Friday, November 30, 2007

Voter fraud snipe hunt

"Everytime someone says, 'Show me the fraud,' there isn't any," said Coleman.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This piece first appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on November 11, 2007.
Flipping through channels last week, I caught the tail end of the 1982 movie, “Poltergeist.” It’s still unnerving decades later. Childhood terrors come to life: monsters in the closet, outside the window, under the bed. In one scene, JoBeth Williams runs to her screaming children, but in helpless slow motion as their bedroom door recedes impossibly before her.

Watching the rerun of the Bush administration’s war-starting strategy — this time featuring Iran — feels like those slow-motion nightmares.

We charge Iran with interfering in Iraq. They’ve supported fellow Shiites there since the days when the United States supplied Saddam Hussein with chemicals, but no matter.

We charge Iran with smuggling weapons across their border with Iraq. The U.S. smuggled Stinger missiles to mujahideen halfway around the world in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, but no matter.

Determined hawks

One influential hawk among many, National Review’s Michael Ledeen, insists a state of war with Iran has existed since 1979. Ledeen helped the Reagan administration transfer weapons to the Iran he repeatedly claims we were at war with, but no matter.

In “The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know” in the recent Esquire, two former Bush State Department Middle East policy experts outline their post-Sept. 11, 2001, discussions with Iranian diplomats. “Iran was ready to cooperate unconditionally,” Esquire reports. The Bush administration was not — is not — interested in diplomacy, but no matter.

The executive branch players reprise roles they made famous, pre-Iraq. President Bush warns of “nuclear holocaust.” Vice President Cheney threatens Iran with “serious consequences.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Iran of “lying” to inspectors about its nuclear programs.

It doesn’t take a quarterback to see that the administration is running the same play again. Against Iran and against us.

Trumping up a case

They’ve been wrong about everything from weapons of mass destruction to Iraqi “dead-enders” to de-Baathification, Hurricane Katrina and Harriet Miers, but no matter. Regimes must be changed. Wars must be started. Reasons will be found.

In February, a story in London’s Telegraph newspaper reported that more than 100 .50-caliber Steyr-Mannlicher sniper rifles had been captured during American raids in Iraq. The weapons shipped to Iran in 2005 were now in use against U.S. troops, claimed the Telegraph’s anonymous source.

These formidable-looking Austrian weapons can take off a man’s head at a mile. Austrian native Arnold Schwarzenegger might wield one in the movies. What a jim-dandy backdrop for a press conference 100 would make, a picture worth a thousand words.

But no photos of the captured weapons appeared in any newspapers — only shots from Steyr’s online catalog. Skeptics asked if the serial numbers matched the weapons shipped to Iran, and the tale of the unseen rifles died overnight.

“Explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs) star in this year’s sequel too. Military briefers told reporters that the armor-piercing roadside bombs require machining too sophisticated for Iraqis. They had been manufactured in Iran.

“We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” a senior U.S. military official told the New York Times in February.

Days later, a Los Angeles Times op-ed article cited a November 2006 raid on a Baghdad machine shop producing EFP components. Earlier reports of Iraqi EFP factories surfaced, and more questions. Military spokesmen backed away from earlier claims, prompting suggestions that the allegations against Iran had been manufactured. Bush called those suggestions “preposterous.”

Congress can stop this

These anecdotes don’t disprove Iranian weapons are reaching Iraq. Some indeed may. But these examples cast a cloud over tales — especially regarding Iranian nuclear programs — used to justify a disastrous new “preemptive” war by the same people who produced the last one.

Congress has the power to stop it. But despite receiving the voters’ mandate last November — to exercise its duty to flex its own constitutional war and oversight powers — Congress shies like an abused child who fears slaps and name-calling for doing so.

Hoping to wait out a reckless and power-hungry White House until November 2008 is itself reckless, as it is unconscionable.

Presidential spokesmen and candidates warn that a nuclear-armed Iran will destabilize the region. But that mission is already accomplished. Another American pre-emptive war will destabilize it further, and quicker.

Like a slow-motion nightmare, we watch it unfolding just as it did in 2002 and 2003. We scream warnings, but our leaders do not hear us.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Water Woes

Uptown Ruler takes note of the Southeast's water woes, highlighted in Orme, TN. (Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)
The Associated Press reports “As twilight falls over this Tennessee town, Mayor Tony Reames drives up a dusty dirt road to the community’s towering water tank and begins his nightly ritual in front of a rusty metal valve.

With a twist of the wrist, he releases the tank’s meager water supply, and suddenly this sleepy town is alive with activity. Washing machines whir, kitchen sinks fill and showers run.

About three hours later, Reames will return and reverse the process, cutting off water to the town’s 145 residents.

The severe drought tightening like a vise across the Southeast has threatened the water supply of cities large and small, sending politicians scrambling for solutions. But Orme, about 40 miles west of Chattanooga and 150 miles northwest of Atlanta, is a town where the worst-case scenario has already come to pass: The water has run out.
The mayor wonders what the 4.5 million people in Atlanta will do. I had my own perspective on the problem:
As Dreyfuss once said, “Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper!” But for Atlanta, anyway, it wasn’t a shark or the drought either. It was overdevelopment.

The drought just precipitated the crisis that’s been a long time coming. Atlanta’s been sucking hard on the Flint River Aquifer for years without regard to what sprawl was doing to the water supply.

“Heavens, we can’t tell developers no. That would interfere with their personal freedom and right to put their land to its ‘highest and best use’.”

In 1998, I put in a wastewater neutralization system for a lens coating operation in an office park in Alfalfa-retta, north of Atlanta. I asked what the small out-building was at the edge of the parking lot. The Culligan rep told me it was a well house (in an upscale office park!).

He knew clients (including hospitals) drilling wells all over Atlanta because the Metropolitan Sewer District wouldn’t let people use all the water they wanted (both because of the MSD infrastructure capacity and water source limits, I think). So they were drilling their own wells to get unmetered water.

I was on the edge of another client’s lawsuit in Duluth Buford, GA, in 1999 when the county Fulton reneged on its water contract to supply the water needed for a new, water-heavy manufacturing operation we helped design.

The drought is just the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. The Flint River Aquifer has been under strain for a decade as Atlanta keeps growing, the developers keep developing, and the water supply keeps shrinking.

It was only a matter of time before the taps started running dry. Nobody listens. Nobody cares. Anyone who raises the alarm is an anti-business kook.

For years, I’ve wondered when we’d start seeing bumper stickers that said, “Suppose they gave a subdivision and nobody came?”

Maybe soon, now.
Then from today's LA Times:
But experts say the Southeast’s struggles over water resources are far from over.

“What was not on the table, and what has got to be on the table, is Atlanta’s unrestricted growth and cavalier attitude to water use,” said Sally Bethea, executive director of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a watchdog group.

[. . .]

“Atlanta is a greedy, poorly designed behemoth of a city incapable of hearing the word ‘no’ and dealing with it,” said a recent editorial in the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times.

The editorial said Atlanta’s “politicians can’t bring themselves to tell their greedy constituents complaining about the low flows in their toilets this week that perhaps if they didn’t have six bathrooms, it might ease the situation a bit.”

There is sowing, and then there is reaping.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sandbox Rules

Dave Neiwert of Orcinus began a series this week, "The Politics of the Personal," over at Campaign for America's Future. Part 1 describes his journey from growing up in Idaho in a Republican working class family, to rejecting that ideology. But there's enough caution to go around for all:
A basic realization took shape, perhaps typical of the age, but it has persisted: even though I had always believed (and still do to some extent) upper-class and urban liberals are prone to indulging a paper-thin compassion that more resembles a parlor game rationalized with a tortuous intellectualism, it was also clear that conservatives, conversely, were fond of wrapping themselves in my old-fashioned, working-class values (along with the American flag, of course) even as they systematically undermined the ability of ordinary, working-class people to make a decent living and obtain equal opportunity.

[. . .]

I simultaneously came to almost instinctively mistrust ideologues of all stripes because it seems that to them, ideas are more important than people. This observation arose first out of personal experience, since ideologues are often likely to reject friendships with those who don't think like them or fit their ideologies. I might be able to maintain a relationship with an ideologue (right or left) for awhile, but inevitably, they would reject me because I didn't fit the pure mold they had in mind. People who disagree with them or challenge them assault their egos and are placed out of their personal realms. This dynamic – valuing ideas above people -- played out on the larger stage as well; indeed, it’s virtually a guarantee that when ideologues act out their ideologies, in both national politics and everyday interpersonal dealings, ordinary people in real life are harmed.
You see it at both ends of the ideological spectrum, as I've written myself after encountering liberal activists who wouldn't give pro-life Democrats the time of day:
It has been obvious to me for some time that the further right and the further left one goes in the political spectrum, the more alike conservatives and liberals become. They don't think the same things, but they begin thinking the same way: rigid, dogmatic and intolerant. They just don't see themselves that way: "You must mean those people."
Dave, who has followed the "eliminationist" trend in America for some time, also wanders, as I have, into exploring the mindset(s) behind the American Right. Dave, Digby and others have been puzzling over the coverage of Hillary Clinton's appearance at Wellesley -- for playing the "gender card" -- by the boys' club that unashamedly gushes over their favorite candidates' manliness. As Digby puts it:
Indeed, the entire Republican campaign strategy can be said to be one big gender card --- the only people they believe matter in this country are delicate, insecure creatures who are so sensitive that they have to be pampered and pandered to like a bunch of overfed princes who like to play cowboy and don't want to share their favorite binky.
Even more fascinating is Orcinus' Sara Robinson's take on fundamentalist/Right Wing Authoritarian ideology that traps people "somewhere around the age of five or six":
They also have to give up on adult-level emotional functioning (which, as I mentioned, may be welcomed as something of a relief after adult life has blown up under you a few times). Authoritarian followers crave someone who will keep things ordered and safe, someone who will provide and protect and set firm rules and boundaries; someone all-powerful and all-knowing who can teach you right from wrong and keep the harsh parts of the world at bay. Someone, in short, who looks like Daddy looked when you were about five years old.

RWAs would far rather curl up in Daddy's lap -- even if it means abandoning reason and taking the occasional spanking -- than try to deal with the world by themselves, on adult terms. This is also why RWA family and community relationships (as Lakoff has explained) are necessarily hierarchical. These people still need parents around, because they don't feel emotionally safe without the presence of a strong authority figure. Egalitarian relationships terrify them, because there's nobody in charge to make the rules and set the boundaries that keep people from hurting each other. And that's damned scary, because (as masters of projection) they're quite sure that everybody else in the whole world is also still five years old and playing by sandbox rules. Without a playground supervisor in charge, they know for sure that somebody will get hurt.
It takes us full-circle to the Bush joke that went around the Net awhile back. As Digby put it:
Avedon Carol snares a great quote that finally cleared something up for me: why does Bush always sound like he's talking to five year olds?
"He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him." - Graydon Carter
All well and good. Now, what do we do with this information that will help us set this country right again? How do we elect leaders who will lift us out of the sandbox in Iraq and the political sandbox Washington has become?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why are we not surprised?

From this morning's WaPo:
In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid "physical labor" and wrote of the need to "keep elevating the threat," "link Iraq to Iran" and develop "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.
Regarding the president's nominee for AG, Mr. Mukasey, today's NYT editorial weighs in:
Mr. Gonzales resigned after his extraordinary incompetence became too much for even loyal Republicans. Now Mr. Bush wants the Senate to confirm Michael Mukasey, a well-respected trial judge in New York who has stunned us during the confirmation process by saying he believes the president has the power to negate laws and by not committing himself to enforcing Congressional subpoenas. He also has suggested that he will not uphold standards of decency during wartime recognized by the civilized world for generations.

After a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Mr. Mukasey refused to detail his views on torture, he submitted written answers to senators’ questions that were worse than his testimony. They suggest that he, like Mr. Gonzales, would enable Mr. Bush’s lawless behavior and his imperial attitude toward Congress and the courts.
Just another day at the Ministry of Truth.