Swampland Lite

Late last month, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wrote a column (“See You in September”) about the emergency appropriations bill in which he said progressives just need to simmer down and wait, that they should take a chill pill, and remember how long it took the Goldwater conservatives to take power in the Republican party. He provided this quote neat the end of the column:

Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said recently that no one remembers how long it took to reverse the direction of American policy in Vietnam. Obey is hunkered down for a lengthy struggle.

I wrote Mr. Dionne, and mentioned that — considering the Vietnam War began under a Democratic president during a period when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, and was prosecuted by a Republican president for five more years, again with a Democratic Congress — that perhaps the problem with reversing the direction of American policy at the time was that most of the Democratic leadership had been invested in the war from the beginning and wasn’t exactly opposed to the war.

I was mildly surprised a week-and-a-half after I sent my message to get a response, until I saw that it was a form letter:

Dear Darrel

Many thanks for your recent comments on my column. I’m grateful when people
are kind enough to take time out to offer generous thoughts, though I also
appreciate the passion and concern of those who disagree.

Opinion pages are supposed to spur debate, and my readers keep me on my
toes. That’s why I read my e-mail and have on occasion written columns
replying to readers. I hope you will understand that it is often difficult
to reply in detail to every note and letter I get. But please know that I am
paying attention. If you would like, please visit my new discussion board on
the Washington Post website: E.J.’s Precinct.

Best wishes,
E.J. Dionne

How special. A discussion board with minimal interaction from Dionne (11 posts between 5/22 and 6/11).

And then there’s this. A piece titled “Replying to Blogger Friends”, with the tag line: “Posted by EJ_Dionne at 6/3/2007 9:44 AM” that has a paragraph near the end that starts out referring to himself in third person, apparently:

Please feel free to join earlier debates on which E.J. has expressed his view.

Is he even writing the few posts his name is on? Or reading the comments of others? Is it “Swampland Lite”?

A Bridge Twofer

From an MSNBC.com report on the second bridge bombing in Iraq in two days:

Targeting all transit systems

Paul Kane, a fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, said the attacks on bridges are an extension of earlier insurgent attacks on “electric generation sites, infrastructure for water and also the obvious target of oil pipelines.”

Kane noted that Iraq does not have railroad service so insurgents “may be at the end of the transit list. If anything, it means they’re trying to be creative and they’re running out of targets.”

Riiight. They might not know what else to bomb! Finally, they’re getting around to the bridges. Once they’re done with those final targets, they’ll be stumped and give up.

Now, I’ve never attended or taught at or been a fellow of anything with an “International Security Program”, but I always heard that the best way to impede the movement of your enemy’s ground forces was to control or destroy the bridges, what with rivers being natural impediments to the movement of infantry and most vehicles.

It’s one way to prevent forces and supplies from being brought to the front. Alternatively, if bridges behind an enemy can be taken out, you can cut off retreat.

But I’m sure in this case it’s just a lack of targets for the insurgents.

Six Years Ago Today

Margaret Baker, 1918-2001

A word from my cousin Roxana about our grandmother:

I have spent many years in a volunteer capacity working against domestic violence, so I was shocked when my grandmother was shot and killed June 11 in the White Salmon area. My grandmother was bedridden, blind, and has suffered many strokes over the years. I did not expect her to die in this manner.

She died because her caregiver, Toni Stencil, was the target of an angry man.

There is not room to write all the details Toni has given me, and Toni has her own story to tell. I am not a legal expert, or an expert in domestic violence. I am simply a granddaughter asking questions and looking for answers on why my grandmother had to die so violently.

Through my questions, I have found out that the state of Washington has a Mandatory Arrest Law, as does Wisconsin, where I now live. This law does vary from state to state, and I’m not clear on the stipulations in your law. What I have been told by Toni is that she called 9-1-1 on the Thursday evening prior to the (Monday) shooting because this man had bound her and held her against her will for over three hours. She talked her way out of this dangerous situation and did call 9-1-1.

I wonder why he was not arrested on that evening. Certainly this will be determined, and police in White Salmon have declined to answer my questions concerning this issue at present.

Why should you care about this law? Remember that my grandmother was an innocent victim of a dispute between two people that she had absolutely nothing to do with. This was a dangerous man. Are the laws you have in place working for you? If not, why?

These are the questions running through my head that keep me up at night. There is another state law that interests me as well that I’m checking into concerning self-help information that is to be given to victims of domestic 9-1-1 calls. Three days passed between Toni’s initial call for help and the shooting; she needed professional help. I have found out that you have the Programs For Peaceful Living. This program could have offered Toni some very needed support in a number of ways.

I pose these questions and tell this story because it is my way of helping and healing. On my own, I cannot look into your laws and check into the rapport between your police force and your programs in place to help people. You need to be concerned because you care about the health of your community. I believe domestic violence issues are so important, because the health of a whole community starts in the home.

Please support your local law enforcement and program such as Programs For Peaceful Living in working together against domestic violence.

Question for Edwards II

There’s an updated version of my question for John Edwards about the advisors who counseled him to vote for the Iraq war resolution in the queue at blog.johnedwards.com.

It’s kind of sad. Of the three major candidates for the Democratic nomination, I think that I’m probably more disposed toward Edwards for his populist economic message. But there’s no way anyone is going to be able to address deep structural issues in the US economy if they let themselves get drawn into a quagmire like Iraq when advisors tell them they need to do something to “look strong”, despite evidence that there’s no threat, and despite the fact that most of the members of their party in Congress aren’t convinced there’s a threat. Edwards made that mistake once, and he’s admitted it was a mistake, but if he’s still listening to the same advisors there’s no reason he won’t make a similar monumental mistake. The people who keep pointing out that he’s changed his mind on Iraq don’t seem to get that. Of course he’s changed his mind on Iraq. He’d have to be a moron not to have changed his mind on Iraq. What I want to know is: What is he doing to make sure he doesn’t get screwed over by the same advisors again?

Bad Math From David Sirota?

I just watched David Sirota’s “Democrats’ Innocent Bystander Fable” video, and while I agree with its point, the screen near the end saying “Two weeks ago, roughly 80% of Democrats in Congress voted to help continue the Iraq War” is absolutely incorrect.

While that figure’s true for the Senate, the overall percentage of Democrats in the Senate and House who voted for the supplemental funding bill is 44%.

There are 232 Democrats in the House and 49 in the Senate. 86 Democratic Representatives and 39 Democratic Senators voted for the supplemental. That’s 125 “yea” votes out of 281 Democrats, and it’s nowhere near 80%. (It’s 44%.) While that’s still appallingly high, the figure of 80% in the video is wrong. Even if you gave equal weight to the House and Senate and averaged their percentages, with the vote in the House at 37% and the vote in the Senate at 80%. the figure would only be 59%.

UPDATE: In an email, David Sirota says that his figure refers to a procedural motion in the House that “made passing the blank check possible” which passed by 90%. I replied that given references on previous screens to a “bill” (i.e. the supplemental spending bill) that point was unclear, although I certainly agreed that the Democrats should have cut off funding. He said he should probably have put in roll call numbers. I agree that would have made the calculation of the 80% more transparent.

Call From the DCCC

I just got off a phone call from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asking for money. My current policy — even before I was laid off last week — is only to give money to targeted candidates. I don’t have to agree with everything the candidate says or does, but they have to at least be willing to deal with the war in a rational and consistent manner and not knuckle under to either the administration or the Democratic leadership.

When I explained my stance and rationale to the woman on the phone, she brought up the Iraq war supplemental and told me that “we” couldn’t leave our troops over there without supplies, which was why some sort of funding bill had to be passed. I responded that she shouldn’t be using Republican talking points and from there the conversation got a little bit heated, with her telling me that the troops in Iraq would “starve” without the money from the supplemental. Really. That’s what she told me. The troops would “starve”.

I said that any any President who would leave the troops to starve rather than bring them home sounded like someone who ought to be impeached, and she said that there weren’t enough votes to impeach him. I thought that there probably would be if there were actually 150,000 troops starving in Iraq, but said instead that the House — with a 30-vote Democratic margin — could conceivably pass impeachment articles at any time. She responded that the Senate would bottle up the conviction. Again, I thought of the 150,000 starving troops and the various Republicans (or Democrats or Independent Democrats) who would have to get on board to let that happen, but right about then the conversation ended.

I do feel sorry for the woman. I don’t know where she was from, but it sounded like the Midwest. And I can’t help but think that even for a Democratic fundraiser it might not be a particularly great time to be hitting donors up for money, but I might have been suspicious that Democratic fundraisers have picked up the RNC callers laid off last week if I hadn’t already heard the same damn arguments from long-time Democrats.

No Need To Ask

At Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates if they would be willing to kill innocent civilians in order to kill Osama bin Laden.

Blitzer posed the question directly to Rep. Dennis Kucinich first. Kucinich said that he did not approve of using assassination as a tool, which I think can be taken as a “no”.
Sen. Barack Obama said that he didn’t “believe in assassinations” but a “military target” like bin Laden should be taken out.

Blitzer called for a show of hands. It’s difficult to tell from the video in Part 3, but it looks as if everyone on the stage but Kucinich raised their hand. Biden made a comment about the number of civilians, Sen. Hillary Clinton pointed out that the abstract nature of the question made it difficult to answer (and then mentioned President Clinton’s attempts to kill bin Laden). Former Sen. John Edwards said there wasn’t enough information.

But really, there was no need to ask the question of people like Edwards, Clinton, and Biden, who were serving in the Senate when the Iraq authorization to use military force was passed in October 2002. They all voted for it. There was no way that an attack on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein would kill even just a handful of civilians. Thousands of Iraqi civilians were going to die in any invasion, no matter how smart our bombs were. The votes of those three Senators — based on their own gullibility, their pathetically incorrect assessment of the threat Iraq posed, their acquiescence for reasons of geopolitical strategy, or their political gamesmanship to look strong — doomed not just thousands of American soldiers but tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to death. Of course they’d be willing to kill innocent civilians to get Osama bin Laden; they were more than willing to authorize the deaths of civilians to kill Saddam Hussein, who had never attacked the US.

Thank God I Don’t Get A Lot of Traffic

100,001 Hits

Although I launched this site in February 2004, I didn’t put the Site Meter up until mid-August of 2005. It’s been slowly climbing its way up to the 100,000 mark — with volume going from 4,000 page views last June to 14,000 last month — and when I checked it this morning, there it was at 100,001.

A thread of commentary elsewhere led to one participant saying:

Hey Darrel,

Ever wonder no one reads your stupid blog?

And the short answer is: no, I really don’t.

Extraordinary Correlation

It’s one of those odd series of coincidences you pick up from too much extended contact with facts.

Russell Defreitas, the Guyanan-born US citizen accused of recruiting three others and suggesting a strike on JFK airport in New York City, was identified by two Portland television stations as a former employee of McMinnville’s Evergreen International Aviation.

These days, Evergreen operates a number of ventures, including the Evergreen Aviation Museum, where you can go to see Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, and the EAGLE ground handling service that Defeitas worked for, but until the late 1980s, Evergreen was more known for not being known. It operated as a front for the CIA. It extricated the former Shah of Iran from Panama just ahead of an Iranian extradition request in 1980. CBS said it was running guns to contras in Central America in the mid-1980s. The Oregonian ran a series of articles in 1988 tracing business connections between Evergreen and the CIA, including the purchase of the site of a maintenance center in Arizona.

When stories about private CIA planes flying terrorism suspects to “black site” prisons or for extraordinary rendition appeared, Evergreen was a natural suspect. Particularly when an executive jet identified by reporters as involved in the flights was bought by a company that used an Oregon lawyer’s office as its only address. The lawyer, who says he simply filed paperwork for the company though he never met the owners, had a complaint filed against him with the Oregon State Bar which was dismissed.

To recap: Evergreen Aviation used to/still does work for the CIA. Evergreen runs services in airports around the country. A guy who used to work for Evergreen is now said to have incited a few other guys to consider an attack on JFK.

I don’t know, it all sounds vaguely fishy, somehow. I sure hope this doesn’t turn into one of those “trying to reel in the big fish we caught our own bait” stories.