Considering they refused to do this last year, I can't help but think this was a tactic to discourage the new Democratic majority from exercising any oversight. Any bets that they'll find "no evidence of wrongdoing"? The Jurist:US Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine has launched an internal investigation into the DOJ's use of intelligence gathered [...]
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Right-wing media outlets are engaged in an effort to tar House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who won the Cesar Chavez award from the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation in 2003, as anti-worker. The conservative claim, initiated by Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer, is that Pelosi and her husband are guilty of hypocrisy over workers’ rights because [...]
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My obsession with new fuel efficient cars continues:[T]he big news is with the new Vue Green Line which will make its debut in 2008. Ford’s Escape Hybrid is paired with a meager 133HP inline-4 engine, while the Vue Green Line will feature[...]
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Somehow I got on the e-mailing list for Sen. Doctorbill Frist's PAC's newsletter. Sometimes when I'm feeling really good I read it for laughs. Of course it doesn't often happen that I'm feeling really good, so sometimes I open the file and shoot back a snotty reply having to do with the urgency of Doctorbill's need for prompt, powerful mental-health intervention. (I don't generally get any response. Not ever, actually.) More often I've come to just delete the thing unread.
So I don't know whether I missed the news that Chris Cillizza is featuring today on his washingtonpost.com blog, "The Fix":
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will not run for president in 2008. Frist issued a statement on his Web site this morning announcing the decision (read the full text below). His decision was first reported in Hotline's On Call blog. He will not immediately endorse any of the other candidates pursuing the race, a source close to Frist said.
Shucks. I was looking forward to a replay of some of the highlights of Doctorbill's Senate career, in particular his distinguished service as Senate majority leader. You know, like his famously reptilian performance in the matter of poor brain-dead Terry Schiavo, whom he resurrected diagnostically via film clips.
Besides, isn't Tennessee supposed to supply the GOP's comic-relief presidential candidates? Does this mean that Lamar Alexander will have to run again? (I hope he's still got the plaid shirt, which I have a feeling he doesn't wear a lot outside election seasons.)
Of course, Tennessee has a brand-new Republican senator. Just today, though, Al Kamen, dubbing Sen.-elect Bob Corker "The Constant Campaigner," reported in his "In the Loop" column":
On Nov. 8, the day after his election, even before heading to Walt Disney World, his office prepared papers to file with the Federal Election Commission changing his campaign's name from Bob Corker for Senate 2006 to Bob Corker for Senate 2012.
Well, at least he didn't change it to 2008, as most everyone else in the House and Senate is doing.
Whoa, let's not take anything for granted there, Al. I know the guy hasn't served a day in the Senate yet, but by 2008 he'll have a full half term's worth of experience. Besides, he has access to those people who did the ad portraying his Democratic Senate opponent, Harold Ford, as a Playboy-style carouser, with those luscious racial overtones. I'm afraid Corker just may have to take this one for the team.
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The Supreme Court takes up a major global warming case today, as the Bush administration makes a bizarre argument. Despite its reliance on the unitary executive theory, that Congress and the Supreme Court cannot restrict the unlimited power of the presidency, from torturing terror suspects to ignoring the intent of law through signing statements, the White House is arguing it is powerless to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
I'll leave some of the heavy lifting to links from Mother Jones ...
* Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell takes an in-depth look at the legal and policy issues at stake.
* According to the Washington Post, even energy executives have stopped fighting the scientific consensus on climate change.
* Clara Jeffrey says the Bush administration's position on climate change is much like its position on Iraq -- spin and denial over substance and reality.
* The San Francisco Chronicle strangely offers up the climate change argument for dummies, treating it like readers may not have heard of global warming before.
Generally speaking, I wouldn't expect to hear the Supreme Court's decision on the case for several months -- maybe not until this session adjourns, which I think is in June.
Side note -- the Supreme Court's inscription is probably my favorite on any building in DC, "Equal justice under law." Here's a closer picture. I feel like it's not coincidental that it faces some other key buildings in DC, as though it's a reminder just in case the knuckleheads across the street or the decider down the block get any bright ideas about screwing stuff up.
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MarketWatch:Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist took himself out of the running Wednesday for the nation's top political prize, announcing that he won't seek the Republican nomination for president in 2008."In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has [...]
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Andrew Bacevich, author of the enormously valuable The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, writes about the Iraq Study Group and its purposes:
Even as Washington waits with bated breath for the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to release its findings, the rest of us should see this gambit for what it is: an attempt to deflect attention from the larger questions raised by America's failure in Iraq and to shore up the authority of the foreign policy establishment that steered the United States into this quagmire. This ostentatiously bipartisan panel of Wise Men (and one woman) can't really be searching for truth. It is engaged in damage control.All of this is absolutely correct in my view, but at least two critical issues deserve some amplification.
Their purpose is twofold: first, to minimize Iraq's impact on the prevailing foreign policy consensus with its vast ambitions and penchant for armed intervention abroad; and second, to quell any inclination of ordinary citizens to intrude into matters from which they have long been excluded. The ISG is antidemocratic. Its implicit message to Americans is this: We'll handle things - now go back to holiday shopping.
The group's composition gives the game away. Chaired by James Baker, the famed political operative and former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, former congressman and fixture on various blue-ribbon commissions, it contains no one who could be even remotely described as entertaining unorthodox opinions or maverick tendencies.
Instead, it consists of Beltway luminaries such as retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and lobbyist Vernon Jordan. No member is now an elected official. Neither do its ranks include any Iraq war veterans, family members of soldiers killed in Iraq, or anyone identified with the antiwar movement. None possesses specialized knowledge of Islam or the Middle East.
Charging this crowd with assessing the Iraq war is like convening a committee of Roman Catholic bishops to investigate the church's clergy sex-abuse scandal. Even without explicit instructions, the group's members know which questions not to ask and which remedies not to advance. Sadly, the average Catholic's traditional deference to the church hierarchy finds its counterpart in the average American's deference to "experts" when it comes to foreign policy. The ISG exemplifies the result: a befuddled, but essentially passive-electorate looks for guidance to a small group of unelected insiders reflecting a narrow range of views and operating largely behind closed doors.
The ISG will provide cover for the Bush administration to shift course in Iraq. It will pave the way for the Democratic Congress to endorse that shift in a great show of bipartisanship. But it will hold no one responsible.
Above all, it will leave intact the assumptions, arrangements, and institutions that gave rise to Iraq in the first place. In doing so, it will ensure that the formulation of foreign policy remains the preserve of political mahatmas like Baker and Hamilton, with the American people left to pick up the tab.
In this way, the ISG will make possible - even likely - a repetition of some disaster akin to Iraq at a future date.
Acquiescence in Executive war, [Fulbright] wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only was this questionable, but major policy decisions turn "not upon available facts but upon judgment," with which policy-makers are no better endowed than the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge "whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve the overall interests as a nation."I have argued this point many times over the last couple of years, and I remain utterly astonished at how resistant to this incontestable truth most people remain. The resistance can be seen even in the writings of many people who are deeply critical of our invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, "We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against." This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. "Foreign policy decisions," concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, "are in general much more influenced by irrational motives" than are domestic ones.
It may indeed be comforting to think that decisions of war and peace are made on the basis of facts, cold, clear logic, and "secret information" (information that is accurate, I hasten to add) -- but history, including our most recent history, does not support that view. We might think that is the correct method that should be utilized in pondering the fates of many thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians -- and indeed, it is the right procedure, if leaders were amenable to being directed solely by facts and what is in their nations' best long-term interests. But if leaders were ultimately moved by such factors, World War I would not have witnessed years of endless slaughter, it would not have lasted as long as it did, and it might not have begun at all. And if our own political and military leaders focused on those factors that ought to serve as their lodestar to the exclusion of all else, we would not have had the nightmare of Vietnam then -- or the nightmare of Iraq now.Yet the majority of people find the idea that our leaders are capable of acting in wildly irrational and destructive ways too terrifying to contemplate seriously, much less to accept. They prefer to seek relief for their anxiety in the factually indefensible notion that our leaders have understandable and largely plausible reasons for their decisions, even though history proves the contrary time and again, and even when those decisions lead to an incalculable number of deaths and immeasurable destruction. The full truth is just too frightening. While I understand and am sympathetic to that fear, we should not allow it to overcome our judgment, which should be informed by and based upon the historical record.
Once again, I put the major point in bold letters all by itself:Here is a brief excerpt from Gabriel Kolko's The Age of War: The United States Confronts the World, on the same issue -- and note how Kolko's argument parallels that offered by Bacevich:Intelligence is completely irrelevant to major policy decisions. Such decisions are matters of judgment, and knowledgeable, ordinary citizens are just as capable of making these determinations as political leaders allegedly in possession of "secret information." Such "secret information" is almost always wrong -- and major decisions, including those pertaining to war and peace, are made entirely apart from such information in any case.The second you start arguing about intelligence, you've given the game away once again. This is a game the government and the proponents of war will always win. By now, we all surely know that if they want the intelligence to show that Country X is a "grave" and "growing" threat, they will find it or manufacture it. So once you're debating what the intelligence shows or fails to show, the debate is over. The war will inevitably begin.
To repeat: the decision to go to war is one of policy, and the intelligence -- whatever it is alleged to show -- is irrelevant. Don't argue in terms of intelligence at all. If you do, you'll lose. The administration knows that; many of its opponents still haven't figured it out, even now.
But collective illusions have characterized the leaders of most nations since time immemorial. They have substituted their desires, ambitions, and interests for accurate estimates of what may occur from their actions. At best, intelligence organizations gather data of tactical rather than strategic utility. An infrastructure of ambitious people exists to reinforce the leaders' preconceptions, in part because they too are socialized to believe what often proves to be illusion. But bearers of bad tidings are, by and large, unwelcome and prevented from reaching the higher ranks of most political orders. It is extremely difficult for nations to behave rationally, which means accepting the limits of their power, and what is called intelligence has to confront the institutional biases and inhibitions of each social system. Thus deductive, symbolic reactions become much more likely, notwithstanding the immense risks of their being wrong. The US war in Iraq and the geopolitical folly of its larger strategy in the Persian Gulf is but one recent example of it.This is the second common error concerning intelligence, which is the failure to understand its actual uses. As Kolko discusses, intelligence in fact is utilized "to justify a nation's illusions" -- or, in Bacevich's terms, to protect and ensure the continuation of "the prevailing foreign policy consensus with its vast ambitions and penchant for armed intervention abroad."
It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.
To put the point another way: of course the administration "cooked" the intelligence. The intelligence was the propaganda justification for the war, used to sell it to the American public and to the world, which is almost always how intelligence it used (I'm tempted to simply say "always," which is probably the truth) -- and the intelligence was used to justify a decision that had already been made, entirely apart from the intelligence.I go through this exercise still one additional time because, as Bacevich points out, "the ISG will make possible - even likely - a repetition of some disaster akin to Iraq at a future date." The most likely candidate for a near-term, even more catastrophic identical error is, of course, Iran. The terms in which virtually everyone discusses the possible threat that Iran might represent reveals that none of this framework has been altered to any significant degree. I regret to note that this judgment applies to far too many liberal and progressive bloggers, as well as to the foreign policy establishment.
That's gonna be some redesign....[...]
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Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.
Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush. [...]
“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”
The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on. [...]
“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.
I said I wasn't going to comment... erp... ack... snarf...
...but this does sortof explain Bill O'Reilly...