Saturday, January 07, 2006

You've got mail! (*but it's been opened by the Department of Homeland Security)

You know all about the domestic spying scandal, I presume, but did you know that the government may also be opening your private mail?



And, while we're at it, here's more on spygate from The Washington Post: "A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments." Make sure to read the whole article.


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Scooter on the Hudson

According to The Washington Post, I. Lewis Libby (a.k.a., Scooter) has found a nice, cushy place to land after his recent fall from political grace: the Hudson Institute, "a conservative think tank focusing on foreign policy and national security". No word if it also focuses on obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury (see here, then here).

You see how corrupt the conservative movement is, right? Or is it not yet obvious enough? If so, what more do you need?

How about $160,000 a year plus perks?


For more on Libby's disgraceful behaviour, see here, here, and here.

Then go see Echidne and Shakespeare's Sister.

And, with an excellent post, MyDD: "The Republicans have a machine greased with lots of money and prestige. The only crime in their book is disloyalty to party, which is why the Hudson Institute has no problem hiring some under indictment for perjury. It's a machine. They're taking care of their own."

For about $160,000 a year plus perks plus so much more.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Pity poor Jack (Abramoff)

No. Don't. He doesn't deserve your pity. He deserves your scorn and contempt.

In The Washington Post today, E.J. Dionne remarks on Abramoff's "vanishing friends". All over Republican Washington, they're running from him like the Bushies ran from Kenny Boy Lay.

Jack who? Nope. Don't know him. Oh... that guy? He's a bad dude, and I hope they put him away for good, but, no, we were never friends. Promise. Cross my heart. Hope to die.

Ah, but Dionne has the evidence -- a lot of it -- to show that Abramoff had some pretty good and powerful friends when he had all that "moolah" to hand out, all those connections to grease, all that bribing, uh, lobbying to do.

You know, guys like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, like President Bush himself.

What does it mean when a soon-to-be convicted felon, one of the dirtiest crooks in Republican Washington, and that's saying something, is one of your biggest donors and loyal supporters?

Coincidence? I don't think so.

They can run, but they can't hide.

(See also Hullabaloo and First Draft.)

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Duke Cunningham, the wire-wearing Congressman

So it seems that Duke Cunningham, the commode-consuming ex-Congressman whom I first wrote about here, "wore a wire to help investigators gather evidence against others just before copping his own plea," according to Time.

Some big-time bloggers have posted on this somewhat amusing story -- one that, who knows, could lead to yet more trouble for an already troubled Republican Party. For example (with my comments):

-- The Carpetbagger Report: "If you're a Republican House member, this isn't the way you wanted to end the week. It was bad enough when Jack Abramoff struck a plea deal and agreed to give up all of his Republican friends in Congress, but knowing that federal prosecutors were listening in on conversations they had with Cunningham opens up yet another can of worms."

I don't know about you, but I've lost track of all the cans.

-- Think Progress: "Remember, the Department of Justice made a plea deal with Jack Abramoff to get incriminating information on members of Congress. Why did they make a deal with a member of Congress, Duke Cunningham? It’s likely that there are bigger fish to fry."

Use your imagination. Or just think of the likely culprits.

-- Booman Tribune: "Let the whole bunch of them turn on each other. They are no better than gangsters, and they act no better than gangsters."

Sort of like the end of Reservoir Dogs.

-- Political Animal: "It just makes all our liberal hearts go pitty pat, doesn't it?"

Indeed. How sweet it is...

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sharon suffers major stroke

Update from The Jerusalem Post: "After a six-hour operation for cerebral hemorrhaging that continued for most of Wednesday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was returned to the operating room following a CAT scan that revealed additional areas of cerebral bleeding."

Sharon suffered "a massive brain hemhorrage" late yesterday. Doctors have suggested that "Sharon's brain hemorrhage was complicated by the blood thinners that the prime minister has been receiving twice daily since his first, minor, stroke some two weeks ago." (I wrote about that here.)

According to Haaretz: "On Wednesday night, Sharon's prime ministerial authority was transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert." An emergency Cabinet meeting will be held this morning.

More to follow.

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Conservatives narrow gap in Canada

According to the Globe and Mail / CTV tracking poll, the Conservatives are now just two points behind the governing Liberals. The Liberals are at 33%, while the Conservatives are at 31%. The New Democrats are third at 17%, the separatist Bloc Quebecois fourth at 13% (all in Quebec, of course). The Greens come in fifth at 5%.

The numbers have remained relatively consistent, which means that we're looking at either a Liberal or Conservative minority government coming out of the Jan. 23 election. I still think the Liberals will end up on top, if only by a few seats, but it's not inconceivable that the Conservatives could pull out a narrow victory.

One point, however: Although the Liberals and Conservatives are close, these poll numbers show that the center of gravity in Canadian politics is very much on the center-left of a spectrum that already leans to the left of its American counterpart. The Conservatives are for the most part a center-right party with smaller populist, religious, and neoconservative elements on its right flank. The Liberals, traditionally Canada's dominant party, occupy a huge swath of the spectrum all the way from the left, where they occasionally overlap with the socialist New Democrats, to the other side of center, where they overlap with the more traditional Tory elements among the Conservatives. The New Democrats, to repeat, are on the left, Canada's mainstream socialists. The Greens aren't easily identified on the spectrum, but they are for the most part on left and center-left. The Bloc is a single-purpose party that promotes Quebecois separatism. Like its provincial counterpart, the Parti Quebecois, it spans the spectrum from socialism on the left to nationalism on the right, but for the most part the Bloc leans left on economic and social issues (for example, it supported same-sex marriage).

The Conservatives may win a narrow minority government, but Canada is not a conservative (or Conservative) country. To be sure, there is conservatism in Canada and there's obviously room for a party that represents the interests of the right side of the spectrum, but the majority of Canadians -- those who will vote for the Liberals, the New Democrats, the Bloc, and the Greens -- will not vote for such a party. The Liberals may similarly win a narrow minority government, but at least the Liberals are more or less in line with the majority of Canadians, even if that majority divides its votes among a number of parties and thereby allows the Conservatives to squeak through.

I haven't yet decided where my vote will go. I'm not impressed with any of the candidates in my riding in downtown Toronto. But it's nice to know that, regardless of the outcome, Canadians will express once again that we are a liberal (if not necessarily Liberal) country.

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Sign of the Apocalypse #29: The rise of Ryan Seacrest

So Ryan Seacrest, he of American Idol fame/infamy, is the new Dick Clark. He's just signed what is reported to be a three-year, $21-million dollar deal to host and produce for the E! network, according to CNN.

It's not that I hate the guy, and it's not that I think he's completely without talent -- surely even vapid TV hosting requires some sort of "talent". But something's seriously wrong when Ryan Seacrest makes $7 million a year while millions of Americans live in poverty and, at best, struggle to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck.

I can understand how and why a great actor or athlete makes millions to entertain us. But... the host of American Idol?


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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Iran's quest for The Bomb

From The Guardian:

The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes.

Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.

For more on Iran's nuclear ambitions, see here, here, and here.

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12 of 13 miners found dead in West Virginia

Sad news from Sago, West Virginia:

Initial reports late last night indicated that 12 of the 13 trapped miners had been found alive and rescued. But, in truth, only one was found alive. See the full Washington Post article here.

There isn't much else to be said at a time like this.

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The Abramoff scandal: Republican spin and media complacency

Digby, as usual, tells it like it is: "The media is working hard to make this into a bi-partisan scandal but that is simple bullshit... The press is surely under tremendous pressure from the Republicans to report this as a bi-partisan scandal and they are already buckling under. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a GOP operation from the get -- and they know it." And:

This characterization of the scandal as being "bi-partisan" is typical bad mainstream journalism, particularly the emphasis they are placing on the very small handful of Democrats who've even been mentioned (much less included in any legal proceedings.) Not only are they creating some equity and illegality where none exists, by doing it they are missing the real story, as usual.

This isn't a story about power corrupting or about a few bad apples. This is about a corrupt political machine -- a system of money laundering and public corruption on behalf of one political party. It's about a party that has used every tool at its disposal to legally and illegally enrich itself and enhance its power. It's right there. It's unravelling before our eyes.

Precisely. Sidestep the spin, peer through the complacency, and see the scandal for what it is, filth and all. And then, if you dare, explain to me how these guys deserve to stay in power. I'd love to know how Republicans intend to defend themselves against these charges.

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The Abramoff scandal: Guilt, sleaze, and Republican corruption

Jack Abramoff, the tip of the iceberg of GOP corruption, "pleaded guilty to three felony counts in Washington [yesterday] as part of a settlement with federal prosecutors, ending an intense, months-long negotiation over whether the Republican lobbyist would testify against his former colleagues." That according to The New York Times.

Specifically: "[Abramoff] pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case."

And then there's the Florida case.

Get ready. The show's about to begin.

And there'll be more here at The Reaction as the story develops. As always, stay tuned.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kerry looking ahead to '08

According to the AP, John Kerry (whom, of course, I supported in '04) is positioning himself for another run at the White House in '08.

And why not? He won't win, but what's wrong with giving it another go? After all, he almost beat an incumbent president in a time of war. There are better candidates out there, but if he ever got his convoluted, nuanced positions together... Okay, that's a huge if... Still, he remains a credible candidate with a solid record and I see no reason why he wouldn't be a welcome addition to the ranks of the leading Democratic contenders once again.

For more (and for uniformly negative views of Kerry as a potential candidate in '08), see The Moderate Voice (which explains the many problems of a Kerry run); Shakespeare's Sister (who thinks it's over for Kerry); AMERICAblog (which similarly thinks it's time to move on); and, on the right, Captain's Quarters (which doesn't think Kerry has a chance).

(See here for a post on Gore in '08.)

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Bush's 2005: A lawbreaker in the Oval Office

Atrios looks back at 2005 in this important post:

2005 was the year that the president of the United States declared proudly that he had broken the law repeatedly and with full intention, that he had the power to do so whenever he wanted to, and that he would continue to do so whenever he determined it to be desirable. This declaration was met with basic approval from much of the beltway chattering classes, prominent libertarian bloggers, and just about every small government conservative...

2005 was the year the president declared he was the law, and few of our elite opinion makers and shapers bothered to notice, or care.

Make sure to read the whole thing.


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Can you smell the (Russian) gas?

Thankfully, Russian gas is flowing back into Europe through the Ukraine: "Russia's natural gas monopoly restored most of the gas it had withheld from Ukraine a day earlier in a pricing dispute, after the company said Ukraine had simply withdrawn gas from the export pipelines for its own use, putting Russia's primary customers in Europe in jeopardy."

Hardly from Russia with love, but did Gazprom seriously think that the Ukraine would not siphon off some of the gas bound for Western Europe?

Yet the dispute continues...

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Bush contra McCain: Torture, executive power, and a resolution for 2006

On December 16, 2005, I reported that President Bush had finally agreed to Senator McCain's legislative ban on torture. It was yet another flip-flop from this most flip-flopping of presidencies, but I called this one "hypocrisy in the right direction".

However, in that same post, which you can find here, I also said this: "The White House probably did see the writing on the wall and obviously needed to do something to align itself with public and Congressional opinion (not to mention humanity). And, on the surface, this looks good. I've long been a supporter of McCain on this issue. As I put it yesterday, 'there ought to be a firm and absolute ban against [torture]'. This White House flip-flop -- and McCain's victory over his opponents throughout the Republican Party -- moves America closer to such a ban. But don't yet take Bush at his word. He and his pro-torture cronies, led by Cheney, are likely looking for whatever loophole they can find." (emphasis added)

Well, it didn't take long for Bush, Cheney, and the rest of this reprehensible crew to find their loophole -- or, actually, to make one for themselves.

Here, via Marty Lederman at Balkinization, is what Bush is interpreting the McCain Amendment:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

And here, via Lederman, is what it really means: "Translation: I reserve the constitutional right to waterboard when it will 'assist' in protecting the American people from terrorist attacks."

My translation: We have tortured, are torturing, and will continue to torture for as long as we please according to our unchecked interpretation of executive power and application thereof according to our similarly unbalanced understanding of national security and international affairs.

Happy New Year, my friends. These old acquaintances of ours haven't been forgotten, and they're back to their old tricks, leading America in the wrong direction. Some things never change.

And some things are still disgusting.


Make all the resolutions you want, but our main resolution should be this: To stand up for what we believe in -- which is, I would venture to suggest, a fair and equitable economic policy that helps those who can't help themselves and that emphasizes both individual and governmental responsibility; a sober, flexible foreign policy that balances diplomacy and military might and that fully appreciates America's place in an increasingly interconnected global community; a commitment to the environment; a fundamental appreciation of civil rights and individual liberty; and in general a liberalism that offers hope and opportunity for all Americans, including an emphasis on education and health care -- and, needless to say, to do what we need to do to take back America from these enablers of torture and their supporters in the corrupt party of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist.

Shall we make this resolution together?

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Monday, January 02, 2006

The Reaction 2006

The Return of The Reaction

It seems like an entire epoch has passed in the fast-paced world of the blogosphere since I last posted on December 27. I was away on vacation in Prince Edward Island from the 27th to the 1st and have spent the better part of the past day or so getting back to "real" life in Toronto. A laptop with dial-up service was available to me in P.E.I., but I decided not even to go near it -- and, to be honest (not that I ever lie to you here!), it was a pleasure to take a few days off from the strain of blogging. Not that blogging is without its pleasure. I do it voluntarily, of course, and I enjoy it a great deal. But I run this site on my own and, as you all know, I do most of the posting. On top of a regular job with the Government of Ontario and my continued studies at the University of Toronto. So I took these past several days to spend time with my family, to enjoy the quiet, slow-paced pleasures of life in P.E.I., and to refresh myself for what I hope is a happy and successful year of blogging in 2006.

So the regular posting will start up again this evening and continue much as it has since The Reaction was founded in late-March of last year. I'll do most of the posting, but my co-bloggers will contribute now and then, and I may even invite a few more co-bloggers on board and to ask a few guest bloggers to write special posts. As usual, there will be a lot to read -- commentary and analysis on a variety of topics both political and non-political, plus round-ups of reaction to major stories from around the blogosphere, plus tons of links to everything from major news outlets like The New York Times and the BBC to major blogs like Daily Kos and Andrew Sullivan to all the blogs on my blogroll, big and small alike, the best voices from across the spectrum.

So keep coming back and check in often. There will be days with only two or three posts, but then there will be days with eight or nine posts. Much of the focus this year will likely be on the U.S., given the ongoing situation in Iraq and the midterm elections in November, but I'll also continue to write extensively about Canada and to provide a good deal of foreign (that is, from my perspective, non-American, non-Canadian) content. And I invite you to comment on my posts and to engage both with me and with one another. I've learned much from other bloggers during my short time as a blogger, but I've also learned much from my readers in the comments sections and in e-mails. Whether you agree with me on a specific issue or not, it's great to hear from you and I try to respond to each and every comment and e-mail.

I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all the best in 2006.

And now: Back to The Reaction.

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