Friday, September 29, 2006

Wait, wait, here comes my favorite part.

A couple of days ago I used a quote from "The American President." It's a great movie which foreshadows "The West Wing" which was also a Sorkin vehicle.

There's a speech that the fictional President Andrew Shepherd makes in the film that ranks up there with Jimmy Stewart's fillibuster in "Mr. Smith." It really hits home with all of the horrible stuff that's been happening lately with our government. It may not be as powerful without the music swelling in the background but here it is:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a couple of minutes ago.

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it.

Nobody has ever won an election by talking about what I was just talking about. This is a country made up of people with hard jobs that they're terrified of losing. The roots of freedom are of little or no interest to them at the moment. We are a nation afraid to go out at night. We're a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and personal character. And you hold up an old photo of the President's girlfriend. You scream about patriotism and you tell them she's to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore.

Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through law school, prosecute criminals for five years, represent the interests of public school teachers for two years, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.

I've loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other 'cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now.

Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It's White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming.

The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I'm throwing it out. I'm throwing it out. I'm throwing it out and I'm writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns.

We've got serious problems, and we need serious men to solve them, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This is a time for serious men, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up.

My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

I hate it when I have to cross things off this list.

Things that Seperate the United States from Nazi Germany.

1. Fair and free Elections.

2. A free press.

3. Free speech.

4. Strong, constitutionally protected group of individual rights.

5. A belief in a fallible executive.

6. A seperation of branches of the government.

7. A strong set of rights under the law including a right to trial and a right to not be held without charge.

8. No secret prisons.

9. No torture.

10. No genocide.

Looks like we're just getting down to the 'nubbins.

How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can't stand Americans?

Before I write the rest of this post on the torture bill now being considered by the Senate I want to make very clear that I'm making a conscious effort to check myself for hyperbole.

In light of that I think it's important to read the actual bill as just passed the House yesterday. Particularly the sections on torture, suspension of habeas corpus and the "definitions" section.
It appears the bill does indeed suspend habeas corpus but it does so for only for "aliens." Defined under the bill thusly: "The term `alien' means a person who is not a citizen of the United States." I guess legal residents are out of luck and that human rights are simply a matter of birth.

But before we citizens breath a sigh of relief that we won't be hearing any knocks on the door in the middle of the night, we should also read through Marty Lederman's take on the bill. Lederman points out that other sections of the bill may be just as dangerous to citizens and non-citizens alike.

But the really breathtaking subsection is subsection (ii), which would provide that UEC is defined to include any person "who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense."

Read literally, this means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to "hostilities" at all.

This definition is not limited to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It's not limited to aliens -- it covers U.S. citizens as well. It's not limited to persons captured or detained overseas. And it is not even limited to the armed conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, authorized by Congress on September 18, 2001. Indeed, on the face of it, it's not even limited to a time of war or armed conflict; it could apply in peacetime.

I don't know about you but the idea that Rumsfeld will be deciding who is and isn't an "unlawful enemy combatant" just doesn't give me much degree of comfort. It's got me questioning my involvement with the Democratic party, this blog and even a few things I've done all in this context.

A few months before the start of the Iraq war President Bush came to my city for a political fundraiser. Naturally it led to a huge protest march.

Being the curious soul I am I bopped down to the march which was winding it's way through the center of downtown. For some reason there was a mix-up in the route of the Presidential motorcade which put it on a path intersecting the march which sent the secret service and the police escorts into a bit of a panic. They wound up stopping the march and holding the protesters back as the President was driven directly past them... and me.

I did what any patriot American would do as the President passed just a few feet from me: I gave him the finger.

I wonder if that would consider me an "unlawful enemy combatant." Conservatives would probably say this question is an example of liberal hyperbole. I hope so.

But I'd really like them to seriously explain what protections we'll have to keep this from happening. What mechanisms in our government will be in place after this bill passes that will keep American citizens from being imprisoned on a presidential whim?

Because "trust us" just doesn't cut it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Now gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.

Thom Hartmann has a terrific piece up at Common Dreams on the history of habeas corpus. Republicans Give In To Bush, Betray America. It is really worth a read as an overview of the context in which the pending torture bill will be considered.

I admit it does have a mysterious sound. But it could be any number of things for the wife disappearing. Murder is the least part.

The only way the GAO could have possibly actually stumbled into actually doing their job on the proposed land swap deal on Mt. Hood is that it had to have been completly off the radar screeen of the Bushies. Perhaps the development company hadn't donated enough to Republicans...

The idea that 120 acres of public land at Government Camp on Mt. Hood could be valued only $3.8 million dollars is absurd. It's on the top of a friggin' mountain and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state. This has public rip-off written all over it.

I'm hoping that the new congress shares the GAOs concerns when they open next January and any further legislation on this issue will look out for the taxpayers first and the developers a distant second.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We didn't come here to fight monsters, we're not equipped for it.

Shortly after I started this blog I was told by a friend that he didn't enjoy reading it much because I can be "shrill."

I'm really not sure how to respond to that. A lot of people seemed to automatically tune-out of a political discussion when one of the parties becomes emotionally involved on any level. They aren't going to stick around to weigh the merits of the arguments at that point.

But in a larger sense I wonder why anyone with a functioning brain cell isn't shrill when they look at the state of our country and our government. I was upset when Bill Clinton lied to us, even though it was in response to a question he shouldn't have been asked. Today we have people at all levels of this administration who lie about everything. Repeatedly.

Wouldn't that make you a bit shrill? It did Bill Clinton during his Fox interview with Chris Wallace.

In response to Clinton's impassioned take-down of his critics within and without the administration they responded in the only way they know how: they lied.

Condoleeza Rice met with reporters yesterday and dropped this gem:

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," she told the newspaper, which is owned by News Corp., the same company that owns Fox News Channel.


On January 21st, 2001 Richard Clarke sent a memo to Rice begging her to convene a principals meeting on terrorism attached to which was this Clinton administration document entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qida: status and prospects." It was declassified during the 911 hearings.

The last two paragraphs of the opening summary read:

The United States' goal is to reduce the al Qida network to a point where it no longer poses a serious threat to our security or that of other governments. That goal can be achieved over a three to five year period, if adequate resources and policy attention are devoted to it.

Towardthat end, the United States has developed a comprehensive and coordinated strategy that employs a variety of tools including: diplomacy, covert action, public information and media, law enforcement, intelligence collection, foreign assistance, financial regulation enforcement, and military means to affect al Qida to its core."

I encourage you at least skim the document and ask yourself if you find it "comprehensive."

Then consider yourself shrill.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I'm just a harmless squirrel, not a plastic explosive or anything.

Good news. We can take small amounts of liquids on planes again. No word yet on "the gopher's friends" made out of plastic explosives.

Ha! Watch Dib! Watch as I bring a royal audience to the downfall of the human race!

This article by Ron Hutcheson on the recently released national intelligence estimate which provided that the war in Iraq is actually making us LESS safe and how that could hurt Republicans politically is a pretty good read until you get to this bit:

But Goldford said the political impact depends on "how skillful the Democrats are in exploiting" the newly disclosed intelligence findings.

We're doomed.

Most guys spend more love and time and money on their car in a week than they do on their wife and kids in a year.

Speaking of creepy- am I the only one that finds Volkswagon's "Feel the Pre-Love" campaign disturbing? The radio spots consist of former owners calling the person that bought their car out of the blue and offering to come over and wash it or just hang out.

Somehow the idea of gaining a stalker just doesn't make me want to buy a Jetta.

Peace of mind! I have no peace of mind.

These "Bush really cares about the families of slain troops but only behind closed doors" articles seem to come out just about this time before every election. In this case the Washington Post takes the idiocy to a new level by sticking a photo of Bush at Walter Reed meeting with an injured soldier directly under the caption "In private meetings with families, he expresses his sorrow for losses."

I'm not sure "private" covers photo-ops but that's just me.

There's the typical nonsense about Bush actually being privately anguished about the war in Iraq and the U.S. losses, with no effort at all made by the Post writer to connect this private anguish with Bush's public indifference. That's without even attempting to square our policy and Bush's stubborn insistence on staying the course which looks more like vanity than sensible strategy at this point. No- the writer takes the White House spinmeisters at their word when they say casualty figures are the first thing he asks for when he wakes up in the morning.

Sure he does.

But really what stands out for me is this little bit which is supposed to show the President as reflective but just makes him look creepy:

Bush deals with stress through vigorous exercise, working out six days a week. When he goes for long bicycle rides, he often invites others to join him, but he asks them not to ride in front of him so he can have the illusion of solitude. "Riding helps clear my head, helps me deal with the stresses of the job," he told reporters last month after an 80-minute ride.