Progressive Programmer

Progressive Politics or idle geek banter. What's on my mind when I'm irked, intrigued, bored or up too late.

Location: Michigan, United States


These aren't the droids you're looking for

Atrios points us to Digby's riff on the punditocracy's unwavering belief in Democratic Eunuchs somehow being the path to Democratic glory.

But it is really the path to Democratic defeat. The path that Republicans and pundits obsessively attempt to keep Democrats on, in order to re-reinforce the meme of Democratic weakness in the face of Republican supremacy.

All of it is bullshit, really. But Digby is right to point to it as one of the principle self-fulfilling prophecies that emanates from the Washington bubble despite the waves of contradictory evidence bombarding that bubble from all across the nation.

Washington thinks Democrats are the perfect feckless foil to Republican dominance. A nuissance on the way to Republican victories. A blip of mindless droids so near the edge of the elite radar as to be worth mentioning only in passing while elevating Republican talking points and legislation to a point of pre-assumed, common-knowledge-in-the-Beltway fact. The Democrats are not to speak until spoken to, and Digby hits the builders of this Democratic corral over the head:
The conventional wisdom in DC has now ossified into a reflexive notion that Democrats must do nothing. Ever. They must hold back and say nothing when the Republicans are on top and they must hold back and say nothing when they are on the ropes.


Feingold broke this rule and those who are beginning to line up behind him should be commended for returning a touch of honor to a body that prefers free plane trips and speechifying to helpful policy or true service to their constituency. Party is everything, and the party in power at this time won't even let Democratic legislation come to the floor without Republican co-sponsorship. So yes, in government today, there *is* but one voice. There are others, but they are rarely allowed to be heard. There are others, but the talking heads guffaw when they start to voice actual Democratic opinion.

Feingold broke the meme and kept the NSA spying controversy in the spotlight. Regardless of whether it passes, which is as unlikely as its not passing is unfortunate for our country, Feingold can wave his hand in pride, telling members of his party and the DC Establishment once and for all that he and his censure supporters are done playing along. Feingold and those that would stand up with him are yelling at the top of their lungs that what George W. Bush has broken the law. They yell that Bush is still breaking the law and that at least some Democrats are not the droids the establishment is looking for.

Those that are looking for Democrats to play the unwritten part of the oft-prophecied meme should simply move along. Censure supporters are not the droids they're looking for.

Move along.

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


Greenwald for Dummies

Which is to say, that you would have to be a dummy to not see what Greenwald is saying about your rights being swept under a faux legislative carpet.

If the actions of the President are unconstitutional, and the law designed to protect the President's right to do something unconstitutional is unconstitutional, then what are we left with besides a weaker constitution?

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


Get Your Public Out of My Republican Empire!

While a recent commenter would love to ignore polls wholeheartedly, in the immortal worlds of Hannibal Lecter upon learning of what "Multiple Miggs" had said to Clarice Starling, "I myself, cannot".

American Research Group is out with a new poll that is popping up all over the place, including mcjoan's post at DailyKos.

Do you favor or oppose the United States Senate passing a resolution censuring President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders?

3/15/06      Favor   Oppose   Undecided

All Adults
   46%     44%      10%

Voters        48%     43%       9%

Republicans   29%     57%      14%

Democrats     70%     26%       4%

Independents  42%     47%      11%

I'm not sure why Feingold is still considered a kook by Republican commentators and supposed journalists. A few more Democrats have come out in favor of censure, and I commend them for that. Though, quite a few Democrats still have some splaining to do. I do enjoy this take from Jeffrey Feldman over at Kos, however that claims the resolution has put the Republicans in the midst of a situation where they do not control the frame of the discussion. Perhaps.

But no amount of bloviating by either side will change the simple fact that Bush has actively, willingly broken the law. It will not change the fact that Bush continues to actively, willingly break the law. And it will not change the fact that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee--tasked with legislative oversight of these very policies--is just fine and dandy with Bush actively, willingly breaking the law.

Funny, however, that even 29% of Republicans aren't buying any of the bunk-ass logic put forth by the Administration and its enablers. If we have a President that is above the law, even under the guise of War Time (a war longer than WWII and with no definitive enemy), and we have a legislature unwilling to cry foul and a judiciary unwilling to pull back the reins when given the opportunity to address the situation, the power of the people is all that remains intact. If the people aren't all on board with the status quo, then get the people out of the picture?

Maybe that's why we see HR 4900 garnering support?

I shudder to think.

p.s. Blogger/Blogspot is hosed tonight. This post might not ever see the light of day. I couldn't recover a number of great links because so many blogs were beyond my grasp. I have both Good Night and Good Luck and A History of Violence burning a whole in my tabletop so I can't wait around forever. Glenn Greenwald and Digby did a one-two on the NSA/Censure that puts everyone to shame (in terms of quality and content, alike) so fish around there if this whole Internets thing starts functioning again at blogspot.

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


The 10 Trillion Dollar Man-child

10 Trillion Dollars, come on Bush, you can do it! Break that $10 Trillion barrier!

It's the tax cuts, Stupid!

Now, Bush will tell you that the tax cuts will stimulate the economy, and he very well might have some justification to make such an argument. The problem is that any gains are more than offset by the loss in revenue. So, we have to raise our debt ceiling again, and things get worse and worse.

Mimikatz at The Next Hurrah sums up our pain:
In the four and a half years of the Bush Presidency, he and the Republican Congress have added $2.463 trillion to the debt, bringing it to almost $8,270,900,000, 000, an increase of 40% in less than five years. The current debt ceiling is $8.184 trillion. There is talk of raising it to $9.65 trillion, even though President Bush promised to halve the budget deficit (the yearly contribution to the cumulative debt) by one half by the time he leaves office.

My guess is they'll try to tout a figure like: (annual deficit / total debt) has DECREASED under Bush.

Which is like arguing that each year I live is shorter than the year before, because I'm older.

Without Bush's tax cuts, 2005 would have been a surplus year. Yikes.

SOOoo glad this wasn't an issue in the '04 election. Deficits are so complicated and all. Too bad the topic is arguably a national security issue, a health care issue, a retirement issue and a love-thy-children issue all balled up into a neat little package. Bush hasn't vetoed a bill and has both houses of congress, and the $4 Trillion plus he seems hell bent on adding to our debt in order to keep tax cuts for his precious, wealthy "base" needs to be slung around the neck of every Republican candidate from now until November.

(Mimikatz link courtesy of kos)

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


The GOP Straw Poll, sponsored by MSNBC

Ok, so MSNBC/Hardball is seriously pimping the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Interesting, however, that the article refers to the event only as a "three-day gathering of Republican activists from 37 states". I had to go to the Wapo to get the official name of the event.

Anyway, the cover page at MSNBC right now is priceless. So I offer the opportunity to caption it.

Here's mine: The Power of Christ Compels You! The Power of Christ Compels You!

Ok, 1 more: Even though Frist came out on top, the gathering was abuzz with talk of Frist's attempt to use The Force to yank a microphone away from Sen John McCain (R-AZ).

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


What's so civil about war, anyway?

A co-worker of mine and I often chat about politics. We don't work directly with each other, and don't even work in the same building anymore, but since long before the Iraq war, we have talked via email, while having a cigarette, instant messaging... We each take great joy in sending a link to the other, attempting to prove our own points, knowing full well that the other will simply not budge.

He the die-hard, Bush-loving Republican that believes in smaller government and the Bush Doctrine, and I the Union-raised liberal that thinks government should help make everyone's lives better without playing favorites and that the Bush Doctrine was sold on false pretenses and didn't play out well at all.

Aside from revealing my affection for a certain late 80's/early 90's metal band, my title is a genuine question.

What is civil about it?

And, more to my point, what is the definition of Civil War?

I hadn't even tought about it until my Republican friend sent me a link (which I have lost, but it was to NewsBusters if I can be as fair as I can be here) claiming that the media was knowingly overstating the risks of all out civil war in Iraq. I hadn't seen the site before, but it seems to be either the answer to, or predecessor of, MediaMatters. Anyways...

I skimmed the article, and then said, "Define civil war". I hadn't thought about it much at that point, other than to think of our own civil war, but definitions can be troubling sometimes, injecting one's own views or slants etc., so I figured I would ask.

I hope he'll not mind my quoting his response: "Countrymen fighting countrymen."

Now, I jumped on this, of course, because if this were true, it would mean that Iraq had been in a civil war since 2003. I pointed out an article something like this one that told of the Administration knowing since late 2003 that the insurgency was locally-fed, and not primarily fueled bands of foreign fighters. But I do believe there are some foreign-born factions in the Iraqi insurgency, and I always have. So how should that fact play into the determination of whether Iraq is in a civil war?

I said that I felt that the definition needed to be qualified in some way. Imagining a civil war like our own, men lining up against each other and killing each other in massive fields of battle just does not seem likely, perhaps ever again in any war we might be a party to. There was some sort of qualifier missing from this definition, I thought.

So what is it about a situation in a country that makes it a true state of civil war?

We chatted a bit longer and traded more barbs, as we always do, but the question stuck with me until tonight.

Enter Wikipedia's page on the subject:
A civil war is a war in which parties within the same country or empire struggle for national control of state power. As in any war, the conflict may be over other matters such as religion, ethnicity, or distribution of wealth. Some civil wars are also categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict. An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles. Other historians state the criteria for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not). In simple terms, a Civil War is a war in which a country fights another part of itself.

Not to use a cop-out, but it appears everyone is right.

My friend was right when he said "Countrymen fighting countrymen". I was right when I tried to imagine a more conventional war. Some historians use broad terms, and some require a specific form of battle. Judging from the 250 edits that page has undergone in 2006 alone, perhaps the definition will change by tomorrow.

But if the only difference between a civil war and an insurgency is the semantic preferences of the historian in question, why the big debate over whether this is a civil war? Seems to me that everyone is right, and everyone in Iraq is still in one hell of a mess.

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention

And now for two things completely different (from each other)

First, a post over at Crisis Papers (via Smirking Chimp). Many many people, including my favorites Brad Blog and Cannonfire, write a great deal about the simple and maddening question of why the Electronic Voting companies refuse to do a few things that are just plain common sense. Here's one example
The e-voting manufacturers also make ATM machines and automated gas pumps, both of which produce paper receipts. Yet they steadfastly resist demands that their "touch screen" voting machines produce printouts, which might then serve to validate the accuracy of the votes.

What's up w/ that? Anyone?

Second, have I mentioned that I am absolutely enamored with the simplicity and utility of I am. You don't even have to sign up to get the coolness. Add your feeds, move them around. Use little widgets to interact with disparate sites. It's like an RSS Aggregator, without the clunky thing running in my system tray and throwing weird errors. Anyway, I didn't sign up at first, and had been using it for a few months, and somehow I lost my data (cookie based, presumably). Poof, gone. So sign up so you don't lose your data and can hit it from any computer! The only thing they ask for is your email and you're done and arranging your page and adding your feeds and widgets. Excellent.

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


Three Rolls of Fear (duct tape for the ages)

On February 10, 2003, then US Fire Administrator, David Paulison, and then Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, advised me to purchase enough duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal all the windows in my home. I was also to have enough food and water for three days and a battery-powered radio so as to stay news-aware in the event of a power outage.

We had already overthrown the Taliban and begun to turn Afghanistan towards a better path. Bin Laden was on the run but would be captured at any moment. I was certain we would get Bin Laden--not a doubt in my mind. But Al Qaeda operated in cells. Living in a military-heavy state, I rationalized why an enemy of the United States might target our area. If a base was the target, depending on the weapon and wind conditions, my family could fall victim, and reducing the chances of that had to be my goal.

The aim was to keep the bio-terror weapons out, and my still-inside family safe and sound. Al Qaeda could purchase, steal, build or otherwise acquire a weapon of unspeakable power, unleashing a cloud of deadly gas or radiation capable of wiping out entire towns. These meager household items could give my family a fighting chance, and all Americans were urged to stock up.

Having a daughter in my wife's womb and a brand new house and no family within 500 miles, I was reticent to ignore the warning. If my government was telling me that things were this bad, who was I to question? Who was I to NOT do something so simple that could end up saving so much? Those Al Qaeda bastards weren't going to get MY family. My co-workers and I, all married for under 3 years at that point, looked at each other with dropped shoulders, dazed. The protective instinct was beginning to well up in all of us, and it was not an easy thing to address.

I drove to my favorite home improvement store, convinced I needed a boatload of plastic and duct tape and, most-importantly, a large enough bin to label accordingly and house the lot. "The bin is critical", I told my wife as she waddled down the cement-floored aisles. The bin was key. We needed to put everything we needed in one place, easily accessible and ready for anything. We bought 4 gallons of water, a huge roll of plastic, 1 battery-powered radio, and 3 rolls of duct tape (I had a partial roll already, and honestly, 3 rolls of duct tape goes a long way). Even though our house was two stories, I didn't have a ladder, but "I could seal the windows on the inside", I thought to myself.

Can you imagine? Just over 18 months earlier, we were hit by Al Qaeda on a horrifying, unprecedented scale. The imagery of that day still haunted me. The towers. The Pentagon. My mother's workplace being evacuated. The frantic calls from hijacked planes to family and 911 (I noticed the date's cruel symbolism immediately upon hearing of the second plane). Bin Laden. The desperation and the fear. People leaping from the burning towers knowing it might IMPROVE their own death.

As these thoughts raced through my head, a sense of helplessness was overwhelming. I tried to envision myself on a fateful day where MY town was falling victim. Where MY family was faced with such a crisis and had one meager shot at survival. To seal ourselves in before the killer fog crept towards our cul de sac. To survive only on what was already IN the house.

I expected that I would be the only one to protect us. I needed to be ready for anything, and if I wasn't it would be my own naivete that killed us all. I considered how much cash to have on hand in case the power was out for an extended period of time or the banking system was disrupted. I thought of making a plan with my wife on where to meet up if something happened. I thought of how we could make our way to family if law and order fell apart. How would we have enough gas? How would we eat? How could we bring a child into this? How would any of it matter if I didn't have the final piece of invasion protection?

I thought of purchasing a gun.

Terrified, but trying to be strong. Hawkish, but trying to keep myself informed. I devoured the news. I was trying to understand what it was, exactly, that Iraq was up to? I struggled to concentrate at work. I hit refresh on every 10 minutes. every 5. I read the public portions of religiously. My car radio never left NPR. If I wasn't watching Aaron Brown I was watching Bill O'Reilley. Hardball was must-see TV. From all of this, I knew Saddam was a bad dude, but I still came up empty on seeing the urgency.

Until France and the UN started telling us we were wrong. Until they started telling us what we could and could not do, I was willing to give Iraq the benefit of the doubt, and let the weapons inspectors finish their work. Then I knew it was France and other members of the UN who were weak. They weren't willing to do what it took. Tony Blair could always put things into context where Bush was unable. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice told us how bad Saddam really was. I distinctly remember listening to Cheney on NPR explaining the aluminum tubes. Bush himself spoke of Saddam going after uranium in Africa.

Given the circumstances, we didn't have a choice. What was France's problem, anyway?

On March 16, 2003, my still-pregnant wife and I went to dinner. Mexican food. One of our favorite places. By the time we came back the United States of America had started attacking Iraq. Bush went on television and informed the people. It had begun.

At first it was oddly, ashamedly exciting. The Press had been "embedded" with troops and were riding along in armored vehicles, BROADCASTING as they went! Missiles flew. Tracers sliced up the night. Planes and tanks and troops and weapons of all sorts for which the Iraqis simply had no equal. The frantic search for the Weapons of Mass Destruction was already underway, and we would find them sure as shi* and show those Frogs what for!


As I write this, it is just over 3 years from the announcement that made me go out and buy duct tape.

The terror alert level was raised 5 times nationally and twice partially, one of which lasted from Aug 1, 2004 to Nov 10, 2004. Interesting time frame.

Afghanistan is essentially one city in the center of the world's biggest poppy field. Bin Laden and his number two are still on the loose, producing videos.

We have not been attacked again, but our troops are attacked multiple times every day in Iraq by newly-created terrorists. Saddam is on trial, but we have found no WMD. The Uranium story was fake, and the Administration outted a CIA agent because her husband dared make note of it. The aluminum tubes could have been for anything. We went for WMD but went straight for the oil, leaving tons of high-explosives free for the taking.

The bombing of a holy site in Iraq has spawned higher levels of violence that have left hundreds dead in days and Iraq under curfew, near martial law.

Memos have exposed how Iraq was a done deal since at least July of 2002. Multiple intelligence officers have explained that they were selectively listened to, but the Senate stalls on its report into fixed intelligence. The Senate and House have both complained that the intelligence they were given before Iraq was incomplete, but Republican control quashes any possible investigations.

We were told we were fighting for our freedoms and our American way of life. But we now actively torture and rape prisoners. We spy on Americans illegally for four years and then go back and fix the law to make it legal. We let pharmaceutical companies write Medicare laws and oil companies write energy policy. We claim democracy is the way to peace but use war to force the democracy in.

Just two weeks ago, Dick Cheney shot his lobbyist friend in the face and wondered what all the fuss was about. Cheney lied about an Iraq/Al-Qaeda connection and wondered what all the fuss was about. Halliburton gets no-bid contracts in Iraq and he wonders what all the fuss is about. He lied in the Veep debate and wondered what all the fuss was about. He helped direct the outting of a covert CIA agent and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Now, President Bush wants to allow a company owned by the United Arab Emirates run many of our busiest ports in some of our largest cities, and HE wonders what all the fuss is about. Why are the words Trojan and Horse coming to mind? If Bush isn't afraid of letting a country whose banking system has helped fund terrorism schedule all of the shipping containers that come in and out of Newark, what the hell IS he afraid of?

Bush isn't divorced from reality. The two have never even held hands or had a one night stand, much less a failed marriage.

So, I'm not afraid of terrorists anymore. They will probably hit us again. And people will die. We might try to stop them, but eventually they'll get us. This is not me being defeatist. This is me being realistic. Afghanistan had the support of the world, but Iraq was nothing more than an oil grab wrapped in a vendetta wound up in the military-industrial behemoth our leaders are trying to keep well-fed. The Bush Administration has wound up inspiring so many more terrorists with his unnecessary and self-defeating policies, the War on Terror is more of a War to Generate More Terrorism. America is the victim of a cruel and unusual bait-and-switch.

I'm not afraid anymore, and so I will not be needing so much duct tape. My bin, so crucial to my family's survival almost three years ago, sits in my garage loaded with sporting equipment and a rooftop luggage carrier. We drank the water. Most of the plastic sheeting is covered in splotches of paint from use as a drop-cloth.

These other things were useful, but the duct tape? I'm no MacGyver, and I really don't have many ducts anyway.

I never did buy that gun.

No, I'm not afraid of terrorism anymore. I'm afraid of economics. I'm afraid of a declining housing market and stagnant wages. I'm afraid of outsourcing and I'm afraid of losing my job in a quest for synergy. I'm afraid of having a Master's Degree and having to work two jobs to make half of what I do now. I'm afraid of a minimum wage in place since 1997. I'm afraid of the fact that I can't afford to contribute to my retirement or my children's college fund. I'm frightened that my health insurance expenses went up 18% on January 1st when inflation was not even 1/4 of that. I'm afraid of getting sick and not being able to afford the medical bills, and I'm afraid of the same thing for my retired parents and in-laws. I'm afraid of China and a weakened dollar. I'm afraid of oil being traded in Euros and I'm afraid of an inverted yield curve. I'm afraid of my variable rate mortgage and I'm afraid of my car payment and I'm afraid of gas going back up over $2.50/gallon. I'm afraid of the price tag for the Iraq war. I'm afraid of the trade deficit and terrified of the budget deficit. I'm mortified by the thought of three more years of George W. Bush and worried some other Republican might be able to win in 2008 by rekindling the fear card fire. I'm afraid of all of these things, and duct tape won't do a thing against any of them. Duct tape isn't what I need, money is.

And so, their original purpose nullified by common sense and a Bush Who Cried Wolf, I offer these 3 Rolls of Fear as a souvenir to the highest bidder. I offer the molded fruit of Republican labors to make me afraid for my life and the life of my family.

I can assure you their quality is unsurpassed by any other duct tape product. Manufactured by 3M under the Scotch brand, these rolls of duct tape would last the occasional duct tape user perhaps 50 years. A stunning silver-metallic hue, each roll is still completely intact. Packaging was removed after original purchase to minimize reaction time in the event of a terrorist strike, but no further damage has been done. LIKE NEW, as they say.

The return on investment would be fantastic. You will have a conversation piece quite unlikely to have an equal anywhere in the world. You will have duct tape for years to come. You will have a tangible reminder of a difficult and painful period of fear that rolled into the United States in the wake of 9/11, a fear stoked for political reasons and quashed by logic and reality. And you will have the recurring sense of pride in how you helped my family and I cast off a reminder of our ginned-up fear of terrorism and face our economic fears head on.

Update: Cross-posted in a diary at DailyKos, and in a diary at BoomanTribune, and still available on eBay. Many will get the point, but only one can get the tape.

Update 2: Hearty welcome to folks coming in from BuzzFlash

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention