Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We'll Miss Ya, Molly

Molly Ivins died this morning of complications due to cancer. One of the true characters of the newspaper business, her columns seemed like a breath of fresh air in what otherwise seemed like an endless stream of half-wits and emotional cripples who write many of the op-ed columns these days. I'll miss her, as will a great many others.

Scarecrow collected some of the better quotes of hers from the last few years. One of them is on a subject I wrote about a few days ago:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

That's what I liked about her. She had a gift for expressing the fundamental truths of our lives in clear and often humorous language, and she never failed to express herself when she thought she was right.

The image, by the way, is a biopic of hers from a few years ago. It's the one that I think best captures her essence.

UPDATE: Maya Angelou wrote a tribute to Molly today (h/t Peterr at FDL).

UPDATE2: E. J. Dionne wrote about her today as well.

So Much Folly, So Little Time

This has been another week when I'm coming home too late or too tired to write much. It looks like SnS will be on a reduced schedule for a while.

Meanwhile, there's plenty going on elsewhere. Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has some sobering observations about our relations, or lack of them, with Iran. In part, he's reacting to

' George W. Bush last week announced that American troops in Iraq were henceforth authorized to "kill or capture" any Iranian intelligence agents they discovered in Iraq. The announcement came on the heels of his pledge in the State of the Union address to bring another aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf, a move that clearly targeted Iran.

The danger of Bush's anti-Iran fatwa

As if that wasn't enough foolishness for one Administration, there's plenty more going on in Iraq. Read about it at Informed Comment (Juan Cole's blog). Permanent links to today's articles are here and here.

But wait, there's more. This is also the first week of testimony in the Scooter Libby trial. For those of you who may not have noticed, this is a trial related to the Bush Administration's efforts to discredit a critic that ended up revealing the identity of a CIA undercover agent he was married to. Christy Hardin Smith, Jeralyn Merritt, and Marcy Wheeler have the lowdown, plus live blogging of the trial, at FiredogLake. There have been some amusing and disturbing revelations already in this trial, the narrative of which is a sort of microcosmic glimpse of the arrogance and incompetence of Bush and the people he's surrounded himself with. I suspect I'll have some observations later, particularly about the careless way the Administration has been handling this country's secrets.

Try not to get too depressed, and just remember that in another twenty-three months this nightmare will be over.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thousands Protest, No One Hears

image credit:

Tens of thousands of people marched through the nation's capital today to protest the Iraq War and other demented Bush Administration policies.

A raucous and colorful multitude of protesters, led by some of the aging activists of the past, staged a series of rallies and a march on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq.

Under a blue sky with a pale midday moon, tens of thousands of people angry about the war and other policies of the Bush administration danced, sang, shouted and chanted their opposition.

They came from across the country and across the activist spectrum, with a wide array of grievances. Many seemed to be under 30, but there were others who said they had been at the famed war protests of the 1960s and '70s.
Thousands Protest Bush Policy

Lots of activists, actors, and other celebrities showed up, but according to the Washington Post story, one of the most moving speeches came from a twenty-one year old wife of a soldier who's serving in Iraq:

But the most moving words were [Oriana] Futrell's.

"My husband deployed last June to Iraq," she said. "He is an Army infantry officer currently patrolling the streets of Baghdad. And I just have to say I'm sick of attending the funerals of my friends. I have seen the weeping majors. I have seen the weeping colonels. I am sick of the death."

"I don't know what else to say, other than: 'Bring them home,' " she said. "It is time. We need to bring them home where they can be safe."

Can't you just imagine Jonah Goldberg trying to tell her what a crybaby she is for not wanting her husband to stay over there until the job is done? I can certainly imagine her kicking his doughy butt all the way down the Mall.

Meanwhile, Congress has resolved that it won't do anything meaningful on Iraq. The Senate voted down Chris Dodd's proposal:

A real bill, with real teeth, went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Chris Dodd's. The Beltway Bubble Establishment moved into action immediately to kill it. Ultimate Beltway Bubble Establishment Shithead, Joe Biden, tried to pressure Dodd into withdrawing the bill. Dodd refused. Biden was joined by 4 other Democrats who want to pass the toothless nonbinding symbolic thing-- Cardin (D), Nelson (FL), Casey (PA) and Webb (VA; it was a nice speech last night) and all the Republicans, both the Bush Regime dead-enders like Lugar (IN), Corker (TN), Issacson (GA), Vitter (LA), Voinovich (OH), Murkowski (AK) and DeMint (SC), and the ones who want to appear to be against the war without actually voting against Bush: Sununu (NH), Coleman (MN), and, distressingly, Hagel (NE).

Most Dems On The Foreign Relations Committee Vote Against Escalation ...

Webb and Hagel voted against it. I have no idea why Webb voted against it. Here's what he's quoted as saying the Chicago Tribune:

Five Democrats, as well as all 10 of the committee's Republicans, rejected Dodd's approach. Part of their reasoning was political -- they thought it would not pass Congress.

"This is not the place or the time," said Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a war critic who delivered the party's response to the president's State of the Union address.

Senate: 'Slow-walking' war vote?

It never is the time, apparently. In fairness, Webb just got there. We'll see how things go. This is in keeping with Hagel's policy of talking like a rebel on Iraq but never doing anything substantive, however.

Instead, the Foreign Relations committee have decided to pass a bill that means absolutely nothing, which Bush will ignore anyway (h/t Howie Klein). The vote was 12 to 9, with only Hagel supporting it among the Republicans. The much hoped-for "bipartisan opposition" failed to materialize behind even this tepid bit of nonsense. In short, the Republicans played the Democratic leadership like they always have. Hagel tried to shame his Republican colleagues this way:

But Hagel implored his colleagues to take a stand after four years of docile acquiescence.

"What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected?" he asked. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business."

Senators Rebuff Bush on Troop Plan

Clearly, Senator Hagel has never made a living as a shoe salesman.

Ostensibly, the language of this meaningless exercise in doing absolutely nothing was too strong for the Republicans, however, who will now offer their own:

But several Republicans indicated they would vote for a resolution of opposition if the language were toned down. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a presidential candidate, said he was in talks with Warner on a resolution he could embrace. Others were still awaiting some sign of compromise from the president.

Senators Rebuff Bush on Troop Plan

To answer Senator Hagel's questions, they believe in nothing, they will support whatever will keep them in the style to which they're accustomed, they think they like being Senators, and they were elected to keep someone even worse from taking their places.

I'm not mad at the Republicans. I should be, but they've always been slimy mealy-mouthed hypocrites who were mostly interested in their own well-being. I expected more of the Democrats, Webb particularly. Clearly, I was never optimistic that anything would actually be accomplished, but Congress seem to be going out of their way to make sure they don't confront Bush about anything. It seems that, once again, we've voted for people who won't do what we pay them to do, which is run our country for us. The only difference is who's in charge.

Maybe Oriana Futrell needs to kick their doughy butts down the Mall, too. I'd pay to watch that.

UPDATE: shoephone dropped by and tried to link to her coverage of the SOTU, but was defeated by the URL killer. The Evergreen Politics blog also has a roundup of news coverage related to the march.

UPDATE2: Marion In Savannah quotes from a NYTimes editorial on the march, and another one about Bush and energy policy and the lack of intersection between those two things.

Jonah Goldberg Is A Slobbering Moron: Exhibit 1547

It's astonishing how tenuous a grip on reality is required to be a pundit these days. Take, for instance, Jonah Goldberg, who has a syndicated column that is picked up by quite a few newspapers in this country, including the L.A. Times. Mr. Goldberg seems to have exactly one thing going for him, which is that he writes opinions that the people who own newspapers and other news publications find convenient. That's the most polite way I can describe it. A less polite way to describe it is that he's a useful idiot. While I disagreed with him nearly as often as Goldberg, Robert Scheer, whom the L.A. Times replaced with Goldberg, actually did seem to know the difference between his rectum and a hole in the ground. He was a liberal, however, so he clearly had to go.

None of this is much of a revelation to most folks who spend much time on the Internet, I'm sure. Just google "Jonah Goldberg, moron" or "Jonah Goldberg, idiot", or "Jonah Goldberg, doughy pantload", and you'll see plenty of examples of why this guy hasn't a brain cell to call his own. That he is a nationally syndicated columnist, when there is better writing and journalistic talent sitting unemployed in every tavern in America, is all the proof one could possibly need that the phrase "liberal media" is the most overused one in our political discourse these days.

Jonah Goldberg's such a moron that I wouldn't trust him to tell me whether it's raining outside. Here's a case in point, thanks to Taylor Marsh, whose tolerance for idiocy is clearly much higher than mine:

The 11th Commandment for liberals seems to be, "Thou shalt not intervene out of self-interest." Intervening in civil wars for humanitarian reasons is O.K., but meddling for national-security reasons is not. This would explain why liberals supported interventions in civil wars in Yugoslavia and Somalia but think being in one in Iraq is the height of folly. If only Truman had called the Korean civil war a humanitarian crisis, Ike might not have called the whole thing off.

The Body Democratic: Fight today or occupy forever

We'll ignore the obvious snark at the end, and just go with the rest of this paragraph. What's he talking about? Yes, I know we liberals, along with everyone else with a working heart, wanted to help out in Yugoslavia and Somalia. Yes, the Somalia thing didn't go so well, but there's a reason for that, and it had little to do with it being a civil war and a whole lot to do with mission creep that we weren't prepared to deal with. A President named Bush got us into the conflict with no idea what the next step would be. Any of that sound familiar? Yugoslavia (AKA Bosnia/Serbia/Macedonia) went pretty well, actually. The reason it went well is that we worked with the regional powers in the area, France, Germany, and the U.K. not to mention Russia, a country we disagreed with about the future of the region. This was another lesson we ignored in Iraq.

What's more, since when were Vietnam and Iraq (the other wars Jonah refers to) in our vital national interest? For that matter, when was continuing the Korean War? We stopped Communist expansion, which is mostly what that war was about. War often requires that your soldiers do dreadful things to win, like firebomb cities or kill large numbers of civilians to achieve a military objective. It kills our people and brings many back permanently crippled. Why put our people, not to mention the other guys, through that if it's not in our vital interests? This is the central lesson of Iraq and Vietnam - that if it's not in your vital national interest, don't start a war. That should be so damned obvious that even Jonah Goldberg could understand it.

So, next time some neocon acquaintance starts to whine about the "liberal media" as if that were anything other than a fantasy brought on by overexposure to fumes from hydrocarbons, ask him to explain the existence of Jonah Goldberg in your local newspaper, when a reasonably competent village idiot could have managed the same quality output, and contributed to your local economy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

They Just Run It For Us

image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359 See Note 1

My Senator finally wrote back today. A month or two ago I'd written her lamenting that we're torturing people and imprisoning them without trial and that this could be considered a bad thing. I might have even mentioned the words "Latin American dictatorship" or some such. Anyway, she finally wrote back, or someone on her staff did, and said that, for the most part, she thought this was a bad thing, too. She also mentioned that she will try to work on changing this, which I think would be just splendid if it actually happens.

Which brings me to the point of this brief essay. One of my favorite television shows these days is Stargate SG-1, which for those of you may not be aware, is a science fiction show about contemporary American soldiers fighting a secret war against over-the-top bad guy aliens who are bent on conquering the galaxy. OK, one might call this escapism, but on the whole it's no more fanciful than 24, which some pundits and Administration officials seem to think is a wonderful guide to fighting terrorism. I think the idea that any human being could go for twenty-four hours without sleep, being beaten up, tortured, and wounded along the way, without making a single mistake of the sort one typically makes after that much abuse (like not remembering one's car keys are in one's pocket, that sort of thing) is so far from reality that aliens with glowing eyes who can control inanimate objects from a distance seems pretty down to earth by comparison.

So, consider this a warning that there will be the occasional reference to Stargate SG-1 here. For the moment, I'm just going to mention my favorite line from the show. It's from the episode "Inauguration", where a new President in his first day on the job is told about the stargate program, which is being kept secret from the public. The President then observes;

"I'm here because the people of the United States elected me to run their country for them ..."

I have yet to encounter a more elegant description of what the relationship is between us and our elected officials. This show aired in 2004, when we were just starting to realize how truly off-kilter things were becoming in this country. Iraq was turning into a disaster, we were finding out that Administration officials had revealed the identity of a non-official cover (NOC) CIA agent for political purposes, that there was a secret network of prisons all over the world that was being run by the CIA to kidnap and torture people who may or may not have been terrorists, and that all across our own country our Constitutional protections from our own government were being systematically ignored. A science fiction show, produced in Canada by mostly Canadian actors and several Canadian writers, had a better handle on who we are supposed to be as a country than our own government and our supposed news organizations did.

Which brings us back to me and my Senator, and you and yours. Don't be reluctant to tell your government officials what you want for your country. Writing about things like torture, suspension of habeas corpus, and your elected representative's own complicity in those things is an uncomfortable thing, but it's a necessary thing. Be polite, be respectful, but be firm. It's our country. They're just running it for us.

Note 1 - This is a screenshot from the Stargate SG-1 episode "Inauguration" on DVD. William Devane is playing the President, and James McDaniel is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Screenshot taken by Cujo359. This is not an official image of the show or MGM.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton Announces

Senator Hillary Clinton announced today that she's running for President in 2008. Actually, she announced that she's forming an exploratory committee, but that means she's running, at least pending the results of the committee's report, which I'm sure will be positive. Some parts of the Internet are thrilled that she announced her candidacy on the Internet, and some are positively gaga that she has hired Peter Daou, a well known blogger who has worked for Salon magazine, one of the first online magazines. I'm not one of these people, however.

I'm not all that impressed with people who have cell phones, PDAs, or whatever the latest gadget is. They're interesting devices, but the fact that someone uses one tells me very little. A better question is: Why does he use it? Does he use it because he has to for his job, because he needs to keep in touch with his family, or because he just wants to keep up with the rest? The first case strikes me as impressive only if the person in question has a severe learning or other disability that makes learning to use a cell phone difficult. The second at least tells me that his family is an important part of his life, and that's a positive thing. The third may be good or bad, depending why someone wants to keep up. Is it to see what he's been missing, or just a way to indicate his status?

Merely using a technology tells us nothing about a person. The motivations for using that technology, and what the person had to do in order to be able to use it are another issue. How effectively he uses it is also interesting. On that level, Senator Clinton's use of the Internet so far hasn't been all that impressive. She hasn't used it to keep in touch with America all that much, apparently having delegated that task to her IT staff. She's pretty good at getting her message out, given the overall quality of her campaign website. Perhaps we'll do a critique later, but so far it's miles ahead of Senator Barack Obama's. For now, I'll just reiterate that this isn't all that impressive. Howard Dean turning to the Internet in 2004 was impressive. It showed that he was willing to adapt and consider what were then new ideas. Now it's almost assumed that an Internet presence will be part of any national or statewide campaign. Dean was also very effective in utilizing the Internet, which showed an ability to understand new ideas. So far, that isn't evident in the Clinton 2008 campaign. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, here's what I want in a candidate. I want a candidate who is a good speaker, has at least a minimal amount of charisma, has demonstrated the ability to lead a government, and who wants America to go in the same direction I do. The things I want to know about a candidate are:

  • What is the candidate's goal in Iraq? I don't expect a battle plan, what I expect is to be able to answer the question I posed, which is whether he intends to stay, leave, offer humanitarian support (and if so, how?), or just get out and let the Iraqis deal with the mess? Or, is there another alternative? So far, Clinton's answer has been "more of the same, or maybe a little less". That's not good enough by a long shot.

  • What he will do about the looming health care crisis. Nearly one sixth of this country is uninsured (PDF), and according to a proposal by the American Medical Association, nearly all of us may be underinsured (PDF). Does the candidate see that there's a problem? If so, what is he going to do about it - socialized medicine, single payer, mandatory coverage, or supplemental insurance? Clinton's been so burned by her experiences during the Bill Clinton Administration that I don't think she's dared propose anything. I can't blame her too much here, but to be taken seriously on this issue I think she'd better come up with an idea about what she wants to do and communicate that plan to the voters.

  • What does the candidate intend to do to restore the rights we've been losing during the Bush Administration? Will he allow the continued illegal surveillance of domestic communications? How about the suspension of habeas corpus in the Military Commisions Act (AKA "the Torture Act")? What about Guantanomo and the black site network? Does he intend to repeal the parts of the Patriot Act that allow warrantless searches? So far, nothing meaningful from Clinton on these issues. She has been remarkably silent as a U.S. Senator, in fact, and has not even hinted at doing anything in the way of repealing the acts in question, impeaching or censuring Bush for his clear violations of several laws, or of doing anything other than what's being done right now. This is totally unacceptable to me, and on its own is enough to disqualify her as a serious candidate, in my opinion.

  • Does the candidate have a meaningful plan for mending the woeful state of our disaster preparedness? So far, not much on this has been heard from Clinton.

I rarely hear any candidates expressing interest in these issues, much less concrete positions. So far, John Edwards has said the right things about some of them, but in Hillary Clinton's case, and most of the other announced candidates, there has been little more than pablum so far, or the candidates' records indicate that they feel differently than I do.

So, for me at least, this has been a big yawn. Wake me up when Senator Clinton takes an unpopular stand on something more significant than violent video games that don't involve converting people to Christianity and flag burning. When she does that, it won't matter if she sends the message by heliograph, I'll find out, and so will the rest of the Internet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Get Well Soon, Jane

Jane Hamsher, the founder and chief of Firedoglake has been diagnosed with cancer. I don't like talking about other folks' medical conditions, since I'm not an expert in the field nor is it my place to do that for someone I really don't know. So, I'll let Jane do it:

In mid-December I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. It's a bit more serious this time and treatment is going to have to be more extensive.
On Thursday I go in for surgery at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. My surgeons are Dr. Armando Giuliano, with whom I've been down this road before, and Dr. Jay Orringer, who comes highly recommended by both friends and his own superb work. Thanks to the time that all of those who contribute to this blog have afforded me to investigate all my options, I feel really confident in my choice of treatments.

Three Time Loser Winner

If you can know someone by their work, then I know that Jane is a courageous and thoughtful woman. The place she built at Firedoglake, and I call it a "place" because "blog" doesn't begin to describe it, is one of the most vital and interesting political places on the web. It draws a wide assortment of regular commenters, many of whom are active politically, and most of whom have a great many interesting things to say. That achievement alone points to her generosity and spirit. Several folks who are now writing guest articles there have started out as commenters, and gone on to write articles of their own. More than a few, including me, learned a lot about this medium just by watching her.

If you know Jane or like her work and haven't yet heard about this, please click on the link in the quotation and wish her well.

UPDATE: (Jan. 17, 2007) Apparently, this has been a tough time for FDL on another front. Please stop by and help if you can, even if it's only with a kind word.

UPDATE 2: (Jan. 18, 2007) Updates on Jane's condition here and here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Everybody's Doing It ...

Drawing Debbie Schlussel, that is. Now that we can't use her publicity photo when puncturing the nonsense she writes on her blog. Apparently, it's a copyrighted publicity photo whose value is diminished by overuse. If you ever check out her blog, you'll find that she also thinks logic and compassion are diminished by overuse. I like this drawing better, anyway, although I think Mash's drawing captures a different aspect of her essence. This work is a color stick figure on PNG rendering using Kolourpaint. Kolourpaint is pretty much like every other paint program, with the added advantage that it's free and doesn't require Windows.

No doubt this will be all the rage for about a day and a half, which is how long the Internet typically pays attention to things of no particular consequence.

As you can see, this picture is also copyrighted, as is the title "Lemon Schlussel". Please help yourself to it if you're not Debbie Schlussel. Consider it my gift to the Internet.

Bob Geiger has provided some color commentary on the battle.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Perils Of Blogging, Part 1: Too Much Swag

Oh, excuse me, just need to readjust my new Land of Leather 3 person recliner so it's in the perfect position. Ahh, there it is. OK, look I know you're probably wondering at this point - "Sure, there's all that fame, adulation, and financial independence that comes with being a left-wing blogger, but isn't there a downside?". Well, yes, there is. There are several, actually, but here's one you may not have been aware of - people keep sending you all this stuff.

Ever since I started blogging a week ago, it's just been coming to the door. Can't get a thing done. How they found Casa Cujo I have no idea - it's not listed in the phone book, I can tell you that. Nevertheless, they found me, and a seemingly endless stack of goodies has been piling up in my entry ever since. Computers, HDTVs, cell phones, wine, cheese assortments, furniture, even a sports car of some sort. I told the guy who brought it "Look, there's no place in the Seattle area I can drive this thing faster than I can drive a four-cylinder pickup". "Hey", the guy said, "they just told me to leave it here". So I had him leave it next to the Corvette someone brought here yesterday. Pretty soon it's going to be buried in all the furniture that won't fit in my house, but what can I do? Hmm. Maybe I can give it to the poor. They take used vehicles. Meanwhile, it should be easy to spot since it's two spaces away from the Hummer.

Of course, being liberal, I'm swimming in the dough anyway. So after a while I started wondering why they were sending me this stuff. Thanks to The Ace of Spades, I've found the answer. It turns out that they've been looking for product endorsements.

You see, for reasons that surpass understanding, companies think it's cool to be mentioned in a liberal blog. I hadn't suspected this, but the Ace of Spades says so, so I figure he must have better sources in retail than I do. Apparently, when we need new limousines or Gulfstream jets, we first peruse our favorite progressive sites. None of this had occured to me; I'm not sure why. For some reason, they're not quite as interested in endorsements from our brothers on the right side of the web, and apparently it's caused a little friction.

I have TRex over at Firedoglake to thank for clearing this up. Apparently, the cruelty of it all finally got to the Ace of Spades, so he called TRex out when TRex blatantly plugged a new cell phone he received from Apple. Of course, TRex denies getting one of these, but I know better. They just left a couple here yesterday, and I don't even have a cell phone contract. "Nevermind", they said "you can use it to download porn". I told them I could probably do that with the desktop computer Apple left here the other day, if I just figure out where to put the 30 inch monitor. The thing clashes with the sectional sofa the Brits sent me with the recliner.

Anyway, TRex, I know I'm not in a position to be giving advice. You've been doing this for years, and I've just started. Nevertheless, here it is - try some subtlety, dude! You know, there are people out there who don't have 50 inch plasma screen TVs and digital cable. Just try to work those little product placement deals into the text of your articles and they'll compliment you on your painstaking research.

The Day In Folly, So Far ...

So much folly, so little time. I'll just let others make the point this morning.

John Derbyshire at the NRO makes the case that Bush's latest policy statements on Iraq make no sense given his already stated goals and reality. Josh Marshall at TPM and Andrew Sullivan make some supplemental points, as well.

Speaking of Iraq, Taylor Marsh tells us again that Iran is in Bush's crosshairs, as well as filling us in on other bad news from that part of the world. One of the reasons she thinks that, I guess, is that we've apparently raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq. I'm not betting against her on this one.

It looks like the next generation of nuclear storage containers might not be as safe as we were led to believe by all those folks who told us how stupid we were to have concerns about nuclear power. I always thought designing containment systems that would last for half a million years might be a bit of a challenge, but what do I know? Slashdot joins in with the usual mix of blather and wisdom.

You can help push back against the tide a little this morning. Go sign Senator Harry Reid's petition against escalation in Iraq. Here's my comment from that form:

All we've done in Iraq in the last three years is make things worse. The militias and insurgents are better armed thanks to the weapons and training we've inadvertently given them by trying to build up the armed forces. Our troops have been rotated in and out of there several times, and the VA system is overwhelmed with the wounded. What's worse, we're losing the real war on terrorism in Afghanistan and we can't commit the resources because they're tied down in Iraq.

If you have thoughts on Iraq, please share them there, and feel free to do it here as well. Many of us have friends or relatives who are over there, and we need to make our President aware of the cost of what he's doing.

UPDATE: If you're looking for some inoculation against folly, Firedoglake is offering some from the worlds of carpentry and the law. Peterr explains that "measure twice, cut once" is something every President should know, and looseheadprop explains that to succeed, you should begin with the end in mind. I've repeated these aphorisms more than a couple times in my profession, and they're good advice for foreign policy or just about anything.

Looseheadprop is conducting a clinic in being a trial lawyer for non-lawyers in preparation for the upcoming Scooter Libby trial. Here's the first lesson, which deals with how to select a jury.

UPDATE 2: Yet more depressing news: The House passed a bill supporting stem cell research, but at a less than veto proof majority of 253-174. The AP gives us the bad news. Thanks to commenters at FDL for pointing this one out.

UPDATE 3: The last word on President Bush's speech last night goes to Juan Coles, who , as usual, sums it up pretty well:

The answer to "al-Qaeda's" occupation of neighborhoods in Baghdad and the cities of al-Anbar is then, Bush says, to send in more US troops to "clear and hold" these neighborhoods.

But is that really the big problem in Iraq? Bush is thinking in terms of a conventional war, where armies fight to hold territory. But if a nimble guerrilla group can come out at night and set off a bomb at the base of a large tenement building in a Shiite neighborhood, they can keep the sectarian civil war going. They work by provoking reprisals. They like to hold territory if they can. But as we saw with Fallujah and Tal Afar, if they cannot they just scatter and blow things up elsewhere.

And the main problem is not "al-Qaeda," which is small and probably not that important, and anyway is not really Bin Laden's al-Qaeda. They are just Salafi jihadis who appropriated the name. When their leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed, it didn't cause the insurgency to miss a beat. Conclusion: "al-Qaeda" is not central to the struggle. Izzat Ibrahim Duri and the Baath Party are probably the center of gravity of the resistance.

Bush Sends GIs to his Private Fantasyland

Of course, there was ample evidence for all this already, and if Bush was inclined to see the reality, he would know this already. Sadly, this has become another Vietnam in at least one significant sense - our leaders have absolutely no interest in what's really going on, and instead are focusing on what "history" will think of them. I think it's pretty clear that history isn't going to be too kind to George W. Bush already. At this point, he ought to think about just how unkind it's going to be and at least do what he can to clean up his own mess.

Yep, why knock yourself out trying to explain the folly when there are so many who are so good at it? Delegate responsibiity, that's what I say.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thanks for Nothing

Image credit: NYTimes photo reduced by Cujo359

My, I sure am glad that's over. Now that the Congress has channeled its moral outrage, screwed up its courage, and decided to maybe pass a non-binding resolution on Iraq, I'm sure we can get on with the business of withdrawing from the slaughter we helped create in Iraq and get on with rebuilding our own country. President Bush will see Congress's resolve now and agree to play by what we Americans who actually stayed awake in civics class think of as the rules, right?

Yes, and I'm the King of England.

Are there more than a handful of people in Congress who are paying attention? It's clear that Americans want to get out of Iraq, and it's even clearer that they don't support an escalation of the war, by whatever vaguely sexual term you choose to refer to it. People are dying, literally, by the truckload in Iraq. They are dying, at least in part, because we trained and armed the people who are now killing them.

In short, we are not making things better there, we're making them worse. What's more, we're killing some of the best of our next generation in order to stay there to make things worse. So, what do you say, Congress, how about, just once, doing something that's really difficult, huh? Maybe just for a little while, act like people who have their own children, friends, spouses, or parents in harm's way, and fix this disaster you've allowed to happen?

UPDATE: This AP story on Bush's address includes this quote:

The president is ignoring a key recommendation of the bipartisan, independent Iraq Study Group, that he solicit help from Syria and Iran, the official said. Instead, he will call for increased operations against nations meddling in Iraq, aimed at Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria.

Bush to acknowledge mistakes in Iraq

In short, we're losing the fight in Iraq, where the bulk of our armed forces are committed, so let's pick a fight with Syria and Iran. I can't decide who's grip on reality is looser - Bush's or the Congress's. Since in the case of Congress we're actually refering to a group of people, I suppose Bush gets the nod.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Then Don't Micromanage, Set A Goal

Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) said this today about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposal to instruct President Bush that he only has 150,000 troops to play with in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it would be a "tragic mistake" if Bush chooses to increase troops. But Biden, D-Del., said cutting off funds was not an option.

"As a practical matter there is no way to say this is going to be stopped," Biden said regarding a troop increase, unless enough congressional Republicans join Democrats in convincing Bush the strategy is wrong.

Biden added that it probably would be an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers if Democrats were to block Bush's efforts as commander in chief after Congress had voted to authorize going to war.

"It's unconstitutional to say, you can go, but we're going to micromanage," Biden said.

Pelosi Hints at Denying Bush Iraq Funds

OK, then set a goal for Bush to meet. You can do that, Senator Biden. Tell the President we're getting out of Iraq in a short time, and tell him to come up with a plan for doing it. Impeach him if he doesn't.

Of course, Biden will find an excuse not to do this, too. But there's no reason he can't besides lacking the will. Congress has the power to declare war. It can certainly undeclare it if it wants. It's time to bring the troops out of Iraq, and if Biden doesn't get that he can forget about being President. He doesn't have what it takes.

(h/t Swopa at Firedoglake)

Saturday, January 6, 2007

What John Negroponte Wouldn't Do

The answer to the title of this post appears to be "increase surveillance on domestic communications". All I can say is "holy crap!". If this is true, there are some seriously bizarre behind-the-scenes goings on at the White House these days.

According to Richard Sale, via Patrick Lang's site, John "Throw Sister From The Plane" Negroponte, who most recently was the Director of Intelligence, was transferred to the State Department because he refused to increase electronic collection of domestic communications. Apparently, the next step in the Bush Administration's surveillance plan was too much for even Mr. Negroponte, which has me thinking along the same lines as this commenter at Col. Lang's site:

OK. Just let me know when these bastards go so far that we should impeach them, because I'm convinced that's the only way we're going to stop them. Too illegal for Negroponte? That's a scary thought.

Posted by: semper fubar 06 January 2007 at 05:58 PM

Of course, electronic surveillance without a warrant was illegal to begin with. What additional collection were they attempting to do? I can see a couple of possibilities:

  1. The surveillance actually was done in a more-or-less legal fashion, in that
    the data from the illegal taps at least weren't retained beyond the limits of FISA, and Negroponte was asked to retain them longer

  2. There was a new form of analysis or new criteria for increased surveillance
    that went beyond what's reasonable to combat terrorism, like maybe spying on the Administration's political enemies or for some business interest of theirs.

That's what occurs to me after thinking about it a few minutes. I freely admit to having no idea what the NSA is collecting or how. That's what FISA is about.

I'm going to keep watching this, but this thing is wierd, and I don't know if it will be covered at all in the traditional press.

Update: Forgot to mention: hat tip to powwow, who commented on this at Firedoglake.

Update 2: After thinking about it a little more, it seems quite possible that whatever the NSA were asked to do would require scarce resources. Listening in on large volumes of traffic creates a lot of data, which requires a lot of effort to store and analyze. If it's dumped after a short time, it might not even be put on permanent media like DVD-ROM, but if it's going to be kept more-or-less permanently, then it likely has to be backed up and stored somewhere. This also fits into what I will charitably call my impression of Negroponte being someone not given to idealism.

Update 3: (Jan. 8, 2007) A commenter to the Pat Lang blog article that started this mentioned this summary of Negroponte's term as DNI (PDF file) written by Negroponte's office. This isn't all that unusual a practice - most government officials of any rank like to write post-mortems of what they've done or tried to do while there. This memo spends considerable time explaining steps Negroponte took to make the intel community more efficient at gathering and sharing information.
The Chief Information Officer (CIO), appointed in December 2005, implemented a classified information sharing initiative that enhanced and expanded information sharing with key U.S. allies. While the success of this program is only one step toward overhauling the IC's information management system, it represented a paradigm shift in the Community’s information sharing policies.

He also claims he tried to streamline information sharing with law enforcement agencies:

Created a Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, who recently released the Information Sharing Environment Implementation Plan and Privacy Guidelines which provides the vision and road map for better sharing information within the Intelligence Community and with our fellow Federal, State, local, and tribal counterparts, as well as with the private sector.

I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this for a number of reasons, but it's possible this could be a good thing if it's done in such a way that it respects our laws and our privacy. One clear lesson of the 9/11 attacks was that the intel community hasn't been good at doing this in the past.

He also tried to make the intel community's work more closely related to our security objectives.
Promulgated the first unclassified National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), linking the Community’s goals to the National Security Strategy and establishing specific objectives and metrics for accomplishment. Also began implementation of a structured strategic planning process to ensure NIS objectives are met.

The sense I get from reading this document is that his primary focus was trying to get the intelligence agencies working more efficiently on the things he, the DoD, and the President thought were important. This tends to reinforce the impression I wrote about in Update 2, which is that if Negroponte objected to increased collection, it had more to do with him thinking it was inefficient than that it was an invasion of our privacy.

Update 4: (Jan. 8, 2007) Another commenter at the Pat Lang article, Will, points to a UPI article that claims that Negroponte refused to back Vice President Cheney on using the CIA to torture people:
Nov. 7, 2005; Wasington - U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte is declining to support Vice President Dick Cheney's effort to exempt the CIA from law banning mistreatment of detainees.

"It's above my pay grade," he told a secret briefing for Senators last month, Time Magazine reported Sunday, adding that Negroponte then "artfully dodged another question about whether the harsher interrogation tactics Cheney wants the agency to be free to use actually produce valuable intelligence."

Note that this was more than a year ago. You'd think that Negroponte would have no problem backing Cheney on this. So, was this a matter of principle, or a power struggle between Cheney and the "old guard" at the IC?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

More Diversity

Screenshot credit: Cujo359 (from CSPAN)

In what may become a metaphor for her task of running the 110th Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) managed to avoid being trampled while being escorted to the dais by a half-dozen Democratic Caucus bigwigs and much of the California Congressional delegation. Somehow, she managed to traverse the floor of the House with this group, and took the oath of office without injury.

After she arrived, she became the first female Speaker of the House in our history. I think John Boehner put it best today:

This is an historic day. In a few moments, I’ll have the high privilege of handing the gavel of the House of Representatives to a woman for the first time in American history. For more than 200 years, the leaders of our government have been democratically elected. And from their ranks, our elected leaders have always selected a man for the responsibility and honor of serving as Speaker of the House. Always, that is, until today.

It’s sometimes said the Founding Fathers would not recognize the government that exists in Washington today . . . But today marks an occasion I think the Founding Fathers would view approvingly.
Transcript of Rep. Boehner's Welcome to Speaker Pelosi

Indeed, Mr. Boehner, I think they would.

This is also the first Congress to seat a Muslim and a Buddhist. Actually, there are two of the latter, Mazie Hirono, D-HI and Hank Johnson D-GA. There are also six House members who claim to have no religious affiliations.

"Political culture is finally catching up with the diversity of our country," said Albert Menendez of Americans for Religious Liberty, who has counted the religious affiliations of members of Congress for more than three decades.

Faith may be factor in diverse Congress

Of course, most of us are aware of the little kerfuffle about Keith Ellison (D-MN) doing his ceremonial swearing in with a Koran. If there was ever a less important debate about House procedures than this one, I don't want to know the details. The "swearing in" ceremony was entirely ceremonial. All congresspeople are sworn in at once on the opening day of the session, with no holy books required. The question of what Buddhists would do, or nonbelievers, is explored in a NY Times blog article.

Besides, there is no book in Buddhism that’s equivalent to the Bible or the Koran, said Representative-elect Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat. She said she probably would not use any book, but that in the past, when she was sworn in as lieutenant governor, she used a friend’s family Bible.

A Congressman, a Muslim and a Buddhist Walk Into a Bar…

So what bloody difference does it make? That people would be upset about these people not using a Bible in this circumstance is absurd.

As an atheist, I especially welcome the idea that several non-affiliated congressmen have been elected. There is plenty of reason to wonder if the United States hasn't gone off the deep end concerning religion and its role in politics in this country. Every time I hear or read someone saying that this country was founded on "Christian principles", I want to scream. This country was founded on the principle that no church or religion should run the government. If you don't believe me, have a careful look at this document. Pay special attention to Article VI and Amendment I. They're the only place religion is mentioned. One of the unaffiliated, Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, made a good case for why:

"I differentiate organized, institutional religion from questions of the spirit, questions of moral determinism or my sense of self in the universe," Abercrombie said. "I don't think the record of organized institutional religion is too good on that score."

Faith may be factor in diverse Congress

Organized religions are too often political institutions themselves, in that they seem to spend far more time worrying about things like their religion's popularity and finances than to their spiritual beliefs. They don't strike me as any more interested in the good of the nation than oil companies or big pharma are. The more the people who run them are ignored, I think, the better off we'll be as a society. Having a diverse range of religious beliefs represented in Congress can go a long way toward making that happen.

In short, with its first female Speaker and more minority religious views represented, the Congress became more representative of the country today.

Update: Crooks and Liars has a video up of the announcement of Pelosi's victory.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A False Dichotomy

As one would expect, there's been considerable debate about what the Democrats' priorities should be after taking over Congress on Thursday. Should they try to work on providing health care for the poor, close the Medicare Donut Hole, investigate the decision to go to war in Iraq, or investigate the misuse of intelligence and surveillance resources of this country? To which, I say, "Yes. All of that." Why be limited? No matter what they pass, Bush will probably veto it anyway.

One debate that strikes me as pointless is, if I can frame it correctly, whether we should impeach President Bush for his numerous violations of the Constitution and federal law, or should we try to get out of Iraq? (also, here, and here). To my way of thinking, this is the biggest false dichotomy since the last time I was on a airline flight that offered a choice of entrees. There is no choice. To get out of Iraq, we're going to have to impeach the President.

Here's why. George W. Bush has made it abundantly clear that he's not going to change course in Iraq. The Baker Commission (PDF), a bipartisan commission given the task of finding a workable strategy for the U.S. in Iraq, recommended a tepid version of what is the only obvious plan left - get out of there as soon as we can with a minimum of casualties on both sides. This is, as the commisions's report pointed out, the only viable option left. Our presence in the country isn't making anything better, except perhaps the marksmanship of the various militias, resistance groups, and thugs who take shots at our soldiers whenever they can. The hanging of Saddam should have demonstrated that the last thing the leaders of Iraq, and by "leaders" I mean the people who have any real ability to affect the political course of the country, are clearly not interested in creating a viable and inclusive society. The most dignified person in the process was Saddam, a ruthless mass murderering hypocrite.

Yet, President Bush has ignored even this timid plan, and instead asked the Pentagon to tell him what he wanted to hear. They obliged, with a three option menu they entitled "Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home", meaning either escalate by 100,000 or more troops, or stay for a long time at somewhat escalated troop levels in order to train Iraqi police and military forces, or leave as soon as possible. Yesterday the BBC learned that Bush was choosing "Go Kinda Big". He will send as many as 20,000 more troops to Iraq. From Tuesday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann comes this report:

But from our impeccable reporter at the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski, tonight comes confirmation of something called “surge and accelerate” — as many as 20,000 additional troops — for “political purposes".

Countdown with Keith Olbermann - Jan. 2, 2007

According to the BBC report, they will not be sent for the purpose of training the Iraqis to fight their own insurgency, which is the only reason the Baker Commission thought further deployment was justified, and also the reason the Pentagon justified that force increase. In other words, Bush has ignored the advice of both a bipartisan commission set up to explore the options in Iraq, and his own generals. He has instead ordered a pointless increase in the size of a force that can accomplish nothing more without more training of Iraqis. This plan is so untethered from reality that it's hard to imagine that college-educated people could have come up with it.

Refusing to fund Iraq will do no good. Bush has already demonstrated that he won't be pushed around by laws. He's broken several of them. He's also not felt constrained by the limitations of budget, having freely moved funds around to use for things like secret surveillance programs and secret prisons. He's done signing statements that have gutted several laws sent to him.To quote an American Bar Association Report on signing statements:

The report found that President Bush’s signing statements are “ritualistic, mechanical and generally carry no citation of authority or detailed explanation.” Even when “[a] frustrated Congress finally enacted a law requiring the Attorney General to submit to Congress a report of any instance in which that official or any officer of the Department of Justice established or pursued a policy of refraining from enforcing any provision of any federal statute, … this too was subjected to a ritual signing statement insisting on the President’s authority to withhold information whenever he deemed it necessary.”

ABA Report On Signing Statements - June 6, 2006

Why would this man be stopped by a little piece of paper proferred to him by another group of surrender monkeys?

Here's what will have to happen if we want to see our servicemen out of Iraq before 2009:

1. A joint resolution or law must be passed by Congress that requires the President to submit a realistic plan within a month to withdraw from Iraq within a year. The plan must have milestones along the way that Bush must meet.

2. If Bush refuses to submit a plan, or does not meet the milestones, he must be impeached and removed from office.

That's it. There can be no give, no wish to "spare the American people the trauma" of an impeachment or a change of President. If Congress isn't willing to do this, then they might as well just shut up about trying to get the troops home. It's not going to happen. Keith Olbermann defined the choice in his special comment on Countdown on Tuesday (video here):

And to the Democrats now yoked to the helm of this sinking ship, you proceed at your own peril, as well.

President Bush may not be very good at reality, but he and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rove are still gifted at letting American troops be killed, and then turning their deaths to their own political advantage.

The equation is simple. This country does not want more troops in Iraq. It wants fewer.

Go and make it happen, or go and look for other work.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann - Jan. 2, 2007

There are probably some policy areas where compromise and bipartisanship will work between the 110th Congress and President Bush. Iraq isn't one of those areas. If the Democrats want to get the troops home the choice is simple: Go big or go home.

UPDATE: Here's a quote from President Bush's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

In the days ahead, I will be addressing our nation about a new strategy to help the Iraqi people gain control of the security situation and hasten the day when the Iraqi government gains full control over its affairs. Ultimately, Iraqis must resolve the most pressing issues facing them. We can't do it for them.

But we can help Iraq defeat the extremists inside and outside of Iraq--and we can help provide the necessary breathing space for this young government to meet its responsibilities. If democracy fails and the extremists prevail in Iraq, America's enemies will be stronger, more lethal, and emboldened by our defeat. Leaders in both parties understand the stakes in this struggle. We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war.

Sound like reality's intruded on his thinking yet?

UPDATE 2: Changed "binding resolution" to "joint resolution", which is more specific and probably more accurate, given the circumstances.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Anatomy Of Deceit available Jan. 28

If you've managed to find this blog, it's quite likely you're already aware the Marcy Wheeler, A.K.A. emptywheel of The Next Hurrah, has written one of the must-read books about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson smear campaign that resulted in the arrest of Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby. Nevertheless, I'll just add my recommendation. This book, along with the Murray Waas book that's also due out soon, are the two you'll want to read to really understand what's happened.

If you're not familiar with the Plamegate saga, a good place to get spun up is by reading emptywheel's Anatomy of a White House Smear series, version 3.0 [3.1] [3.2] [3.3] [3.4] [3.5] [3.6] [3.7]. It's long and complicated, but so is this case. It's a great example of what a real government conspiracy looks like, as opposed to some of the more elaborate fantasies.

The book is ready for pre-order at Borders , Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The release date appears to be January 28. Marcy Wheeler's announcement of the book is here, and Jane Hamsher's holding a discussion about it at Firedoglake (starting 2PM PST). I'd say if you read this much past 4PM PST, don't bother going to FDL. The discussion will be over by then.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Mark this day

"Bay Of Pigs. Bay Of Pigs. Where are the B's?"

Screen grab credit:

Mark this day in the calendar, folks. It's one of the few times you'll ever see me write this: the Bush Administration did something right. No, it's not something small or inconsequential, like not getting lost on a bike ride or remembering the name of the prime minister of India, this is something big and very important to a democracy. What's more, they actually did it even though it was something that Bill Clinton thought of. The act in question is following the dictates of an executive order that Bill Clinton signed in 1995. According to Scott Shane of the International Herald Tribune:

At midnight on Dec. 31, hundreds of millions of pages of secret documents will be instantly declassified, including many FBI cold war files on investigations of people suspected of being Communist sympathizers. After years of extensions sought by federal agencies behaving like college students facing a term paper, the end of 2006 means the government's first automatic declassification of records.

Secret documents 25 years old or older will lose their classified status without so much as the stroke of a pen, unless agencies have sought exemptions on the ground that the material remains secret.

U.S. to declassify secrets aged 25 and older

Here's a little background. Up until now, documents would only be declassified if the declassification was specifically requested by U.S. citizens and granted by the government, or if the agency responsible for the documents decided to do a "housecleaning" by reviewing old classified documents to see if they should remain secret. Now, old secret documents will be declassified automatically unless the agency responsible requests that they not be. Essentially, we've gone from the documents being declassified by exception to their remaining classified by exception. As the IHT quote indicates, this will change the status of hundreds of millions of documents.

The IHT also appears to be accurate in saying the Bush Administration have not stood in the way of this change. The executive order the article is referring to is EO 12958, which President Clinton signed in April, 1995. Among other things, it contained this directive:

Sec. 3.4. Automatic Declassification. (a) Subject to paragraph (b), below, within 5 years from the date of this order, all classified information contained in records that (1) are more than 25 years old, and (2) have been determined to have permanent historical value under title 44, United States Code, shall be automatically declassified whether or not the records have been reviewed. Subsequently, all classified information in such records shall be automatically declassified no longer than 25 years from the date of its original classification, except as provided in paragraph (b), below. [3]

Executive Order 12958

President Bush later amended this executive order with EO 13292, which was changed mainly to give the Vice President the power to classify information. The section on automatic declassification was left essentially unchanged:

Sec. 3.3. Automatic Declassification. (a) Subject to paragraphs (b)-(e) of this section, on December 31, 2006, all classified records that (1) are more than 25 years old and (2) have been determined to have permanent historical value under title 44, United States Code, shall be automatically declassified whether or not the records have been reviewed. Subsequently, all classified records shall be automatically declassified on December 31 of the year that is 25 years from the date of its original classification, except as provided in paragraphs (b)-(e) of this section.

Executive Order 13292

Near as I can tell, the only change was to set a different date for the time when this process would start. Considering the way in which the Bush Administration deals with secrecy, this is an astonishing development. The change in the paragraphs cited is what I'd call wordsmithing; the paragraphs cited are essentially unchanged.

There is an implementation directive that tries to clarify procedures that will be used to declassify these documents. A brief glance at it reveals no hidden gotchas. It really looks like this is going to happen.

So, what does all this mean? The IHT article sums it up nicely:

Historians say the deadline, created in the Clinton administration but enforced, to the surprise of some scholars, by the secrecy-prone Bush administration, has had huge effects on public access, despite the large numbers of intelligence documents that have been exempted.

And every year from now on, millions of additional documents will be automatically declassified as they reach the 25-year limit, reversing the traditional practice of releasing just what scholars request.

That's "millions of documents", as in the equivalent of thousands of encyclopedias. Needless to say, much of it will be considerably less informative, but there are more than a few things buried in there that historians would like to know, and that we, as citizens of this country, ought to know.

The IHT article mentions that some documents about the Gulf of Tonkin incident will be declassified. For those who don't know what that is, let's just say that the Gulf of Tonkin was to Vietnam what weapons of mass destruction were to Iraq - in short, the lie that was used as the excuse for the war. What will those documents tell us about what happened that night? Here's what the Wikipedia entry has to say:

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was an alleged pair of attacks (the second of which did not occur) by naval forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam against two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy. The attacks occurred on 2 and 4 August 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin. Later research, including a report released in 2005 by the National Security Agency, indicated that the second attack did not occur, but also attempted to dispel the long-standing assumption that members of the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson had knowingly lied about the nature of the incident.

Wikipedia entry "Gulf of Tonkin Incident"

An American President may have lied to get us into a war, and then classified the radar logs and other supporting documents to cover up his crime. Or, he may not have done it. The newly declassified documents may tell us, one way or the other. This has implications beyond history. Suppose President Bush was considering doing the same thing. Knowing that someday his legacy might be sullied by such a revelation might make him more reluctant to do it.

It seems possible that there will be documents about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Yom Kippur War. All these things, and many other incidents of the Cold War, occurred more than twenty-five years ago.

There's another benefit to this declassification that even the most ardent unitary executive proponent would like. It will get a whole bunch of classified documents out of the system. Each one must, by law, be tracked and accounted for. If one goes missing, no matter how useless or uninteresting its contents may be to our current adversaries, an investigation must be conducted to find out what happened and who might be to blame. Declassifying these documents relieves the government of a large expense.

So, we saved money and made our society a little more open. On the whole, a very good day. Here's something else you won't read very often in this column:

Good job, Mr. President.