Friday, September 30, 2005

The pause that refreshes

Well, hopefully. The move is on Saturday and after this posting I'm going to pack up the gizmo and so be computerless for a couple of days. There won't be anything else from me until the beginning of the week.

This is my fourth move in the past three years and not one of them has been undertaken as the result of genuine desire; all have been impelled by one cause or another: employment, family reasons, whatever. I'm tired of it and I really really hope this is the last move for at least a few years - even though I know that circumstances may impel yet another move as soon as next spring. But perhaps the new changes will work out as hoped and we can settle in for a time. We'll just have to see.

My intent is that once we get a little unpacked in the new place I'll be able to get back to more regular blogging here; what with packing and all I've had little enough time and to be honest not a lot of inclination to work on posts. But I decided that I wasn't ready to let it go when I was getting furious reading some other blogs in the wake of the wonderful, massive outpouring of bold antiwar sentiment on Saturday only to find a number of them still - still! - bemoaning and grousing about the involvement of ANSWER in the organizing of it! And I kept thinking "My God - have we learned nothing in the last 50 flaming years?"

To get the rest of the rant that will, yes it will, make the connection there, plus some thoughts on what "Support the Troops!" means, check back the beginning of next week. In the meantime, enjoy the dancing vision of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and Karl Rove all under indictment simultaneously and take pleasure in one small victory in the struggle before your soul is frozen by the reality of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Footnote: The John Roberts Honor Roll, numbering 22, all Democrats: Akaka (HI), Bayh (IN), Biden (DE), Boxer (CA), Cantwell (WA), Clinton (NY), Corzine (NJ), Dayton (MN), Durbin (IL), Feinstein (CA), Harkin (IA), Inouye (HI), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Lautenberg (NJ), Mikulski (MD), Obama (IL), Reed (RI), Reid (NV), Sarbanes (MD), Schumer (NY), Stabenow (MI).

States with a clean conscience: California, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

States with a troubled conscience: Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Washington.

States with no conscience: The rest.

Biggest Ass-Licker, measured by how far it was necessary to bend over to perform the act: Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Just to let you know I'm not dead

As I warned three weeks ago, posting here has been very spotty because of some unexpected changes which include working more hours (good) and an impelled move to be closer to work (bad).

But just to let you know that I'm not quite dead and I haven't packed it in - although the thought has crossed my mind - I thought I'd drop by to offer my growing list of Right Wing Debate Tactics. Feel free to add your own. In fact, I'd welcome proposed additions. (I of course am the sole judge of whether or not they make the list. It is, after all, my list.)

Tactic #1: Deny, deny, deny!

Tactic #2: Spin, spin, spin!

Tactic #3: When facts are undeniable, change the subject, preferably by applying Tactic #4 and/or Tactic #5.

Tactic #4: Issue a lengthy, ranting denunciation of "the left" of the form "What about..." something somehow vaguely comparable to that of which you're accused, being sure to include the words "hypocrites" and/or "hypocrisy," thereby arguing that the left can't legitimately criticize the right - while by the very act of using this tactic insisting that the right can continue to criticize the left. Where possible, include the phrase "you liberals."

Tactic #5: Express "shock" and "outrage" at the "uncivil" and "rude" language or behavior of opponents; if pressed on your own language or behavior, you have a menu of five options, which can be used singly or in combination: a) accuse "the left" of censorship, b) pass it off as a "joke" and bemoan the "angry, humorless" left, c) denounce "political correctness," d) say "they did if first" even if they didn't, or e) when really trapped, declare you "regret if anyone was offended" - which doesn't actually admit it was offensive.

Tactic #6: Make the particular stand for the whole. That is, find something offensive or silly some liberal or leftist somewhere sometime said or did and declare it as identifying the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Where possible, demand your opponents "prove" they do not agree with whatever it is by spending their time attacking the author of the cited particular instead of you.

Tactic #7: It's the fault of the "liberal media." (Losing effectiveness due to overuse, but still potent when carefully applied.)

Tactic #8: It's all Bill Clinton's fault. (Of decreasing utility, but still handy.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Full court press

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been called the worst court in the country for protection of human rights. That reputation seems well-deserved: It's hard to imagine a more outrageous, unjust, just mind-warpingly awful and awfully dangerous decision than that reported by the Washington Post on Sunday.
A federal appeals court yesterday backed the president's power to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil without any criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital during wartime to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 and a month later designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush. ...

A congressional resolution passed after Sept. 11 "provided the President all powers necessary and appropriate to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks," the decision said. "Those powers include the power to detain identified and committed enemies such as Padilla, who associated with al Qaeda ... who took up arms against this Nation in its war against these enemies, and who entered the United States for the avowed purpose of further prosecuting that war by attacking American citizens."
That is, in its "decision" - which I put in quotes because the word implies some actual consideration was given to alternatives, which I say did not happen here - the court declared that presidents can, on their own authority, with no need for evidence or proof, imprison US citizens without charge indefinitely and then justified that fascist - and I do not, I never, use that word lightly - insanity by mindlessly parroting the very White House claims for which the Shrub team says proof is not required.

Oh, but no, I'm too harsh, I overstate! The power to toss someone into a prison for the rest of their lives without even having to bother filing a charge is not unlimited, oh no.
The ruling limits the president's power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda,
"hostilities" which the Shrub gang says may go on for "generations."

Which means I'm being unfair, aren't I? I mean, the power isn't, well, eternal, is it? It's just for generations. And after all, the only thing required to put an end to this power of imprisonment-by-fiat is for the president to declare that the War on Terror(c)(reg.)(pat.pend.) has been won and terrorism has disappeared from the Earth. It's only until then that presidents are free to ignore the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

So, the court tells us, for the sake of "security," anyone the Executive Branch views as an "enemy" can be imprisoned at any time, for any length of time, without charge, without recourse, a power that continues until some future president, "generations" from now, voluntarily relinquishes it - if they ever do.
Avidan Cover, a senior associate at Human Rights First, said the ruling "really flies in the face of our understanding of what rights American citizens are entitled to."
Cover is too freaking polite. What this is, is a thorough-going travesty that, if upheld, will overturn the foundations of our justice system by equating accusation with indictment, trail, and conviction and threaten the very basis of our republic by imperiling all forms of dissent. (Antiwar protestors are already accused of "encouraging our enemies." How far a leap is it from there to "supporting" and then to "being" "enemies?") The judges who agreed to this decision are a disgrace to their robes and a disgrace to justice.

Footnote: Erich Fromm had some relevant thoughts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Jeopardy! for Monday, August 29
What is San Francisco?

How...? for $200

For the Pacific, 36,201 feet.


Jeopardy! for Tuesday, August 30
How deep is the ocean?

How...? for $600

Get at least 270 votes in the electoral college.


Jeopardy! for Wednesday, August 31
How do you become president of the United States? (Acceptable: vice president)

How...? for $1000

Mrs. Browning said to find this out she had to "count the ways."


Jeopardy! for Thursday, September 1
How do I love thee?

Comic Book to Screen for $400

Fans marveled as Hugh Jackman nailed (or should we say clawed) this hero in X-Men and X-2.


Jeopardy! for Friday, September 2
Who is Wolverine?

Comic Book to Screen for $1200

In Daredevil, Ben Affleck was the title character and she was the feisty Elektra.


Jeopardy! for Saturday, September 3
Who is Jennifer Garner?

Comic Book to Screen for $2000

Shaq smashed as Steel and this actor slashed as Blade.

Biblical Names


Jeopardy! for Sunday, September 4
Who is Wesley Snipes?

Biblical Names

The term "Semite" is derived from this brother of Shem.


Jeopardy! for Monday, September 5
Who is Shem?

On the Job for $200

"If I were" one of these woodworkers, I could build you shelves, put up molding, etc.


Jeopardy! for Tuesday, September 6
What is a carpenter?

On the Job for $600

In job titles it follows mechanical, chemical, and civil.


Jeopardy! for Wednesday, September 7
What is engineer(ing)?

On the Job for $1000

From the Latin for "doorkeeper," it's the common term for the general custodian of a building.

Better than none?

I needed some good news after that, but only got halfway. Still, half a loaf and all that....

From AP for Wednesday:
Sacramento, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday he will veto a bill that would have made California the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through its elected lawmakers.

Schwarzenegger said the legislation, given final approval Tuesday by lawmakers, would conflict with the intent of voters when they approved an initiative five years ago.
The veto is not a surprise; Arnie had said previously he would try to kill it. Still, even if the veto can't be overriden, the legislature did pass it, the first time that's happened, so we are not completely breadless. It may be small progress, but it is progress.

In a nice bit of snark, Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights
said she was not surprised by word of Schwarzenegger's pending veto.

"Any girlie man could have vetoed this legislation," she said.... "A real man demonstrating real leadership as governor of the most populous state in the nation would have chosen a different course of action."
And in a moment of high if unintentional humor, the Gropinator said he'd veto the bill because the debate over same-sex marriage should be decided by voters or the courts.

Hey, Arnie, check your script: The courts are exactly where you're supposed to say it shouldn't be decided.

Footnote to the preceding

A few days ago I came across a post that said that a charity called "Operation Blessing," a faith-based outfit founded by one Marion Gordon Robertson, was second on FEMA's list of organizations accepting donations for hurricane disaster relief, right behind the American Red Cross.

Marion Gordon Robertson, who still sits on the Board of Directors of the FEMA-favored Operation Blessing along with his wife and son, is better known as, yes, indeed, Pat Robertson.

The FEMA website in question no longer has any such listing and inquiring about "making a donation" sends you to the safely nonpartisan USA Freedom Corps site, but I want to note that I saw the site before it was changed and can confirm that indeed, Pat Robertson's outfit was second on the list, turning a disaster into an opportunity to advance the rightwing agenda. Black souls, indeed.

I never sang for my father

The boy's got a voice
But the voice is his natural disguise
Yes the boy's got a voice
But the words don't connect to his eyes
He says "Ah, but when I sing
I can hear the truth auditioning"
The boy's got a voice
But the voice is his natural -
["Oh, Marion," by Paul Simon]
The first thing to know is that I love to sing. I do. But few people have ever heard me do it, even though people tell me I do it rather well. Even some long-time friends, now drifted away over the years, heard me rarely if at all. I just shy away from singing in public.

It's not stage fright, lordy no. I've been known to rattle a few windows in the course of giving a speech and I was always willing to be the one to appear on some TV segment or another at places where I worked. No, it's not that.

It's more that I'm uncomfortable with displaying emotion publicly. Intellectual passion, yes - which I why the window-rattling I mentioned was not a problem - but emotion, what moves the heart rather than the conscience, no. "But when I sing, I can hear the truth auditioning" - or, as I put it to someone once, singing is the closest this particular atheist gets to praying. When I sing, my heart is on the line and I know that those with eyes to see may see more than I would care to show.

So I'm uncomfortable singing in public. But now I wish I could stand in the street and sing out, sing to any and all passing strangers, sing a song for Katrina. Because I can't find way to express it in words.

I have been trying for over a week to write something about Katrina. But every time I try to write, I'm stymied not only by the magnitude of the event but even more by the fact that every time I start, I come across some new outrage, some new fact or revelation that points out in ever-sharper relief the devastation, the pain - the appallingly unnecessary pain - the loss, the murderous indifference of those who were warned, who were told in so many words that this could happen but who ignored it because, why, because it wasn't politically useful? Because the people at risk were poor and black and so no one cared?

It certainly wasn't because of the cost: The Army Corps of Engineers had requested $27 million for the current fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain. The doesn't seem like a large amount for a government that is blasting away at Iraq and Iraqis to the tune of $6 billion a month, especially when
[b]efore 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all."
Even so, precisely because of war costs, the corps got only $5.7 million - and that was nearly 50% more than the Shrub team wanted to give them. The result was
the corps delayed seven contracts that included enlarging the levees, according to corps documents.
And that was after a year during which a
New Orleans Times-Picayune article noted: "For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area's east bank hurricane levees." The article quoted the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Pontchartrain levee project saying that "people should know that this is a work in progress, and there's more important work yet to do before there is a complete system in place."
They knew, they knew, they knew that the hurricane protection around New Orleans was inadequate. They knew for years. They knew New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen.
[E]ngineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes. And officials have warned for years that a Category 4 could cause the levees to fail. ...

"We certainly understood the potential impact of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane" on New Orleans, Lt. General Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Thursday, Cox News Service reported.

Reuters reported that in 2004, more than 40 state, local and volunteer organizations practiced a scenario in which a massive hurricane struck and levees were breached, allowing water to flood New Orleans. Under the simulation, called "Hurricane Pam," the officials "had to deal with an imaginary storm that destroyed more than half a million buildings in New Orleans and forced the evacuation of a million residents," the Reuters report said. ...

[O]n Sunday[, the day before Katrina hit,] Placquemines Parish Sheriff Jeff Hingle referred back to Hurricane Betsy - a Category 2 hurricane that struck in 1965 - and said, "After Betsy these levees were designed for a Category 3."

He added, "These levees will not hold the water back."
And then they, despite knowing, despite have studied the possibility, watched and did nothing as a Category 5 hurricane headed for the city. (Katrina weakened to a Category 4 before making landfall.)

And let me be clear here: The "they" in question are Homeland Security and FEMA. State and local officials could perhaps have done more or done sooner but they knew going in they had no chance, that they were going to be overwhelmed.
City, state and federal emergency officials[, reported the July 24 New Orleans Times Picayune,] are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own." ...

In an interview at the opening of this year's hurricane season, New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews acknowledged that the city is overmatched.

"It's important to emphasize that we just don't have the resources to take everybody out," he said in a interview in late May.
An estimated 134,000 people were without transportation to evacuate the city and the officials openly admitted they simply did not have the ability to get them out. And they asked for help. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26 and made a formal request for federal aid on August 28, the day before the storm hit. The outrageous White House lie that everything bad that happened was because she supposedly was sluggish in asking for federal help is easily derailed: The state government's website has a copy of the letter at this link in .pdf format. (In fact, it was so outrageous that the Washington Post, which reported the assertion from an unnamed "senior White House official," had to issue a correction within a few hours.)

Oh yes, the lies. The lies. The lies while people drowned. The lies while people went without food and water for days. The lies while people sweltered, suffered, begged, waited, while they suffered and begged some more, while they moved the stinking corpses into stairwells at the convention center or left them on the street because there was nowhere to put them, while the smell, the stench, the sickness, the strain, the violence climbed around them. Oh, the lies.

The feds whined that they couldn't get into the city, couldn't get there to get people out or supplies in, even as TV news crews with their trucks got to and from the Superdome and convention center. As late as Thursday, Department of the Security of the Fatherland Secretary Michael Chertoff dismissed as "rumor" the suffering at the convention center while claiming "we are getting food and water to areas where people are staging." As late as Friday, FEMA director Michael Brown was saying that they learned about the desperate conditions at the convention center just the day before - and that though broadcast news reports. And he was still denying reports of uncollected corpses and violence! Even worse, he declared that "We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

"Lies," the Times-Picayune replied, "don't get more bald-faced than that."

And security? No problem, Brown claimed with a straight face.
I actually think the security is pretty darn good. There's some really bad people out there that are causing some problems, and it seems to me that every time a bad person wants to scream of cause a problem, there's somebody there with a camera to stick it in their face.
That is, we're just a terrific agency doing a terrific job and everything is terrific and anything you think to the contrary is all the media's fault.

Bush, of course, had to get in on the act; he couldn't let his aides have all the fun of making up crap. So he told "Good Morning America" in an interview Thursday that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." Just like no one anticipated airliners being used as weapons. That was such a whopper that it was being spun by the next day, when Brown was claiming the real thing that nobody anticipated was that the breaks would be so big and cause "such widespread devastation" - this, again, even though an exercise run just a little over a year before ("Hurricane Pam") was about exactly that prospect.

And since Brown appears to get his information from news reports rather than his own agency, maybe he saw this from AP from last May:
Officials have warned that if a major hurricane hits New Orleans, thousands of people could be killed and the city could be flooded for weeks as flood waters breach the levees ringing the city, which has the topography of a saucer that dips several feet below sea level in many places.
Lies. All lies. Or let me be clear: I hope they are lies, I hope they are just efforts at CYA and damage control to cover up their incompetence. Because if they aren't, they reflect stupidity and an indifference to human life to a degree that is truly frightening. I cling to the hope of simple lies. But it's a hope hard to maintain.

Because they knew what was coming. They had to know. Or are we really supposed to believe Chertoff when he claimed that it wasn't until just a day before landfall that they knew it was a Category 4 storm heading for New Orleans when the National Hurricane Center had predicted exactly that as early as the Friday before? What should I hope for? That they were simply that incompetent and now are just too chicken to admit how massively, ruinously, they screwed up? What's the alternative, that they simply didn't care if thousands died and acted only when the political fallout looked unpleasant? What does it say about their performance when you have to hope for incompetence and lies as a preferable explanation?

Did they care? Did they care at all? I mean about the people, not the politics. If you think they did, how could you tell? What sign could you use? Who in the administration showed a flicker of concern? Shrub, sharing a birthday cake with John McCain? Defense Secretary Donald Rumplestiltskin going to a baseball game? Secretary of State Can'tbe Right - who, when asked about accusations that the government responded slowly because many of the victims were black, said "How can that be the case?" - doing her Imelda Marcos imitation? Who?

FEMA, supposed to be the boots on the ground, sat on its collective ass for days even though Bush had issued a declaration of an emergency that gave it the authority to act. Then when it did move, it made things worse.

For one thing, it all but ignored an offer of large-scale relief assistance from the city of Chicago: Mayor Richard Daley offered to send more than 400 police, fire, and medical personnel along with dozens of trucks and two boats - and they would bring their own food, water, and supplies. FEMA accepted one truck. Period.
Daley wasn't the only generous donor to be rebuffed. Throughout last week, various local and state governments, corporations and nonprofit organizations across the nation attempted to help in the relief effort, only to be snubbed by federal officials.... [T]he Department of Homeland Security barred the American Red Cross from entering New Orleans with food. Five hundred Floridian airboaters were ready to rescue people stranded in inundated homes, but FEMA turned them down. Twenty sheriff's deputies from Loudoun County, Va., suffered a similar fate.
And if you haven't seen the video of Jefferson parish president Aaron Broussard's appearance on Meet the Press, follow the link and do it now. If it doesn't break your heart, you don't have one.
We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. ... Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. ...

We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don't give you the fuel. Yesterday - yesterday - FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines.
The only thing FEMA did well, it seems, was PR: Last Thursday, the New York Times carried a puff piece that had to be little more than a re-written FEMA press release on how all the great ways the agency supposedly has been improved "since 2001 to better prepare the nation for a possible terrorist attack was helping in this catastrophe as well," an article that sloshed together a bunch of numbers of this many thises and that many thats as if how many "logistics centers" the outfit has is the proper measure of success instead of how much materiel and personnel it could put on the ground in how short a time.
"This is an exam for everything we have done since 9/11," said James Jay Carafano, an expert on domestic security and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization.
It was, indeed - and FEMA, Security of the Fatherland, and all of the rest right up to the Shrub-in-Chief himself failed miserably.

Did they know? Did they care? Billmon at The Whiskey Bar took a look at how FEMA responded to Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan last year as they triple-whammied Florida. Then, the agency was oh so organized and really Johnny-on-the-spot, even to the point of having pre-positioned relief supplies.
FEMA officials must have been deeply gratified to see the effect their heroic efforts had in the place where they were most desperately needed - Bush's poll numbers [in Florida as the election approached]. ...

[W]hen the chips are down, and the need is absolutely dire, this administration can still deliver the kind of coordinated emergency response that once made the U.S. government the envy of the world - just as it cooly and capably protected the Iraqi Oil Ministry from the chaos and looting that trashed every other government office in post-invasion Baghdad. As is usually the case in public service, it's just a matter of having the right incentives. ...

[S]ince I'm lucky enough to live in a swing state that is also coveted by GOP political strategists, I probably don't have to worry ... that is, as long as any future disasters around my neck of the woods happen in one of those years divisible by two.
Oh, but there I go again, being political. Intellectualizing. Dealing in anger and conscience rather than gut reaction. Because, once again, the gut reaction stays inside. The tears do not come except to be quickly suppressed. As the sewage- and lead-contaminated floodwaters of New Orleans are pushed and pumped out so achingly slowly, as the next shock looms, a shock of the thousands of rotting, bloated bodies expected to be revealed as the water level drops, as some officials are saying that the city "has completely been destroyed" and some voices have even raised the possibility of not rebuilding the city at all, of just abandoning it entirely, and as the gross, foul, disgusting, inhuman, self-serving lies of those who could have done more, who could have done better, who could have acted, who knew, who knew but who just didn't care, as their lies mount a stink greater than the fetid fumes of death that reek in the streets of New Orleans but who now want to cover their tracks by preventing media from photographing the recovery of the dead, hoping such a blackout of coverage will conceal the blackness in their souls.... As it all goes on, I just - I just wish I could sing.

Footnote:, a project of MoveOn, has a website for people can offer a bed for someone evacuating from New Orleans. As of tonight, they have offers of nearly 208,000 beds. Go here to offer accommodations or if you need, or someone you can refer needs, a place.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Apparently blanching at the thought of being labeled "weak on security" or "defeatist," Dummycrats are scurrying around, looking for ways to criticize Shrub's "lack of leadership" on Iraq and the conduct of the war - without actually proposing any alternatives. This, they seem to think, is smart politics, as the Washington Post reported last week.
"Credit the Democrats for not trying to pour more gasoline on the fire, even if they're not particularly unified in their message," said Michael McCurry, a former Clinton White House press secretary. "Democrats could jump all over them and try to pin Bush down on it, but I'm not sure it would do anything but make things worse. The smartest thing for Democrats to do is be supportive."

And some argue that Democrats do not need to craft an alternative policy, deeming it better simply to let Bush struggle.
To the extent they have offered an alternative policy, it's been one of declaring Bush a wimp, as the Boston Globe noted earlier last month.
Even Democrats who have been associated with liberal positions on international affairs are calling for more troops in uniform, proposing that threats of force be used to stop nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, and pressing for potential military intervention to ease famine and oppression around the world.

The emerging message among Democrats reflects a recognition that winning congressional and presidential elections in the post-Sept. 11 era requires candidates to establish a willingness to use America's military might and keep the nation safe, according to party leaders and strategists.
Note here that not a single reference is being made to what's a good policy or what's right or wrong, what's actually helpful or damaging to any concept of justice; no, it's all about - overtly about - what wins elections, what's "smart."

And people say the Dims have no core values. I bet they're embarrassed now!

On the other hand, is this "smart politics?" Because of a request for information from an acquaintance, just the other day I was looking at some recent polls, which, taken together, indicate that Americans are increasingly distressed about the war in Iraq, even though they haven't yet come to a clear conclusion as to what to do about it. However, while the "stay the course" 'cause "you break it, you bought it" mentality being embraced by what passes for liberal Democrats these days (e.g., Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry - although he at least can say that he was saying it a year ago) has something of a following, it's not nearly as strong as the Dums seem to think (or want to claim). "Beyond the beltway" is more ticked off about the war than the cowardly politicos of our non-opposition party seem to realize - or want to hear.

For one thing, people consistently say, in one way or another, that it would have been better if the war had never happened:
CBS News poll, August 29-31
- Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out? Should have stayed out, 49% - 45%

CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, August 28-30
- In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not? Mistake, 54% - 46%

ABC News/Washington Post poll, August 25-28
- All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not? Not Worth Fighting, 53% - 46%

Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs, August 22-24
- All in all, thinking about how things have gone in Iraq since the United States went to war there in March 2003, do you think the United States made the right decision in going to war in Iraq or made a mistake in going to war in Iraq? Mistake, 53% - 43%
What's more, they're not happy with the results so far:
CBS News poll
- Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not? Not worth it, 61% - 33%

- As a result of U.S. military action against Iraq, do you think the threat of terrorism against the United States has increased, decreased, or stayed about the same? Increased, 40%; Decreased, 16%, Stayed the same, 42%

ABC/Washington Post poll
- Again thinking about the goals versus the costs of the war, so far in your opinion has there been an acceptable or unacceptable number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq? Unacceptable, 68% - 30%

- Do you think the United States is or is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq? Is not, 50% - 48%

AP/Ipsos poll
- Has the military action in Iraq increased the threat of terrorism around the world, decreased the threat of terrorism around the world, or had no effect on the threat of terrorism? Increased, 50%; Decreased, 20%; No effect, 28%

The Harris Poll. August 9-16
- Do you think the invasion of Iraq strengthened or weakened the war on terrorism? Weakened, 48% - 44%

- Do you think the invasion of Iraq has helped to protect the United States from another terrorist attack or not? Has not, 58% - 38%

- Do you think the invasion of Iraq, and recent events in Iraq, have made the United States much more respected, somewhat more respected, somewhat less respected, or much less respected around the world? More respected, 27%; Less respected, 68% [Results not further broken down]
When the question becomes where to go from here, opinions become muddier and dissatisfaction turns into some combination of determination, fatalism, and fury. When the AP/Ipsos poll gave people the stark choice of keeping troops in Iraq "until the situation has stabilized" versus bringing them home "immediately," people went for the former by a margin of 60% - 37%. When the ABC/Washington Post poll asked essentially the same question without the word "immediately," sticking it out still was preferred by 54% - 44%. And when that same poll asked if the US should set a deadline for withdrawal (in a question which said "others say" that setting a deadline "would only encourage the anti-government insurgents"), by a margin of 59% - 39% respondents said no.

However, as is often true, a lot seems to depend on how the question is phrased. Harris asked about withdrawing but without characterizing the responses or by suggesting that certain answers were endorsements of certain arguments. The question was "Do you favor keeping a large number of U.S. troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there OR bringing most of our troops home in the next year?" In that case, "bring them home" was the big winner; the margin was 61% - 36%.

What all this adds up to, it seems to me, is that Americans want things to work out for Iraqis, hope things work out, and feel an obligation to help, but want our government to be working on ways to extricate ourselves. While they're unhappy about the casualties, what they really fear is the very real prospect of this just dragging on without accomplishing anything. Thus, they're wary of deadlines but do want the troops out relatively quickly.

That becomes more obvious when people are given more choices. For example, CBS gave people four options about what to do now: increase the number of troops in Iraq, keep the same level, decrease the number, or remove them all. The results were: Increase, 14%; Stay the same, 25%; Decrease, 26%; Remove all, 29%. When CNN/USA Today/Gallup asked essentially the same question about what to do now - and it's important to note that both questions did use the word "now" - the answers came back: More troops, 19%; Same number as now, 26%; Withdraw some of them, 27%; Withdraw all of them, 26%.

The fact that the results match as closely as they do increases confidence that they accurately reflect actual opinion, which means that a definite majority of Americans want at least some troops brought home now. And, operating under the I think entirely reasonable assumption that there is no point to calling for withdrawing some troops now except as a first step leading to subsequent withdrawals, it seems clear that the same majority wants us to get out of Iraq with the only question being over what span of time - and a significant minority is already declaring "Out Now!"

We are the majority. It's an odd feeling.

Meanwhile, the Dums, despite Bush's failings and flailings, can't seem to get much traction with their criticism sans alternative approach; in fact, Congressional Democrats in polls have ranked even lower than Shrub. Maybe they should check this result from the ABC/Washington Post poll:
Do you think Democrats in Congress have gone too far or not far enough in opposing the war in Iraq? Not far enough, 53% - 37%
There's an old saying that "you can't beat somebody with nobody." And for many people, the Dummycrats, quite legitimately, add up to one being goose egg.
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