Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Hamas Variable

President Bush has made spreading democracy the centerpiece of his foreign policy. ‘Democracy defeats terrorism’ has become the mantra for the Bush administration. Free and fair elections are heralded as an important process in a democracy.

Unfortunately, this ‘democracy trumps terrorism’ rhetoric got a heavy dose of reality on Thursday with the landslide victory of the militant group Hamas (whom the US has labeled a terrorist organization) in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.


When questioned about the Hamas victory, Bush stated that he liked the ‘competition of ideas’ that comes about from the electoral process and how that it is a healthy part of the democratic process. Then he goes on to contradict the importance of elections by saying that because Hamas has an armed wing and advocates the destruction of Israel, the US would not be negotiating with them.

Bush philosophy: Elections only matter if our guy wins.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Domestic Vs. International

Apparently the Bush administration seems to think the American people are too stupid to know the difference between the definitions of domestic vs. international. The White House document entitled “Setting the Record Straight: Charges of “Domestic Spying” goes into detail, telling the difference as if those reading it had the educational level of a kindergartener. It's a wonder how we are even able to find the White House website, what with our apparent inability to comprehend simple terms such as 'domestic' vs. 'international'. Our tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen. Some lackey at the White House had to write this up.

I’ve included a rather humorous clip from Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Then again, I suppose it would be more humorous if the document it was making fun of wasn’t such an affront to the intelligence of the American people. The video is courtesy of Crooks & Liars.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Fear-Smear-apalooza '06

Get ready for the festivities! Political Strategist Karl 'Bush's Brain' Rove held commencement ceremonies yesterday, kicking off 10 solid months of fear mongering and smear campaigns the likes of which have not been seen since 2002!

Ok, so Karl didn’t actually hold a ‘commencement ceremony’ Friday, just a rare public appearance before Republican activists. He said that the goal of the GOP should be to make national security the key issue come November.

Realize what he should have said was that the goal was the scare the crap out of the American people enough that they would be willing to vote for whoever seemed most likely to be there ‘Protectors’, namely Republicans. Smear campaigns will also help in solidifying the notation that Democrats are weak on defense or soft on terror.

One such smear tactic being used quite heavily lately, particularly in the wake of the recent Bin Laden audiotape, is the comparison of Democrats to the Al-Qaeda leader. Talk show hosts, as well as some GOP members, have been suggesting that Bin Laden seems to be getting his talking points from Democrats.

Course there is also the 'critics are traitors' tactic. This one claims that criticism of how the President has chosen to persecute his ‘war on terror’ (i.e. indefinite detentions, the Iraq war, warrantless wiretapping) is somehow aiding the enemy. This tactic is particularly reprehensible because it makes honest dissenters seem like traitors. Not agreeing with the President has become tantamount to treason.

But if I remember my history correctly, not agreeing with ones leader was how this country was founded.

What I find ironic about Karl's throwing down the gauntlet is here we have a man who was involved in the leaking of a undercover CIA operative’s identity proclaiming the need to appear tough on national security.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Friday, January 20, 2006

The boogeyman returnth

Well Bin Laden has released yet another audio tape. In it he yet again promised more attacks on the US. But he also offered a “long-term truce” but didn’t specify conditions. He even did some plugging for American author William Blum when he suggested Americans should read the book “The Rogue State”.

Probably the most laughable part of the audio tape was were Bin Laden said that the reason he chose to address the American people was because of President Bush, who insists on pushing ahead in Iraq despite polls that show "an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq." I find it hard to believe that Bin Laden is holed up in a cave somewhere in Pakistan reviewing polling data.

And has anyone else noticed the timing of the release of this latest tape? It comes only days after the failed attempt to assassinate Bin Laden’ deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a missile strike in Pakistan. It also happens to be just in time for Bush’s State of the Union address. Bin Laden sure does seem to have a nice sense of timing. Now Bush can mention Bin Laden in his address, pointing out (yet again) that there are dangerous people out to hurt Americans (Boo!).

You may remember that the last Bin Laden tape came just shortly before the 2004 elections. It was almost as if it were planned in order to give Bush’s talking points more weight. The reappearance of Bin Laden gave Bush a huge boost because it reminded Americans how Bush handled the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (regardless of the fact that Bush promised to get Bin Laden dead or alive). Bin Laden’s tape was a godsend for Bush’s re-election effort.

The timing of the release of these tapes is rather suspect to me. The only time Bush mentions Bin Laden is when it seems like it might help him politically.

Update 1/22/06: Something else to note is that the reemergence of Bin Laden actually helps further the Bush agenda for unlimited executive powers. Bin Laden embodies one of the excuses that Bush is using to defend the warrantless wiretapping scandal. His reappearance now seems awfully convenient.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Just who was spied on?

A good many bloggers are asking themselves that question.

As everyone I’m sure already knows, sometime in 2001, President Bush ordered the warrantless monitoring of international phone calls and emails coming into and out of the US. Initially the administration tried to claim that no Americans were spied upon. But then they admitted that Americans had been spied on but only those with known “links” to terrorists. They claimed that only 500 or so were being monitoring at any one time over the last four years. That would indicate possible thousands had their phones and emails monitored.

Now the big question is why Bush felt it necessary to circumvent the law that required him to seek a warrant regarding the surveillance. Bush claims that he had to keep the program a secret so as not to alert terrorists that we were monitoring them. He even condemned the NY Times for publishing the story (even after they had held onto for a year at his “request”). But it is a silly notation to suggest that the terrorists weren’t aware we were monitoring them until the Times broke the story. Even the court that issues the FISA warrants is conducted in secret.

And if Bush claims that only 500 or so people are spied on at any one time, history shows that the secret FISA court is so amenable to issuing warrants it wouldn’t have been hard to get them. Since it was established, the FISA court has issued some 19,000 warrants and only rejected about five.

Bush makes the argument that going after the terrorists requires expediency. But the FISA act already covers that, allowing the government to begin surveillance immediately and get a warrant after the fact. So Bush’s claim of immediacy doesn’t wash with his argument for circumventing the FISA court.

The only reason I can see for Bush not seeking warrants from the court is because those so called “links” to terrorists were so vague as to be almost not existent. Or a more troubling explanation would be that the surveillance was politically motivated. It wouldn’t take a genius to imagine Bush pulling a Nixon and compiling an enemies list. Political opponents (perhaps even allies), war protesters, and journalists (at least those who wrote articles that the Bushies didn't like) are probably just some of the individuals who were spied on.

That’s why Bush avoided seeking warrants. He knew even the rubber stamp FISA court wouldn’t stand for his Nixon-esque approach to the “war on terror”.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Friday, January 13, 2006


Prelude to dictatorship?

Bush has been touting his role as commander-in-chief a lot lately. All of his arguments regarding his powers seem to stem from that title. I have a bad feeling about it. It seems like he is building up to something. And that something may come in the form of a dictatorship whether we realize it or not.

Think about it. First Bush and his handlers argued that his role as CIC gave him the authority to lock up anyone (to include US citizens) indefinitely without trial so long as the President designated them as “enemy combatants”. Jose Padilla, the infamous “dirty bomber”, spent three years in a military brig while Bush fought with the courts over how much authority he had as CIC. The administration won a small victory with the lower appellate courts but when time came for the Supreme Court to way in on the issue, the Bushies backed out and indicted Padilla on lesser charges. Padilla finally got his day in court but the issue of presidential powers was never resolved completely.

Then there was the torture issue. When Bush proclaimed “We do not torture”, evidence to the contrary, from Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, made the words ring hollow. And then when Sen. McCain introduced a bill banning cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, Vice President Cheney sought to exempt the CIA. Bush even threatened to veto the entire bill. Finally Bush seemed to reluctantly acquiesce. Fortunately for Bush, somebody reminded him that he could attach a signing statement to the bill that would in essence allow him to renege on his promise to enforce the ban. And again his argument was that he had the authority as commander-in-chief to do so.

He has also used that argument in defense of the NSA domestic spying scandal, which violated the FISA Act of 1978. Bush says he has a right (again as CIC) not to have to get approval from the secret court set up by FISA to handle domestic spying.

All this leads me to the conclusion that Bush (or at least his handlers) seems to think of his role as command-in-chief as an all-purpose shield against any action he may take. Vice President Cheney seems almost nostalgic for the pre-Nixon days of unfettered presidential powers. With all the trouble they have been giving him lately, Bush may argue that Congress and the courts are infringing on this authority as CIC and must therefore be disbanded. Martial law will be declared and Bush will be named President for Life.

Bush has argued for a long time that his number one job is to protect Americans. He says that everything they do in the “war on terror” is done to protect the American people, from the warrantless wiretaps to the invasion of Iraq. National Security has been the answer to everything for the Bush administration. I disagree. Bush took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Citizens come and go but the nation remains. I just wonder what kind of nation will remain after Bush is done with it.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rationale Déjà Vu

Well it looks like the Bush admin may be laying the groundwork for expanding the “war on terror”. It was reported in an issue of the German publication Der Spiegel recently that when CIA Director Porter Goss visited Turkey, he allegedly handed over four dossiers to Turkish authorities. Three of the dossiers reportedly show that Iran has been cooperating with Al-Qaeda. The fourth apparently shows the current status of Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.

Terror links and WMD…now where have I heard that before?

Let’s face it; with Bush’s approval rating as low as it is and all the flak he is getting over the NSA spying scandal, the White House needs a distraction. It wouldn’t surprise me if we attacked Iran sometime this year, probably close to the November elections. Bush’s handlers probably hope the country will “rally ‘round the President” once more, possibly helping his GOP allies maintain control of the Congress. Keeping the Legislative branch in check is Bush’s only hope of avoiding serious talks of impeachment come 2007.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)