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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, November 27, 2006


The "Get-Out-of-Baghdad" Bandwagon is Filling Up


In another case of "A day late and a dollar short", this Associate Press headline caught my eye:


Key U.S. lawmakers losing confidence in Iraq leaders

Lawmakers' faith in Iraq's leaders wanes


Welcome to the party! The rest of us have been here for quite some time.


In anticipation that the Iraq Study Group, headed by James "Elections: Can we steal one for you?" Baker and former US Representative and 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton, might actually come out with a new idea on how to save face while getting our troops out of the Bush-Quagmire in Iraq, some politicos are jumping on the "This is a mess" bandwagon.


Today's newest member is Senator Chuck Hagel (REPUBLICAN-NE) who has made overtones prior to today about what's going on in Iraq, but has never said it as bluntly as he did today.


"If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder — one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead,"



Just a reminder to you about Senator Hagel. he's the guy who owned the voting machine company whose machines were used in his own election, which he barely won, for his flat-square state seat.


I guess it's true: I'd rather be lucky than good, too.


Now, to be fair to senator Hagel, he has to walk a fine line between speaking the truth and kissing the collective butts of the far right, without whom he doesn't stand a chance at staying in his seat. All of this goes along with the probability that Hagel will be throwing his hat in the 2008 GOP presidential sweepstakes very soon. It's my bet that he's looking more for the VP title than the number one spot. good luck wrestling that one away from Jeb, Chuck.


And, get this, the Baker-Hamilton commission might recommend that the US get together with Iran and Syria to help get Iraq on the right footing. That's one card-carrying member of the axis of evil and one with a very strong membership application, for those of you keeping score.


"it's not too late for the United States to extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq."



Why that sounds like "cut and run", doesn't it? But Senator Chuck is right. After all, if now isn't the right time, and, as we can all assume, that Iraq will only get worse, not better, when will there be a better time? In a war that has lasted longer than World War II, in a place where the lines between our allies and our enemies gets blurred way too often, now is the right time for a real exit strategy, but I don't think involving Iraq as a partner in the plan is the way to go.


"The vast majority of the citizens here want to live in a peaceful secure city. That's what their desire is,"

-Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq


The vast majority of the citizens better get off their vast majority asses and start making some noise.


What the General doesn't want to call the conflict in Iraq is a civil war. Sure, they've got lots of euphemisms, calling it a "struggle between good and evil", or "on the brim of becoming a civil war" or saying that it isn't "full-blown, yet", but we all know the truth. Even the GOP faithful, like Senator Hagel are getting with the program which shows that over two-thirds of Americans want us out of there, and fast!


Prime Minister Malaki owes his political life to the like of Muqtadr al-Sadr, the young cleric with the darn-best militia in the southern part of Iraq. We can expect nothing but rhetoric from him. And are we really going to rely on Iran and Syria for help? These guys have either lost their minds or they're simply Freakin' Fools!


This is a very stable government,"

-Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie


Does anyone else remember Baghdad Bob? He was the guy telling us all that the "Americans are on the run" and that "the streets are running red with their blood"? I wonder if Mouwafak al-Rubaie is related to him?


Remember: Denial (The Nile) is not just a river in Egypt".


"We have misunderstood, misread, mis-planned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans."



You're giving the Bushies too much credit Senator Chuck.


-Noah Greenberg


Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general


MADRID (Reuters) - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.


Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.


..."The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.


... Rumsfeld also authorized the army to break the Geneva Conventions by not registering all prisoners, Karpinski said, explaining how she raised the case of one unregistered inmate with an aide to former U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.


[According to Karpinski,] "We received a message from the Pentagon, from the Defense Secretary, ordering us to hold the prisoner without registering him. I now know this happened on various occasions."



Our feckless media is saying very little about this.  Rumsfeld was already indicted in Germany for war crimes.  The question is will our courts act or shield Rumsfeld behind the Military Commissions Act (MCA)?


-Forwarded and commented by Robert Scardapane



by Victoria A. Brownworth

copyright c 2006, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.


 In January, America will have its first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Currently, Speaker-elect Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government.


 For those who don’t know just how major that is, the Speaker is second in line to the presidency, after the Vice President. This means if Vice President Cheney accidentally shoots President Bush and himself while grouse hunting, Pelosi would become president.


 According to U.S. law, should the president be rendered unable to serve, the vice president takes control. Should the president and the vice president both be unable to perform their duties, the Speaker of the House assumes the presidency. The Speaker of the House has tremendous political influence, sets the legislative agenda, refers bills to committee for consideration and appoints officers of that chamber.


 Pelosi’s ground-breaking election to this third-most important post in American government has encouraged those who want the next president of the U.S. to be a woman, most probably Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).


 The U.S. lags well behind other democratic nations which have had women Prime Ministers and Presidents.


 In 1960,Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the first female elected Prime Minister in the world. In 1974, Isabel Peron of Argentina became the first female President.


 In 1966, India’s Indira Gandhi became the world’s longest serving female Prime Minister (1966-1977; she was re-elected in 1980 and served until her assassination on October 31, 1984).


 In 1979, the U.K. elected Margaret Thatcher as the nation’s first female Prime Minister. She held office through 1990.


 While there have always been female rulers–Queens throughout history–the ascendancy of women into elected power politics has been surprisingly slow. There are currently six female Presidents: in Chile, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Liberia and The Philippines and six female Prime Ministers: in Germany, Jamaica, New Zealand, Mozambique, South Korea and The Netherlands Antilles.


 With Pelosi’s election as House Speaker, the U.S. comes closer to other democratic nations, most of which have numerous women in high-level governmental positions. Only Saudi Arabia and Monaco have never had a woman in a governmental ministerial position.


 Despite the advances of feminism and women’s rights over the past few decades, however, politics has remained a largely male enclave. Women won the right to vote less than 100 years ago, in 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Yet, women’s acceptance into the realm of political power has been slow, barred by misperceptions about how women think and act. Many men and some women still believe that women are ruled by emotions, rather than rational thought, and therefore are too mercurial and volatile to lead. The election of Pelosi begins to disabuse people of that misconception.


 Women first became seriously engaged in politics in America in the early 19th century, during slavery, when the abolitionist movement was being formed.  Several important Quaker women, including Philadelphia’s Lucretia Mott, were at the forefront of that movement, which was centered in Philadelphia and Boston.


 The twin goals of abolition and women’s suffrage became inextricably linked. In 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, a convention was held to force a move toward women’s suffrage–the right to vote.  The convention at Seneca Falls was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These Quaker women began arguing for suffrage after Mott, a leading abolitionist, was denied a seat at an international anti-slavery meeting in London solely because she was a woman.


 Several hundred women and 40 men attended the Seneca Falls meeting, among them former slave and abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass. The delegates adopted a statement, deliberately modeled on the Declaration of Independence, as well as a series of resolutions calling for women's suffrage and the reform of marital and property laws that kept women in an inferior legal state.


 The years between 1848 and 1920, however, were fraught with struggle for women. Despite advances in the social arena by women, the right to vote–and the right to hold political office–remained frustratingly out of reach. Victoria Woodhull, a journalist and stockbroker, ran for President on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1887. But it wasn’t until 1917, that the first woman was elected to a position in the U.S. government, when Jeanette Rankin (R-MT) became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. In 1931, Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), was appointed to the U.S Senate to succeed her late husband; she was the first of many women to be appointed to the seats of their deceased husbands and for decades this was the only way women found a place in Congress. However, after this appointment, Caraway also became the first woman ever elected to the Senate, where she served two full terms.


 Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, having first replaced her husband in the House, when he was dying. She was also the first woman to be nominated by another member of Congress to run for President in 1964. (She withdrew her nomination for Barry Goldwater.) In 1972, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 had become the first African-American woman to serve in Congress, became the first woman to run for president on a major ticket, on the ballot in all the Democratic primaries.


 In 1978, Nancy Kassenbaum (R-KS) became the first woman ever to be elected to the Senate who was not filling out a term previously held by her husband (like Caraway and Smith had done).


 A decade ago there were only four women in the Senate. But the improved numbers are still not adequate and these gains for women are not what they could be. The U.S. currently ranks 67th worldwide in percentage of women in government.


 However, despite this lag, with the most recent election, there are now more women in the Congress than ever before. When the 110th Congress convenes in January, there will be 16 female senators and 72 female representatives. (possibly 74–two contested seats will not be decided until a run-off election in December; in addition three women serve as Delegates to the House from Washington, D.C. and the U.S. protectorates of Guam and the Virgin Islands).


 In a Congress with 535 seats, 16 percent held by women is hardly commensurate with the demographics of women in the country.


 Resistance to the concept of female leadership is deeply ingrained in the American political psyche. The majority of women currently serving in Congress have been there for many years; Pelosi was first elected in 1987. But the cynicism regarding *how* women will lead remains.


 Since Pelosi was elected Speaker, the pundits have focused more attention on her than on the President. Pelosi succeeds Republican Dennis Hastert, whose final months as Speaker have been marred by what several Congressional aides have stated was his cover-up of the Mark Foley scandal. Foley is the Republican Congressman who was alleged to have engaged in on-line sexual exchanges with several male pages working in the Capitol.


 Pelosi has set several goals for her new Congress, first and foremost among them, ethics. Hastert’s 109th Congress was roundly viewed as one of the most corrupt in decades, with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay having to step down due to indictments and several other Republican members of Congress facing either indictments or jail terms.


 But regardless of the agenda she has set, Pelosi still must face the reality of sexism in America. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd began one of her columns last week with the following: “Nancy Pelosi’s first move, after the Democratic triumph, was to throw like a girl. Women get criticized in the office for acting on relationships and past slights rather than strategy, so Madame Speaker wasted no time making her first move based on relationships and past slights rather than strategy.” The column's title was "Squeaker of the House."


 Dowd’s sexist rant refers to Pelosi’s decision to back Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha for Majority Leader. Murtha, who served in two wars, has been one of the most outspoken members of Congress in his opposition to the war on Iraq. Murtha has also been a staunch supporter of Pelosi’s policies.


 Murtha lost the election bid to Steny Hoyer (D-MD).


 Hoyer had been Pelosi’s opposition for House Minority Leader in 2001 and has, on occasion, been less than supportive of Pelosi’s agenda. Pelosi and Murtha are friends and share similar views on the tone politics should be taking in Washington.


 Does her decision to choose someone who supports her versus someone who has not always been supportive mean that Pelosi “throws like a girl?”


 I can’t remember anyone ever saying that about, say, George Bush, who has made it a policy to appoint people who support his agenda--much like any other political leader. if anything, Pelosi's actions signal she's throwing like a man.


 Politics is agenda based. If women are in high-level politics, they will have the same need for loyal supporters as men. Focusing on Pelosi’s gender is beside the point.


 Except for many it *is* the point.


 Nearly every story written about Pelosi since her election has centered on her looks, her clothes, her manner and way down the line, her political agenda.


 This is a woman who has been involved in politics twice as long as the current president of the U.S. Why can’t she be granted a little respect for that longevity and acumen? Obviously her fellow House members believe in her ability to lead or they wouldn’t have elected her.


 But the problem of women in politics runs deeper than Pelosi, who is by all accounts a likable diplomat who gets stuff done–which already means she’s the polar opposite of Hastert, who presided over the most contentious and lackluster Congress in the past 50 years.


 Whenever people discuss Hillary Clinton as a possible/probable candidate for president, they complain that she’s “not likable.” Yet among her very divergent constituents in New York, where she was re-elected in a landslide, Clinton is roundly viewed as an excellent Senator who serves her constituents well. *And* is immensely likable.


 The standards for women in politics are different from men. Where a level of charismatic sexiness and good looks are essentials for men running for office, women are expected to be staid and unflatteringly plain. Women who speak out are still viewed through a different prism than men. It is still a regrettable political truism that when a man speaks his mind he’s considered a leader and forward thinker and when a woman does it she’s viewed as pushy and shrill.


 And yet it is women who are leading the fight for change on all the major social issues in America today, from ending the war to raising the minimum wage.  Margaret Thatcher changed the face of British politics. Indira Gandhi did the same in India. Thatcher was a conservative, Gandhi, a leftist, both were reformers. The current female president of Chile, Michele Bachelet, is a single mother and leftist reformer. The current female Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is a staunch conservative, but also a reformer.


 Pelosi intends to change the face of Washington. After she was elected to the post, Pelosi noted that she was focused on “unity for a new direction for our country.” This emphasis on unity is an important part of Pelosi’s message and one that is echoed by female politicians throughout the country, most of whom campaigned on issues of change and moderation in an increasingly polarized Washington and nation.


 Pelosi has been a unifying force in the Democratic Party, bringing members together on key issues and votes. Pelosi is also well-known for her ability to organize. She has intense focus on issues and is excellent at mobilizing her party to get things done. She has set a formidable agenda for the next month, including raising the minimum wage and setting a time table for withdrawal from Iraq, a war she voted against.


 What Pelosi represents is the changing face of women in American politics. Smart, savvy, as astute a politician as any man in Congress, Pelosi is not someone who filled in a vacated seat, like so many of her foremothers in Congress.


 And Pelosi is creating another path for women in Washington. When she was elected as House Speaker, there was no question that election meant she might–under dire circumstances–be asked to lead the nation and that her fellow Congress- members believed she was more than able to do that job.


 In 2008, it is likely that there will be a woman running for President and that the candidate will be Hillary Clinton, who has proven herself to be a born politician, like Pelosi.


 Do women lead differently than men? Indira Gandhi followed in many of the footsteps of her father, Indian Prime Minister Nehru. Thatcher carved her own place in British history–utterly altering many stalwart conventions of the British political system.


 Are women better at keeping nations out of wars? Gandhi was, Thatcher, who led the U.K. into an ill-conceived war in the Falklands, was not.


 What is definitive, however, is that women represent both change in government and visionary thinking. Madeleine Albright was the first woman Secretary of State in the U.S. under Bill Clinton and she was one of the great diplomats of the 20th century. In the time since she left office, she has devoted her attentions to stopping the traffic in women and girls worldwide.   


 Pelosi has explained what she expects to achieve as Speaker in the next few months, and given her record of mediation and diplomacy, it is likely she will achieve many of the goals she has set. Under Pelosi and the new Democratic leadership, more women are expected to hold higher positions on committees as well. This too will add to the momentum for a female president in 2008.


 It has been 160 years since the women at Seneca Falls demanded the right to vote. It is past time for women to ascend to the leadership roles that are as much their birthright in a democracy as those roles are for men. Pelosi’s election is an essential step toward that equalizing of American politics. A female president is the next step, and one past-due for this country.


In response to, "They (Republicans) do, however, hold one big chip: They have more than 40 (49, to be exact) GOP votes left in the Senate which allows their agenda that filibuster which they bought, along with their GOP senators," Eddie Konczal writes:


I thought Republicans wanted to get rid of the filibuster earlier this year!  Wouldn't it be the height of hypocrisy for them to use it?

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-Noah Greenberg