Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Clown Prince of The Hill

Anyone who hasn't been following the budding career of Bill Sali, the rootin'-tootinest Republican in Congress, can do themselves a favor and start watching now, because the next two months are going to be hilarious.
It took these clowns twenty-six days to figure out how to file their report (the law gives you 15), and even then it was still a shambles - just like the rest of Sali's campaign. He opened an office in - I kid you not - the wrong congressional district (Idaho's only got two). But the best was announced just recently: as a cornerstone of his fundraising plan, Bill Sali plans to hold yard sales to fill his campaign coffers. No word yet if Plan B is to rummage through the county dump for some discarded treasures - but I think we can assume that's probably on the list.
Believe it or not, this doesn't even scratch the surface. Idaho's other representative, Mike Simpson, threatened to throw Sali out a window. People back home hate him. It's really all too much to take in one sitting.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hey, Remember That Sordid Torture Issue? It's Back

This is a must-read article, whatever your political persuasion.

At Bagram, Lasseter wrote, guards kicked, kneed, and punched prisoners with systematic brutality. Former guards as well as detainees told McClatchy reporters about what Lasseter called sadistic violence. According to them, the brutality reached a peak in December 2002, when two Afghans were hung from ceiling chains by their wrists and beaten to death by American soldiers.

Two soldiers were prosecuted for those killings. Specialist Willie Brand admitted that he hit one of the Afghan men thirty-seven times. He was sentenced to be reduced in rank to private. The other person prosecuted was Captain Christopher Beiring, who commanded an army reserve military police company. He was given a letter of reprimand.

The army lawyer who investigated Beiring, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Berg, urged leniency because "the government failed to present any evidence of what are 'approved tactics, techniques and procedures in detainee operations.'" In other words, members of the United States Army are no longer expected to know that beating a prisoner to death is against the rules.

Why were the guards so brutal? Anger at the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Lasseter suggests - and a sense that their superiors in Washington wanted "the gloves off." President Bush's decision to eliminate the protection of the Geneva Conventions sent the message that there were no rules.


Another notable point made by the McClatchy articles was that the mistreatment of prisoners made some who had no previous connection with anti-American movements profoundly angry at the United States. It is hardly a surprising result to report, but the articles gave chapter and verse. They quoted a Pakistani intelligence report on men released from Guantánamo as saying that they had "extreme feelings of resentment and hatred against USA."

It's important to understand that at this late date, we now know for a fact that torture was official policy coming directly from the Pentagon. Military officials called it other things, but there was constant consternation that the Red Cross would blow the whistle or that one day a legal decision would shut them down. Any excuses made for this unconscionable behavior come in one of two flavors, the "bad-apple" theory and the idea that everyone we tortured was a hard-core terrorist and somehow deserved it. We now know that neither of those excuses is even remotely defensible.

I wouldn't post this -- it's depressing enough to read without the thought that the perpetrators will probably go unpunished for the rest of their lives -- but it's important to keep these things in mind when you vote, donate or decide just how politically engaged to be this year. These things were done in the name of keeping us safe. How does that make you feel?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin: Not Even Bringing In The Hillary Voters

I have precious little to add to the ever-growing tornado of awesomeness that is Sarah Palin's demise, except to point out that even if you strip away all the weird stories about the Alaskan Independence Party and her pregnant daughter and her wanting to ban books when she was mayor (look that one up). . . Even if you ignore all that and pretend she was a good choice, you still have to admit that she's not doing what she was picked to do: attract Hillary voters.

There's a lot of good analysis and fresh news at that link, and I can't summarize it all, but I will say this: in a recent Rasmussen poll, 75 percent of respondents say they think McCain picked her because he thought a woman on the ticket would help him win. Female voters said 48 percent to 25 percent that Palin isn't ready to be president.

Now, the important thing to remember is that the idea of Hillary supporters flocking to McCain en masse in November was always a media creation with little substance. Unless you think woman are dumb, you have to account for the fact that they vote, like everyone else, on the basis of whose policies they agree with. When the Hillary so-close soap opera was winding down and Obama was obviously going to get the nod, The Media (C) decided to give it one last push and put together a scenario in which "disgruntled" Hillary voters were so furious at their candidate's fate that they'd walk out and vote for McCain because. . .

We never really heard the end of that sentence, but one person was apparently convinced, and he picked Sarah Palin to help the process along. However, after only a week of the media asking questions about this newcomer, those 17 disgruntled Hillary supporters and the rest of us now know what an odd pick she was, for the following reasons:

1) She wants to teach creationism in public schools.

2) She not only belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party up to 1994, she taped a support message for them earlier this year telling them to keep up the good work -- despite the fact that the party thinks the U. S. government is unconstitutional.

3) As mayor, she looked into starting a book-banning campaign at the small local library.

4) There are serious questions about the circumstances of her fifth child's birth and whether it was hers or her daughter's. [I don't post this out of malice, and frankly I wouldn't blame her if she's covering an uncomfortable family situation, but the situation adds to the PR problem nonetheless.]

5) She basically has no relevant experience, and even CNN -- which loooooves John McCain in most circumstances -- is starting to ask a few simple questions that the campaign can't answer. To whit: Campbell Brown asking a McCain spokesman to name a single "foreign policy" decision Palin has made as head of the Alaska National Guard, something Republicans have started using as a talking point. Short version: he spends four minutes coming up with nothing.

The gimmick didn't work. The Hail Mary pass fell a few yards short. In other words, after eight years of Bush, the Republican Party is slowly imploding in on itself like a dying star. I confess to a certain amount of malicious giddiness. Not only do I now feel more confident than ever that Obama is going to win -- and I'm on record with all my friends as never having had any doubts -- but I think the GOP is headed for a stint in the political wilderness, much like Democrats during most of this decade. Their house, dear reader, is not in order.