Tuesday, February 28, 2006

US soldiers overwhelmingly want us out of Iraq

Surprising. But I guess, ultimately, not very surprising. From michael1104 at DKos (quoting Nick Kristof at the New York Times, which is subscription-only):
A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq -- and soon.

The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, "How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?"

Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush's position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw "immediately." (emphasis mine)

For more polling fun, let's go to the newest presidential poll-- this one from CBS News:
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

And then the hits just keep on comin':
In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September’s poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.
For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.

As a side note, the poll also gauged Dick Cheney's approval rating... at 18%.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Baghdad burning

It seems to be quickly becoming conventional wisdom, to the chagrin of the administration, that the current violence in Iraq underlies the collapse of Iraqi unity and the final, inexorable descent into civil war. Even William F. Buckley, a titan and founding douchebag of the conservative movement, proclaimed yesterday in the National Review that America has officially failed in Iraq:
[Bush] will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.
They all may well be right, and I think a perfectly reasonable question right now is "in what way exactly has Iraq not already been in the grips of civil war for months?" Furthermore, the claim of conventional wisdom is bolstered by the simple fact that violence has an uncanny knack for perpetuating itself, as we have seen from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the Troubles in Northern Ireland, or American gang violence.

That being said, if the current situation is not yet civil war, then I don't want to jump to the conclusion that civil war's beginning just yet. My hesitation exists despite what logic dictates, and may stem purely from misguided hope, but nonetheless it exists. Perhaps cooler heads will prevail. For once.

As a side note, Juan Cole, professor of history at UMichigan, has an excellect blog on the subject of terrorism and the Middle East. Unlike reporters, pundits, and most bloggers, he actually knows this subject well (I assume it's his academic specialty).

Pat Tillman movie

So it appears that some conservatives are calling for a movie to be made about Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals player (don't remember his position) who left the NFL to go fight (and die) in Iraq. I agree with Kevin Drum and Atrios: it's a great idea.

Whyzat, you ask? I'll let Tillman explain to you himself, as quoted in this superb report of Tillman's service, death, and the Administration's cynical manipulation of his legacy:
"You know, this war is so fucking illegal."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

execution and the medical profession

Truly fascinating. The state of California has indefinitely postponed an execution because they can't find any medical personnel willing to administer the lethal dose of sedative. It's an odd story, like something out of a Coen brothers movie. I just find it interesting because the reason NOT given by the doctors was their Hippocratic oath "first, to do no harm." I mean, you'd think it would've been that pesky oath that got in the way of their ability to execute people. But maybe that's just me.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

and speaking of pictures...

New Abu Ghraib photos released today. Among them are a picture of what appears to be a corpse, and several pictures of a wide blood trail. And of course, your run-o'-the-mill (I can't believe we've come to that point) naked terrified malnourished detainees covered in all manner of filth.

"We do not torture." -President Bush, 11/7/05

freedom and responsibility (read the next post down before this one!)

Ok, so now that we've seen the damn cartoons we can talk about them. If you didn't get some of them, it's ok, I didn't either. Then I read the background: it appears that someone wrote a right-wing Danish paper called Jyllands-Posten saying that he couldn't find any cartoonists willing to draw a picture of the prophet Muhammad. I suppose the paper printed the letter, because these cartoons were sent to it by Danes in response. That should clear up a number of the cartoons, especially the one with the schoolboy named "Muhammad" chiding the paper.

People on the left and right, both here and abroad, have rightly faulted Muslims for their heavy-handed response to these cartoons. Certainly the fact that Muslims are asking European governments to step in and censor the Jyllands-Posten (and the other papers that reprinted the cartoons) is both disturbing and deeply offensive to those of us who live in secular democracies.

My question, though, is this: isn't the Muslim reaction at least understandable? Clearly these cartoons were printed for one reason, and one reason alone: Muslim-baiting. The point of the cartoons is to offend Muslims. That's it. Even the paper itself admits as much in its explanation for the cartoons (see the section "Publications of the Drawings" for the original statement and subsequent apology, both of which are pure unadulterated bullshit). These cartoons aren't funny or insightful or even particularly creative, but for Muslims, who believe that representations of the Prophet are by definition blasphemous, they are, again, deeply and deliberately offensive. They are qualitatively no different than slapping "Jesus is ugly and stupid and nobody likes him, ha ha!" across the top of the page.

They are a sign of something that, for some reason, few if any are willing to say out loud: religious intolerance. Or, put another way, bigotry.

With freedom of speech and press, like any freedom, however, comes responsibility. Just because you can spew hate and intolerance all over your paper doesn't mean it's a good idea, and it doesn't mean that it's not your fault if bad things happen because of your insensitivity. When you express yourself, you represent a larger group in the minds of those who hear you, whether you like it or not. Thus, when the Jyllands-Posten printed these images, they recklessly validated the Muslim extremist narrative that breeds hatred, and ultimately terrorism.

I guess Jyllands-Posten isn't Danish for "class act."

did you actually see it?

Ok, I think I've digested the issue enough to try to write some sort of coherent commentary on the Danish cartoons. I am first, however, going to do something about which I'm a little morally conflicted: I'm going to link to the pictures (here, and here for an alternate translation). The reason I am doing so is because of conversations I've had occasionally over the last 2 years.

I talked a lot about movies in 2004. There were a lot of good ones that year, and a lot of controversial ones. It so happened that my two favorite movies of 2004 were The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11.

You can see why I had so many conversations.

I talked to many people about both movies, and had a great many of them get all worked up because I dared to even see one or the other, let alone enjoy it. Ultimately, in fact almost without exception, after a couple of minutes it became clear that they had never actually seen the movie themselves, and had just blindly accepted some pundit's (some of whom had never seen it themselves) interpretation of it. Despite that fact, no, because of that fact, they also were so passionate about "their" opinion that they were utterly unable to listen to reason. Naturally, every time I had to cut off the conversation then and there, because it's asinine to carry on such a discussion.

I have a feeling that same thing is going on with the Danish cartoons, on both sides of the debate. In fact, it only occurred to me today that I still hadn't seen them. So go take a look at the cartoons, and then we can talk about them.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fair and Balanced

You have got to be kidding me. From Media Matters (c/o Atrios):
Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume showed an edited video clip of Rev. Joseph Lowery's remarks at Coretta Scott King's funeral, during which he mentioned the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Lowery's remarks were greeted with 23 seconds of applause and a standing ovation, but the clip Fox News aired presented nine seconds of applause and little hint of the standing ovation without noting that the clip had been doctored. After seeing the clip, Roll Call's Morton Kondracke concluded that the audience "wasn't exactly uproarious in its response" to Lowery.

For God's sake, why does anyone watch that pathetic channel?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Budgets are Moral Documents

From the Washington Post (via FDL):
After a difficult political struggle that badly divided congressional Republicans, lawmakers muscled through savings from Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, federal child support enforcement and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Before Bush has even signed that legislation, he is coming back for more. His budget proposes to wring out $4.9 billion more in savings from Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, $17 million from child support enforcement and $16.7 billion from the federal pension insurance program through 2011.

ReddHedd adds:
"Oh, and just in case you missed this one -- the city of New Orleans has had to appeal for foreign aid because the Bush Administration has failed to live up to its promises. So much for that whole backlit speech in the Big Easy when the President's poll numbers needed a big photo-op.

Move on, folks, nothing to see here but a bunch of empty promises and false bravado."

I think I know just what the prophet Isaiah would say (chapter 10):
Woe to you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Meet Jacob Robida

Caution: the following links are a little creepy. For the record, I do very much remember what it was like to be that age, with all the confusion and emotional turmoil, and having lost people in their teens I very much sympathize with the pain and loss that Robida's friends and family are enduring. The circumstances, I'm sure, make it even more painful.

Yet it's also important that we keep a little bit of perspective here. I have to say I find it a little wacky that all the talking heads have been driving it up our noses that "no one could POSSIBLY imagine that such a sweet boy as this could EVER be involved in this!"

I guess we're supposed to believe that any kid could be this kid, so BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID. I'm sure it's perfectly normal for kids these days to have swastika tattoos.

I guess brownshirt is the new black.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bush: "I got some beachfront property back in Midland for ya"

So in W's exceedingly weak (one blogger said "castrated") State of the Onion lay one single nugget of life-- the promise to use alternative energy sources to cut our reliance on foreign oil by 75% (where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, that was part of John Kerry's platform!). We've already seen that his own administration said he didn't mean that "literally."

Now, for the grand finale, courtesy of the New York Times! This is rich:
The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.

A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

shadows of Chile

No, no, of course this isn't government intimidation! We just think that, ya know, any paper publishing anything takes a stance against the war deserves to be browbeaten in a letter by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

West Virginny

The proverbial straw finally landed today:
Two mine workers were killed in separate accidents in West Virginia on Wednesday, prompting Gov. Joe Manchin to call on all coal companies to cease production until safety checks can be conducted.
"We're going to check for unsafe conditions, and we're going to correct any unsafe conditions before we mine another lump of coal,'' Manchin said.

This is potentially huge, considering the central role of coal mining in the West VA economy. The question is, of course, whether or not Manchins' "call" has any legal teeth, or clout in the private sector.

We'll see.

more State of the Onion fallout

Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman’s wife from President Bush’s State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

The extraordinary statement came a day after police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush’s arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.

Hmmm, so many things to lambast here, the incompetence, the double-standard, oh and the editing for GOP-friendliness. The earlier version of this article, caught by Kos, added:
"We screwed up," a top Capitol Police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said Sheehan didn't violate any rules or laws.

you have GOT to be kidding me...

Knight Ridder:
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

It's apparently kinda like that whole "I promise to fire anyone involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity" thing. He wasn't lying, he was just, ya know, speaking in metaphor.