Monday, July 30, 2007

Help Educate Abu

Image credit: National Archives

Think Alberto Gonzalez has ever read this thing?

John Edwards' campaign has promised:

We will send one copy of the Constitution to [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales' office for every person who signs our petition. If we reach our goal of 25,000 signatures, we will add all the names to the biggest copy of the Constitution you have ever seen — and send that to his office too!

Tell Gonzales it is time to go!

I'd love to see that. If you find the thought amusing, too, sign the petition.

UPDATE: While we're on the subject of our Attorney General, here's a bit of good news that broke late today:

Some Democratic House members - including several former prosecutors - said Monday they will seek a measure directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., who was a prosecutor in Washington state in the late 1970s and 1980s, is the lead sponsor of the measure.

Co-sponsors of the resolution include Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra of California, Michael Arcuri of New York, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Dennis Moore of Kansas, Bruce Braley of Iowa and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

House Democrats to seek impeachment inquiry for Gonzales

If you'd asked me to compile a list of Congressional rabble-rousers, I don't think any of these folks would be on it. If these folks are ready for impeachment, you can bet that most Democrats are, I think. Considering what shameless partisans Republicans have been on this issue, I'd be shocked if many of them were persuaded yet. That's what you and I are here to change.

The bill will be introduced tomorrow. No indication of when it will be considered. I suspect it won't be until after the summer recess, but no one should trust my guesses on this matter. Congress has been surprising me lately.

According to the Washington Times, the Senate Judiciary Committee is also on the warpath regarding Abu:

The Washington Times is reporting today that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter, warned yesterday that Attorney General Gonzales "must quickly clarify apparent contradictions in his testimony about surveillance laws or risk a possible perjury investigation or a special prosecutor." Sen. Leahy, on CBS's Face the Nation, warned Gonzales "has a week to correct [his testimony] if he wants. I'd suggest he consult with a lawyer as he does it." And on the CBS Evening News, Sen. Specter was shown saying, "The Department of Justice would be much better off without him."

Gonzales May Face Perjury Probe

Now, I think many folks are familiar with Sen. "Snarlin" Arlen Specter, but for those who aren't, let's just say that he has a record of quickly folding whenever the White House puts pressure on him. Maybe he's finally had enough, but I'd count him as a fair weather ally at best. Leahy, on the other hand, is a serious guy, and if Abu doesn't come clean I think you can at least expect a perjury hearing sometime soon.

UPDATE 2: One more update, then I'm done. In case you need your memory refreshed on other liesmisstatements Abu has made, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein have written an article reviewing some of his greatest hits:

When Alberto R. Gonzales was asked during his January 2005 confirmation hearing whether the Bush administration would ever allow wiretapping of U.S. citizens without warrants, he initially dismissed the query as a "hypothetical situation."

But when Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) pressed him further, Gonzales declared: "It is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes."

By then, however, the government had been conducting a secret wiretapping program for more than three years without court oversight, possibly in conflict with federal intelligence laws.

Gonzales's Truthfulness Long Disputed

I was also remiss in not giving SusanUnPC at No Quarter a tip of the hat. Her article covered these issues. As she points out, Rep. Inslee is an ally of Senator Hillary Clinton. That fact, together with Sen. Chuck Schumer's outspoken calls for investigations of Gonzalez show that the big Democratic players are probably supporting Leahy in this.

I'm starting to think that Abu's days as AG are numbered, and not because his President is leaving office in seventeen months.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of Crimes, Coverups, and So Forth

Image credit: Wikipedia

It appears that Eliot Spitzer has gotten into a bit of trouble in his new job. Despite having grown up in the region, I try to stay out of Northeast politics, because I'm just not that aware of things after several decades' absence. I just can't help myself here, though.

Without Eliot Spitzer, there might never have been an Enron investigation. Spitzer's determination to investigate the wrongdoing of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling was a sharp contrast to the Bush Administration's disinterest in the affair. If it weren't for Spitzer's investigations as New York State Attorney General, there might never have been a federal investigation into the matter. "Kenny Boy" might still be alive today outside of prison if it weren't for him.

So I feel a certain gratitude.

Apparently, some of Spitzer's aides haven't been quite as aware of government ethics as they ought to be. They prompted an investigation into the use of state vehicles by the lead Republican in the New York senate, Joseph Bruno. It turns out not only that Bruno did nothing illegal, but that the current New York AG is in something of a lather over what appears to be an unethical use of the state's investigative powers for political purposes:

A scathing report issued on Monday by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo concluded that the governor’s staff had broken no laws but had misused the State Police to gather information about Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative story about him.

Spitzer’s Office Vows to Fight Investigation

Now the legislature is trying to investigate, and Spitzer has claimed executive privilege. Any of this sound familiar?

So, Mr. Spitzer, as one Northeasterner to another, let me try to put this in perspective for you: Nixon. Coverup. Crime, Kapish? You're not a prosecutor any more. You're a governor. The rules are different. Let 'em dig through your desk drawers. You've only been there seven months. They can't be that dirty already.

UPDATE (July 27): The AP reports:

Half of New Yorkers suspect Gov. Eliot Spitzer knew more than he has said about a plot by his aides to use state police against Republican Senate leader Joseph Bruno, according to a WNBC-Marist College poll released Friday.

Spitzer knew more, says poll

As I said in the comments, I assume Spitzer had nothing to do with this. Inevitably, though, people will suspect wrongdoing when a politician, particularly an executive, acts this way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

House Judiciary Approves Censure Motion

In a strict party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution recommending contempt of Congress charges for Harriet Meiers, President Bush's former White House Counsel, and Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff.

Christy Hardin Smith live blogged the hearings this morning. Reading them, I'm appalled at the transparent idiocy of the Republicans' excuses for not supporting this measure. Meiers refused to show up for a hearing when she was subpoenaed. Who has done that before and gotten away with it? Do they really want to make the Congress an inconsequential branch of government? I suppose if you looked at their work habits during the 109th Congress, you'd realize that was a stupid question. Of course they do.

I wonder what it's going to take to get the Republicans to do what's right for their country. In the end, I think it will hurt their party more to be seen as obstructing an important investigation, which is what they are doing here. That they're doing it for an arrogant and foolish President with an approval rating in the mid twenties makes this move positively suicidal.

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher sums up the HJC hearings today quite eloquently:

The moebius strip logic of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee is astonishing.

We haven’t found any evidence of wrongdoing therefore we should not investigate. Of course we can’t investigate because witnesses are refusing to cooperate, but because Carol Lam doesn’t have evidence to prove she was the victim of a crime we need to stop right now.

Also, we despise Bill Clinton and revile everything he has ever done but he is nonetheless the bar we establish for acceptable behavior from the administration.

You have to be sucking hard for oxygen in a vapor lock for an awfully long time in order for this to make any sense.

Breathtaking GOP Mendacity in the House Judiciary Today

It appears that a considerable portion of America is short on oxygen, and the worst oxygen deficit appears to be located in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

He'll Always Be Abu To Me

Image credit: Official DoJ portrait

You may have noticed by now that in my writing I've generally steered clear of using nicknames for our public officials. I seldom even refer to Senator Hillary Clinton by her first name only. It somehow seems disrespectful of people I don't know. Of course, I can't resist referring to our current Vice President as "Deadeye" or "Deadeye Dick", but then, that's like a red cape in front of a bull, isn't it? One exception to that, however, is the case of our U.S. Attorney General, Alberto "Abu" Gonzalez.

Why? To understand that, I first have to diverge into a brief discussion of one of the previous horrors of our age, the Holocaust. As an engineer, one of the things I've found most appalling about the death camps was the careful design and construction of the places. Someone put a great deal of rational thought into just how to most efficiently kill millions of innocent human beings. Learned people did this. Contrast this with the Pol Pot massacres in Cambodia or the recent slaughter in Rwanda, which were carried out by uneducated people using primitive means. Horrible as they were, at least the inhuman acts weren't carried out with calm and rational forethought by people who could consider alternatives. Being learned doesn't guarantee a person has a conscience. Nevertheless, having the fortune to be well educated does confer a responsibility. The educated don't get to claim that they can't understand the implications of what they're doing.

That's the reason I despise Alberto Gonzalez. He was, in many ways, the legal architect of the network of black sites and of the torture that occurred there. He and other learned people, like John Yoo, discussed the idea of how much torture was legal while he was the White House Counsel. They weren't in danger. They weren't involved in combat, or trying to chase down dangerous criminals. They were sitting in an air-conditioned office discussing whether organ failure meant the torture had gone too far. That people with advanced degrees, who work in a profession whose guiding principle is supposed to be justice for all, could sit around calmly discussing such things is both appalling and alarming. That these people held, and in some cases continue to hold, high places in our government is downright frightening.

So, as Alberto Gonzalez is being grilled by the Senate today on his behavior during the U.S. Attorneys firings, among other things, I don't feel one bit sorry for him. He isn't experiencing one tenth of the pain he's caused other people to go through, many of whom were probably innocent of any wrongdoing that involves the United States. He richly deserves to be remembered as the guy who made Abu Ghraib possible.

That's why he'll always be "Abu" to me.

And remember Senators, if there's no organ failure, it's not torture.

UPDATE (July 28): The New York Times has called for Abu's impeachment, at least if he doesn't cooperate with Congress concerning a special prosecutor:

Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.

If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales’s Never-Ending Story

In my opinion, he's given Congress plenty of reason already, but I agree that if they refuse to appoint a special prosecutor, the only other choice is acceptance that the executive branch is now allowed to do whatever it wants. (h/t Taylor Marsh)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Greenwald On The Next Generation of Chickenhawks

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

In a way, it's too bad Glenn Greenwald is now behind the curtain at Salon Magazine. I'm sure he's better compensated for his work now, which is good, but it's too bad that it's now more difficult to look at what he writes.

Take today's article on "The 9/11 Generation", as The Weekly Standard's Dean Barnett has referred to them:

The article is being hailed in all of the predictable right-wing precincts, even though its reasoning highlights (unintentionally) exactly what is so corrupt, ignoble and deceitful about that political movement.
How does one even begin counting the myths laid on top of more myths on which these claims are based? To begin with, while Barnett contrasts two significant groups of the Vietnam era -- those who bravely volunteered for combat and/or who were drafted (Jim Webb and John McCain and Chuck Hagel and John Kerry) and those who protested the war -- he revealingly whitewashes from history the other major group, the most ignoble one, the one which happens to include virtually all of the individuals who lead Barnett's political movement: namely, those who claimed to support the war but did everything possible to evade military service, sending their fellow citizens off to die instead in a war they urged.

The Weekly Standard's "9/11 Generation"

What I despise about this part of that generation, as with the chickenhawk portion of my own, is that they are plenty brave when other people are fighting wars, being imprisoned for the rest of their lives, or being tortured, but anything that causes them to be marginally more imperiled is something to be opposed vociferously, not to mention courageously. They'd rather slaughter tens of thousands of people in a foreign country than be infinitesimally more imperiled at home.

These people like to think of themselves as courageous. Many proudly display that ridiculous "101st Fighting Keyboardists" logo as though it were some badge of honor to lay the intellectual foundation for sending other people to fight a war. No doubt I just don't understand true courage, but I don't see what's courageous about hiding in the corner, pissing in your pants, and telling someone else "You. Go handle it".

Reading any more of my words on the subject is a waste of time when Greenwald's done such a marvelous job on them. Just go pull back the curtain and read Glenn's essay.

UPDATE: When you're done with that, go read this. Eli found a terrific essay by Jimmy Breslin on Bush, Iraq, impeachment, and the relationship between them. As Eli observes, Breslin's mind is in much better shape than David Broder's.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Another Whacky TV Premise That Wingnuts Take Way Too Seriously

Image credit: screenshot by Cujo359

If you read the comments of some wingnuts regarding Valerie Wilson's status as a covert agent, you'd swear they think that covert secret agents take a trapdoor phone booth to work every morning. One good thing came out of Wilson's civil court case today, which ought to lay that fantasy to rest.

Joseph and Valerie Wilson's civil suit of the CIA has been dismissed by a Federal court today. One of the more interesting bits of evidence presented was this:

I, STEPHEN R. KAPPES, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S. 1746, hereby declare and state:

1. I am the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and have held this position since 24 July 2006. I have held numerous senior operational and administrative positions since joining the CIA in 1981. As an example, I have served more than 12 years overseas with assignments as an Operations Officer. I have served as Deputy Chief of CIA's Counter-Intelligence Center (CIC) and concurrently as the Chief of CIC and Associate Deputy Director for Operations for Counterintelligence. I was named the Associate Deputy Director for Operations of the CIA in 2002 and Deputy Director for Operations of the CIA in 2004.


III. Valerie Wilson Employment Summary

5. On 1 January 2002, Valerie Wilson was working for the CIA as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations (DO). She was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) at CIA Headquarters, where she served as the chief of a CPD component with responsibility for weapons proliferation issues related to Iraq.

6. While assigned to CPD, Ms. Wilson engaged in temporary duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity -- sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official cover (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.

Kapsis Affadavit Re Damage to US National Security

The most important bit is paragraph 6, where Kapsis says, in a legal document, that Valerie Wilson was working undercover overseas for the CIA. He works for General Micheal Hayden, who was appointed by President Bush.

House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA30) said this in his opening statement when Valerie Wilson testified in March, 2007:

Ms. Wilson was a covert employee of the CIA. We cannot discuss all of the details of her CIA employment in open session. I have met with General Hayden, the head of the CIA, to discuss what I can and cannot say about Ms. Wilson's service. My staff has also worked with the agency to ensure these remarks do not contain classified information.

I have been advised by the CIA that even now, after all that has happened, I cannot disclose the full nature, scope, and character of Ms. Wilson's service to our nation without causing serious damage to our national security interests. But General Hayden and the CIA have cleared these following comments for today's hearing.

  • During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson was under cover. Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.

  • At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14,2003, Ms. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. This was classified information.

  • Ms. Wilson served in senior management positions at the CIA, in which she oversaw the work of other CIA employees, and she attained the level of GS-14, step 6 under the federal pay scale.

  • Ms. Wilson worked on some of the most sensitive and highly secretive matters handled by the CIA.

  • Ms. Wilson served at various times overseas for the CIA. Without discussing the specifics of Ms. Wilson's classified work, it is accurate to say that she worked on the prevention of the development and use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

  • In her various positions at the CIA, Ms. Wilson faced significant risks to her personal safety and her life. She took on serious risks on behalf of her country.

  • Ms. Wilson's work in many situations had consequences for the security of her colleagues, and maintaining her cover was critical to protecting the safety of both colleagues and others.

  • The disclosure of Ms. Wilson's employment with the CIA had several serious effects.

Statement of Chairman Henry Waxman

I suppose it's possible someone could just assume, without checking, that Rep. Waxman was just lying about what Gen. Hayden said. Hayden never contradicted Waxman, and plenty of folks have backed up these assertions.

But now a CIA official has sworn an affadavit testifying that this was the case. If you still don't believe Valerie Wilson was covert, then you don't have a mind to call your own.

UPDATE: Fixed a couple of typos. I neglected to point out that the text of the affadavit was my own transcription. You're welcome to validate it against the PDF in the link.

UPDATE 2: Speaking of wingnuts in denial, Keith Olbermann gives them a verbal ass-kicking in a special comment tonight. Crooks and Liars has the video.

UPDATE 3: (July 20) Juan Cole put it very well this morning:

But the world has a kind of karma, and the United States will be punished for what Cheney Inc. did to Plame Wilson.

Think about it. She worked against nuclear proliferation, including with regard to Iran,with a "non-official cover" (NOC). She was an undercover operative with extremely sensitive duties.

So what are the big security challenges facing the United States in the next decade? They include the regrouping of al-Qaeda and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

What the United States therefore needs most to secure our country is smart, knowledgeable, skilled and dedicated counter-terrorism and counter- proliferation professionals. Without such persons, we are in danger of being hit hard by smart, knowledgeable, skilled terrorists.

But here is the problem. If you are a NOC, you are living a lie. Your very identity as CIA would potentially put everyone around you in danger, especially your friends, contacts and the agents you are running in foreign countries. You yourself could easily be assassinated on a trip abroad if your identity became known.

Plame Case Thrown Out; National Security Imperilled

Karma doesn't work well enough these days. If it worked as it should, the lying sacks of dung who did this would be in jail, and the liars and morons who apologize for them would be recognized as the worthless little putzes they are.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Now They've Gone And Done It ...

They did what we told them to do. There's now a "marathon argument" on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

Senate Democrats made Republicans stand, talk and sit for marathon arguments against the protracted war in Iraq in an all-night session where the most eye-catching props were the beds brought in for the sleepy.

Republicans, indeed, responded with a yawn — agreeing to stay around as Tuesday turned to today and respond to any votes that might be scheduled even though they remained steadfast in their opposition to the Democrats' anti-war legislation.

Senate's all-nighter on Iraq draws mostly yawns

Typical AP narrative, isn't it? Democrats being unreasonable and Republicans "steadfast" in defending a ludicrous occupation of a country that long ago tired of our presence.

Reuters adds:

As the night wore on, Democratic aides delivered packages of toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant to fellow Republican aides with an attached note: "A few supplies for your sleepless night. Help us bring an end to the war."

Democrats make all-night push for change in Iraq

Apparently, the leaked NIE hasn't helped the Republicans' cause as much as they'd hoped:

Democrats seized on the report as evidence that the more than $400 billion spent by the United States on the Iraq war has done little to improve national security. They have urged the Bush administration to refocus efforts at undermining al Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other regions.

Democrats make all-night push for change in Iraq

Supposedly, there are Republicans on the fence on this issue. whom Greg Sargent has dubbed Waverers In Name Only, WINOs for short. Sometimes acronyms really are appropriate. These guys can't quit the stuff that is killing them.

"This is nonsense," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Added Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., of his Democratic colleagues: "I bet I can stay up longer than they can."

Senate's all-nighter on Iraq draws mostly yawns

Stevens and Coburn don't seem to expend much energy on being conscious, so they can probably outlast most folks their age. No word on how that actually worked out, though.

Sargent pegged the Republican strategy today, which is basically to take advantage of the short attention spans of many voters:

As noted earlier, the WINO caucus -- Waverers In Name Only -- is home to all the GOP Senators who are said by the press to be "wavering" in their support of Bush's policies but keep opposing legislative measures that would actually change those policies. These WINO caucus Senators are just voicing doubts about Bush in order to appease their worried constituents and dupe the public into thinking that the Republicans are serious about forcing Bush to change course, when they're not prepared to do anything that would actually bring this about in the real world.

Lugar, Domenici Will Oppose Withdrawal Bill, Keeping Them In GOP WINO Caucus

In addition to Lugar and Domenici, Susan Collins, and George Voinovich are all part of the WINO caucus, with all save Collins seemingly determined to stay there.

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Durbin has compiled a list of wavering Republican Senators. If you happen to be a constituent of one of them, please call or e-mail them to tell them you don't appreciate their efforts so far, and that maybe it's time for a change in direction.

Of course, if you're not in one of those states, but have a Republican Senator anyway, feel free to let them know how you feel. They need to be reminded whose country it is every once in a while. If your Senator is a Democrat, Firedoglake has toll free numbers you can use to say thank you.

UPDATE: (11:45AM EDT) Apparently, Republicans have blocked a vote on the Levin-Reed bill. No word on what's next. I saw this on Taylor's site. No word on what's going to happen next.

UPDATE 2 (11:55AM EDT): Perhaps Sen. Collins has had a change of heart. CSPAN1 is reporting that she voted to "advance" the bill, which would mean that she was voting for cloture.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Pebbles Voted

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359 (Note 1)

One of my favorite aliens, Kosh from the Babylon 5 TV series, once said as events seemed about to overwhelm the series' characters:

The avalanche has started. It's too late for the pebbles to vote.

He was speaking of events seemingly beyond the ability of the show's characters to affect. Of course, in the end they did stop that metaphorical avalanche, and changed their lives and the lives of their societies for the better.

I was going to name this post The Power of Protest, Part II, but somehow this title seems more apt. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, seems to have finally absorbed the lesson that the Republicans have been making a fool of him. There's really no other way to put it:

Harry Reid is finally coming to the realization reached months ago by the American people: That Democrats in Congress have been played for suckers by the Bush White House and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

The Senate majority leader's recognition of the realities of Washington in the Bush era -- as evidenced by his decision Monday to set up a scenario that could clarify the role played by Republican senators in maintaining the president's exceptionally unpopular approach to the Iraq War -- holds out the prospect that the politics of the debate over ending the occupation could change radically in the weeks to come.

Harry Reid Finally Starts to Fight Smart

It was beginning to look like nothing would change, that Reid would go on being outmaneuvered by the minority, with nothing being accomplished on the war in Iraq, restoring the Constitution, or any of the more mundane tasks that every Congress needs to attend to. Today, Reid seems to have had an epiphany.

He didn't get there on his own, though. He had a little help from us out here in Western Blogistan.

Last Friday, Mimikatz wrote an article at The Next Hurrah that noted how the Democrats were being blamed by Republicans for accomplishing almost nothing so far this legislative session, while it was they who were in fact obstructing the process:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is like those bad boys. Many people do not know that it is due to him that the Senate has accomplished virtually nothing, while the House has passed over 400 pieces of legislation. Even bills that have been passed by a majority of both houses cannot become law because Bad Boy McConnell will not allow a vote on sending them to a conference committee. We all know that McConnell would not allow a vote on the Webb-Hagel Amendemnt, leading Majority Leader Harry Reid to file a cloture motion that needed 60 votes. Since the Dems had only 56 votes, debate could not be closed off and there was no vote on the substance of Webb-Hagel. McConnell promises the same on Levin-Reed and Feingold-Reid.

The details are here.

Bad Boy, No Recess

Likening their behavior to that of petulant elementary school students, Mimikatz suggested that misbehavior in Congress should have consequences just as it does in elementary schools that value discipline. It was just a little thing, seemingly, noticed by one of the less frequent contributors to a relatively unknown blog. However, out here things like this don't stay unnoticed for long.

While I'd known about a few individual legislative actions by Republicans that had kept bills from being voted on, I hadn't been aware there was such a pattern. Apparently, I wasn't alone. In the succeeding days, Digby, Ian Welsh, Chris Bowers, Christy Hardin Smith, and Taylor Marsh, among others, wrote articles critical of Reid's performance regarding the non-filibusters that McConnell has been using to bottle up legislation.

This morning, Taylor mentioned an online petition asking Reid to make the Republicans filibuster. Within a couple of hours of my signing it, Reid announced that he would require the Republicans to actually filibuster if they were going to prevent cloture. Was it my signature that put us over the top? I'd love to think so, but I think it had more to do with the thousands of other people who signed on and called his office today.

It's difficult to see it sometimes, but words have meaning. Our words, together with those of other party activists, made this happen. Actions also have meaning, and our politicians sometimes respond to them. Without them, I suspect that this would have been just another day when the Republicans were allowed to obstruct a bill without even having to work hard. The people who made this happen, and I am not one of them, deserve a pat on the back.

Now I'm just hoping that now Reid's honked off enough to do what needs to be done. But if he doesn't, he'll be hearing from us again. After all, I'm just dying to use this picture of him one more time.

Note 1: Babylon 5 copyright Warner Studios, who are in no way responsible for the content of this article.

UPDATE: Apparently, this is only the start of this struggle to get Reid to do the right thing. Here's a quote from Mimikatz's follow on article this evening:

So it will be a real filibuster, apparently, in the sense that "debate on the amendment continues" --until it doesn't. The "30 hours" only comes into play if the cloture motion passes. So Reid will need to be pressured to keep debate on the (minimally acceptable) Levin-Reed amendment until there is an up-or-down vote on the amendment. This, today, is just theatrics.

Filibuster Update: At Least It's A Start

We need to keep the pressure on. If you haven't signed the petition, please do so, and contact Reid's office (phone numbers are at the bottom of the page if you're so inclined) in the days ahead to encourage him to continue making the Republicans either earn their filibusters or allow bills to be voted on.

Friday, July 13, 2007 Republicans Worry About Iraq

Image credit: U.S. Army

Photo caption: Paratroopers from 1st Platoon, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, conduct a dismounted patrol through Al Suleikh, Iraq, June 20.

Yesterday, I wrote that the Skelton Bill, A.K.A. the Iraq Responsible Redeployment Act, was the sort of thing that the Democrats must keep passing in order to end the war. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead backed me up:

Facing rock-bottom poll numbers and the judgment of history, President Bush has little to lose politically in using the last 18 months of his presidency to try to prove critics of his war policy wrong. The president followed that path Thursday, finding promise in a "young democracy" in Iraq despite descriptions by his own administration of a deeply fractured society.

The rest of his Republican Party, however, is looking at something entirely different: elections for the House, Senate and the presidency that, absent a miraculous turnaround in Iraq or a suicidal stumble by Democrats, are headed for a debacle.

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

[emphasis mine]

This is the political dilemma I was referring to yesterday. The Republicans will look worse the more times they vote against the wishes of the country. They are in trouble in many places, as Ms. Lochhead observes:

Republicans are watching their private poll numbers plunge, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

"They just simply cannot let the status quo continue for much longer, or they are cooked gooses," he said. Unless things change by November 2008, he predicted, Republicans "lose seats in both houses, and even the weakest of the major Democrats, probably Hillary Clinton, will win" the presidency.

The poll landscape shows "Republicans who ought to be completely secure that are maybe in the upper 40s, low 50s," Sabato said, "and then you have the weaker ones ... being blown away in landslides."

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

Bush may be risking nothing, but his party is risking everything by continuing on this course. Until they vote the right way, and maybe even then if it's too late to matter, the Republicans will lose ground politically. The inevitable result is that they will cooperate. Not today, I suspect, but they will eventually, or they'll reap the whirlwind of electoral disaster next year.

So what's the worry for Democrats? Just this:

[former George H.W. Bush aide Jim] Pinkerton believes Bush knows he can hang on because no one wants to be tagged with losing the war.

"What the Dick Lugar, Pete Domenici-type Republicans and the Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer-type Democrats would love, is some sort of bipartisan deal that backs us out of Iraq, even if we lose, because then it would be bipartisan and nobody will get blamed," Pinkerton said, referring to two prominent Senate Republicans who have broken with Bush on Iraq and the Democratic House speaker and majority leader. "But that bipartisanship has to include Bush."

Unpopular Bush risks little by staying course

Here's a clue - Bush lost it already by going into Iraq unprepared to deal with the aftermath of invasion. His top general at the time recommended deploying twice the force we have there now. No orders were issued to stop the looting and other chaos that went on after the Iraqi government collapsed. In short, that ship has sailed.

What we need to do is worry about the other war we're losing, Afghanistan. We might still be able to pull that one out. Iraq is lost. It's time to face reality.

Yesterday, Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza wrote a column asking readers to comment on what the Democrats could do to stop the war. What I wrote was this:

It's simple. Keep passing bills that tell the President he has to get out of Iraq. As long as the Republicans vote in favor of the war, they risk political disaster next year. Eventually, they'll see the light and come around. I don't know how long that will take, but unless the Democrats provide them the opportunity to keep voting against the wishes of the American public, they won't have to make a decision.


Meanwhile, there's no trick or magic incantation that will make this go away. The Democrats need to be as relentless as the Republicans have been in starting this war if they're going to end it.

That's the key, I think. It's not going to happen today. It may not happen until after the next elections, but I'm not willing to wait. I suspect that few people in Iraq are willing to wait that long, either.

UPDATE: Added photo and my comment on Chris Cillizza's column.

UPDATE 2: Republican Senators Lugar (IN) and Warner (VA), have just proposed a measure that would require President Bush to seek reauthorization for the war in October. Senator Warner, incidently, is up for re-election next year. (h/t Taylor Marsh).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Skelton Bill Passes In House

The Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act, sponsored by Ike Skelton (D-MO04) and supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, passed today 223-201. To quote the Congressional Quarterly article:

The House bill (HR 2956), sponsored by Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., would require troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of the legislation. All troops would have to be redeployed from Iraq by April 1, 2008, with minor exceptions.

House Renews Iraq Pullout Effort

What exceptions might there be? Here's a quote from the House Speaker's website:

The President would have to report to Congress why troops should remain in Iraq for limited purposes such as to fight terrorism or to train Iraqi forces.

House Passes Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act

This is the sort of bill I've been urging Congress to pass for some time. It's what they should do, instruct the President that he's no longer authorized to deploy forces in an area. In short, Congress is telling the President he has no legal basis for making war there. There is none of the opportunity for demagoguery that there was with the efforts to cut off funding for the war. They can't claim it's not supporting the troops. They have the money they need, at least if there's any amount of money that can give them what they really need there.

Of course, to say there's no chance for demagoguery here vastly underestimates our demagogues. They'll complain that this bill is a waste of time, because even if the Senate passes it (and there seems to be some doubt), the President will veto it, and there certainly aren't enough votes to override that veto. That's beside the point. The troops aren't leaving until either George W. Bush is no longer President or he sees the light. This is another opportunity for the Republicans to say "no" to what the American people clearly want. Each time they do that, they take one step closer to political disaster. There are plenty of Republicans, particularly those in swing districts or states, who understand this all too well. Sooner or later, they'll probably change their minds. When enough of them do, they'll override a veto.

Meanwhile, I want them on record now, before the elections are looming. You'd have to be a political idiot not to.

In addition, I don't want to waste a single day. Every day, more people die in Iraq thanks to the chaos and our troop operations. To quote Patrick Murphy (D-PA08):

“In the last month alone, in Bucks County, we have buried four of our finest sons. Four names have been added to the memorial board outside my office. I – for one – don’t want to add any more names. My Republican colleagues, you have the power today to stop these tragic phone calls… to stop adding faces and names to our memorials. Let’s change the direction in Iraq and get back to fighting a smarter War on Terror – together – not as Democrats or Republicans – but as Americans.”

House Passes Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act

Every time the Republicans vote against a bill to get us out of Iraq, they vote to continue this useless slaughter. If it has to be someone's albatross, let it be their albatross. The heavier and stinkier it becomes, the more they'll be ready to get rid of it.

(H/T to Taylor Marsh, who wrote about this earlier today and found most of the links.)

UPDATE: Corrected the name of the bill.

It Was A Shameful Moment For Us, And I'm Sorry

Image credit: MSNBC

No, that isn't what President Bush said about the Plame affair this morning. That's what he should have said. Instead, if you watch the video that's available at most of the links I'm referring to, you'll notice that he looked impatient and even a bit petulant as he was being asked about whether he felt any regrets about the matter, and then complained about what an ordeal it had been for his administration. He wouldn't even say Valerie Plame Wilson's name or acknowledge her role in protecting our country, or that his people had endangered her and the people who worked for her for petty political purposes. As Leslie wrote at No Quarter this morning Somebody?! That person!?. This would be an incredible spectacle, if we hadn't been watching this man for the last seven years.

On exhibition in these videos is a President who lives in a bubble. He's completely divorced from the consequences of what his administration, and quite possibly he, have done. Here's the lead paragraph from the MSNBC article:

President Bush on Thursday acknowledged publicly for the first time that someone in his administration likely leaked the name of a CIA operative, although he also said he hopes the controversy over his decision to spare prison for a former White House aide has "run its course."

"And now we're going to move on," Bush said in a White House news conference.

Bush admits administration leaked CIA name

Yep, we're movin' on to the next self-created disaster. Thanks for droppin' by, and don't forget to keep us in your prayers.

You have to wonder just how disconnected a man must be from reality to not even be able to acknowledge, to the slightest degree, the effects of this screwup. Valerie Wilson was working on the search for loose nuclear weapons and other forms of nuclear proliferation. She was doing a dangerous job that by its very nature required that she received no recognition. She was a non-official cover agent, which meant that the CIA spent considerable time and effort giving her and her co-workers an effective cover story. Thanks to the arrogant nitwits Bush has surrounded himself with, we're all less safe.

Yet Bush mentions no regret, no sorrow. It was just a big pain in the ass that made his people uncomfortable. The bastard didn't even mention her name.

Josh Marshall may have provided the best observation:

Needless to say, the president was involved [in betraying Valerie Wilson] from day one. He was always in favor of doing it. And he basically said so again today. Truly a shameful man.

Bush On Plame: Who Cares?

The disconnect from reality that made it easy for Al Qaeda to strike here nine months into his presidency, the insularity that makes him think that we should appreciate what all the cronies he's put in positions of power have done to us, and the lack of empathy that has allowed New Orleans to remain a mess two years after the flood waters receded - all of those traits were on display today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Webb-Hagel Defeated, Hearings On Libby Pardon

Image credit: NYTimes photo reduced by Cujo359

It's a hot day in the state of Washington. It's supposed to be in the 90s again, which is hot when you don't have air conditioning. Meanwhile, it's a busy day in the other Washington. Firedoglake is having a two-for-one live blogging extravaganza this morning. Christy Hardin Smith is live blogging the Sara Taylor testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Taylor used to be Karl Rove's aide before she resigned this year. It doesn't seem to be all that informative, as Paul Kane writes:

And so it's going this morning at a packed hearing inside the tiny hearing room of the Judiciary Committee. Taylor is trying to thread the legal needle of honoring the committee's subpoena commanding her appearance to testify about the matter, but at the same time honoring Bush and Fielding's broad request that she not answer specific questions that they believe would violate executive privilege.

Taylor Walking Fine Line in Testimony

Jane Hamsher and Marcy Wheeler are live blogging the House Judiciary Committe's hearings about the hearings about the pardon of Scooter Libby. SusanUnPC at NoQuarter has some thoughts, as well.

While some good things happened today, some bad has happened also. The Webb-Hagel amendment(PDF), designed to ensure that troop rotations through Iraq provide enough down time so that the units can maintain readiness. It was defeated this morning by a cloture vote. Mimikatz has a post-mortem. I agree with Mimikatz, Harry Reid screwed up by not calling the Republicans' bluff. It's not the first time, either. As a reward for his failure, Sen. Reid gets to see this picture of him looking ineffectual during one of his previous failures.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Price Of Freedom

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein opposed the draft. The reason, he wrote, was that any society that had to force its people to fight for it wasn't worth preserving. I suppose that goes for a society that won't pick its leaders wisely, too. In the last few elections we've had some sorry choices. Try as I might, I can't just blame the news or special interests. People didn't want to take the time to understand what each candidate stood for, if anything, and what his record really was. They either trusted their opinionated friends, or the cool guys on radio or TV, or they just figured they could determine whom to vote for based on how they looked or how they shook hands.

I often wonder just how stupid you have to be to think that's a good way to choose a leader. I suppose it's better than the way chimpanzees do it, but it sure doesn't say much for our intelligence, does it? For anyone who might feel that they can read a person this way let me tell you something.

You're an idiot.

Politicians are people who are good at making you like them. They are people who are good at sounding as though they hear your concerns and agree with them. Most people just assume that when a politician feels a certain way on an issue he'll vote that way. Often times, he won't. Joe Lieberman made fools of such people during his last election for the Senate. He said he wanted the Iraq War to end. People who voted for him were shocked to find out that he hasn't voted that way once since. To know that Lieberman was lying, all you needed to do was look at his voting record, but they figured he was just such a nice man that he wouldn't lie to them. Idiots.

So, on this Independence Day, I'm going to give you some of the best advice you've ever read about politics. It requires effort. You have to learn things. You have to check out what politicians say, and you have to check out what people who say things about those politicians are saying. No one speaks the truth all the time, even those of us who try. Sometimes, we're wrong. Find out what the facts are, and then figure out who knows what the facts really are and how to interpret them.

This Fourth of July we're seeing what being wrong about politics can mean. We're in a ruinous war. One of our major cities is still a mess almost two years after it was flooded, with no end in sight. We have seen our government abuse powers it was never supposed to have, fire prosecutors who were doing their jobs, and replace them with partisan hacks. We've watched as they exposed the identity of a CIA agent to discredit her husband, who had criticized their rush into that ruinous, and completely unnecessary war. If you have children, they may some day be involved in that war, or in the next war that's caused by the results of this one.

What freedom means is that your fate is in your hands. It's your country, but only if you make it your responsibility to stay informed about what's happening in your world. If you leave it to your bigmouthed friends, the cool guys on radio, or even the earnest blogger, you leave your fate in their hands. Which means you really leave your fate in the hands of whoever controls or manipulates them, people who should never be trusted, because they don't give a damn what happens to you. The sort of people, in short, who are running thingsscrewing things up right now.

I'm not resigned to this situation we're in by any means, but there are times when I really wonder whether we're a society that's worth saving. Well, we're going to have to save ourselves this time, and if we can't do it because not enough people cared, I guess I have my answer.

So, how about it, America? On this Independence Day, why don't you do your part to preserve freedom? Turn off the fucking American Idol re-run and pick up a newspaper, or go read a blog, or take a class in history or government. Do some damn thing to get yourselves informed about how your country is supposed to work, and why. Because trust me, folks, when the shitheads who invaded and destroyed Iraq finally get around to finishing off this country, I won't have any patience for your complaints.

UPDATE: Added third to last paragraph. Somehow, it makes more sense to me with that transition. Happy Fourth of July.

UPDATE 2: Go check out Christy Hardin Smith's essay and then scroll down to Cynic's comment at 149. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Do I Look Surprised?

I sure hope I don't look surprised, because anyone who's been reading this blog for the last few months knows I'm not in the least bit surprised that Scooter Libby didn't get what he deserved. Jane Hamsher sums it up:

If you were to watch the elite punditocracy bloviating on the cable news shows you’d think that Scooter Libby’s liberation from justice would induce big sighs of relief on the part of the American public, but the reality seems to be quite different. According to a new SurveyUSA poll, people actually do care about this case and don’t like what has happened — 60% think Libby should serve his sentence. Only 21% agree with the President’s decision.

Contrary to the GOP talking point that Bush is playing to his base, he’s not. It’s clearly not about poll numbers. Bush is covering his own tracks and obstructing justice.

Americans Think Scooter Should Do the Time

It wasn't hard to predict, really. I did it months ago, and I doubt I was anywhere near the first one. All you have to do to figure out what George W. Bush is going to do is figure out what's in his best interest and ignore all other considerations. They're superfluous in this equation. In this case, Bush's interest was keeping Libby quiet. That was going to be much harder to do if Libby went to jail. Ergo, pardoncommuted sentence. If I were a lawyer, I'm sure I could have predicted that this was the course Bush would have taken, because it solves the problem of Libby not having a Fifth Amendment excuse to keep quiet any more, which at least some folks assumed would be the case if he were pardoned.

I'll make another prediction - this won't hurt the Republicans one bit. The next national election is more than a year away. Americans will have mostly forgotten about this by then, once again anethsetized by the latest celebrity gossip or tales of missing white women attacked by pirahnas. The Democrats, who with rare exceptions are nearly as feckless as Republicans and considerably less competent as politicians, won't be able to figure out how to make hay of this, since it will require them to take risks and be criticized by the right wing pundits they're deathly afraid of.

If you really want to know more, check out Christy's article at FDL. Senator Chris Dodd gets the last word here, from a quote I found at the FDL link:

By commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence, the President continues to abdicate responsibility for the actions of his Administration. The only ones paying the price for this Administration’s actions are the American people.”

That about sums it up. The Republicans won't do anything. The Democrats won't do anything useful, and we'll be left with less security and a government that's out of control.

UPDATE: Amb. Joe Wilson's reaction, with a transcript at DKos. A reaction from Larry Johnson and SusanUnPC at No Quarter.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Canada Day

Constable Benton Frasier and Detective Ray Vecchio discuss a case while Frasier's at his day job. Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

Happy Canada Day! Hope all is well north of the border. As you probably know, things aren't going so well down here.

As anyone who looked it up in Wikipedia would know, Canada Day is Canada's version of our Independence Day. Of course, as with many things Canadian, it represents something a bit less traumatic than its American counterpart. Instead of being about declaring the colonies' independence from Britain in the midst of a rebellion, Canada Day, or Dominion Day as it used to be known, is the day in 1867 when England decided Canada was almost a grownup country:

While it is the date upon which the present Canadian Constitution first came into effect, the first day of July does not commemorate a clear-cut date of "independence" or "founding". Instead, it commemorates the beginning of the establishment of the Canadian confederation through the 1867 British North America Act. The British Parliament still retained several political controls over Canada after 1867, and the country still lacked many of its modern provinces. The date represents the biggest step in the establishment of Canada as a self-governing country, and the beginning of a gradual march towards full independence from Britain, attained with the proclamation of the Constitution Act by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, in 1982.

Wikipedia: Canada Day

So, no acts of rebellion, no wars, no wailing and gnashing of teeth (well, maybe a little), this day is about England telling Canada "You're grown up enough to have your own room. Just keep it clean and stay in school". Canada, of course, said "OK", which is what good kids do, not like that unruly brother who's always showing up to "borrow" your stuff. Canada supported England in two World Wars, in both cases becoming involved much earlier than America did. In both cases, they suffered heavily. Canada Day is also the day of the Newfoundland Regiment's mauling at the Battle of the Somme. In WWII, the Battle of Dieppe, supposedly a dress rehearsal for what eventually would be the Normandy invasion, was also a disaster for the Canadians involved. Two Canadian squadrons helped defend England during the Battle of Britain. The first squadron of American volunteers was formed months later.

Their relationship with England was a whole lot better than ours through the end of World War I, when we finally recognized that we had many things in common. Eventually, after the Second World War, Canada finally was granted independence.

In case you think that's a fluke, I'd invite you to compare their handling of their native populations, whom they refer to as "aboriginals", to our own. The short version is that their government tried to deal honorably with the natives, where ours seemed to revel in any excuse to evict them from their land or exterminate them.

The picture is from the TV series Due South. In that series, Benton Frasier, the Canadian Mountie who is assigned to the consulate in Chicago, is a soft-spoken, studious romantic. Ray Vecchio, the American detective, is loud, often thoughtless, and self-absorbed. Yet they manage to form a working relationship and friendship, partly based on need and partly on their common desire for justice. And Vecchio, of course, is the one in charge of the investigations even though Frasier is much better at being a detective. As I'm sure the show's creators intended, this reminds me of our relationship with Canada, a country very much like us that seems to have avoided many of the foolish mistakes we've made. Benton Frasier is no more a typical Canadian than Ozzie Nelson is a typical American. Both countries have their share of fools and miscreants, but Canada always seems to be better at being the grownup than we.

For instance, they've managed to stay out of both of our most ruinous wars, Vietnam and Iraq, despite numerous invitations.

While many Canadians will tell you the system is far from perfect, their health system is one that most Americans would envy, I think, if they had an accurate picture of it. Their health system, which is of the "single payer" variety, is often plagued by long waits for treatments. Of course, anyone who is actually familiar with the American system also knows that waiting for treatment isn't unheard of here. We shorten the lines primarily by leaving one sixth of our population out of the system altogether, and denying needed care to at least as many more. Canada's infant mortality, according to CIA statistics, is roughly two-thirds of ours, and their life expectancy is about two years longer than ours. And, of course, they only pay half as much for health care as we do.

Canadians also seem more eager to wear their idealism openly and proudly. In America idealists are often mocked and ridiculed. In Canadian print and broadcasting they seem to be everywhere. Here's what Ian Welsh wrote at Firedoglake yesterday:

Those of us who didn’t grow up in America, but under the sway of America’s media, imbibed a very pure form of the American mythos and civic religion. The American Civil Religion, with it’s secular saints such as Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington and it’s written Constitutional scripture is also a source of wonderment. Canada has no equivalent, no deep sense of history, no touchstone that is written back to to justify the present. Those words of your founders, those words that resound through history are words that inspire men and women who have never seen America and never will.

The Declaration of Independence spoke to all humans, with its assertion that all men are created equal and have unalienable rights. The US system of government, with its checks and balances, seemed unique and able to take shocks that might topple other democratic forms of government.


Yet, in all, America was still the shining city on the hill. Even those who disliked it, when asked “well, what hegemonic nation, past or present, would be preferable to America”, were stilled. In truth, as superpowers go, America was about the best one could hope for - power corrupted, but it had not corrupted absolutely.


And then the Bush years happened. George Bush, with the acquiescence of Congress and the consent of the majority of voters, who elected him in 2004, made the US a unilateral actor on the world stage, a country that engaged in pre-emptive war and threatens to use nuclear weapons in a first strike. A nation, moreover, which has repudiated the freedoms that the rest of the world admired it for, has engaged in torture, struck down habeas corpus and openly mocked the Geneva Conventions.

America had become, in the eyes of the world, un-American.

The America we loved - the America which, if it did not always match words to ideals, still seemed to move more in jerks and starts towards those ideals, died, choking, gasping, in front of our very eyes.


Those of us who grew up in other countries; those of [us] who are America’s real friends, want what all good friends want for those they care for - that you live up to your own ideals. That you be the nation we know you can be. A bastion of freedom; a nation with the highest respect for civil rights; a country that never gives up “a little freedom for a little safety” and finding neither. A country that doesn’t torture, that believes that pre-emptive war is never excusable.

A Wish For America

Of course, you might say, Ian's a progressive. He's bound to think that way. Perhaps, but here's a guy who's definitely not a progressive, talking about William Sampson, a Canadian citizen who was imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia for no conceivable reason:

But I gather from the way that this is being talked about officially that his being alive is supposed to be taken by us and even presumably by Mr. Sampson himself as a sort of prize: "Hey, he's alive. This proves our diplomacy works." This is a rare curiosity of logic. It amounts to saying that a government can take the mind and body of a Canadian citizen and bring both to wrack and ruin over weeks or months or years, as long as they don't go the final inch and actually put him or her out of their misery.

And that, after the fact, if the citizen is still breathing, we can have something very close to a congratulations party over the success of our efforts. I believe in some quarters this is called sophisticated thinking. I don't think a pick handle to the soles of the feet or the back of the head when you're trussed upside down and naked in a Saudi jail has very many spasms of sophistication. The Saudis, including their ambassador here, claim it's all lies. I find Mr. Sampson's account infinitely more persuasive.

Give Saudi the diplomatic boot

Rex Murphy is a dour, often sarcastic conservative. He doesn't hold with any of that "global warming" stuff, and he sure isn't fond of gun control, either. Yet he seems to believe that torture is wrong, and that his government should act that way. When was the last time an American conservative said such a thing? Of course, that was written when the Liberals were in power. What's his view of the Conservatives' doings?

Mr. Harper has a lot of attractive qualities. He's decisive. He's very intelligent. On some issues, such as Afghanistan, he's shown great political courage and clarity, but there are some days when his partisan instincts usurp his better nature and he dips into the stream of vindictive and mean politics, the recent slur on his critics as being more worried about the Taliban than Canadian troops was a disgusting example, and then he provides a perfect mirror of what he professed so to dislike during Mr. Chr├ętien's tenure.

If there is to be an inquiry into the polling practices of the previous governments, we already have a detached, professional, and extremely competent officer of Parliament to conduct one, the auditor general. And unlike the appointed senator and the shy separatist, Sheila Fraser has no politics we have to be concerned about.

Poster boys for the concept of accountability

[emphasis mine]

Cronyism and rank partisanship are bad, even when his own party does it. Not such a popular notion among conservatives on this side of the border. While they might need a whack with a clue stick once in a while, their conservatives don't sound like they need rabies shots. To say the least, I find that refreshing.

I'm not trying to paint Canada as a utopia. It has its problems with crime, injustice, and ice-borne sports just like we do. According to the Wikipedia entry, for many years Chinese Canadians refused to celebrate Canada Day in protest of Canada's anti-Chinese immigration laws, a thing we're familiar with here. What it does not have, though, is an irrational fear of trying to improve its society via government. It has the freedom, as Rex Murphy demonstrates, to question government policies even when they're decades old. It has the freedom to change its mind when it thinks its government has erred. Those are the same freedoms, allegedly, that we have.

Nor do they shrink from the challenge of doing things the hard way, when the "easy way" means that some people get screwed.

As Ian's essay shows, on our good days both countries can be an example to the other. We're not holding up our end of that bargain right now. Hopefully, that will change. Some day, I hope our countries can once again grow up together here in the New World.

Happy Birthday, Canada.

Oh, and can we borrow a few of your fish?