Thursday, December 29, 2005

Creepiness from Berkeley's own Yoo

Via Crooks and Liars, this creepy quote is just creepy. See, it's not the illegal wiretaps per-se, it's the logic being used to justify them.
Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty

Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.
When people start argueing that the president can set aside congressional law well... let's just say I start dusting off the word "fascist" and get ready to use it.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas (or Merry Sunday)

For those readers who celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time, let me wish you all a merry Christmas. Yes, even the conservatives. Its easy to dehumanize and discount those with whom you disagree but we should remember that most everyone involved in politics is so becuase they honestly want to make the world better. Yes, even Bush and Cheny.

As for those who don't celebrate Christmas: I hope your year has been good and that next year is better.

So in general, though my online persona tends to be complainy, let me recognize what I'm greatful for: that we all live in indisputably the best time ever, in the best country ever, and that we have the opportunity to make it better - in personal and public ways.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Should Bush be Impeached?

I want to tackle this question separate from the question of whether Democrats should push for impeachment in the house and senate. Clearly they should not. Politically, they could hardly go wrong by trying to mainstream the idea. The question of whether Bush *should* be impeached for his actions. Now, as best I can tell, Bush pretty much has no defense for his illegal wire-tapping besides "we told congress we were doing it" which is less a legal defense than a punch line. Personally, if members of congress were sufficiently informed and yet failed to act, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Some would argue that an impeachment hearing would be seen as a partisan witch-hunt and would contribute to heightened partisanship. They’re probably right. But that’s the fundamental adversarial basis of our government. Of course a president is going to be impeached by people who are doing it for political gain. Who else is going to do it? Centrists? Moderates?

Ok, now that we’ve all stopped laughing I can continue.

Impeaching George W. Bush would certainly do a lot to reassert the rule of law in our country. Had Bush backed down after being caught it might have been sufficient to censure him, but he has decided to shoot-the-moon and promises to continue breaking the law in the future. How can we accept that? How can we accept the illegal wiretaps going forward? The answer is we can’t. Our elected officials can certainly hold their tongues in acceptance of their limited power in the senate, but liberals should be able to say honestly and without moral ambiguity that when a president abuses the powers given to him, that president is not above the law.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In defense of hating

(also posted at partyline)

Conservatives have been pretty good about attacking anyone who suggests that Bush is unlikable or a bad person. “Bush hater” is thrown around like a four-letter word. Even when his administration accuses critics of treason or accuses McCain of having an illegitimate child or tries to dismantle the Social Security which keeps millions of old people out of poverty, critics are expected to act as if Bush is personally a nice guy with whom we just happen to have a policy disagreement with.

At the same time, it is respectable to hate Clinton. Hell, I’ve even had liberals look me straight in the eye and say they hated Clinton and found that he was an immoral person. Why? Well, not because Clinton abused his powers as president to illegally spy on citizens, not because he tried to impoverish millions with loaded tax cuts, no, that would be forgivable. Instead of lying about wiretapping citizens Clinton lied about cheating on his wife. And quite honestly, it’s clear which one is more serious and worthy of our scorn.

I do think that conservatives have a better media game that liberals do. It’s not because the “media” is conservatively biased (giving conservatives the awesome power to insert six or seven biased words into a New York Times article which get edited out), it’s because they’ve set up a parallel media with their own radio and television stations. Overtly conservatives, they present people who are willing to attack the opposition in personal ways, thus Kerry is unlikable and stiff. His wife is overbearing and power-hungry. Mrs. Clinton is a Machiavellian and personally dislikable. You get to hear all these on talk radio and to find out that Bush is a jerk who wants dictatorial powers you have to switch over to Air America (and of course, they’re all nut-balls, I know because I heard it on Hannity).

Now, this may not seem like a big deal but I think it is because personal animosity is a great political motivator. Many Americans have no idea of Bush’s policies, they just “know” he’s a nice guy. They have no idea where democrats stand on Iraq but they “know” Democrats are happy when things go bad there. They have no idea what Senator Clinton’s positions are, but they “know” she is conniving and mean. It’s bad enough when conservatives start internalizing this, its even worse when I have to hear liberals complain that “Sadly, I’ll just have to work for Hillary’s election in ‘08”.

It’s important to be *able* to argue honestly that Bush and other popular conservatives are not a nice people. In Bush’s case it’s not just true, it’s politically wise. With Bush’s popularity at an all time low it’s important to start engaging conservatives in the character debate. If we’re lucky we can turn disenchantment with Bush’s policies and leadership ability into an appreciation for the character flaws (and warped sense of morality) that gave rise to them.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Good Cheer

As part of my de-extremification regimen, I've been reading becuase apparently it has a good reputation. A a sign of their goodwill they have even asked their readers to send the ACLU wishings of Merry Christmas!
It's time to wish the ACLU a Merry Christmas! No, not "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" or even "Kabbala Kwanzaa." And certainly not "Xmas." We're talking actual "Merry Christmas" here.

You can now send several E-cards a day to the ACLU as well as send your actual physical Christmas card to their national offices.
Send them some e-Cards. And don't forget to send an actual Christmas card to:

"Wishing You Merry Christmas"
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
With all the acrimony on the blogs today it’s really heartwarming to see people on the right extending a hearty handshake to the left on the issues we can all agree on: The right to proselytize whatever religion we want so long as we don’t use government funds to do it. Sure, the Christians at redstate (for indeed, they seem to assume their readers do not include any Jews, Muslims, Atheists or Agnostics) could have highlighted their disagreement with the ACLU by suggesting their readers entrusted with tax dollars use them to send these messages, but it is Christmas after all.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

The Perils of Withdrawal (from Reality)

(This is being cross-posted from thepartyline)

The problem with Christopher Hitchens’ article is illustrated in its title: “The Perils of Withdrawal”. It contains the deceit that the perils he mentions belong only to the plan advocated by Murtha and those who believe that the American military have done pretty much all they can in Iraq. Since the US will have to withdraw from Iraq within the next two or three years (for political and logistical reasons) the real question is why does Hitchens expect the military headed by Bush and Rumsfeld to mitigate these perils in the time remaining, and is what little we can achieve in Iraq worth the extra risk. An interesting pro-staying-the-course essay would delve into these topics but for the most part this essay is an exercise in name-calling and avoiding the point.

First he asks why those who favor a shorter timeline for Iraq don’t also advocate one for Afghanistan. For one, Afghanistan is much smaller than Iraq so if we managed to get out of Iraq we would have plenty of troops free to continue multilateral defense of Afghanistan. More generally, they are two different countries and I find it is a gross oversimplification to say that the same logic apply to both. Also of course, the nation (especially the media) has a small attention span. If things are going as badly in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq its certainly not making the front page and thus there isn't popular support for a resolution. I have no problem with Democrats choosing their battles.

He then gets to Murtha.

If, as Murtha says, the presence of American troops is the cause not the cure for Islamist "insurgency," then the logic would be the same in all cases: withdrawal at least to a more distant point where (presumably) their presence would not incite mayhem. Leaving aside the question of what geographical point that would be (U.S. ships were targeted in Yemen before 9/11 and in the Jordanian Gulf of Aqaba after it), this argument does have its attractions.

This is flawed logic. Murtha argues that American troops are *a* cause of the insurgency. This is just one of many arguments Murtha makes for his timeline (the main one being that we’ve accomplished all we can). Here Hitchens is implicitly saying that Murtha believes the case for his timeline can rest entirely on this argument.

But there is another deceit here. This whole foray into an Afghan/Iraq metaphor is not argument against Murtha’s logic. Rather, it's just a charge of hypocrisy. There is value in exposing hypocrisy but here it serves to let Hitchens avoid making the negative case against t. (I’ve given up on seeing a positive case by now).

He then throws in some more insult our intelligence:

It was said even then that the attack would fail, because (remember?) if you killed Osama Bin Laden, then a thousand more would rise up to take his place. This line soon mutated into, "No war on Iraq: It's a distraction from the hunt for Bin Laden."

Look at the arguments he pulls to fabricate a charge of hypocrisy. The first “thousand more” argument would be advocated by an anti-Afghan war crazy. The second “distraction” argument is a mainstream one which even I have used. He offers no proof that any individual has actually held both of these positions, much less that many have.*

Finally we get back to Murtha:

There is some evidence that Murtha is wrong and that the Baathists and Bin Ladenists in Iraq are increasingly targeting civilian Iraqis—especially Kurds and Shiites—rather than those coalition forces who enjoy the benefits of "force protection."

This does not contradict Murtha’s claim that the insurgency is fueled in part by US presence. It merely underlines the horrible tragedy which is life in modern Iraq and that the situation is not improving even with US troops there. It is important to note here Hitchens is disagreeing not just with Murtha, but with General Casey who said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” To me, there is a heavy burden of proof which Hitchens makes no serious attempt to overcome.

The rest of the piece is just a wish list of what Iraq could be without any explanation of why he thinks we are going to get it. He says we should stay till asked by the Iraqi government to go but ignores their request for a timeline.** Murtha has a timeline. Is it to short? Should we pull out in one year or two? I don't really know. The factions in the Iraqi government haven't come to an agreement on the issue either. But instead of choosing and defending a timeline, Hitchens attacks those who have. Not with facts and logic, but with sloppy invective and caricature.

*Another deceit that jumped out at me here was this smear against

In spite of furious opposition from the MoveOn left and the Lindbergh right, and endless talk about a "quagmire" from many liberals, most Americans did back the intervention in Afghanistan because of the self-evident link between al-Qaida and the Taliban.

MoveOn did not oppose the war in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t be a member if they did. There has been a strong push by the right and to demonize MoveOn as being radical despite the fact that it focuses on popular liberal causes and explicitly stays out of intra-party disputes. MoveOn does a really good job raising money to counter the right though they may be a little inexperienced at running contests and protests (see the Hitler commercial which MoveOn did not produce but got tarred with anyways). It and groups like it are vital if liberals are ever going to be elected in this country.

** This technically isn't a contrdiction though I find it difficult to see why would should trust Iraq to tell us when to leave but not when they tell us to set a timetable.

Update: I've made some changes to since my first posting but I don't want to keep fiddeling with it. I could modify it endlessly but let me add only that I realize that Hitchens isn't obliged to argue about what I want him to. Still though, I feel my other arguments are valid.

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