Archive for January 18th, 2007

Another stupid question

by Jay Stevens 

Recently Craig, as is his wont, posed a straw-man rhetorical question designed to make those against the war look stupid:

Really, as you know, it’s the only kind I ask, but I thought it worth “throwing out there.”

On more than one site, I have read the proposition that if we withdraw from Iraq, then suddenly, all will be sunshine and roses and peace will reign throughout the region.

My question is this: What specific event(s) in the past, say, 1000 years would lead someone to that conclusion?

When pressed, Craig would not – or could not – find one such claim.

So I looked around and found one…sort of…from Notorious Mark T: “A Veteran’s Call to Conscience”:

Iraqis are mostly rational, like us. Left to their own devices, they’ll work it out, set up a government, quell the insurgents. I’m not sure that’s what we want, as any government Iraqis set up will likely be Shiite and aligned with Iran. Do we really want democracy over there? I think not.

I think what is missing from your analysis and all others is this: A large part of the inurgency is driven by the presence of an occupying force. Once that force is gone, the insurgency subsides…I said that answer is “boats and planes.” That’s how you withdraw troops.

To be fair to Mark T, he didn’t say the insurgency would “subside” peacefully, easily, or quickly. To be fair to Mark T, he suggested an “abandoned” Iraq would probably look more like contemporary Iran than 1960s Beruit, hardly leading to regional “sunshine and roses.” To be fair to Mart T, he could be right. In fact, no one really knows what would happen if the US would immediately and unilaterally exit Iraq.

(For the record, I think US withdrawal of troops should coincide with UN or regional peace-keepers and intense diplomatic negotiations with Iran, Syria, and Israel. If that doesn’t work, pull the plug altogether.)

But what we do know is this:

In the poll, 80 percent of Iraqis surveyed reported a lack of confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority, and 82 percent said they disapprove of the United States and allied militaries in Iraq.

So my rhetorical question is this, if 4 out of 5 Iraqis want us out, why the h*ll are we sending in troops? What specific event(s) in the past, say, 1000 years would lead someone to think we’ll actually accomplish anything worthwhile in a country overwhelmingly hostile to our presence?

by Jay Stevens 

So Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee today, in what is obviously — hopefully — a harbinger of things to come.

Crooks & Liars has the video up of Sen. Leahy slamming – and I mean slamming — Gonzalez over the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who, though later found innocent of all charges, was shipped by the CIA to Syria where he was tortured. Leahy:

We knew damn well if he went to Canada he wouldn’t be tortured. He’d be held and he’d be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria, he’d be tortured. And it’s beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

It’s a great quote, and sounds even better coming from a red-faced indignant Senator. Give it a watch and feel the goose bumps when you realize how sincere and right it sounds. Kind of refreshing after watching GOP Senators kow-tow to the administration. Like, say, Orrin Hatch:

Orrin Hatch spent the first two minutes of his time “questioning” Gonzales by lauding Gonzales’ extreme integrity and diligence during this Grave and Epic War on Terrorism that America faces, explaining that everything they’ve done is critical to protecting us and describing the time in which Gonzales is Attorney General as one of the most difficult and important in history — Hatch emphasized that he means not only U.S. history, but in the history of the whole, wide world….

Hatch then spent the rest of his time (all 6 minutes) demanding that Gonzales and the Justice Department devote much more of its resources and attention — including FBI agents, other law-enforcement resources and a new task force — to enforcing anti-obscenity laws against people in the U.S. who produce pornography, particularly those who sell it over the Internet, and urged that whole new laws be created to criminalize Internet pornography….

Or, to put it another way, the Terrorists pose such a grave danger to our Republic that it is the most threatening and important time Ever, justifying whole new expansions of government power and total government secrecy in order to protect us and to win this War because the Terrorists want to kill us all, and our law enforcement resources should therefore be poured into imprisoning people who make adult films and putting an end to pornography. That’s what Orrin Hatch said today.

Good times…

Shane’s Links…

Todays links are (again) brought to you by Shane Mason (me). To take a bit of the burden off Jay, I volunteered to do the links page for him once a week. This is just another part of my plan to save the world, one blog at a time.

Stephen Hawking adds his name to the list of people warning us about the dangers of global warming. The list now includes… every sane person in the world. At least we are getting some new islands in the Arctic out of the deal, and we got to see the hands on the doomsday clock have move forward again.

The Chinese have tested a laser system that is capable of destroying satellites in orbit.

Under a new bill, Political bloggers would be forced register as lobbyist.

The federal government checking credit records without a subpeona?

Now it’s Hillary seeking to cap troop levels in Iraq. I am still dubious of her intentions.

While we are on the subject, read The Nation’s John Nichol’s take on Obama’s presidential bid.

Kos himself talks about what a bunch of racists Montana Republicans can be. Kosak Kagro X discusses the various pieces of legislation making their way through congress to deal with Mr Bush’s war. While you are there, have a look at the results of their straw poll.

Finally, this is an important one: McJoan on the case of the Disappearing US Attorneys. Being replaced by indefinite interim appointments by Gonzales. The Patriot Act at work for you.

Mark T on Hugo Chavez, The Wall Street Journal and the right. Mark T on Pelosi, the Wall Street Journal and Starkist. Note to Mark: stop reading the Wall Street Journal, it just makes you mad. Not to Big Swede: stop reading Mark T, he just makes you mad.

Colby waxes philosophical with a sweet chess analogy and a second part to his sweet chess analogy.

Brett talks comments on our dire financial future. Its a pretty bad outlook.

Quiet a debate over at Montana Politics after Craig asks A Stupid Question (his words).

Sarpy Sam want to know what the hell an optional law is. Any ideas?

Just a reminder on why you worked so hard for Nov 7, the house just voted to cut student loan rates in half.

by Jay Stevens 

It looks like Mike Jopek’s (D-Whitefish) proposed reform of constituency accounts is meeting resistance – the Billings Gazette suspects it has to do with lobbying efforts:

The first attempt this legislative session to shed light on secretive “constituency accounts” got little support Wednesday, as lobbying groups lined up to oppose an ethics measure that would also overhaul their reporting requirements.

Pogie has already written eloquently about why constituency accounts need reform — basically they’re unreported accounts candidates can use for whatever they like – and Jopek’s bill, HB202, would put an end to the accounts’ loopholes:

Jopek wants to set a cap on the amount of money put into constituency accounts, ban corporations from donating to the accounts and require annual disclosure reports on expenditures and donations.

But Jopek’s bill goes further than just reforming the constituency accounts. It would also “amend the ban on government officials becoming lobbyists to ban lobbyists from taking jobs as directors of state agencies or departments” and requires “those who hire lobbyists to report the source of the money for their activities.”

The last amendment is where the bill appears to be generating a buzz from lobbyists. Apparently the PACs and other interest groups that hire lobbyists want the right to keep their member lists confidential. And, you know, I can understand that. At the very least it deserves discussion.

In the end, I think Jopek’s bill tries to do too much. Reform of the constituency funds is sorely need and almost universally desired. One bill should be used to address that reform. The other issues deserve their own bills and separate discussions. Jopek’s desire to institute lobbying reform is commendable, and I might be inclined to support all of the provisions of this bill, but reform of the constituency funds should not depend on support of all the proposals.

(On a side note, Roger Koopman’s [R-Bozeman] reform bills get a little play in the same Billings Gazette article. To be honest, I’m left scratching my head. Here are the reforms Koopman wants:

LC 0792: allows private citizens to take civil action if their written complaints aren’t acted on by the commissioner of political practices within 30 days

HB 163: prohibits the use of public funds or employees in lobbying efforts

Weird, huh? They both seem to have been born out of personal experience, or something. Like he made a gazillion complaints that were duly ignored.

LC 0792 seems, well, impractical and expensive. What does it mean to “take action”? Can’t we agree some complaints are more valid than others? And it seems clear that this bill would create frivolous litigation at taxpayer expense. [Still…I certainly would have liked to see some action taken against those c*cksuckers who implemented the Burns-backing automated robo-push-polls before the recent election…]

The second seems impractical. Does HB 163 apply to, say, the governor’s staffers attempting to promote, say, the governor’s budget among legislators? Does this mean the different state agencies won’t have a say in drafting or considering legislation? Let’s be honest: usually the most informed people on, say, forest management or public education are public employees. Shouldn’t they have a say or some influence in the legislature on what policy the government takes?

I have to say that these reform bills don’t seem to be well-thought-out or effective. Just about what you’d expect from a guy who once started a near-fistfight on the floor of the state house and who wanted death certificates for abortions. In other words, we’re not dealing with someone who’s necessarily rational.)

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