Monday, October 31, 2005

Presenting ...

Ricky the DemocRAT.

He's tough, street smart, and he doesn't take any crap.


Because I had too much time on my hands, that's why. And I'm a Cheesehead. You don't think Cheesehead was meant to be an insult? Of course it was. So is DemocRAT meant to be an insult? Of course it is.

I say own it and be proud.

Ricky is.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I see that Kos is in trouble again

in some Zephyr Teachout sort of way.

Sometimes I think that Markos is too immature to try and swim with the big fish the way he does. But hey, that's his problem.

Nevertheless, I just posted the following on his site, under Kid Oakland's diary, and thought I'd reprint it here, as it's bound to be lost in the 500 plus entries in that diary.

"This may have already been suggested, but my poor computer is having trouble loading all the posts in this thread, so I'm just going to go ahead.

In politics, isn't the APPEARANCE of impropriety almost as important as the actual act. It's not what IS happening often times, it's what APPEARS to be happening. That's why people excuse themselves to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, or decide to claim neutrality.

If your associate works for a particular candidate, it might be best to not pick sides in that race, if for no other reason than to avoid the APPEARANCE of impropiety, even where none exists.

So if Kos is not willing to remain neutral to retain some semblance of integrity, then he will have to suffer the slings and arrows of his fellow progressives, as they are treating him no differently than they have treated folks on the right. Often connections that may, or may not, mean anything are highlighted and trumpeted when they involve the Right. So Kos is being held up to the same standard? Good. As it should be. I'd be disappointed if it were not so.

I guess what I'm trying to say is "Quit yer bitchin'" If you don't want to hear the dissent, then avoid the APPEARANCE of impropriety. If you don't want to do that, then you'll just have to take your lumps. The defensiveness isn't going to make anything any better.

You chose your path, Kos, and this is what comes with the territory.

(hopefully that had some semblance of coherence, as I don't have nearly enough caffine in my system yet.)"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Text of Kerry's Georgetown speech on Iraq

I don't know if this qualifies as a fulfillment of my prediction, but he sure is moving in that direction. If nothing happens after December, I suspect he will be in full "Winter Soldier" mode.

I loved his reference to speaking truth to power, and his history as an activist.

And still folks are hung up on what he meant to do re: his IWR speech. Really, at this point, isn't that moot? The important thing is that he has presented a timeline and a goal, and even a mea culpa to boot.

I also don't understand why some people think this is a calculation on his part. They say he jumped on the bandwagon. What freakin' bandwagon? The only other person on the "timeline" bandwagon in the Senate is Feingold.

Someone on my second home, Democratic Underground, said that Kerry sounded like Dennis Kucinich, and seemed to think that was a bad thing, calling it political plagarism. What?! Ooh, what a copy cat. That has got to be the most immature damn thing I've ever heard. I'm sure Dennis is pleased as all hell at Kerry's latest speech, esp. since Kerry can get publicity that Dennis can't. The more the merrier, you shmuck!

Surely the important thing is not who came up with this position first, but that the right thing be done in Iraq so that the Iraqi people get their country back in one piece at some point.

Maybe if those who have issues with Kerry would just pretend that the speech was given by someone else, they'd see that it is a damned fine speech.

"The Path Forward"
Senator John Kerry
Georgetown University

October 26, 2005

"A few weeks ago I departed Iraq from Mosul. Three Senators and staff were gathered in the forward part of a C-130. In the middle of the cavernous cargo hold was a simple, aluminum coffin with a small American flag draped over it. We were bringing another American soldier, just killed, home to his family and final resting place.

The starkness of his coffin in the center of the hold, the silence except for the din of the engines, was a real time cold reminder of the consequences of decisions for which we Senators share responsibility. As we arrived in Kuwait, a larger flag was transferred to fully cover his coffin and we joined graves registration personnel in giving him an honor guard as he was ceremoniously carried from the plane to a waiting truck. When the doors clunked shut, I wondered why all of America would not be allowed to see him arrive at Dover Air Force Base instead of hiding him from a nation that deserves to mourn together in truth and in the light of day. His lonely journey compels all of us to come to grips with our choices in Iraq.

Now more than 2,000 brave Americans have given their lives, and several hundred thousand more have done everything in their power to wade through the ongoing internal civil strife in Iraq. An Iraq which increasingly is what it was not before the war -- a breeding ground for homegrown terrorists and a magnet for foreign terrorists. We are entering a make or break six month period, and I want to talk about the steps we must take if we hope to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that's not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict.

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it to those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do.

In fact, while some say we can't ask tough questions because we are at war, I say no - in a time of war we must ask the hardest questions of all. It's essential if we want to correct our course and do what's right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. No matter what the President says, asking tough questions isn't pessimism, it's patriotism.

Our troops have served with stunning bravery and resolve. The nobility of their service to country can never be diminished by the mistakes of politicians. American families who have lost, or who fear the loss, of their loved ones deserve to know the truth about what we have asked them to do, what we are doing to complete the mission, and what we are doing to prevent our forces from being trapped in an endless quagmire.

Some people would rather not have that discussion. They'd rather revise and rewrite the story of our involvement in Iraq for the history books. Tragically, that's become standard fare from an administration that doesn't acknowledge facts generally, whether they are provided by scientists, whistle-blowers, journalists, military leaders, or the common sense of every citizen. At a time when many worry that we have become a society of moral relativists, too few worry that we have a government of factual relativists.

Let's be straight about Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell. But that was not the reason America went to war.

The country and the Congress were misled into war. I regret that we were not given the truth; as I said more than a year ago, knowing what we know now, I would not have gone to war in Iraq. And knowing now the full measure of the Bush Administration's duplicity and incompetence, I doubt there are many members of Congress who would give them the authority they abused so badly. I know I would not. The truth is, if the Bush Administration had come to the United States Senate and acknowledged there was no "slam dunk case" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, acknowledged that Iraq was not connected to 9/11, there never would have even been a vote to authorize the use of force -- just as there's no vote today to invade North Korea, Iran, Cuba, or a host of regimes we rightfully despise.

I understand that as much as we might wish it, we can't rewind the tape of history. There is, as Robert Kennedy once said, 'enough blame to go around,' and I accept my share of the responsibility. But the mistakes of the past, no matter who made them, are no justification for marching ahead into a future of miscalculations and misjudgments and the loss of American lives with no end in sight. We each have a responsibility, to our country and our conscience, to be honest about where we should go from here. It is time for those of us who believe in a better course to say so plainly and unequivocally.

We are where we are. The President's flippant "bring it on" taunt to the insurgents has found a meaning beyond his wildest expectations, a painful reality for troops who went for too long without protective armor. We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure, and the mission the President once declared accomplished remains perilously incomplete.

To set a new course, we must be strong, smart, and honest. As we learned painfully during the Vietnam War, no president can sustain a war without the support of the American people. In the case of Iraq, their patience is frayed and nearly to the breaking point because Americans will not tolerate our troops giving their lives without a clear strategy, and will not tolerate vague platitudes or rosy scenarios when real answers are urgently needed.

It's time for leaders to be honest that if we do not change course, there is the prospect of indefinite, even endless conflict - a fate untenable for our troops, and a future unacceptable to the American people and the Iraqis who pray for the day when a stable Iraq will belong to Iraqis alone.

The path forward will not be easy. The administration's incompetence and unwillingness to listen has made the task that much harder, and reduced what we can expect to accomplish. But there is a way forward that gives us the best chance both to salvage a difficult situation in Iraq, and to save American and Iraqi lives. With so much at stake, we must follow it.

We must begin by acknowledging that our options in Iraq today are not what they should be, or could have been.

The reason is simple. This Administration hitched their wagon to ideologues, excluding those who dared to tell the truth, even leaders of their own party and the uniformed military.

When after September 11th, flags flew from porches across America and foreign newspaper headlines proclaimed "We're all Americans now," the Administration could have kept the world united, but they chose not to. And they were wrong. Instead, they pushed allies away, isolated America, and lost leverage we desperately need today.

When they could have demanded and relied on accurate instead of manipulated intelligence, they chose not to. They were wrong - and instead they sacrificed our credibility at home and abroad.

When they could have given the inspectors time to discover whether Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction, when they could have paid attention to Ambassador Wilson's report, they chose not to. And they were wrong. Instead they attacked him, and they attacked his wife to justify attacking Iraq. We don't know yet whether this will prove to be an indictable offense in a court of law, but for it, and for misleading a nation into war, they will be indicted in the high court of history. History will judge the invasion of Iraq one of the greatest foreign policy misadventures of all time.

But the mistakes were not limited to the decision to invade. They mounted, one upon another.

When they could have listened to General Shinseki and put in enough troops to maintain order, they chose not to. They were wrong. When they could have learned from George Herbert Walker Bush and built a genuine global coalition, they chose not to. They were wrong. When they could have implemented a detailed State Department plan for reconstructing post-Saddam Iraq, they chose not to. And they were wrong again. When they could have protected American forces by guarding Saddam Hussein's ammo dumps where there were weapons of individual destruction, they exposed our young men and women to the ammo that now maims and kills them because they chose not to act.

And they were wrong. When they could have imposed immediate order and structure in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, Rumsfeld shrugged his shoulders, said Baghdad was safer than Washington, D.C. and chose not to act. He was wrong. When the Administration could have kept an Iraqi army selectively intact, they chose not to. They were wrong. When they could have kept an entire civil structure functioning to deliver basic services to Iraqi citizens, they chose not to. They were wrong. When they could have accepted the offers of the United Nations and individual countries to provide on the ground peacekeepers and reconstruction assistance, they chose not to. They were wrong. When they should have leveled with the American people that the insurgency had grown, they chose not to. Vice President Cheney even absurdly claimed that the "insurgency was in its last throes." He was wrong.

Now after all these mistakes, the Administration accuses anyone who proposes a better course of wanting to cut and run. But we are in trouble today precisely because of a policy of cut and run. This administration made the wrong choice to cut and run from sound intelligence and good diplomacy; to cut and run from the best military advice; to cut and run from sensible war time planning; to cut and run from their responsibility to properly arm and protect our troops; to cut and run from history's lessons about the Middle East; to cut and run from common sense.

And still today they cut and run from the truth.

This difficult road traveled demands the unvarnished truth about the road ahead.

To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately - I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase "we will stay as long as it takes," who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say - No, that will only lead us into a quagmire.

The way forward in Iraq is not to pull out precipitously or merely promise to stay "as long as it takes." To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.

The Administration must immediately give Congress and the American people a detailed plan for the transfer of military and police responsibilities on a sector by sector basis to Iraqis so the majority of our combat forces can be withdrawn. No more shell games, no more false reports of progress, but specific and measurable goals. It is true that our soldiers increasingly fight side by side with Iraqis willing to put their lives on the line for a better future. But history shows that guns alone do not end an insurgency. The real struggle in Iraq - Sunni versus Shiia - will only be settled by a political solution, and no political solution can be achieved when the antagonists can rely on the indefinite large scale presence of occupying American combat troops.

In fact, because we failed to take advantage of the momentum of our military victory, because we failed to deliver services and let Iraqis choose their leaders early on, our military presence in vast and visible numbers has become part of the problem, not the solution. And our generals understand this. General George Casey, our top military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence "feeds the notion of occupation" and "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant." And Richard Nixon's Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, breaking a thirty year silence, writes, ''Our presence is what feeds the insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency." No wonder the Sovereignty Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is already asking for a timetable for withdrawal of our troops; without this, Iraqis believe Iraq will never be its own country.

We must move aggressively to reduce popular support for the insurgency fed by the perception of American occupation. An open-ended declaration to stay 'as long as it takes' lets Iraqi factions maneuver for their own political advantage by making us stay as long as they want, and it becomes an excuse for billions of American tax dollars to be sent to Iraq and siphoned off into the coffers of cronyism and corruption. It will be hard for this Administration, but it is essential to acknowledge that the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down, starting immediately after successful elections in December. The draw down of troops should be tied not to an arbitrary timetable, but to a specific timetable for transfer of political and security responsibility to Iraqis and realignment of our troop deployment. That timetable must be real and strict. The goal should be to withdraw the bulk of American combat forces by the end of next year.

If the Administration does its work correctly, that is achievable. Our strategy must achieve a political solution that deprives the Sunni-dominated insurgency of support by giving the Sunnis a stake in the future of their country. The Constitution, opposed by more than two thirds of Sunnis, has postponed and even exacerbated the fundamental crisis of Iraq. The Sunnis want a strong secular national government that fairly distributes oil revenues. Shiites want to control their own region and resources in a loosely united Islamic state. And Kurds simply want to be left alone. Until sufficient compromise is hammered out, a Sunni base can not be created that isolates the hard core Baathists and jihaadists and defuses the insurgency.

The Administration must use all of the leverage in America's arsenal - our diplomacy, the presence of our troops, and our reconstruction money -- to convince Shiites and Kurds to address legitimate Sunni concerns and to make Sunnis accept the reality that they will no longer dominate Iraq. We cannot and should not do this alone.

The Administration must bring to the table the full weight of all of Iraq's Sunni neighbors. They also have a large stake in a stable Iraq. Instead of just telling us that Iraq is falling apart, as the Saudi foreign minister did recently, they must do their part to put it back together. We've proven ourselves to be a strong ally to many nations in the region. Now it's their turn to do their part.

The administration must immediately call a conference of Iraq's neighbors, Britain, Turkey and other key NATO allies, and Russia. All of these countries have influence and ties to various parties in Iraq. Together, we must implement a collective strategy to bring the parties in Iraq to a sustainable political compromise. This must include obtaining mutual security guarantees among Iraqis themselves. Shiite and Kurdish leaders need to make a commitment not to perpetrate a bloodbath against Sunnis in the post-election period. In turn, Sunni leaders must end support for the insurgents, including those who are targeting Shiites. And the Kurds must explicitly commit themselves not to declare independence.

To enlist the support of Iraq's Sunni neighbors, we should commit to a new regional security structure that strengthens the security of the countries in the region and the wider community of nations. This requires a phased process including improved security assistance programs, joint exercises, and participation by countries both outside and within the Middle East.

Ambassador Khalilzad is doing a terrific job trying broker a better deal between the Iraqi parties. But he can't do it alone. The President should immediately appoint a high level envoy to maximize our diplomacy in Iraq and the region.

Showing Sunnis the benefits that await them if they continue to participate in the process of building Iraq can go a long way toward achieving stability. We should press these countries to set up a reconstruction fund specifically for the majority Sunni areas. It's time for them to deliver on their commitments to provide funds to Iraq. Even short-term improvements, like providing electricity and supplying diesel fuel - an offer that the Saudis have made but have yet to fulfill - can make a real difference. We need to jump start our own lagging reconstruction efforts by providing the necessary civilian personnel to do the job, standing up civil-military reconstruction teams throughout the country, streamlining the disbursement of funds to the provinces so they can deliver services, expanding job creation programs, and strengthening the capacity of government ministries.

We must make it clear now that we do not want permanent military bases in Iraq, or a large combat force on Iraqi soil indefinitely. And as we withdraw our combat troops, we should be prepared to keep a substantially reduced level of American forces in Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi government, for the purpose of training their security forces. Some combat ready American troops will still be needed to safeguard the Americans engaged in that training, but they should be there to do that and to provide a back stop to Iraqi efforts, not to do the fighting for Iraqis.

Simultaneously, the President needs to put the training of Iraqi security forces on a six month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget to deploy them. The Administration must stop using the requirement that troops be trained in-country as an excuse for refusing offers made by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more.

This week, long standing suspicions of Syrian complicity in destabilizing Lebanon were laid bare by the community of nations. And we know Syria has failed to take the aggressive steps necessary to stop former Baathists and foreign fighters from using its territory as a transit route into Iraq. The Administration must prod the new Iraqi government to ask for a multinational force to help protect Iraq's border until a capable national army is formed. Such a force, if sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, could attract participation by Iraq's neighbors and countries like India and would be a critical step in stemming the tide of insurgents and money into Iraq.

Finally, and without delay, we must fundamentally alter the deployment of American troops. While Special Operations must continue to pursue specific intelligence leads, the vast majority of our own troops should be in rear guard, garrisoned status for security backup. We do not need to send young Americans on search and destroy missions that invite alienation and deepen the risks they face. Iraqis should police Iraqis. Iraqis should search Iraqi homes. Iraqis should stand up for Iraq. We will never be as safe as we should be if Iraq continues to distract us from the most important war we must win - the war on Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the terrorists that are resurfacing even in Afghanistan.

These are the make or break months for Iraq. The President must take a new course, and hold Iraqis accountable. If the President still refuses, Congress must insist on a change in policy. If we do take these steps, there is no reason this difficult process can not be completed in 12-15 months. There is no reason Iraq cannot be sufficiently stable, no reason the majority of our combat troops can't soon be on their way home, and no reason we can't take on a new role in Iraq, as an ally not an occupier, training Iraqis to defend themselves. Only then will we have provided leadership equal to our soldiers' sacrifice - and that is what they deserve."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wonk Alert! Wonk Alert!

Below you will find Sen. Kerry's portion of the Condi Rice hearing, in it's entirety. Why the hell did I do that, you may be asking yourself. Three reasons:

1. I have great respect for Kerry's knowledge of foreign policy and his perspective on world events, even if I don't always agree. Hence, hearings like this one can often be quite instructive.

2. I sense that The Winter Soldier approacheth, based on what he told Cindy Sheehan and some of his questions in this hearing. I do believe he's losing patience with the administration ever getting it right in Iraq. (We shall see if I'm right)

3. I want folks to see some of what I see in this man. To that end, I will occasionally be posting articles I found during the election that helped to change me from ABB to full-blown Kerrycrat. And if some of what I post here can be a resource for folks, all the better.

SFRC hearing 10/19/05 Some testimony excerpts

Let me call now on Senator Kerry.

Now I'll ask members to please observe, as Senator Allen did, the 10-minute situation so that we are able to get to all of our senators.

Senator Kerry?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Madame Secretary, I apologize for not being here for your testimony. I was up in Massachusetts looking at our dam that, for the moment, is holding together, and we hope will.

The president has repeatedly summarized his Iraq plan in the following way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And in a speech to the nation two weeks ago, he again didn't lay out any kind of specific political or new diplomatic initiative. Certainly what he really said was, quote, " sacrifice, time, resolve." He went on to describe those who questioned his handling of the war as self-defeating pessimists.

Now, writing in next month's Foreign Affairs, Melvin Laird, the former secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, says, quote: "Recent polls showing waning support for the war are a sign to the president that he needs to level with the American people."

Quote, "His West-Texas cowboy approach -- shoot first and ask questions later, or do the job and the let results speak for themselves -- is not working." As we learned in Vietnam, Laird writes, quote, "When troops are dying, the commander in chief cannot be coy, vague or secretive." He goes on to suggest that you, Madame Secretary, are in the best position to perhaps help set the record straight.

So let me ask you, do you think the president needs to do a better job to address -- what I don't think anybody would agree is a self-defeating pessimist in Melvin Laird and in his suggestion as well as those and many other observers, Republican, Democrat alike -- about the level of support and understanding of the American people, and the specificity of how you are going to deal with the political solution to Iraq?

SEC. RICE: Well, Senator, I'm quite certain that we can all -- and I count myself first and foremost among them -- be out and do to address concerns or to address any ambiguities that people may feel that there are about how we're going to proceed to victory in this war. That's what I've tried to lay out today in talking about --

SEN. KERRY: Victory? How do you define victory? What is victory?

SEC. RICE: I think that, Senator, when we have laid the foundation for an Iraqi government that is clearly moving along its political path -- and they are well along that political path -- that now a permanent government that has begun to really deal with its sectarian differences as they are trying to do through this constitution and their process. When we see that there is an insurgency -- and I'm a firm believer that this insurgency may be able for quite a long time to commit -- let me call them cowardly, violent acts against innocent people; that is, to blow up children standing at a school bus --

SEN. KERRY: We all understand what it is, and they will do that for a long time.

SEC. RICE: And so -- and they will do that. But if I could look at the way other insurgencies have died, if you will, it is when they are clearly no longer a threat to the political path and the political stability of the country. I think that you could suggest, for instance, that in Colombia there was a time when the insurgency there -- people questioned whether or not the Colombian government would survive. Nobody questions that today, even though there's still an insurgency that from time to time has kidnappings and the like. The Algerian is another case.

And so when there is clearly a political path that has been followed to a stable political system, even with its problems -- I mean, Senator, you'd be the first to agree, I'm sure, with me that we continued for a long time in our own history to have political tensions and political problems in --

SEN. KERRY: I understand, Madame Secretary, but let me -- let's get to this definition within the context of what you're saying for this government.


SEN. KERRY: What you're saying begs a political solution, not a military solution.

SEC. RICE: That's correct.

SEN. KERRY: But mostly, what we've been pursuing up until recently has been, until, perhaps, Ambassador Khalilzad -- who, I think most of us would agree, is doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances, but with limited ability, because he's basically trying to resolve a fundamental difference between Shi'a and Sunni -- Shi'a, who are dominant in numbers and will dominate the government; Sunni, who want to return to power.

Now there's nothing in the political equation and nothing in the constitution that resolves that fundamental divide. How do you do that? What are your plans to do that?

SEC. RICE: Senator, I actually don't agree that that there's nothing in the constitution that addresses that fundamental divide. What addresses that fundamental divide is that it allows people, first of all, to have the vote as individuals, not as groups. And we have seen, in the time that really started to the referendum until -- as people are getting ready for December, cross-cutting coalitions now developing in Iraq between some Kurds and some Shi'a who -- I'll use the terms in quotes -- " secular" Shi'a; some Sunnis who -- for instance, the Iraqi Islamic Party that supported the constitution.

I think you're starting to see cross-cutting cleavages, and that's a very good thing, because what it will mean is that within those institutions, the National Assembly, the presidency, they will have to use compromise and politics to reconcile their differences.

SEN. KERRY: But the fundamental differences, by any acknowledgment, were postponed. They came together, they agreed to have a committee that had the right to raise the fundamental issues, but they haven't resolved the fundamental issues.

SEC. RICE: Senator, to ask them to resolve it within a -- within several months, I think, would have been superhuman. Ask them --

SEN. KERRY: Well, you're the ones that set the date for the constitution with them.

SEC. RICE: No, but to ask them to get to a framework in which they can work in an evolutionary way to the resolution of differences that are centuries old, I think, is completely --

SEN. KERRY: Well, that is exactly the problem, that -- well, let me get to that with a question. I see the light's already on. It's incredible how fast it goes.

But many of our military leaders, Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi people themselves are now saying, in effect, that our military presence is as much a part of the problem as it is the solution.

General Casey, our top commander, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee that our military presence, quote, "feeds the notion of occupation" and, quote, "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant."

The Iraq Sovereignty Committee, made up of elected members of the Iraqi National Assembly, released a report in September stating that the presence of U.S. troops prevents Iraq from becoming fully sovereign.

A recent summary of numerous Iraqi public opinion surveys concluded that a majority of Iraqis, quote, "oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq and those who strongly oppose it greatly outnumber those who strongly support it."

So what do you say to this growing sense in our military leaders, who've told it to us when we visit Iraq, to the general sort of input of people who have spent a lifetime studying the region, that the presence is adding to the numbers of terrorists, adding to the perception of occupation, adding to the problem, and that it doesn't deal with the real problem, which is the political solution needed between Shi'a and Sunni?

SEC. RICE: Well, first of all, Senator, when you come to the political solution, I think you have to see that these people have come a long way in two and a half years.


SEC. RICE: But it is very important because -- you ask about a political solution. A political solution was not going to be born overnight in Iraq.

SEN. KERRY: That's not what you told America and that's not what you told this committee.

SEC. RICE: Senator, as I've said before, we've had a long political evolution in the United States. We didn't even have it easy in Birmingham, let alone in Iraq. And so I really do ask --

SEN. KERRY: It's not what you told America, Madame Secretary.

SEC. RICE: -- I ask us to focus on the political process that was laid out in the -- as a matter of fact, it was laid out as a two- year political process in the Transitional Administrative Law, and they have been walking along in that political process.

Now, is there a fundamental difference between Shi'a and Sunni? The Iraqis -- many Iraqis will tell you that there is, in fact, not a fundamental difference; what there is is that there are different interests that have to be reconciled and that have to be dealt with, both about the past and about the future.

You're right, they have left to a national assembly that will be representative the writing of certain rules about how certain aspects of the constitution will be carried out. That's a political process. There's nothing wrong with carrying out a political process in that way.

As to our military presence, our military presence there is requested under U.N. mandate now by the Iraqi government itself. And it requests it because it knows that, whatever people's views of our military presence there, our military presence is needed until Iraqi forces are able to be responsible for their own security. It is --

SEN. KERRY: Madame Secretary, if I can just say to you, President Talabani when he was here in Washington had an interview with The Washington Post in which he said we could withdraw 45(000) to 50,000 troops the end of the year. He visited the White House, and he changed his tune. General Casey went to the Armed Services Committee and said we could withdraw troops by Christmas. Then the president said, well, I think that's rumor or speculation.

So it seems as if you and the administration have a point of view about withdrawing that is quite different from Iraqis and quite different from our own military.

SEC. RICE: Senator, we have a joint process with the Iraqis to determine specifically what conditions can be met by what forces. We want to be out of Iraq with our forces as soon as possible. We have no desire to stay in Iraq. But we also don't want to create a condition, a situation in which we withdraw prematurely and leave Iraqi forces incapable of dealing with the insurgency that is made up of terrorists and Ba'athists, essentially, who would try and overthrow their government.

Now, I laid out today earlier a set of steps that we're trying to take that demonstrate that political stability, political control rests with the Iraqi government. It means that you go into areas, it means that you establish -- first of all, you kick the insurgents out and you create a secure environment, and then you create political and civil and economic development in that region so that that area can be held.

SEN. KERRY: Well, my --

SEC. RICE: That is the political-military strategy, and -- by the way, most of the country is, of course, stable. We're talking largely about the Sunni area.

SEN. KERRY: You're talking largely about Sunni. I understand that.

Mr. Chairman, I know my time is up.

If -- you know, I just think that realistically, when you assess what you've just said, it really doesn't deal with that fundamental difference that I just described, which is -- from every leader and every person you talk to in the region, they are all worried about Iran and Iran's influence with respect to the Shi'a. And the Shi'a have been adamant about the Islamic component of the state and about the federalization. The Sunni are adamant about the strong center and not being fundamentally defined in Islamic terms. That is the fundamental difference here. And it seems to me that no amount of troops and no amount of talk about the insurgency --

And the insurgency, every expert we -- all of our CIA briefings and everything tell us, is fundamentally Sunni. Fundamentally. Maybe 2 percent, slightly larger, foreign fighters. The Iraqis don't want foreign fighters in there. In the end, the Shi'a and the Kurds will never tolerate them being there. So if you can resolve the Sunni- Shi'a issue, which I think most people feel has not been addressed significantly, that's the way you're going to end violence.

SEC. RICE: Senator, it's going to be -- it's not conceivable that the Sunnis and the Shi'as are going to overcome hundreds of years of differences within a matter of a couple of years. But we believe -- and I would hope we all believe enough in democratic processes -- to believe that that is really the only way that people resolve their ethnic and other differences. It has certainly been the case in much of the world that democratic institutions allow people to resolve their differences.

By the way, the only other answer is that you repress one or the other. The only other answer to don't let them work it out through a democratic process is that the Sunni continue to repress the Shi'a. I think that's not acceptable to American values --

SEN. KERRY: Of course it's not.

SEC. RICE: -- and it's ultimately not acceptable to stability in the Middle East. So -- so there are really only two --

SEN. KERRY: I would suggest to you that's not the only other answer. With all due respect, that's not the only other answer. The other answer is that you, the administration, and the Sunni neighbors -- they're mostly Sunni -- get together.

Why are they so absent? The Sunni neighbors ought to be involved in getting a compromise which the Kurds and Shi'a give up than they've been willing to give up. And if you don't do that, this insurgency is not going to end.

SEC. RICE: Senator, that's precisely what's happening. That's what Ambassador Khalilzad was in Saudi Arabia --

SEN. KERRY: It's stunningly late in the happening, Madame Secretary.

SEC. RICE: Well, it is -- Senator, for something that's been going on a couple hundred years, they are actually doing pretty well. But again, they have never --

SEN. KERRY: Our presence there has not been for a couple hundred years.

SEC. RICE: But -- but, Senator, if I may just say, what it is we're replacing, we're replacing a situation in which this was done by repression, so that the Sunnis repressed the Shi'a majority and the Kurdish minority.

SEN. KERRY: Correct.

SEC. RICE: That's not an acceptable outcome. And so, the placement of political institutions, a constitution, an assembly that will be elected with better Sunni representation in December is the way to give these people a framework in which to resolve their differences.

I agree with you. Their neighbors need to be fundamentally involved in helping to close that divide. And that's why we're reaching out to the Saudis and reaching out to the UAE and to others to ask their support -- and they were very supportive in helping on the referendum -- to do precisely that. But it's not as if Iraq and the Middle East was stable along the Shi'a-Sunni divide before the liberation of Iraq.

SEN. KERRY: Of course not. I realize that. (Pause.)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your indulgence. Thank you.

SEN. LUGAR: All right. I did not interrupt the dialogue. It was important. But it was 15 minutes --

SEC. RICE: Sorry. (Laughs.)

SEN. LUGAR: And let me just say, please, if we're to have fairness to all of our senators, we need to try to stay within the 10 minutes.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Chairman, could I just say something about that, quickly?

SEN. LUGAR: Yes, of course.

SEN. KERRY: The reason it's so difficult is, this is the first hearing we've had since, I think, March.

SEN. LUGAR: I appreciate that. Point has been made now several times, and we are having a hearing, and we're trying to stay within the rules.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Review of the Partisan War Syndrome by David Sirota.

A link to "The Partisan War Syndrome"

He almost gets it right. Sorta. Well, not really, but there are some interesting bits in this article that got me to thinking. I had hoped, when I printed out this article last night to read at Starbucks this morning, that it would be about the incessant wars between Clarkie Dems, Deaniac Dems, Kerrycrat Dems and the like.

I don't think we have time for such things at this point. We have a party to build, grassroots to grow and stuff like that there. Not to mention the primaries are so "2003."

I will personally defend any Democrat who needs it on the political message boards and blog spots I frequent. Or anyone else for that matter when they are being unfairly smeared by partisans. I'm proud of most of our Dems, even Biden and Hillary on occasion (I know, shocking. But every once in a while...) Once in a blue moon even Joe Lieberman does something to get a cyber cookie from me.

Zell can go to hell, however.

Be that as it may, candidate wars turned out not to be what this article was about. Dang. I'm not completely sure exactly what the point of the article was, exactly. Here's an excerpt describing the Partisan War Syndrome as a "disease":

Certainly, this disease can be difficult to detect. The mainstream media regularly portrays the so-called Democratic base as a highly ideological, "liberal" or "progressive" monolith, supposedly pressing an insulated, spineless D.C. Democratic establishment to move to the "left." This portrayal creates the image that there really is a cohesive, powerful ideological force on the left, one that is committed to convictions and issues before party-much like there is on the right. This image is reinforced by the mainstream media's constant characterization of Internet blogs and the "netroots" as an extension of this monolith-as if a medium automatically equals an ideology.

As proof that such a monolith exists, the media writes stories about this or that Democratic politician-no matter how conservative he or she is - pandering to or courting the "left" by once in a while taking a mundane Democratic Party position and then blogging about it. We also see an entire counter-industry to this mythical monolith in the form of organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, which raise corporate money, put out reports attacking the supposedly all-powerful "left," and commission polls to discredit what, in reality, is a straw man.

Okay, this bit appears to be a rant about the Conservative press distorting even the most Republican-lite Democrat as a bastion of liberalism and the left. Okay. Fair enough. I've seen that. Hillary comes to mind, actually.

Here's a bit more:

This blunting of the left's ideological edge is a result of three unfortunate circumstances. First, conservatives spent the better part of three decades vilifying the major tenets of the left's core ideology, succeeding to the point where "liberal" is now considered a slur. Second, the media seized on these stereotypes and amplified them - both because there was little being done to refute them, and because they fit so cleanly into the increasingly primitive and binary political narrative being told on television.

And third is Partisan War Syndrome - the misconception even in supposedly "progressive" circles that substance is irrelevant when it comes to both electoral success and, far more damaging, to actually building a serious, long-lasting political movement. This is the syndrome resulting from the shellshock of the partisan wars that marked the Clinton presidency. It is an affliction that hollowed out much of the Democratic base's economic and national security convictions in favor of an orthodoxy that says partisan concerns and cults of personality should be the only priorities because they are supposedly the only factors that win elections. It is a disease that subverts substance for "image" and has marked the last decade of Democrats' repeated failures at the ballot box.

Okay, I'm still with him here. He seems to be saying both that the Left isn't answering the echo chamber of the Right, so that the Right can fill that chamber with any amount of garbage with no fear of contradiction, which is true. He also seems to be saying that the Left is more interested in finding someone who can get elected than finding someone who presents the ideals of the Democratic Party. I've seen that as well, from Deaniacs and Kerrycrats and Clarkies and Bayh folks and Warner folks, etc, etc. "We need a Southern Governor!"

Here's where ol' David loses me:

But then, even an issue as critical as Iraq can be subverted by the hallucinations that come from Partisan War Syndrome. As just one example, take progressives' constant genuflecting anytime Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) name is mentioned. She is forever portrayed as a champion of the left, with everyone who's anyone in politics assuming that she will have rock-solid support from the Democratic base despite her loud and continuing support for the Iraq War, and rather quiet Senate record on other progressive issues. The assumption speaks volumes about a "base" with an ideology so afflicted by a haze of hallucination that it believes the best politics even in such a polarized environment are those that avoid contrast.

Say it with me boys and girls. WHAT!?!?! Dude! What ARE you smoking?! Progressives genuflecting anytime Hillary is mentioned?! In what universe?!?!

It gets worse. Did you know that the Democratic base, as personified by blogs and the like, chase after anything with a D next to its name as long as it looks electable? He uses the Brown/Hackett mini-controversy as an example, dissing Hackett along the way.

Alrighty then. I thought Hackett rather proved the opposite. He proved that you could be a fighter, run a strong campaign, speak your mind, and almost get elected. But no matter.

Clarkies do not excape either. How about this "observation":

This delirium in parts of the grassroots left is not limited to Senate races - it is afflicting the early 2008 presidential jostling. In straw poll after straw poll on Internet blogs, former Gen. Wesley Clark leads other potential Democratic contenders. This is the same Wesley Clark who, according to a recent edition of Roll Call, was on Capitol Hill trying to convince progressive Democratic lawmakers to back off their support for legislation that would withdraw troops from Iraq.

He comments that he doesn't mean to slight either Clark or Hackett, who might still turn out to be alright. He means to slight their supporters for chasing after them based on image rather than substance. Oh, much better. Gee. Thanks.

And of course there is the normal Kerry snarking I've come to expect. If Mr. Sirota thinks that all John Kerry had to offer was that he was a veteran and electable, and had no ideological core, then he didn't look very hard at the man. So he managed to make me mad as well. You must remember, of course, that despite my moniker, I am a Kerry person, not a Clark person. So I'm not happy either. But then, David would seem to be an all-purpose, universal pisser-offer.

Is it just me. Or is this man talking out his butt.

You can read the rest of the article for yourself if you like from the above link. I found bits of it interesting. But it was an interesting point or two badly defended in my book I'm afraid. He even takes a stab at those who talk about "reframing issues" and such. Let's see, did he leave anyone out?

And who did HE vote for in the last election, for pity's sake!? Nader?! (Sorry, Nader folks. But why should you be left out of the fun, eh?)

Be that as it may, I still want to end with the one point he makes in the entire article that I will carry with me and use. I thought this was a really, really good point. I wish he would have just written this bit and thrown the rest in the garbage where it belongs:

The first major symptom of Partisan War Syndrome is wild hallucinations that make progressives believe we can win elections by doing nothing, as long as the Republican Party keeps tripping over itself. You can best see this symptom each time another GOP scandal comes down the pike. The scandal hits, Republicans respond with a pathetic "I am not a crook" defense, and both Democratic politicians and grassroots activists/bloggers berate a "culture of corruption." Yet, then these same critics largely refuse to demand concrete solutions such as public funding of elections that would actually clean up the system, and would draw a contrast between the left and the right. We see hallucinations of a victory in the next election as long as we just say nothing of substance, as we have for the last decade. But like a mirage in the desert, it never seems to materialize.

These hallucinations are the only logical explanation as to why the Democratic Party remains without an official position on almost every major issue in Congress. Just look at the last year: Democrats have no clear party position on Iraq, energy, bankruptcy, trade, tax cuts, Supreme Court nominees or corruption, other than to criticize Republicans

Those two paragraphs are very valuable to us, especially now. We're all having a gay old time watching the Republicans implode, but damn it, that's not enough! We have to figure out what we stand for as a party and then sell the hell out of it!

Yeah, I know. Easy to say, hard to do. But that should be our focus. Are we progressive? Populist? What? What can we offer the American people that is different from what they're getting from the Republicans. How do we make their lives better? What's the plan?

We must present an alternative. And if we already do, we must make sure that people know it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The closer we get to the election anniversary

the worse it gets. I actually cried over "Inside the Bubble" last night on CSPAN.

I keep thinking how much better things would be if only...

I don't understand why it's supposed to be some sort of insanity to want to see Kerry eventually become president. I'm frankly sick of hearing "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result". That's binary, lefty freeper over-simplified thinking in my eyes.

I mean, think about it. Imagine you're trying something you've never done before. You fail. Do the people around you say "you've had your chance" and suggest that if given another one, you'll only do the same thing again?

When a person fails at a task, and tries again, haven't they generally learned from the failed attempt?

Is it so unrealistic to want to see Kerry try again? Sometimes I think I'd settle for a cabinet position.

I know the campaign wasn't perfect, but how can anyone say they'd have done better. They THINK they could have done better, but I'd wager most of them have never run for office. I'm not sure ranting will get you into office, and I think sometimes that's what folks want, a tough-talking ranter.

It may be wonky of me, but that rant better come with concrete action that helps in some practical way, or it doesn't mean squat. We need someone who knows his stuff. We need a man with qualifications, not someone with whom someone imagines they can drink a beer. We've seen what that brings. A president who fiddles while Rome burns.

It was my first election. Maybe I'm having trouble letting go to the fact that something I tried hard to do (elect Kerry) didn't happen, and the country is going to hell as a result. If only...

But if the Democratic Party thinks they can blame their ills on Kerry and move on without making some changes to the way they operate, they will continue to lose. It was as much the disarray of the party as the Kerry campaign that did us in.

Assuming of course he actually lost, of course, which is still up in the air. How can the Republicans be proud of an election they had to cheat, fraud and suppress their way through. How could they then have the audacity to seek the vote of minorities they just suppressed. Good GOD!

Sorry. I'm just depressed today. At the moment, I don't know what I really want, except gas prices to go down and my credit card debt to go away, which has something to do with politics, but not completely. Even so, I can't help thinking that things would be better if only...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Today I've mostly been working on links

And trying to figure out html. Nothing's blown up yet, so I guess I'm doing okay.

Check out some of the new links.

In the news department: I like news sources like Buzzflash or Moose and Squirrel or other such sites that give you many news links all in one tidy place.

For talk radio, the one I can get regularly in my area is good ol' Big Eddie, aka Ed Schultz. I'm proud of how he is growing, and especially happy that Armed Forces radio has picked him up. About time.

The online newspaper site is just cool. Pick a place and go.

Bryan Kennedy is the guy who will hopefully beat the pants off of Sensenbrenner this next year. I'll be fighting for it, anyway. Support him if you can.

Project Vote Smart is my favorite place to go for Congressional voting records and how each elected official rates according to various interest groups. Others have charts where they tell you which votes are important and what basically to think. I prefer the objective, find out for yourself approach.

And I also included a couple of the message boards I frequent on a regular basis. Democratic Underground is my favorite, but Daily Kos does have diaries by such people as John Conyers and Cindy Sheehan. I go there for them (and to post Kerry news) but not for Kos himself, who strikes me as being something of a shmuck.

Anyway, enjoy. I'll be adding to them as I go along.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Evidence that John Kerry also knows what time it is

From CNN:

Kerry and Schwarzenegger Give Props in California

2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry makes a swing through California today to campaign against Proposition 75, a measure on the November 2005 special election ballot that would limit the use of employee union dues for political activity.

Kerry will announce his opposition to "paycheck protection" measure at a Los Angeles rally with local firefighters, teachers and nurses. The event will be held at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a proposition-related event of his own today, kicking off a signature drive drive to add the so-called "Jessica's Law," a new anti-sex offender initiative, to the fall ballot. That event will be held in Burbank at 1 p.m. ET.

Let's see. In the last few weeks our John has been in Iowa, Minnesota, and now Calif. He does get around, doesn't he.

Here's a link to a story on the Minnesota visit:
Kerry, Ed Koch stump in St. Paul race Updated: 10/10/2005 08:08:14 PM

ST. PAUL (AP) - It was political payback time in St. Paul this morning.

A year after St. Paul's Democratic mayor endorsed Republican President Bush for reelection, the president's 2004 rival came to campaign against the Mayor.

Democratic Senator John Kerry promoted former St. Paul city councilman Chris Coleman in his race against incumbent Mayor Randy Kelly.

Kerry made no mention of Kelly's Bush endorsement during a speech at Macalester College. But he said Coleman is a better fit for Minnesota's capital city.

Coleman urged supporters to get out to vote as the campaign moves into its final month.

Meanwhile, former New York City mayor Ed Koch was also in town.

And in Iowa (Yeah, yeah, I know. But ome of us think it's a GOOD thing. Nuthin' wrong with keeping your options open for 2008 on your way to 2006. But I digress...)

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is urging Democratic activists to use next year's midterm election to reshape the national debate on values.

Kerry says he nearly accomplished just that as the Democratic presidential nominee last year and is eager for the debate.

Kerry is in Iowa today for the second time since losing the presidential election. He is visiting Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, raising money for two networks aimed at electing women to office.

Kerry says the midterm elections next year give the Democrats an opportunity to shape a national message and begin laying the groundwork for the 2008 presidential election.Kerry says there is deep unrest among Americans and the Republicans have not addressed it.

Kerry says he is leaving his options open about a possible candidacy in 2008

Gee, the Globe finally had a Kerry story

Well, blurb anyway. I swear the best stuff comes out of the Herald. If only there wasn't so much snark included. But anyway, from today's Globe
"Around town: Being a presidential also-ran has its privileges. John Kerry, who went backstage after U2's recent show in Boston, walked into Cambridge Music the other day with a sweet guitar given to him by Bono. He needed to get the custom ax appraised because pols need to report the value of all gifts. The Gretsch ''Bono Irish Falcon" lists for $4,500. Before leaving, Kerry paid $600 for a Coupe tube amplifier and bought a book, ''Essential Licks for Guitars," a DVD, ''Beginning Rock Guitar: Lead and Rhythm," assorted picks, and three sets of strings. . . ."
Kewl. I too play guitar, except I've been concentrating on folk style, fingerpicking and such. Can't quite picture myself going playing power chords. Lately, my lessons have centered around Arlo Guthrie. Kind of appropriate for the time, my teacher and I have been working on "Alice's Restaurant" (which I will need if there is ever a draft) and "City of New Orleans". Only my guitar is a Gremlin, and cost me all of $100 bucks new.

Speaking of which, I hope those folks are doing alright. Our local evacuees are getting kicked out of the State Fair dorms pretty soon. Hopefully they will all be able to find shelter and jobs and such. I suppose they couldn't stay there forever, but it must be such a shock. Not to mention it's cold as hell up here in the winter. They won't be used to that.

This is my dad

Daddy was a sailor. Sometimes I swear like a sailor, and blame it on him.

This is mom. Mom used to say things like "son of a biscuit eater" and "shaving cream" in a vain attempt to not swear in front of us kids. It didn't work. I still swear like my father. Sorry ma.

She was from Wisconsin, he was from Virginia. He liked it better in Wisconsin. She liked it better in Virginia. After a couple of rounds of family ping pong, dad won. I was always the new kid therefore. Might explain my somewhat warped outlook.

They were Democrats. Conservative, somewhat hawkish, but Democrats nonetheless. Mom was so excited and hopeful when Bill Clinton was elected. She didn't live to see the end of his term however. It was a shock, as her side of the family had always been so long lived. But there you have it.

This is me.

The answer was no, btw.

Yes, I'm a Christian. I am also a Democrat. A liberal one. Well, at least here in Wisconsin I'm considered a liberal. On such blogs as Democratic Underground, I am moderate. To some of my neighbors, I am a commie socialist. Depends on who's lookin' apparently.

Until last year, I was only vaguely a Democrat, probably because my parents were. I was a sheeple, blissfully unaware. I haddn't taken the red pill yet (or was it blue). I kinda miss the Matrix sometimes. It was nice in there. The real world makes me cry.

You can thank George Walker Bush for my wakeup call. That and finding a story about Guantanamo in which I realized that our government had no intention of granting these folks due process. Due process, I had thought, was what a civilized people did because it was right, not something we grant ourselves as Americans because we thought we were cute.

Up to that point in the election process, I'd been a vague Clarkie. Hence the name, Little Clarkie. John Kerry was someone I thought had the personality of styrofoam. Our glorious leader drove me into his arms, and I set out to find out more about him, the better to campaign, dontcha know. I don't believe in "Dole-ing" a candidate. You campaign FOR, not AGAINST.

I somewhat overshot the mark. I only intended to make myself a good campaigner for Kerry. I ended up making myself into something that can best be described as a "Kerry Krishna." He might be a dork, but he's MY damn dork. And with all that ping ponging around, I know what it feels like to be shy and not quite fit in. So I think I kinda relate.

Plus he was a sailor like dad. I lost dad last year, just before I got involved in the campaign. So, psychologically speaking, I guess you could probably say I also transferred some emotion from dad to Kerry. The Smear Vets were probably responsible for that little maneuver. Suddenly little hippy me was defending the Navy and veterans in general. I'm actually not as much of a hippy as I used to think I would be if I ever got involved in politics. A bit too moderate, am I.

Nevertheless, I am still largely a newbie to politics. The one thing I know really, really well is John Kerry. And so I am a supporter, to 2008 if need be. There is too much experience there to waste.

Whatever else I know I've gleaned from the New York Times and by swallowing red meat til it's coming out my ears. I'm trying to chew a bit more now, and ask more questions. Last year, during the campaign, I didn't have time for that. It was a time of action, not reflection. Now, I have time.

To begin I would just like to say

That according to my calendar anyway, 2006 comes before 2008. Hence, I find myself paying attention to the local county supervisor race. That's another first. I actually know who I want to vote for, and am anticipating election day. Previously, I couldn't have given a damn.

My arch nemesis, Rep. Sensenbrenner, has endorsed one candidate. I shall therefore pick the other.

Yes, I am in Sensenbrenner's district. Pity me.