Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Making peace with those "W -- The President" bumper stickers

Baghdad ER is much more important, but I just wanted to throw in this quick note first.

Up until two days ago, those square white-font-on-black-background bumper stickers put out by Spalding Group in 2004 that say "W -- The President" have always bugged the crap out of me. I mean, they just seemed so pointless.

We've got a gubernatorial election coming up here in Georgia, and dear Mr. Perdue has picked up on the idea and created bumper stickers that read, "Sonny -- Georgia's Governor." I thought, "Great--now the virus has spread!"

Then I thought about it a bit. The 2002 Georgia election, brought to you entirely and exclusively by Diebold, has been plagued by accusations of fraud, fueled by the precise reversal between polls taken at the election and the results: approximately 60-40 for Barnes and Cleland in the polls, followed by reported 60-40 results for Perdue and Chambliss. Sonny in 2006, like Bush in 2004, is serving under the cloud of a questionable result.

So the bumper stickers that simply link the man's name and his office, by my new way of thinking, implicitly recognize that the officeholder's legitimacy is in question, and feel the need to reply to it.

Okay, some people might call it a stretch, but it makes me feel better.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Bush-Blair press conference and the Separation-of-Powers Scandal, or Other bloggers beat me to it

I haven't posted in a bit because I've had a full-time gig the last few weeks, and my can that cut into your blogging time. Frankly, I've also been a little intimidated: I finally went exploring the blogosphere, and boy are there a lot of people out there doing it better than I think I ever could. Of course, it's silly to compare oneself to someone who's been blogging for a long time and has presumably turned it into a paying job of its own, but still, it's humbling.

Moreover, there were a couple of topics on my mind, but before I could write about them I found other people who had written about them as well or better than I could. :-) The first is the Bush-Blair press conference from last Friday; this post at Upper Left, which I found through the Daou Report, articulates my outrage quite nicely.

The second is this unprecedented action by the Executive Branch against the Legislative Branch, namely the FBI's search of Representative William Jefferson's congressional offices. I had gotten about as far as thinking, "well, despite this unusual bipartisan outrage against the Executive, I don't think the Constitution can be construed to bar this sort of action--still, it's a bad precedent, and it would be better if the House simply did what it is supposed to and policed itself"--and then, while catching up with Mark Kleiman and friends, I found a much more detailed analysis with quite a bit of useful information, including analysis of leaks that reflects quite badly on the FBI/DoJ.

I do have a little original blogging in mind--I watched HBO's Baghdad ER yesterday....

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Whether war with Iran

There should be imminent news from Iran: today or tomorrow the deadline elapses for Iran to reply to the International Atomic Energy Agency with a timetable for resolving all remaining issues from the IAEA's Director General's report (Adobe Acrobat file) dated February 27, 2006. If indeed Iran were to resolve all remaining issues, in theory the IAEA could issue it a clean bill of health, and its compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty would no longer be Security Council business. Clearly, any announcement is a significant diplomatic step that could buy Iran a great deal more time.

The stakes are as high as they can be right now, I think, without Israel taking unilateral action. Perhaps this is obvious, but I haven't read anyone else point out that the reason Russia and China are remaining so stubborn about passing a resolution now under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter (which would allow punitive action, basically either economic sanctions or military attack) is that this crucial step was the legal fig leaf by which the United States pursued war with Iraq in March 2003. Passing this sort of resolution (Adobe Acrobat file) is supposed to be a preliminary move, after which if there's further noncompliance the Security Council finally lowers the axe by means of an operation organized pursuant to a second resolution.

I'm beginning to think that Iran has fought this one off. The United States has gotten progressively weaker on diplomacy as this crucial Security Council meeting approached, not stronger. Up until this week, they resolutely refused to offer Iran any carrots, only the stick. They've finally conceded that ground, and Russia and China are still firmly stating their opposition to any possibility of military enforcement. Bush and his lieutenants have repeatedly said, "All options are on the table," meaning that they refused to rule out force, even nuclear force; but now that Iran has forced them by means of its historic "rambling 18-page letter" to publically state and restate their refusal to begin direct negotiations, the Administration appears more and more baldly hypocritical and/or dishonest.

In the meantime, Bush will never again receive from Congress a declaration of war an authorization to use military force (AUMF). That ship has sailed. Not being able to get a specific authorization to attack Iran, he might try to rely on the September 18, 2001 AUMF, but he has already tried to use that to assert broad presidential power, and that argument is being hotly contested. Would Bush/Cheney, even at 30% approval and with the possibility of impeachment in the immediate future, bomb Iran?

I have to think not, since even the most egregiously inflated estimates of time till Iranian nuclear weapon capability by American and Israeli intelligence are about two years, the broader consensus figure being more like five to ten. Moreover, if the media were to air a free, extended discussion of a hypothetical nuclear-armed Iran, I suspect American public opinion would find it relatively easy to live with. Despite the current Iranian president's wild rhetoric, I doubt a serious analysis would conclude that a nuclear Iran would move to destroy Israel. How can they destroy Israel and not the Palestinians? They want credible defense and a seat at the Asian nuclear table: they cannot afford not to have nuclear weapons surrounded by Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel, along with the United States.

That's in the worst-case scenario of the perpetuation of Iran's current theocratic regime administered by a willing executive. In reality, the bottom-up pressure to reform or replace Iran's government and official culture is enormous and still growing. By the time Iran has nuclear weapons, it could easily have a different President, possibly even a changed balance of power between the supreme council of clerics and the parliamentary government.

News updates: Impeachment, NSA and Egypt

1. John Conyers' op-ed in the WaPo demonstrates that the influential Democrats are all determined to defuse impeachment as a 2006 campaign issue and to give the Administration every opportunity to formally respond, rather than proceed with their (already more than adequate) current evidence. So much for my idea of getting started on it now, when it still might mean something. I'm back to considering it pointless.

2. Interesting new news about the NSA that could feed the nascent trend toward finding fault with General Hayden's actual record, rather than opposing him based on faulty hypotheticals like "militarizing the CIA." (Thanks to Sauron at Freethought Forum for the tip, who got it from Talking Points Memo.

3. Egypt ramps up its brutal repression. Hundreds of demonstrators for judicial independence were beaten and arrested, one of the two particular judges in question was disciplined, and an court denied Ayman Nour's appeal of his five-year sentence.

Animal language: Fresh evidence

Mostly I focus on politics and law, but I'm interested in most everything, especially advances in scientific knowledge. This article in the London Times says that "the putty-nosed monkey in Nigeria ... sometimes communicates by combining sounds into a sequence that has a different meaning from any of its component calls, an ability that was thought to be uniquely human." Now that's freakin' cool.

(via Drudge Report--the guy's a right-wing hack and his "scoops" usually aren't worth the electrons they're displayed with, but his links are always worth checking)

Overlooked news: Georgia same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional!

I meant to post about this earlier. I'm very excited by it. The Georgia feed from LeftyBlogs has good coverage of the decision and its immediate consequences. I don't like the coverage of it that has called Judge Russell's decision one of "technicalities": she ruled on a real procedural question, and those kinds of questions are extremely important. Without them, it's tyranny of the majority through unscrupulous and/or incompetent leadership, which was precisely the case here.

We have to rely on a lawsuit and a judge here after the fact; in Wisconsin, I think they're going to beat it! Georgia's campaign suffered from delayed, limited organization; Fair Wisconsin already has coordinators in each of its 72 counties. (I admit the comparison is a little unfair, since Wisconsin is a lot more progressive and Georgia has 159 counties, with quite a few more people in them.) On, Wisconsin!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Note on Language and Fact

The basic definitions and uses of words have been part of the political battlefield for some time now (decades? centuries?), and there's a few words I need to rip apart: Global War on Terror (GWOT). As many people have already pointed out, one can't fight a tactic or a feeling, so it is a dishonest phrase. There is a way that it can be made true by substituting "Al Qaeda" for Terror. The United States has fought Al Qaeda worldwide, starting (and continuing) in Afghanistan, since October 2001.

The United States has also been fighting a war in Iraq since March 2003. Our government says this is also part of the GWOT; I think this is also basically dishonest, since I believe nearly everyone (except our government & its most ardent supporters) recognizes that the proportion of non-coalition foreign combatants in Iraq is extremely low, less than 10%. In terms of casualties, it is almost completely a U.S.-Iraqi war, with the British in the sole featured roles and a few other countries literally playing bit parts.

So we're fighting two wars right now. One is in Iraq. The other is centered in Afghanistan (just can't seem to win anywhere these days, can we? We can take territory, but we can't hold it), but conveniently, the war is Global, so it can be anywhere, anytime. Soldiers and paramilitary CIA-types still get inserted here and there, but a lot of it is done by satellite, unmanned surveillance and missile or drone attacks--a sort of real-life 24-hour video game run from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA--in places like Yemen and Pakistan.

My point is, these being the facts, and given that we're not being asked to materially sacrifice for these wars, not subject to any of the usual privations, demands or inconveniences on the "home front"--why is it nonetheless necessary to strip us of so many of our rights, and to continue to eliminate so many more of them in secret? So far as I've been able to glean, there have been very few thwarted terrorist attacks on the United States. I don't think there have been enough to justify creating a proto-police state.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

All Cheney, all the Times

Is the Times working off institutional guilt for how much they've let this administration get away with?

Notes Are Said to Reveal Close Cheney Interest in a Critic of Iraq Policy--information from a Fitzgerald court filing reveals handwritten notes by Cheney on a copy of Joseph Wilson's 2003 NYT op-ed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cheney the Decider

The New York Times reports today on Cheney's influence on the Echelon-type program General Hayden designed for the NSA to implement at home after 9/11/2001. The article mentions David Addington, who aside from "Scooter" Libby is the closest thing there is to Cheney's alter ego.

Is it unoriginal for me to think that in their co-sovereign arrangement, Cheney's office is the policy wing and the White House is merely reduced to operations?

Free Alaa: Blogging, Activism and Human Rights

Well, start reading a few decent blog and blog-info pages, and challenges to freedom will confront you just like almost anywhere else. More than one today has told me about the latest repressive acts in Egypt, which this time imprisoned among others a famous Egyptian blogger. One of the campaigners cooked up this Flash pamphlet, and it doesn't really fit in my sidebar! Sign the petition, Google-bomb and let Manal and Alaa tell you about one of our longest-standing low friends in high places, Hosni Mubarak.

EDIT: My faithful reader informed me that there's some annoying audio that comes along with the Flash. Sorry, guys, but I can't abide that. If you still want to check out the pamphlet, click here.

The Blog Formerly Known As "Yet Another Lefty"

I've made a bunch of changes to my blog template, but probably the only obvious one is the new title. It refers to Article V of the U.S. constitution, of course, and its provisions for amendment including the constitutional convention. I wasn't initially thinking of A3G, or Article III Groupie, but I couldn't help but be reminded of her. I thought the blog was defunct following the exposure of A3G's identity, but it's alive and kicking! All the best with the new format, you sexy counsel you.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Impeachment now (updated)

I was reading Brad DeLong's blog today, and his urgent refrain "Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Him Now" made me rethink. The specific reasons are so poignant--and could be multiplied so far beyond the destruction of the CIA and the Executive's arrogant disregard for the law--that I decided to return to my fantasy realism and imagine what it would take to impeach Bush/Cheney as soon as possible. (If I had to pick just one reason for impeachment, I think it would be for the signing statements. They're just such obvious and fundamental violations of the Constitution's separation of powers.)

My rough recollection is that any Representative can file articles of impeachment, whereupon they would go to a committee. If an absolute majority of the House agrees to a petition to discharge the articles from that committee, I believe the petition succeeds.

1) If Nancy Pelosi is pressured into changing her newly articulated stance that impeachment is off the table, and

2) a majority of Democrats unify with sufficient Republicans who somehow or other put nation above party,

George Bush and Richard Cheney can be impeached with relative speed.

I'm open to suggestions for designing a successful campaign!

UPDATE: Looking at Rule 15 of the House, the situation seems substantially as I remembered it. A motion becomes vulnerable to discharge from a committee after the committee has held it for thirty legislative days. So for example, if I've interpreted the House calendar accurately, a motion for impeachment filed today and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary would be liable for discharge Monday, June 26. If a simple majority of House members voted for it to be discharged, it would be, and then a simple majority could vote again to pass it. Some parliamentary trickery could intervene; multiple motions to discharge could be filed before this one, and there would also be at least a couple of chances to adjourn which could allow it to be put off and strangled behind the scenes. But I'm sure it's nothing Senator Byrd couldn't advise Nancy and Steny how to take care of, after he'd browbeaten them into action in the first place. ;-)

Is it officially "civil war" now?

Clashes erupt between Two Iraqi Units

At first I thought this might be a historical marker in the making, but the actual story as known is murky and confounding. Kurds, Shia and Americans. I sure hope there's follow-up.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Impeachment revisited

So last year, in my fitful start on this blog, I wondered whether a minimum condition for impeachment could be met: Democrats retaking the House. I started reading about it again this week, and if you've paid any attention you already know it's looking much more likely. There are some close races coming up in places like Ohio and New Hampshire that might lead me to donate Democratic for the first time. I should try to engage with and support the local Georgia candidates, too; I hold grudges against each of them, but we need 'em, and they need the help. Though they're incumbents, they're running against experienced former congressmen, out thanks to redistricting if I'm not mistaken, which puts them a notch above the average challenger.

So now the question becomes more practical. Nancy Pelosi has said that in the event of a takeover, there will certainly be investigations, and if they lead to impeachment, then Democrats will consider it. Will they actually have the will and unity to do it? Would enough Republican senators join enough Democrats voting to convict? There would, of course, have to be a sustained public campaign in favor of it against whatever organized G.O.P. operation were mounted against it.

At the moment I'd like to skip over all those demanding intermediate activist steps actually requiring hard work (not least of which, repeatedly stiffening the official Democratic backbone) and notice from my armchair that for impeachment to have meaning and effectiveness, it has to include the Vice President. It's as much or more his administration as Bush's--and could there be anything more pointlessly symbolic than replacing Bush with Cheney?

Ach, it's all pointless anyway. Any Congressional investigation that would pass the fair test would take at least a year, no doubt, and at that point there's only a year left. The Senate would take a nice chunk of that to deliberate conviction--multiply it by two for condemning both the President and Vice President, in this ideal parallel world of justice--at that point, is it still worth it?

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Speaking of Cheney ...

I remembered that I saw a brief item on Cheney recently, which turns out to have been a portion of a preview of this whole little overseas trip with a massive focus on Russia. I hadn't heard of the Adriatic Charter before, which of course has bipartisan support in Congress. (Note the explicit, blatantly captured imperial bribe in that last document concerning relocating overseas military bases to Albania. The Adriatic Charter conveniently serves a dual purpose: expanding American influence in the former Soviet sphere and further isolating Serbia.)

It's yet another one of those below-the-radar expansions of the pax Americana; NATO has become a sort of soft reverse Iron Curtain, turning back across Europe toward Russia in a moving line of economic exclusion, absorbing former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Socialist Republics and causing Russia encirclement anxiety. (The Russian press is speaking of Cheney as a latter-day Churchill, demarcating with this speech the launch of a new Cold War.) Expanding NATO's membership to include nearly all of Europe helps neutralize a huge swath of nations' foreign policy toward an increasingly renegade United States by allying with them militarily, and the countries want it because it is very much a lever for entrance to other treaties such as the EU, the WTO, etc.

It all bodes well for the Security Council talks on Iran, donchathink. Russia and China have been stubbornly recalcitrant up to this point about passing a resolution under Chapter 7, which would authorize follow-up punitive action. The two-headed Presidency decides to pursue a foreign policy trip that aggressively targets Russia, attempting to extend and consolidate past injury to its prosperity and prestige and continuing to lay the groundwork for future military threat, jeopardizing an important upcoming G8 summit in St. Petersburg. What possible happy outcome is there in this scenario?

While searching around for links to the stuff I'd seen, I found this nugget from CBS that really wraps it all up in a nice small Orwellian package. American news isn't that bad if you read it right.

This guy really broke the mold of his office, hasn't he? No other Vice President has been co-sovereign. What a fig leaf this request is. "President Bush asked Vice President Cheney ...."

Friday, May 5, 2006

A day in the life of geopolitical morality

Hi. Ain't been motivated in a long time (he said, to the two people who read his previous posts). Well, today's the day. :-)

So Sith Lord Cheney addressed some former Soviet countries in Vilnius yesterday, in which he accused Russia of backsliding toward authoritarianism and suppressing rights. This has seriously enraged the Russian press and government. Today, in Geneva, the United States began to answer to the world for its most recent human rights violations.

In the meantime, on my drive home from work, I heard on Marketplace that Cheney wasted no time moving on to Kazakhstan--access to its oil currently being dominated by Russia.

It's nothing deep, it just struck me as a particularly bald moment of the hypocrisy of these governments toward their citizens and each other and their real struggle for current and future power: Cheney is perfectly right that the Russian government has not evolved into a democracy, and the Russian government is perfectly hypocritical in rejecting Cheney's criticisms, but Cheney lacks any moral authority as part author of policies that created a torture gulag in violation of multiple countries' sovereignty. In the meantime, one gets on with the real game of fighting for future supremacy through control of dwindling energy resources.