Archive for November, 2007

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The Dangers Of Hannitization

November 30, 2007

Evidence that the “Stop Hillary Express” may have turned into a Crazy Train: Man Takes Hostages At Clinton Campaign Office

Witnesses Say Man Has Bomb-Like Device Strapped To Chest

ROCHESTER, N.H. — An armed man has taken two campaign workers hostage at the Hillary Clinton campaign office in Rochester, police said.

As to be expected, the blogs are buzzing about this one, so here’s the memeorandum link if you want to catch all the reactions.

stophillary.jpg
Hannitized?

Update:  There’s no evidence as of yet that this guy was a Hannity fan, so I sort of regret this post.  It was just the first thing I thought when I saw the story.  I was making light of what could have been a deadly serious situation, and I apologise for that.

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Did Congress “Vote For The War”?

November 29, 2007

Or was their intention simply to show Saddam that “we mean business”? (or something to that effect) 

This element of the popular talking points in today’s political discourse has always bothered and confused me.   I bring it up now because -as we turn the corner and head into the home stretch toward the ’08 presidential election- it is likely to be brought up more and more, especially with regard to Hillary Clinton.   This is also a bit of a followup post to the one I penned yesterday, as this topic is suddenly thrust to the forefront.    For the record, I’m not writing this post as an attempt to defend Clinton’s (or anyone in Congress, for that matter) vote, or her or the former president’s comments on the decision afterward.   Instead, this entry is designed to help clarify my thoughts on the matter and open up a discussion that doesn’t attempt to rewrite history, rather, to explore and reflect on what actually took place.

First, I think that the most important thing to point out that a vote for the October 2002 AUMF against Iraq was not an explicit declaration of war, at least not as it was written.   I did some searching, and Ron Paul summarized it fairly well when he voiced his concerns on the House floor on October 8th of that year (two days before the House passed it):

But I am very interested also in the process that we are pursuing. This is not a resolution to declare war. We know that. This is a resolution that does something much different. This resolution transfers the responsibility, the authority, and the power of the Congress to the President so he can declare war when and if he wants to. He has not even indicated that he wants to go to war or has to go to war; but he will make the full decision, not the Congress, not the people through the Congress of this country in that manner.

However, wording aside, this has always been the $60,000 question:  Can those who voted “yea” say that they didn’t consider the invasion to be a forgone conclusion (at least with a straight face)?  I mean, has Congress passed AUMF’s in that didn’t result in some military action?  Did the majority really have any other expectation?

The popular defense of the vote that came from the Democrats (especially) has always been that the resolution was intended to provide the leverage needed to put Saddam in a situation where he had no other choice but to comply with UN resolutions and allow the inspectors back in.  In fact, at the time that the resolution passed, there is evidence that there were those in Congress who believed that the AUMF was the best hope in avoiding war:

Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq could avert war by demonstrating the United States is willing to confront Saddam over his obligations to the United Nations.

“I believe we have an obligation to protect the United States by preventing him from getting these weapons and either using them himself or passing them or their components on to terrorists who share his destructive intent,” said Gephardt, who helped draft the measure.

In other words, the best way to disarm Iraq without military action was to use the inspectors, and it appears that the consensus at the time was that Saddam wouldn’t allow the inspectors back in without knowing that the threat of force was real.  Also, I think its fair to say that Congress wouldn’t have passed an AUMF unless the it contained language specifying that all diplomatic options towards enforcing UN resolutions (which called for inspectors) had been “exhausted”.  

One problem that Paul and others had with the resolution was the fact that the AUMF gave the president sole power to decide when those options were deemed “exhausted”.   So, again,  what it comes down to was whether or not the members of Congress believed that Bush was predisposed to invade, and if they were comfortable with that predisposition.  

But did the administration give any indication that he was?   On October 16th, the day he signed the resolution, Bush said things like this:

…”I hope the use of force will not become necessary”….

and

…”Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action”…

Of course, that’s what was said publicly. 

However, later on, the evidence that Bush was being disingenuous about this began to surface, culminating with the infamous Downing Street Memo:

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

So, did Congress (or at least, a percentage of the yeas) unwittingly give Bush the green light to commence a war that he had already decided to undertake?  The puzzle pieces seem to fit.  Bush wasn’t going to war without an AUMF, and Congress wasn’t going to approve an AUMF unless it called for diplomacy first.  So, if Bush wanted war, all he had to do is make sure that the resolution was worded in such a way that gave him the power to declare when the diplomacy had failed.  As it turned out, that appears to be precisely the wording that Congress approved in October 2002.   So, inspectors went in long enough to perhaps give the appearance that there was a legitimate effort to pursue a diplomatic solution and impose the UN resolutions, but it looks like Bush had decided at some point that March ’03 was the right time to “give up” and pull the proverbial trigger. 

Needless to say, it’s a little disturbing to think that Bush didn’t really care if the inspectors actually found anything, but perhaps it really was just part of the dog and pony show to sell the war.

What’s also pretty unsettling is the fact that members of Congress didn’t seem to have a coherent view on what they were voting on.  Some obviously saw it as essentially a war declaration, while others saw it as simply a means of granting leverage.  Still others, like Paul, objected to it as a violation of the Constitution in principle.

It could very well be that this resolution passed because too many members made the mistake of trusting the president.   It would be interesting to know how many of those who voted for the AUMF honestly felt the way Gephardt did, and assumed that their vote was actually a necessary step toward a peaceful solution.  We’ll probably never have a full account of what all these people were thinking privately, unfortunately.   Part of the problem is that the public isn’t really seeing this for what it was because the facts and rhetoric are blurred by politicians who are trying to balance a reasonable explanation for their position with the desire to avoid having their name and words like “unwittingly” mentioned in the same sentence (not to mention the pundits who have an interest in saving face as well).  This dynamic would certainly explain why there are statements that lead to accusations of “flip-flopping” on the issue permeating the political discourse and the media for so long, as well as the fact that the whole thing is debated… even five years later

So, did members of Congress “vote for the war”?  I guess it would depend on which one of them you ask (or, perhaps which pundit you’re listening to).   Technically, however, I think that Paul was right, in that they ultimately voted to let Bush decide.

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Damn, Those Clinton Fact-Checkers Are FAST!

November 28, 2007

I noticed today that a good portion of both the cable news networks’ time and blogger’s bandwidth was spent analyzing Bill Clinton’s supposed “flip-flop” on his Iraq war position after he made the following comment during a speech in Iowa:

“Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers,”

The comment prompted Hannity & Colmes to do an entire segment “deconstructing” Clinton’s alleged rewriting of history and even started another spat with Senator Obama.

Sometime during my perusing of all these articles and analysis/spin, I recalled that the NY Times had a story about a new website that the Clinton campaign had established, as the Times described it, “dedicated exclusively to the instantaneous rebuttal of charges or news reports it deems offensive or wrong”.  It’s called “The Fact Hub“, so I decided to go over there to see if it had any, you know, facts to add to all this.  Sure enough, right there under “Latest Facts” was this: Fact Check: Bill Clinton On The Iraq War 

After reading through a few of the Clinton quotes that were obviously posted to clarify his position on the subject, I glanced up toward the top and noticed the timestamp “11/27/2007 7:22:53 PM”.   This was, of course, yesterday.   

Intrigued, I decided to do a little more searching to see when this story really got its legs.  Over on Memeorandum, the headlines about it didn’t appear until around midnight (from what I could quickly gather using their handy “snapshot” feature).  ABC’s article on the comment is on their Political Radar site and is timestamped “November 27, 2007 7:19 PM”.   Every other article or blog post I could find on the subject is dated November 28th, including a splashy headline on the Times’ site.

If anyone else can find an earlier posting that suggested that Clinton’s comment was raising eyebrows, post it here.  In the meantime, I guess I’m just left to conclude that either a) the Clinton camp knew this was going to be an issue, whether it be just out of wisdom or hearing some inside buzzing, or b) they were able to post a “fact check” to rebut an ABC blog post with a response time of 3 minutes.  

“Instantaneous rebuttal”, indeed.

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Thoughts On Comment Moderation

November 26, 2007

This post is addressed specifically to members of the WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance for discussing the subject of moderating comments. 

Now, I’m well aware of the different rationale behind it, but I suppose that in the spirit of debate and timely responses I would encourage alliance members to turn their automatic moderation off.  Personally, I have my spam settings set so that a comment with 2 or more hyperlinks will sit in the moderation que.  It seems to be a good formula, but I’ve thought about changing it.  In fact, every time it blocks a netizen that is backing up their arguments with a few links I feel kinda guilty if I didn’t get around to making their post appear until hours later.  So,  I guess I don’t like the idea of having a lively debate on one of your blogs hampered by having to wait for the author to get around to approving every single comment, but I’m open to input on this.

In the end, it’s your blog, and if you’ve been experiencing a influx of undesirables coming onto your site and leaving turds I guess I can understand this move.  At the same time, however, askimet does a pretty good job with the spam, and it’s relatively easy to block persistent trolls.

Thoughts?

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“Iraq For Sale”, For Free

November 23, 2007

I just finished watching the Robert Greenwald documentary about Iraq war profiteering, Iraq For Sale, on Comcast’s On-Demand service.   It was quite an eye-opening experience, and I’d consider it recommended viewing for any American taxpayer, regardless of political persuasion.  So, if you have Comcast cable and a digital set-top box, you should be able to view the film for no extra charge.  It’s in the on-demand section under “Free Movies!” (for a limited time, I presume), and is presented in it’s original widescreen format.  I just thought I’d let everyone know.

Iraq for Sale - The War Profiteers

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John Bolton Delivers Another Head-Scratcher

November 22, 2007

And when I say “another”, it’s in reference to the Bolton quote I featured here in the Chamber a little while ago.

Today’s nugget is once again on the subject of Iran.  Mr. Bolton, appearing on Hardball, is chiming in on Iran’s possible reaction to an attack on their nuclear facilities (h/t NewsBusters):

JOHN BOLTON: I give the Iranians more credit than you [addressing himself to Matthews] do. I think they’re smart enough to understand that an attack against the nuclear program is not directed against them.

I’m not sure if Bolton actually believes this, or if he’s just saying whatever he thinks he needs to in order to sugarcoat his position (which, needless to say, is quite hawkish). 

It’s hard not to envision that, after an attack, the Iranian state run TV would run clip after clip of burning buildings and lifeless bodies being dragged out from under the rubble.  I’d assume that Ahmadinejad would make sure that the footage played in every TV set in the country, and probably the world.  Does Bolton really think that the Iranians are just going to sit there and collectively think “Well, they were just nuclear facilities.  They had it coming.” or something like that?  I mean, come on

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Please, Make It Stop

November 19, 2007

Here’s a commercial that football fans in Minnesota are undoubtedly familiar with by now.  Over that last few weeks, it seems like I’ve seen it a few dozen times.  crystal-and-chantelle.jpgIt’s an ad for the local radio station KXXR (aka 93.7 FM aka 93X) and it features two fairly attractive females clumsily lip synching the vocals of various music clips.  That in and of itself is pretty cheesy, but when you add the parts where they mouth the words of dubbed in male voices shouting things like “93X Rocks!”, the result is something that is slightly, um…deranged.  The intent here was obviously to focus on sex appeal, but the overdubbing absolutely kills it to the point of being somewhat disturbing.

The folks at 93X obviously think they’ve hit one out of the proverbial park:

Meet Crystal and Chantelle … You can check them out in 93X‘s latest commercial. If you haven’t seen it yet … it’s HOT!

Hot?  Sure, if you like girls sporting a baritone.  Interestingly, this isn’t the first ad for 93X with this theme:

2006 w/ Playboy Playmate

And there’s more.  93x isn’t the only radio station to decide that this type of thing appealed to their target market.  Also on YouTube:

KSLX

KDKB

One gets the impression that it’s possible that all these were produced by the same people.  Producers who appear to have some strange fetish for having male voices coming out of female lips.  After all, it’s hard to believe that market researchers sat in on focus groups and had some epiphany that led them in this direction.