2006 - %3, November

Will Alt-Energy Initiative Boomerang?

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 9:50 AM PST

Tax oil corporations and use the money to fund alternative energy development? Sounds like a no-brainer. That's the gist of California's Proposition 87, and indeed, I'm for it and think all right-thinking people should be too. But today's LA Times does have a good counterpoint:

"(V)enture capitalists with investments in alternative energy firms are huge donors to the campaign... There is nothing to prevent such investors from sitting on the board that allocates the research money generated by the proposition, which is precisely the conflict-ofinterest problem that has tainted California's last experiment with taxpayer-funded research, 2004's stem cell initiative ."

The Times goes on to say, less convincingly, that there's already plenty of money going into alt-energy development and that oil companies are overtaxed in California as it is.

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Army Recruiters: "War Ended a Long Time Ago"

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 9:10 AM PST

There are 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq, and no signs of a drawdown in sight. But don't tell that to the bunch of Army recruiters caught on tape by ABC lying to potential recruits about whether they might end up in the sandbox.

"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.

"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.

"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.

And if the recruits don't like Army life? One recruiter falsely claimed they could easily get "a 'Failure to Adapt' discharge.... It's an entry-level discharge so it won't affect anything on your record. It'll just be like it never happened."

Church and State

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 7:45 AM PST

A Christian Broadcasting Network blog has been asking readers "Which issues will affect your vote during the midterm elections?''

Excerpts from the discussion last week:

"Forget the politics. I am in no mood today. Let's just remember we all worship the same God, who is most merciful and benevolent, and must be heartbroken to see this quarreling. A situation too complicated to explain that has been most stressful for me has just been resolved by what can only be divine intervention. At the moment, I don't care who wins Congress, or if Baptists ever let gays marry, I'm just overjoyed I'm not losing the person I love most. Thank you, Jesus." —orpheus1984

"What difference does it make regarding political issues. Once a man or woman is elected into office, their whole character changes and all of a sudden they take ownership of the state they represent, or their country, and forget to represent the people. 'The People' is the last of their concern as long as they get their personal 'agenda'. As far as truth in government is concerned, it does not exist. Immorality, killing the unborn, homosexuality, lieing [sic], murder, theft are all reflective of the minds that govern this country" —darmar48

"I am just amazed at what a crazy frightening disease religion really is. Please keep it away from children and animals." —liberate

"…I believe our country has real problems to deal with, and none of them are the so called 'values' issues conservatives use to rally the faithful. How much time and money did the last Congress spend on such peripheral issues such as gay marriage, flag burning and Terri Schiavo while ignoring Social Security, the health care crisis in our country and gun control. No matter which side of these issues you fall on, you have to admit all these things have a far greater impact on our country than whether two people who love each other." —deacnblews

Read the discussion postings to date here.

Katherine Harris Recruits Jews to Join the Republican Revival

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 10:20 PM PST

Katherine Harris, who's already a serious underdog in her bid to unseat Florida's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is now having to defend comments she made last month on Jewish conversion. In a conference call prayer breakfast, Awaken the Nation on October 3, Harris talked about Florida leading the country in a religious reawakening, including prayer in schools, changes in tax regulations on churches and charities, and she even predicted a revival:

"We just decree and declare there will be a shift for this nation, that there will be an enormous revival, even a revolution as we speak. Once again, we'll rejoice, rejoice with your Son and bring this nation into alignment with your government with your kingdom principles and authority."

She went on:

"And Father God, right now on the day after the Jewish new year, Father, after the day after atonement, as they enter into their new year, Father God, I just pray that you would bring the hearts and minds of our Jewish brothers and sisters into alignment."

Jewish groups are troubled by her comments, and in response a Harris spokeswoman said Friday that she was talking about converting Jews to vote Republican, not to Christianity. Yeah, because it says in the Torah that you have to be a Democrat so that must be what she was referring to. And how about Muslims, they have party affiliations too, how about bringing them into alignment?

Harris, who is trailing Nelson by a good 20 points, has made no secret of her politics-as-religion throughout the campaign. In August, she told the Florida Baptist Witness, "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin." And she ended the October call with this prayer:

"And Father, awaken our churches now. Treat the pastors' hearts so that those who think there's no place for government, have them understand kingdom government, and how they need to be involved in the governance on this earth because God is our governance."

It's likely not even God can help her overcome on Tuesday.

American Conservative mag: Dump Bush!

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 10:13 PM PST

It's become that obvious. This quote isn't from the Nation or Counterpunch, but from American Conservative magazine:

"(Bush) rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. ... The war will continue as long as Bush is in office, for no other reason than the feckless president can't face the embarrassment of admitting defeat. The chain of events is not complete: Bush, having learned little from his mistakes, may yet seek to embroil America in new wars against Iran and Syria."

Of course, they also despise him for being soft on illegal immigrants. I'll take it, as long as we all agree that the solution is to dump the GOP.

Cheney Going Hunting On Election Day

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 9:54 PM PST

And not in some metaphoric way. With a gun. First time since he shot his pal in the face that time. You don't want to be within range when the returns start coming in.

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Is Saddam Verdict Another "Mission Accomplished" Moment?

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 8:26 PM PST

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote skeptically about predictions that Saddam's imminent sentencing would give the GOP a last-minute election bump. Sure, the verdict gives Bush and Republican candidates something to crow about for a couple of days, but the announcement is so unsurprising as to be anti-climactic. Its timing is still subject to speculation. But perhaps the more important question is what the verdict means for Iraq. Does it, as Iraqi blogger Riverbend fears, mark the beginning of Bush's own personal disengagement with the war, another "Mission Accomplished" moment he can use to claim success and move on?

I'm more than a little worried. This is Bush's final card. The elections came and went and a group of extremists and thieves were put into power (no, no—I meant in Baghdad, not Washington). The constitution which seems to have drowned in the river of Iraqi blood since its elections has been forgotten. It is only dug up when one of the Puppets wants to break apart the country. Reconstruction is an aspiration from another lifetime: I swear we no longer want buildings and bridges, security and an undivided Iraq are more than enough. Things must be deteriorating beyond imagination if Bush needs to use the 'Execute the Dictator' card.

Sentencing Saddam to hang may make for a nice line to add to stump speeches, but it won't change things on the ground. It won't end the insurgency or the civil war or turn the lights back on. It won't bring the troops home or chart a course for victory. Even if the timing was a Rovian plot, it just goes to further demonstrate how out of touch the administration is from the reality of Iraq—and its own electorate. Which is why, come Wednesday, this hopefully will be remembered as the November surprise that wasn't.

Watching Fox News Sunday (So You Don't Have To)

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 5:36 PM PST

I tuned in expecting dispatches from that alternate reality where the polls are all wrong and the Republicans' vaunted 72-hour turn-out-the-vote operation will secure the House come Tuesday. Instead Chris Wallace served up softballs to Missouri's Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill and grilled House Majority Leader John Boehner over his recent comments that seemed to blame the generals on the ground for the chaos in Iraq.

FNS had invited McCaskill and Republican incumbent Jim Talent on the show; but only McCaskill accepted. Does this suggest that McCaskill, tied in a statistical heat with Talent, sees more upside in reaching out to presumed Republican-leaning Fox News viewers than Talent does in reaching his base? If that was the calculation, McCaskill capitalized by crisply dealing with the two biggest issues in her race, Iraq and stem cell research. Chris Wallace kicked off the interview with a unique interpretation of the day's main news story, the sentencing of Saddam Hussein, when he said that "we have the news today that Saddam Hussein is no longer oppressing his people, that he faces a sentence of death. Doesn't that count for something?" Saying that Hussein "is no longer oppressing his people" hardly seems like news--I don't think there was much oppressing going on in that spider hole three years ago either--but it set McCaskill up to trumpet her prosecutor's credentials and to say that she's a big supporter of the death penalty. Then she quickly turned to Afghanistan, making the case that the Taliban "presents more of a threat to our country than the Sunni shooting the Shia and the Shia shooting each other."

That line of argument seems a productive way for Democrats to answer the charge that they have no plan for Iraq other than to leave: to remind people that Iraq is not the key battle in the war on terror but a distraction. As McCaskill put it, "We took our eye off that ball. We put all of our eggs in the Iraqi basket. And the security of our country has suffered." Read the transcript here.

John Boehner, who is probably in for a miserable week, kicked it off by taking some heat from Wallace over his defense of Rumsfeld on CNN on Wednesday. But you don't get to be House Majority Leader by abandoning your offense under attack. In response to Wallace's repeated questions about why Speaker Dennis Hastert was doing no national media (hint: starts with F and ends with O-L-E-Y), Boehner got off a zinger to his own rhetorical question, Where are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? "I think they'd be on the border welcoming people as they come across."

And This Man Wants to be President?

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 10:14 AM PST

Rudy Giuliani went to Pennsylvania this weekend to try and shore up Rick Santorum's tottering campaign for re-election to the Senate. "He really is something very, very special," Giuliani said of Santorum. "We can't afford to lose someone like that."

"After September 11, there is no excuse for not adequately seeing the threat," Giuliani said in a Wilkes Barre speech Friday. "If Rick Santorum is not re-elected and his opponent is elected and people like his opponent are elected, they are going to push us very, very hard to go back on defense against terrorists rather than being on offense the way we are now."

In an accompanying "Dear Conservative" fund raising note, Santorum pleads, "The stakes in this race are incredibly high! The choices voters will make on Tuesday will decide which party leads our country -- the common-sense, conservative leaders dedicated to defeating Islamic fascists and those who want to kill Americans, or the far-left liberal defeatists like John Kerry who will cut-and-run in the War on Terror and demoralize our troops by implying they are 'uneducated.'"

"P.S.,'' says Santorum, "The pundits and polls have given up on me, but I know that together we can defy the odds."

Chalabi: Debacle in Iraq? Don't Blame Me. Blame Wolfowitz

| Sun Nov. 5, 2006 12:27 AM PST

Dexter Filkins' New York Times magazine piece on Ahmed Chalabi is one of those stories that won't tell you much you may not already have had a hunch about; there are no Woodward-style deep-background revelations here, no radical reinterpretations, no smoking guns. What there is the kind of profile that only someone who has put in a lot of time--a good old-fashioned beat reporter--can write, with an arc that spans more than three years of actual observation of the man. (Filkins was stationed in Bagdad until recently and a couple of months ago wrote a searing assessment of what Western reporters can, and mostly can't, get in Iraq). This is not the be-all-and-end-all story on who used whom in the prewar intel manipulation game (did Chalabi push the nation to war, or did he just provide a convenient assist for the Cheney/Rumsfeld crowd that was determined to march to Bagdad no matter what?). But it's a terrific tale of a great gambler and a big loss that leaves you sympathizing with Chalabi even as you recoil from what he was allowed to do. Just a couple of highlights:

"The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz," Chalabi says, referring to his erstwhile backer, the former deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. "They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out."

Chalabi still considers Wolfowitz a friend, so he proceeds carefully. America's big mistake, Chalabi maintains, was in failing to step out of the way after Hussein's downfall and let the Iraqis take charge. The Iraqis, not the Americans, should have been allowed to take over immediately — the people who knew the country, who spoke the language and, most important, who could take responsibility for the chaos that was unfolding in the streets. An Iraqi government could have acted harshly, even brutally, to regain control of the place, and the Iraqis would have been without a foreigner to blame....They could have done this, presumably, without an army (which most wanted to dissolve) and without a police force (which was riddled with Baathists).

[...]

W. Patrick Lang, a senior official at the Defense Intelligence Agency... visited the office of Senator Trent Lott, then the Senate majority leader. After introducing an Arab businessman to Lott, Lang sat in Lott's anteroom with a number of Capitol Hill staff members who helped draft the Iraq Liberation Act, which provided millions of dollars to Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. They were praising Chalabi: "They were talking about him, that Chalabi fits into this plan as a very worthwhile, virtuous exemplar of modernization, somebody who could help reform first Iraq and then the Middle East. They were very pleased with themselves." Lang, an old Middle East hand who had worked in Iraq in the 1980's, said he was stunned. "You guys need to get out more," Lang recalls saying at the time. "It's a fantasy."

[...]

One of the people whom the I.N.C. made available to American intelligence was Adnan Ihsan al-Haideri... [Chalabi] didn't think much of Haideri or his information, he says, and was astonished to learn later that the information he provided became a pillar of the Americans' charges against Hussein.

"We told them, 'We don't know who this guy is,'" Chalabi said. "Then the Americans spoke to him and said, 'This guy is the mother lode.' Can you believe that on such a basis the United States would go to war? The intelligence community regarded the I.N.C. as useless. Why would the government believe us?"

And then, of course, there's the ever-popular (and not unlikely, according to Filkins' piece) theory that Chalabi has been an Iranian asset all along.

When we arrived at the [Iranian] border, Chalabi ducked into a bathroom and changed out of his camouflage T-shirt and slacks and into a well-tailored blue suit. Then we drove to Ilam, where an 11-seat Fokker jet was idling on the runway of the local airport... We landed in Iran's smoggy capital, and within a couple of hours, Chalabi was meeting with the highest officials of the Iranian government.

When the election came, Chalabi was wiped out.... One of his associates said of the Shiite alliance: "We know they cheated. You know how we know? Because in one area we had 5,000 forged ballots, and when they were counted, we didn't even get that many." He shrugged.