Saturday, June 17, 2006

Reporters kicked out of Guantanamo

In the wake of the suicides of three detainees, the brass at the Marines' Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention camp, have expelled all reporters.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The American body politic - Where is the center?

Over the last weekend, over a thousand Democrats, so-called liberals, and some far-left (but non-aligned) liberals, along with a bunch of independents gathered in the great American playground called Las Vegas. This gathering - dubbed YearlyKos - was symbolic in a couple of ways: it marked the first mass meeting of so-called bloggers - online political activists and pundits - as well as pissed-off voters, and took place in America's fastest-growing city, a city that in recent years has remade itself completely from a bastion of Mafia-controlled gambling to a Disneyland-like playground for average families, many of whom never even go near a gambling table.

They all were called to assemble via a cutting-edge instrument of democracy, the Internet, with the man who called them there - Markos Moulitsas - himself a blogger, political activist/consultant and ex-soldier (a veteran, in other words), to participate in that most American of events, a political convention. And far from being a gathering of ex-McGovernites or bomb-throwing Weathermen, those who showed up were older, clean-shaven, well-dressed, smart, motivated and well-informed.

The guest list was nothing to sneeze at: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid kicked off the convention; DNC Chair Dr Howard Dean gave a keynote speech; Senator Barbara Boxer was there, as were Virginia ex-governor and presidential hopeful Mark Warner, Gen Wesley Clark, and Simon Rosenberg, former candidate for DNC Chair and founder of the New Democrat Network, among others, and - piece de la resistance - the event was covered by C-SPAN, Time, The Washington Post, and the New YorK Times as well as foreign news outlets and thousands of bloggers. So several somebodies thought that this was a significant event.

So who did these folks represent, really?

Noted ultra-conservative blogger Michelle Malkin called them "moonbats" (no link to her - I refuse), although several participants described themselves as moderates. Another ultra-conservative blogger - Allahpundit - called it a "freak show," even though their spy reported, "People here are largely, disappointingly, golf-shirted, short-haired, and white bread."

In other words, just folks.

Which begs the question, do these conventioneers represent the Democratic Party, and most importantly, does the Democratic Party represent them?

Breaking out our copy of the last available Democratic Party Platform (2004), we read the usual polispeak about health care, "free and fair" trade (note the coupling), "strengthening our military" (is it weak and needs strengthening? I didn't know that), cutting government waste, etc, etc. Actually, it's not that much different in style and substance from the published GOP platform. But the essence of what the core, true center and majority of the party members want is very specific, and we have the polls to prove it.

AngusReid Consultants: Half of Americans Want Troop Withdrawal and
ABC/Gallup: Six in 10 Want Troops to Leave Iraq
Bush Approval rating falls to new low - 33%
On health care: "more than seven in ten adults (72 percent) agreed that the government should guarantee health insurance for all citizens."

Well, we could go on, but when more than half of all Americans has an opinion similiar to those above, one can pretty much take it as a given that the CENTER agrees, wouldn't you think, since they were the ones who were polled?

Further, when asked open-ended questions such as, ""What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" the items, listed by priority are (and this is all Americans):

War in Iraq ...................28%
Economy/Jobs ...............15%
Immigration ...................12%
Gas/Heating oil crisis ...... 6%
Terrorism (general) .........5%
Health care ....................4%
Defense/Military ..............3%
President Bush ................3%
Other ............................20%
Unsure ...........................4%

Additionally, and depending on the methodology of the polls, health care and terrorism are about equally split in the priorities of Americans, with health care rising to #3 in the Wall Street Journal poll of 5/16/2006, with terrorism not even appearing on the Harris Poll of the same date.

THAT's the center, folks - of all of us Americans.

Now, why can't the leadership in Congress get it through their thick skulls that we are not interested in the opinions of the back-peddling DLC, that Hillary Clinton doesn't have a clue, and that the folks present at the YearlyKos convention ARE the center; they're just louder than the rest.

Harry Reid gets it, Russ Feingold gets it, Barbara Boxer gets it, as do Conyers and Pelosi and a handfull of others. How about we get a freaking majority of the Dems in Congress to get it and represent their constituents' concerns?

We know who we are, we know what we want, and we want the Democrats in Congress to do their freaking jobs, which is to pull their heads out of the sand and do what we tell them.

Get out of Iraq, impeach Bush and Cheney, and fix the health care system. Now.

Fair disclosure, folks: I work about twenty hours a week raising money for the DNC. Yup. What do you do?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Does Bush have the hots for Condi?

With a babe like this, who needs Laura?

"Ooh, baby I love your ways ..."

Don't you just love gossip? I know I sure do, especially when it involves people with lots of money and power and personal jet airplanes, so I guess that includes His Smirkiness. And the rumors going round are that his Most Royal Stupidity has something extra to smirk about.

For the inside skinny, we pass along this bit of reportage from our comrades-in-reality-based-rumor-blogging, The Wayne Madsen Report:

June 7, 2006 -- Mayflower Hotel sources in Washington, DC have gone from "neither confirm nor deny" the presence of Laura Bush there last week to conceding that if she stayed there "she would have been registered under a different name."

This is standard procedure when the Secret Service wants to cover the presence of a VIP, especially the First Lady whose presence at the hotel last week was bound to fuel speculation about her rocky relationship with George W. Bush.

The Mayflower Hotel is owned by Marriott Corporation and insiders report that the corporate headquarters has warned against anyone talking about the presence last week of the First Lady. Longtime employees are definitely "afraid to talk about this Mrs. Bush thing," said one source.

From a State Department source, WMR has learned that there is definitely "something to the Bush-Rice" relationship. "They definitely have something going on between them," said the source speaking on strict anonymity.

Cool graphic here.

Guantanamo commander says suicides was "act of war"

We are definitely living in some weird kind of Looking Glass Altered State for sure. I used to believe that military brass more or less lived in a reality-based world, as you have to be able to assess real-world imput in order to survive on the battlefield. But maybe I was flat wrong.

Here's what a real live general had to say about the recent suicides at Guantanamo the other day:

"They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us" - Navy Rear-Admiral Harry Harris, base commander

With generals making asinine statements like this, the whole planet must think we have lost our fucking minds.

Read the rest of the story.

And in case you were wondering, the White House has posted their policy on Guantanamo detainees:

    • Fact Sheet
      Status of Detainees at Guantanamo United States Policy.

      The United States is treating and will continue to treat all of the individuals detained at Guantanamo humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.

      The President has determined that the Geneva Convention applies to the Taliban detainees, but not to the al-Qaida detainees.

      Al-Qaida is not a state party to the Geneva Convention; it is a foreign terrorist group. As such, its members are not entitled to POW status.

      Although we never recognized the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government, Afghanistan is a party to the Convention, and the President has determined that the Taliban are covered by the Convention. Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, however, the Taliban detainees do not qualify as POWs.

      Therefore, neither the Taliban nor al-Qaida detainees are entitled to POW status.

      Even though the detainees are not entitled to POW privileges, they will be provided many POW privileges as a matter of policy.
Yeah, like being provided bedsheets so they can continue fighting their jihad by hanging themselves.

Note well that phrase, "The President has determined ..." as if he were Da Judge. Yet, even the Attorney General of Great Britain, our "ally" in the GWOT, has called for the closing of Guantanamo.

Dear Lord, what is it going to take for the monsters running this country to stop this crap?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

YearlyKos convention draws in the netroots

Out in the desert of the west of America - a place that overcame the good Dr Hunter S Thompson with fear and loathing, a mean landscape that is a gateway to paradise for some, a sour vanishing point for the dissolute, just a few beers on the road for the voyagers to the Promised Lala-Land, and one of the fastest growing human metropolises in the western hemisphere - over a thousand political wonks, professional politicians, computer geeks, spies, and desperate Democrats gathered for the first-ever meeting of the new wave of representatives of electronic democracy.

They call it YearlyKos.

While this reporter was not physically present, allegedly I was being kept up to the minute with on-scene convention blogging; but all that we've read so far were miscellanious ramblings which didn't rise much above the level of "ooh, saw Markos with Warner, wow." Not particularly enlightening.

There are some online venues - notably PoliticsTV and YouTube - streaming delayed action video of such luminaries as DNC head Dr Howard Dean, Senator Barbara Boxer, political strategist Joe Trippi, and the online sparkplug Markos Moulitsas himself, erstwhile Big Blogger and creator of the event.

As the convention chugged along, unless you paid a subscription fee for live streaming from Air America, all we were getting by way of information out of the convention was gossip. Not that I expected much from the bloggers on the scene, and, in all fairness, these folks are new at their jobs. Certainly nothing along the lines of Edward R Morrow's reporting from London should be expected, say, although had a reporter on the spot, and reported with a measure of detachment. And in their defense, having covered the '68 Democratic convention in Chicago - and the only time I want to do that again - I can testify that getting any real sense of what is being said or accomplished at this kind of gathering - especially one generating as much internal heat and confusion as this one seems to be doing (at least for the participants) - is frustrating in the extreme for even professional reporters. Still, I had expected a bit better sense of what, if anything, is actually be accomplished at this convention from a group of such dedicated political bloggers.

We probably all know what it feels like to be at a convention, or any big event like the Fourth of July; it's a circus, and if anything of substance is occurring (or occurred) there, it's anybody's guess. And while I applaud the idea of the convention itself, I have a bone to pick: Why, if we are all allegedly online, did we not have a live connection to the convention? In all this electronic Web 2.0 wonderfulness, how did it escape the organizers that they had here a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the real power of the Internet and online activism, and provide real-time, two-way conversations/questions/answers between the actual convention-goers and online bloggers who couldn't physically be present?

Oh, well. Maybe next year.

To be honest, I think the real purpose of this convention was for a lot of otherwise disconnected online activists to meet in person, and to get a sense of who they all actually are. Kind of a Democratic pep rally, family reunion, and out-of-towner, complete with right-wing spies.

In any case, it will probably be some time before we see any truly measured evaluation about the real meaning of this convention, even as bloggers all over the blogosphere had been pounding their keyboards virtually non-stop for the last forty eight hours (Google reports 513,000 citations for YearlyKos); in the meantime, let's assume that a good time was had by all, right-wings spies included.

So as the sun sets over the boojums, the tired conventioneers head out into the great American desert, back to civilization, back to their jobs, and back to carry on the good fight, and the democratic electrons fly batlike down the mighty T1 lines of this great Republic of ours. Long may she wave.