they were made, as well as the outcome of the war, would have been significantly better,” the report said. But it also made clear that “the prime minister bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of his government and the operations of the army.”

Here's the difference between Israel and the current situation in the United States:

Israel ended the war as soon as it became obvious that their actions were actually making the situation worse.

Israelis put the responsibility for the calamity at the feet of the head of state and his military planners.

The General who led the war resigned.

Ehud Olmert's support has fallen into the single digits.

On the other hand, George Bush can count on a nearly solid backing from his party for a policy most believe doomed to failure, not to mention the unconditional support of about 25-30% of the voters, while editorials expound on the president's right to conduct the war as he sees fit.

And while Tim Russert extracts pledges from Democrats not to impeach George Bush, calls for Ehud Olmert's resignation are nearly universal.

Sam Brownback joins Joe Biden on plan to partition Iraq

From The Hill:
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said yesterday that the Bush administration and Republicans are not doing enough politically in Iraq and that he and fellow presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) have been in talks about introducing a bill that would call for partitioning Iraq into three states.

Brownback said he met with Vice President Cheney and others last week to discuss his and Biden’s plan but that the administration is not devoting sufficient attention to a political solution to the problems in Iraq. Instead, he said, it is relying too heavily on force and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“They have a strategy, and it’s dominated by military and Maliki,” he said.

Brownback and Biden’s idea would split Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite states under a weak central government. Asked if the administration was interested in hearing about the idea, Brownback hesitated noticeably before remarking, “They’re interested in hearing some about it.

“I think the Republican Party, in this case, has pushed too much of just a military solution,” Brownback said. “I don’t think the Democrats are much interested in talking now that they see the political advantage of where they are. The solution involves both of these answers.”
Brownback voted with the majority of Republican Senators against the current Iraq war supplemental, which included deadlines for troop withdrawal:
"I believe that announcing a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq threatens to give a victory to the terrorists," said Brownback. "Congress should not use a binding resolution to mandate the length of our presence in Iraq. Our commitment should be driven by the mission we must complete."
The article also mentions his reversal on the McCain/Kennedy immigration bill which would provide illegal immigrants with a path to citizenship. He had supported it, now opposes it.

The devout Catholic also breaks with his party on the death penalty:
On the death penalty, Brownback said he would not enforce his personal view and move to restrict its use if he becomes president. He calls himself “pro-life, whole-life,” and only believes in capital punishment in cases where society cannot be protected from the perpetrator — someone like Osama bin Laden, he said.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The U.S. risks losing on two fronts

Obsessed and distracted by his focus on the Iraq war, George Bush may be on the verge of losing the forgotten war as well.

Richard Holbrooke has warned that corruption, anti-democratic trends, and the resurgence of the Taliban threaten NATO's success in Afghanistan.
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - NATO risks losing the war in Afghanistan because of a "tremendous deterioration" in the popularity of the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke said Saturday.

Taliban guerrillas have vastly expanded their activities during the past year. Insurgents have now returned to many regions outside their traditional strongholds in the east that were rebel-free since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Holbrooke said he was struck during his visit by how unpopular Karzai's government had become because of corruption caused by the country's burgeoning drug problem.

He lambasted the U.S.-financed effort to train the Afghan police, saying it had produced a force that was corrupt and incompetent.

"The U.S. training program (for the police) under DynCorp is an appalling joke ... a complete shambles," he said. He referred to Falls Church, Virginia-based DynCorp International Inc. a major provider of security and defence services in Afghanistan, Iraq and other troublespots.
Dyncorp is also a player in Iraq, awarded contracts to help set up law enforcement in that country. It's been cited for squandering tens of millions in that country.

George Bush listens to no one on Iraq

In this excellent interview by Bill Moyers, Jon Stewart cuts straight to the heart of our current political crisis, and demonstrates that he's truly one of the most insightful media news figures in America:
JON STEWART: Well, it's also at the fore now, because the Senate and the House are working on timetables, which by the way, who knows if that's an issue, either. It's but it's again, the conversation that the Senate and the House are having with the President was very similar to the conversation that McCain and I were having, which was two people talking over each other and nobody really addressing the underlying issues of what kind of country do we want to be, moving forward in this? And it's not about being a pacifist or-- suggesting that you can never have a military solution to things. It's just that, it appears that this is not the smart way to fight this threat.

BILL MOYERS: Your persistence and his inability to answer without the talking points did get to the truth, that there's a contradiction to what's going on in Vietnam in there's a contradiction. Yeah, exactly, that there's a contradiction to what's going on in that war, that they can't talk about.

JON STEWART: That's right. There is a there is an enormous contradiction, and it is readily apparent, if you just walk through simple sort of logic, and simple rational points.

But the thing that they don't realize is that everyone wants them to come from beyond that contradiction so that we can all fix it. Nobody is saying, "We don't have a problem." Nobody is saying that, "9/11 didn't happen." What they're saying is, "We're not a fragile country, trust us to have this conversation, so that we can do this in the right way, in a more effective way."
George Bush has always ruled as though he has exclusive authority over the Iraq war. He conducts his planning in secret with a tiny group of true believers advising him. He's never solicited advice from the Congress, he's fired Generals who disagree with him and he's ignored the voters, who've repudiated him for his incompetence. He believes this war is about his legacy, and that the rest of us are just witnesses to history.

Or, as one of his aides put it:
"We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
It's possible that there's a brilliant strategy that would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq, but we'll never learn it. We've only been given two choices. Support the President, unquestioningly. Or reject him, completely.

h/t CrooksandLiars

Ron Paul: Congress bears the greater blame for the Iraq war

Ron Paul blames his fellow Congressmen for the catastrophe in Iraq, accusing them of surrendering their Constitutional obligation to decide when to go to war.
Congress failed miserably in meeting its crucial obligations as the branch of government charged with deciding whether to declare war. It wrongly and unconstitutionally transferred this power to the president, and the president did not hesitate to use it.

Although it is clear there was no cause for war, we just marched in. Our leaders deceived themselves and the public with assurances that the war was righteous and would be over quickly. Their justifications were false, and they failed to grasp even basic facts about the chaotic political and religious history of the region.

Congress bears the greater blame for this fiasco. It reneged on its responsibility to declare or not declare war. It transferred this decision-making power to the executive branch, and gave open sanction to anything the president did. In fact the founders diligently tried to prevent the executive from possessing this power, granting it to Congress alone in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.

...As an Air Force officer serving from 1963-1968, I heard the same agonizing pleas from the American people. These pleas were met with the same excuses about why we could not change a deeply flawed policy and rethink the war in Vietnam. That bloody conflict, also undeclared and unconstitutional, seems to have taught us little despite the horrific costs.

Once again, though everyone now accepts that the original justifications for invading Iraq were not legitimate, we are given excuses for not leaving. We flaunt our power by building permanent military bases and an enormous billion-dollar embassy, yet claim we have no plans to stay in Iraq permanently. Assurances that our presence in Iraq has nothing to do with oil are not believed in the Middle East.

...Why the dilemma? The American people have spoken, and continue to speak out, against this war. So why not end it? How do we end it? Why not exactly the way we went in? We just marched in, and we can just march out.
Ron Paul was one of the few Republicans to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq in 2002.

Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Edwards voted for it in the Senate, as did Republicans McCain and Brownback.

Kucinich voted against in the House, and Obama (not yet in Congress) opposed it vocally at the time.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

George Bush's plan to run out the clock on Iraq

John Aravosis has a plan, he thinks is a clever counter to George Bush's veto threat:
Then here's what we do. After Bush vetoes the Iraq funding bill in the next week or two, Congress should pass a clean bill, giving Bush all the money he needs... until September.
No offense to John, but this is exactly the kind of nonsensical plan that's been getting too much attention by Democrats and bloggers alike.

George Bush doesn't care what you think of his war plan and he doesn't care if you think it's a success. He only cares that he gets his money, and he only cares that he isn't the one who has to make the hard decision to call an end to this fiasco.

Funding the war until September simply kicks this fight down the road another 4 months at which time George Bush will again declare that Democrats are "playing chicken with the troops" and demand more money to fund the latest in a series of bad plans.

And what will your brilliant political strategy be then? That 9 more Republican Senators will suddenly find the strength to tell him it's time to end it, and you'll be able to overturn the next inevitable veto?

Learn a lesson from the current AG scandal. This is their strategy for dealing with Congress.
"We should gum this to death," Sampson wrote to a White House aide on Dec. 19. "[A]sk the senators to give Tim a chance . . . then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith,' of course."
Here's my idea for dealing with the President. Stop using his catchphrases, stop playing his delaying game, and stick to your principles. George Bush needs this money to continue his war. So, let him veto the bill. When he comes back demanding money, Harry Reid should just hand the bill right back and say "here's your money, anytime you want it, just sign for it"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Two Republicans join the Democrats to pass the Iraq supplemental

via AmericaBlog, comes the news of the Senate passing the controversial Iraq supplemental bill. A bill that would require U.S. withdrawal next year.

The final vote 51-46.

Lindsay Graham and John McCain, who have both been very vocal in their support of the president's strategy, missed the vote as did Tim Johnson who is still recovering from a brain injury.

Graham recently challenged Harry Reid's assessment of the war stating:

"As part of the War on Terror, Iraq is a test of wills - our will to succeed versus our enemy's will to drive us out. It's in our national interest to stand by peaceful Iraqis and against the extremists who not only want to destroy Iraq, but our own way of life."
McCain, while being an ardent supporter of the war and the current surge strategy, has missed several votes on Iraq and previously stated that the Iraq war votes are meaningless.

Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon were the only two Republicans voting along with the Democrats and the Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Independent Joe Lieberman voted against the bill as expected.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rudy Giuliani on offense

Justin Gardner doesn't believe that Rudy really claimed that we'll suffer another terrorist attack if a Democrat wins in 2008.
“But the question is,” Giuliani said, “how long will it take and how many casualties will we have? If we are on defense (with a Democratic president,) we will have more losses and it will go on longer.
And certainly, the quote above doesn't explicitly claim that.

But in the same vain, here’s how Giuliani described being on defense in 2004:
GIULIANI: And worse, they also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously almost in direct proportion to the horror of their attack.

Terrorist acts became like a ticket to the international bargaining table. How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize while he was supporting a plague of terrorism in the Middle East and undermining any chance of peace?

Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of our world, much like observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate the Soviet Union through the use of mutually assured destruction.

President Bush decided that we could no longer be just on defense against global terrorism, we must also be on offense.

The Iraq war and Newt Gingrich's government shutdown

From the Washington Post comes this analysis of the Iraq war supplemental fight:
One option that would appeal to many anti-war liberals appears to be off the table -- not acting upon the veto and just not passing the supplemental, thereby denying funds for the war. Such an action would almost be akin to the Newt Gingrich-led government shutdown in 1995-1996, so Democrats have written off this tactic.
This may be an accurate take on the views of Democrats in Congress, but the Gingrich led government shutdown was a very different beast from the current debate.

In 1995, Newt Gingrich attempted to force Bill Clinton to sign a budget bill that would've significantly cut popular government programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, education, agricultural subsidies, veteran's benefits and aid to poor children. In addition, they would've sold leases to oil companies in ANWR and eliminated royalty payments for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. While cutting $270 billion dollar from the Medicaid program and $32 billion from the earned income tax credit for the working poor, Republicans would've cut taxes $245 billion, primarily on businesses.

Eventually, even the Social Security program came into their sights.

Bill Clinton vetoed the measures, both sides dug in their heels, and the government shutdown ensued. Nearly a million government employees were sent home without pay - however, the Congressmen voted to continue receiving their own paychecks.

Newt was confident that most American's shared his contempt for government workers. He discovered that they mostly just hold contempt for politicians.

The situation today is completely different. Congress has drafted a bill that funds Bush's surge, but demands he start planning the end of a wildly unpopular war. He demands a blank check.

If he vetoes the bill, he'll have cut his own funding. But government services will continue, the trains will still run on-time and no-one will worry about whether their Social Security checks are in the mail.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Some Democrats still live in fear of a veto

From The Hill, we learn that there are still Congressional Democrats willing to undermine their party's negotiating position on the Iraq war supplemental bill.
But other Democrats were already preparing for what to do after President Bush vetoes the watered-down bill. Democratic leadership aides confirmed that some key leaders are looking at a two-month supplemental to keep military operations funded.

“We’re not going to let funding expire,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), an appropriator. “The administration will play chicken with the welfare of our troops, but we will not.”
These Democrats fail to understand that George Bush isn't interested in compromise and doesn't care if his blank check comes in a single lump sum or in a half-dozen supplementals. Caving in to the president, publicly, before even forcing him to veto the bill, allows him to ignore Congress completely.

Congressman Moran's plan guarantees that we'll be repeating this exercise every two-months, instead of getting it worked out now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oklahoma City (1995)

Phoenix Woman reminds us on the anniversary of what used to be considered the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Mitt Romney accuses Bill Clinton of dismantling the military

In a speech at the Bush (Sr.) Presidential Library, Mitt Romney praised the former president for his leadership as a member of the greatest generation, while attacking Bill Clinton for destroying a strong military built up by Bush and Reagan before him.
After President Bush left office in 1993, the Clinton administration began to dismantle our military, in what some called a peace dividend. They took the dividend, but didn't get the peace. It seems that we had come to believe that war and threats and evil men were gone forever. As Charles Krauthammer observed: we took a holiday from history.

Simply look at the neglect of our military

We purchased only a small fraction of what was needed to maintain our strength. Instead, we have lived off the assets that had been purchased in the prior decades. The equipment and armament gap continues to this day.
Mitt is apparently oblivious to the fact that Bill Clinton hasn't been president for more than 6 years, now. And that George Bush Jr. has had every opportunity to repair the supposed damage.

Chris Dodd accuses Bush of doublespeak on North Korea

Chris Dodd has demanded an explanation of the recent allegations that Ethiopia bought weapons from North Korea with U.S. assent, months after the administration lobbied for sanctions on trade with the communist nation.

Ethiopia has since denied purchasing weapons, arguing it only received a shipment of spare parts:
“This shipment contained spare parts for machinery and engineering equipment and raw material for the making of assorted ammunition for small arms.”
In a letter to Condoleeza Rice, Dodd demanded answers:
In response to North Korea’s nuclear test last year, the administration advanced UN Resolution 1718 in the Security Council that sanctioned North Korea and was unanimously approved in October 2006.

Yet in allowing this purchase to transpire a few months after the resolution passed, the administration seems to have dangerously contradicted itself and undermined its own policy of depriving the North Korean regime of funds, indirectly bolstering it.

Its actions have deepened the perception that the United States dismisses rules and norms when it suits its interests, and that it may even have violated a UN resolution that it championed and has consistently demanded others to uphold. Such doublespeak directly undercuts our political and moral authority and could inhibit the willingness of states to curtail or end their dealings with North Korea, possibly enhancing Pyongyang’s intransigence over the long-term in negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.

Reports suggest that the administration assented to this transfer because of overriding counter-terrorism priorities, specifically Ethiopia’s operations in Somalia against the Islamic Courts Union, some of whose members have links to Al-Qaeda. This raises the question of why the administration couldn’t find another way to meet Ethiopia’s military needs without agreeing to it doing business with an alleged member of the “axis of evil.”

Barack Obama (2006): supporting habeas corpus

Floor Statement on the Habeas Corpus Amendment
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

That is the true genius of America--a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. .....

Without hearing a sudden knock on the door. I bring this up because what is at stake in this bill, and in the amendment that is currently being debated, is the right, in some sense, for people who hear that knock on the door and are placed in detention because the Government suspects them of terrorist activity to effectively challenge their detention by our Government.

In this war, where terrorists can plot undetected from within our borders, it is absolutely vital that our law enforcement agencies are able to detain and interrogate whoever they believe to be a suspect,

and so it is understandable that mistakes will be made and identities will be confused. I don't blame the Government for that. This is an extraordinarily difficult war we are prosecuting against terrorists. There are going to be situations in which we cast too wide a net and capture the wrong person.

But what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes. By giving suspects a chance--even one chance--to challenge the terms of their detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the Government has detained the right person for the right suspicions, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

McCain and Brownback missing on the Medicare vote

Senate Republicans successfully stopped a vote on a bill that would allow the government to negotiate cheaper prices for drugs under Medicare. 55 Senators voted in support of the bill, short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster and move the bill forward. 5 Republicans joined all the Democrats and both Independents.

3 Senators missed the vote: Tim Johnson, still recovering from brain surgery, and the two Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Sam Brownback. This despite the efforts of the AARP, which organized a call-in particularly targeting McCain.

McCain had supported similar legislation in 2005 and 2006, going so far as to co-sponsor legislation with Olympia Snowe.

Brownback had supported the 2005 bill, but voted against the effort in 2006.


Great quote from the Financial Times:

Mr Bush tends to be loyal to those he regards as loyal to himself. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, declare that Mr Wolfowitz continues to have “our full confidence”. That then would seem to be the end of the matter: Mr Wolfowitz will survive because the US president has decided he should.

Yet this ought not to be the end of the matter. To place loyalty above all other virtues is the ethics of a mafia boss not of the leader of a great country. The US president also needs to consider what is both right and in the interests of his own country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The consequences of global warming will become serious in the next 20 years

The IPCC released a summary report on the projected consequences of global warming. Serious problems are expected over the next century, and many will occur in the near future.

Warming Predicted to Take Severe Toll on U.S.

Climate change will exact a major cost on North America's timber industry and could drive as much as 40 percent of its plant and animal species to extinction in a matter of decades, according to a new report from an international panel.

The prognosis is mixed for North America and Europe; some areas will see a temporary increase in agricultural productivity, while increased droughts and heat waves will strike others.

Hardship will strike more quickly at the poorest nations.

From the summary report, here are some of the most dire predictions for the next 10-20 years:

By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase of water stress due to climate change. If coupled with increased demand, this will adversely affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries and regions is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change. The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition in the continent. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020.
Arid countries will suffer severely. Australia faces a serious agricultural crisis if it doesn't begin to act, now.
Australia and New Zealand

As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in southern and eastern Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and some eastern regions.

Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically-rich sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics. Other sites at risk include Kakadu wetlands, southwest Australia, sub-Antarctic islands and the alpine areas of both countries.

Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increased drought and fire. However, in New Zealand, initial benefits are projected in western and southern areas and close to major rivers due to a longer growing season, less frost and increased rainfall.

Did you pay more in taxes than Dick Cheney did?

In light of the never-ending calls for a flat tax I thought I'd run the numbers on two of the wealthiest people in the country.

According to their income tax returns for 2006:

Dick Cheney paid $413,326 in taxes on $1,809,296 total income (22.845%).
George Bush paid $186,378 in taxes on $765,801 total income (24.337%).

Bush comes out a bit behind, despite earning significantly less than Cheney, but maybe he just needs a better accountant.

Of course that's just income tax, the only tax Republicans typically want to flatten. We also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Medicare is a simple 1.45% of gross earnings. OASDI is 6.2% up to a maximum tax of $6045 per employed spouse. Assuming both spouses are paying into Social Security, that adds 0.664% for the Cheney's and 1.578% for the Bush's.

Income tax + Medicare + OASDI = effective federal tax rate

Cheney: 22.845 + 1.45 + 0.664 = 24.959%
Bush : 24.337 + 1.45 + 1.578 = 27.365%

I came in at about 24.6%. My guess is most of you did too.

Joe Biden: change the mission in Iraq

In an interview posted on radio Iowa, Joe Biden declares that it is the president who is playing chicken with the troops by threatening to veto the Iraq funding legislation.

While the media have been focusing on timelines for withdrawal, Biden believes the most important part of the Senate bill is that it fundamentally changes the purpose of U.S. military presence in Iraq:

"It redefines the mission of our troops from fighting in the midst of a civil war to doing what is rational for them to do,"

1.) train Iraqi Army,
2.) deny al Qaida occupation of swaths of territory
3.) and force protection

He believes far fewer troops would be needed to perform that mission.

Biden claims to be trying to keep the president from "careening off a cliff" by attempting to achieve the goal of a strong central government in Baghdad, when that is no longer possible.

Biden's solution would have regional control over the day-to-day lives of the people, including marriage laws, education and taxation, while a weak federal government would be responsible for border control, distribution of oil wealth and the military.

Australia's Howard continues his push to bypass the Non-Proliferation Treaty

A fierce battle is brewing between the conservative Bush ally John Howard and opposition leaders over his plan to start selling uranium to India, despite longstanding policies against trading with nations that refuse to sign the NPT.

PRIME Minister John Howard has publicly endorsed India's push to join the world's nuclear club and signalled Australian uranium could be sold to the subcontinent if New Delhi accepts strict safeguards.

Mr Howard said yesterday his Government was likely to back a proposed nuclear co-operation deal between Washington and New Delhi.

Mr Howard also opened the door to future Australian uranium sales to India — a move requiring a fundamental shift in Government policy.

Australian policy does not allow uranium sales to countries such as India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). While Mr Howard emphasised that a formal decision to scrap the policy had not been taken, he said he "wouldn't rule out a change" and spoke highly of Australia's relationship with India.
This is in direct contrast to Australia's recently stated position, and has been seized by Howard's opponents:

"A decision to back India in the suppliers group will undermine the Non Proliferation Treaty. It means the international safeguards regime will no longer be enforced, and Australia will have contributed to that process,"
Howard has most recently been in American news for his terrorists love Obama comment, as well as allegations that he arranged a deal to silence Guantanamo detainee David Hicks until after the Australian federal election.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Mitt Romney: veto-phile!

Mitt Romney's latest strategy is an interesting one - Mitt love's vetoes.

This comes as a bit of a change from the current situation: George Bush's repeated (but rarely fulfilled) veto threats are treated almost as Constitutional crises by the media, who seem to forget that vetoing bills is one of the standard practices of presidents and governors alike.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: "If I'm elected President, I'm going to cap non-defense discretionary spending at inflation minus one percent.

"That would save $300 billion in 10 years.

"And if Congress sends me a budget that exceeds that cap, I will veto that budget.

"And I know how to veto. I like vetoes. I've vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as Governor.

"And frankly, I can't wait to get my hands on Washington!
Of course, Mitt became extremely well acquainted with vetoes during his governorship. Being a Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, he could rarely control the debate and often found himself at odds with the desires of the State House.

While his appeal for vetoes seems to imply that he expects the Democrats to hold onto Congress after 2008, what Romney doesn't brag about is that many of his vetoes were subsequently overridden.

Among the bills he vetoed as governor:
A bill allowing stem cell research.
An increase in the state's minimum wage.
A bill funding flood control for a recently inundated town.
Expanded access to emergency contraception (the "morning after pill").
A line item requiring companies to contribute to health insurance.
and of course, a bill creating a gay and lesbian youth commision.

He had also hoped to veto a wind farm of the coast of Cape Cod, but didn't get the chance.

Ron Paul: political power must be fiercely constrained by the people

Proving once again that his House web site is far superior to his presidential campaign site, Ron Paul presents his views on the purpose of government in a weekly note he calls "Texas Straight Talk":
Political Power and the Rule of Law

With the elections over and the 110th Congress settling in, the media have been reporting ad nauseam about who has assumed new political power in Washington. We're subjected to breathless reports about emerging power brokers in Congress; how so-and-so is now the powerful chair of an important committee; how certain candidates are amassing power for the 2008 elections, and so on. Nobody questions this use of the word "power," or considers its connotations. It's simply assumed, in Washington and the mainstream media, that political power is proper and inevitable.

The problem is that politicians are not supposed to have power over us-- we're supposed to be free. We seem to have forgotten that freedom means the absence of government coercion. So when politicians and the media celebrate political power, they really are celebrating the power of certain individuals to use coercive state force.

Remember that one's relationship with the state is never voluntary. Every government edict, policy, regulation, court decision, and law ultimately is backed up by force, in the form of police, guns, and jails. That is why political power must be fiercely constrained by the American people.

In a free society, government is restrained--and therefore political power is less important. I believe the proper role for government in America is to provide national defense, a court system for civil disputes, a criminal justice system for acts of force and fraud, and little else. In other words, the state as referee rather than an active participant in our society.

Chris Dodd (2005): unimpressed by AG nominee Gonzales

When Alberto Gonzales was nominated to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General, his role as an author of president's justifications for torture, his description of the Geneva Convention as "quaint" and his belief that the president had unique power to deny due process in a time of war, were all well known.

Following his victory in the 2004 election, George Bush felt the nation had affirmed his rule and he immediately put forward his White House Counsel as an ideal AG candidate, hoping in part that Democrats would be unable to vote against the first Latino in the position.

These were Senator Dodd's remarks before the vote:
February 3, 2005

[T]o suggest that this nomination is only or even principally a matter of ethnic pride does a disservice to the Latino community. As far as I can tell, members of that community are no different than people throughout our country.

They want to know not only who you are, and what you are, but what you think and what you believe. They want to know if the person nominated as the Nation's chief law enforcement officer will uphold the rule of law.

What is at stake here is whether he has demonstrated to the Senate that he will discharge the duties of the office to which he has been nominated. Specifically, whether he will enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States, and uphold the values upon which those laws are based. Regrettably, and disturbingly, he has fallen short of meeting this most basic and fundamental standard.

I say that for two basic reasons:

One, because in a nation founded on the principle of human freedom and dignity, he has endorsed the position that torture is permissible;

And two, in a nation dedicated to the proposition that all are equal and none is above the law, he has suggested that the President of the United States, acting as Commander-in-Chief, has the right to act in violation of laws and treaties prohibiting torture - and may authorize subordinates to do the same.

Gonzales was approved on a 60-36 vote.

All Republicans present, including McCain and Brownback, voted for his nomination.

Six Democratic senators also backed Bush's nominee: Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor and Ken Salazar.

Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd all voted against confirmation

Bill Richardson calls for Congress to de-authorize the Iraq war

From the Concord Monitor, covering Richardson's campaign swing through New Hampshire:
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called on Congress yesterday to "de-authorize" the Iraq war and remove all American troops from that country before the end of the year, staking out a strong anti-war position in a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates.

Richardson said he would leave no American soldiers in Iraq, bringing most home and sending some to Afghanistan to quell unrest there. He said he expected President Bush and congressional Republicans to oppose a "de-authorization" of the war and assumed that the fight would end up in the Supreme Court.

More back and forth fighting in Afghanistan

Taleban fighters have seized local government offices in Afghanistan's south-eastern province of Zabul. A local spokesman said police in Khan Afghan district had withdrawn because they did not have enough ammunition.

Meanwhile, in Helmand province the Taleban are reported to have been forced out of the town of Sangin by Nato and Afghan troops.

IPCC issues a dire warning on the climate as the U.S and Chinese governments object

As reported by the AP: the latest IPCC report on the Earth's climate is dire, despite objections by several major governments, which stripped language and charts from the final document.
Panel: Global Warming a Threat to Earth

The world faces increased hunger and water shortages in the poorest countries, massive floods and avalanches in Asia, and species extinction unless nations adapt to climate change and halt its progress, according to a report approved Friday by an international conference on global warming.

Agreement came after an all-night session during which key sections were deleted from the draft and scientists angrily confronted government negotiators who they feared were watering down their findings.

Several scientists objected to the editing of the final draft by government negotiators but, in the end, agreed to compromises. However, some scientists vowed never to take part in the process again.

Five days of negotiations reached a climax when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of 1.8 degrees, and in a tussle over the level of scientific reliability attached to key statements.

There was little doubt about the science, which was based on 29,000 sets of data, much of it collected in the last five years. "For the first time we are not just arm-waving with models," Martin Perry, who conducted the grueling negotiations, told reporters.

The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised many of the objections to the phrasing, often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.
Key findings: areas subject to droughts are likely to become even drier, areas subject to floods are likely to become wetter. Those in the poorest nations will be hit the hardest, with water shortages and famines likely to strike Africa, in particular. North America will be subject to fiercer storms and more frequent wildfires. Water shortages in the Southwest will become even more serious - a particular cause for concern in large cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Expect skeptics to focus on the ironic detail that North American and Russian crop yields may go up in the short term due to the longer growing seasons.

More at Science Blog

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pelosi as a shadow president

Ric Caric has a good post about the constitutional crisis brewing in the background of the Iraq war funding fight:
[Pelosi] is seeking to displace the Bush administration as the primary center of leadership in this country and substitute herself for President Bush as the main spokesperson and symbol of the American people. It's a dangerous but necessary gambit. Because of their arrogance and incompetence, the Bush administration has forfeited the confidence of the American public. Not only did the Republican lose their majorities in Congress, but polls show that large majorities disapprove of Bush's conduct of the Iraq War, favor efforts to limit presidential discretion in handling troops, and support deadlines for withdrawing the bulk of American troops from Iraq. Faced with the loss of public support in the 2006 elections, the Bush administration responded by adapting a "surge" policy that was even more unwelcome to the American public than previous war strategies. It's not quite "Bush to America: Drop Dead!" But it's close.
Bush and Cheney have embraced a top-down authoritarian model of the U.S. presidency. "Serving at the president's pleasure" has become a mantra repeated endlessly by politicians, pundits and reporters alike, while phrases like "advice and consent" and "Congressional oversight" have been largely forgotten.

While the Republicans controlled the Congress, they embraced this model and were eager partners in the attempt to castrate themselves.

Pelosi and Reid are now waging a frontal assault on the unitary executive.

John McCain embraces George Bush's fundraising strategy

John McCain, previously reviled in Republican circles for his campaign finance reform legislation, has now decided to embrace George Bush's fundraising model:

Chastened McCain Retools Money Team, Delays Entry

Drawing on some of the successful fundraising techniques of President Bush’s two campaigns for the White House, the McCain campaign now plans to mirror the Bush-Cheney campaign’s Pioneers, Rangers and Mavericks with the McCain 50s, McCain 100s, McCain 200s and other elite designations for top fundraisers who agree to raise $50,000, $100,000, $200,000 or more.

h/t Shaun Mullen

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

George Bush has no sense of irony

This comment from Bush's recent news conference really struck me:
BUSH: The bottom line is this: Congress' failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines, and others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me, and I believe it is unacceptable to the American people.

In completely unrelated news:
Stretched army sends troops back to Iraq

WASHINGTON - For just the second time since the war began, the Army is sending large units back to Iraq without giving them at least a year at home, defense officials said Monday. The move signaled how stretched the U.S. fighting force has become.

A combat brigade from New York and a Texas headquarters unit will return to Iraq this summer in order to maintain through August the military buildup President Bush announced earlier this year.
Is George Bush even aware of the consequences of his own policy?

This was the same news conference where George Bush admonished Congressional Democrats for going on vacation (just before leaving for Crawford, himself)

Hillary Clinton calls for Bush to negotiate on Iraq funding bill

Hillary Clinton avoided the trap Barack Obama fell into of surrendering the Iraq war fight before the battle begins.
Clinton: Not Ready to Surrender on War Bill

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said Democrats should not automatically accept defeat on the Iraq spending bill by assuming that President Bush will carry through with his veto threat.

"I’m not ready to concede that we shouldn’t take a tough negotiating stance to figure out whether there can be some movement,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters here today. "We need to change the approach of the White House, which means you’ve got to stand firm and say, ‘We don’t expect you to veto something that represents the will of the American people.’ ”
She was non-committal on the Feingold-Reid plan to cut off all funding by March 2008.

Feingold and Reid threaten to cut off Iraq war funding if Bush carry's out his veto

Note to Barack Obama, this is how you respond to the president's bluster:
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced today that they are introducing legislation that will effectively end the current military mission in Iraq and begin the redeployment of U.S. forces. The bill requires the President to begin safely redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq 120 days from enactment, as required by the emergency supplemental spending bill the Senate passed last week. The bill ends funding for the war, with three narrow exceptions, effective March 31, 2008.
h/t Tim F.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hillary speaks out for the middle class, unions, and first responders

Hillary Clinton added some definition to her views on the war, the middle class and the right to organize at the International Association of Fire Fighters Bipartisan 2008 Presidential Forum:
Working hand in hand with many of you and with the IAFF we created a program to screen and monitor those who were sick. And we got $90 million to expand it. And when President Bush tried to take $125 million back, we knew we had to draw the line. And you once again came in and helped us win that fight. Let's just say the president picked a fight with the wrong people. We won it but we didn't stop there. With your help I was able to introduce legislation asking for more than $1.9 billion for medical and mental health monitoring and treatment. We're going to keep working on this, not just this year or next year but as long as our first responders, our workers, our volunteers, our residents need help.

And in this latest budget, the president is proposing to cut funds for first responders at the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of $1.7 billion. The way I see it, saying you believe in homeland security without funding first responders is like saying you believe in building a hospital without doctors and nurses. If we don't fund you, we're not funding our first line of defense, and we're going to need to work together to make that happen.
Hillary's views on the current war:

[W]e confront a new enemy and a new kind of warfare. It's really the warfare of cowards. It's people who sneak around and blow themselves up or place bombs in cars, who have a philosophy of nihilism. You know, they may dress it up in a kind of perverse version of religion, but it's really about destruction and death. And it is imperative that we stand against them. Their warfare is not conducted by armies or navies but by criminals, by insurgents, by militias driven by this twisted hate. And it's been frustrating for many of us because we can't get the resources to match the rhetoric. We've got a lot of tough rhetoric out of Washington, but when it comes to paying overtime, getting you the equipment you need not the equipment they want to give you, providing the money directly to local communities and not passing it through the states. Well, we haven't gotten what we know you need to protect our country.

Well, the 2006 elections sent a strong message that we do not want our young men and women in uniform to be in the middle of a sectarian civil war, where they don't know who is shooting at them, and they can figure out whose side they're supposed to be on. We're trying to introduce some rationality in this, in the Congress, trying to stop the escalation because I profoundly believe that putting more of our young men and women into harm's way -- unless the Iraqis decide to defend themselves -- we cannot end this war for them. If they're not going to stand up and take responsibility, we should not lose another American life. We should end this escalation now.
And on the right to organize:
Make no mistake about it, the days of George Bush thinking the union bug is something he needs to squash are over.

We have a lot of work head of us, and we could get some small victories along the way until we finally get the majorities we need to completely have an agenda that we support in the Senate. They can still stop a lot of what we believe in, unfortunately, but we just have to keep electing more people who see the world the way we do. And we certainly will make a lot more progress when we take back the White House.

Bill Richardson okays Medical Marijuana in NM

Governor Bill Richardson Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation

Governor Bill Richardson signed into law today the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which allows people who live with certain chronic, serious medical conditions to receive medical marijuana to relieve their suffering.

Senate Bill 523, sponsored by Senator Shannon Robinson, defines the serious medical conditions that will be covered, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. The bill also creates a panel of eight physicians and health care professionals who have expertise in these serious medical conditions that will supervise the program. Qualified patients must be under a doctor's care and supervision.

The Taliban and their al Qaeda allies have set up shop in Waziristan

Pakistan treads carefully in kingdom of the Taliban

The Taliban have been in control of North Waziristan for more than a year and have established a militant Islamic “emirate” where political opponents are beheaded, girls are banned from schools, video shops have been closed and barbers are forced to display signs stating they will not shave beards.

Nowhere will this hurt more than in Washington, where intelligence officials have identified the remote and backward province as Al-Qaeda’s new headquarters. Bin Laden is believed to have regrouped his lieutenants and rebuilt his training camps there.

They allied themselves with local militants and began a battle with the Pakistani army for control. Since 2002 they have killed more than 750 Pakistani soldiers, executed 200 pro-government tribal elders and imposed sharia (Islamic law).

According to a number of Waziris opposed to Taliban rule, Musharraf’s deal effectively handed them over to Islamic militants and their Al-Qaeda allies, and turned the province into a terror-state.

Critics of “Talibanisation” have been murdered in a series of motorcycle drive-by shootings, lynched or beheaded, with warning notes pinned to their torsos.

[F]ighting erupted after men loyal to Tahir Yuldashev, the Uzbek commander who is believed to have up to 2,000 gunmen under his command, refused an order to disarm by local Taliban chiefs in North and South Waziristan who are under intense pressure from Islamabad to keep their side of the peace deals.

John Edwards on global warming

"It's official—the only thing standing between us and a healthier climate is President Bush's refusal to accept the truth about global warming. After today's Supreme Court decision, the president can no longer claim that he lacks the power to address this crisis.

"Global warming is an emergency that calls for immediate action. We need to cap greenhouse gas pollution as soon as possible and reduce it as far as needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

"The choice is not between doing what's right for the economy and doing what's right for the environment. The choice is between doing what's right for both and doing nothing at all."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Major advance in blood donations

Blood made suitable for all

Scientists have discovered enzymes that can efficiently convert blood groups A, B and AB into the 'universal' O group — which can be given to anyone but is always in short supply.

[I]n practice the greatest risk in blood transfusion is not the transmission of disease but the accidental transfusion of the wrong blood group, he says. "As a clinician, I see the biggest advantage of the new enzyme technology as eliminating incidents of giving the wrong blood."

Obama capitulates to Bush

Obama says Congress will fund Iraq War

If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday.
This is a battle of wills now and Obama has stated that the Democrats haven't got the will to stand up to president Bush on the Iraq war. Bush can now veto the bill, knowing he'll get his way, without even the concern that the public will blame him if the Democrats refuse to pass a bill without deadlines. Obama has created a no-lose proposition for George Bush.
"My expectation is that we will continue to try to ratchet up the pressure on the president to change course," the Democratic presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't think that we will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage."
There is no pressure on the president if the Senate is unwilling to hold fast. He doesn't care what the Democrats think so long as they're willing to send him his money. He's already characterized the timelines as a political stunt, and Barack has now confirmed that publicly. Bush will actually look stronger having faced down the Democrats on this first serious battle of the new Congress.

Barack needs to take some time to learn how high stakes poker is played. He's just folded with a strong hand.

h/t MyDD