Saturday, May 06, 2006

Brazil goes nuclear

Brazil isn't Iran, but they now have something in common: "[It] has joined the select group of countries with the capability of enriching uranium as a means of generating energy."

Thankfully, "Brazil and the IAEA [have] agreed [to] a system of safeguards to ensure that the new facilities would not be channelled into weapons production." But not before some Iran-like tension: "Keen to protect its commercial secrets, Brazil was reluctant to give inspectors full access to its facilities and politically the negotiations were complicated by simultaneous concerns about Iran's nuclear plans."

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So why did Porter Goss resign?

According to Goss himself, his resignation is "just one of those mysteries". Maybe we need Dan Brown on the case. Or not. According to Laura Rozen, the verdict -- the conventional wisdom, that is -- is already in. Mainstream media outlets have more or less determined that "Goss was forced out yesterday after months of tension between him and John Negroponte over the CIA's reduced turf, and that President Bush lost confidence in Goss 'almost from the beginning'".

So that's that, right? No. Not unless you're happy accepting White House spin as truth. We need to know more.

Laura asks the questions the mainstream media aren't asking: "Does something about this story line that Goss suddenly left because of his long-standing tension with Negroponte, his fraternity brother from Yale, over Goss fighting to hold CIA turf seem a bit canned to you?... Does the way it happened resemble the slo-mo, warm and fuzzy way Andy Card and Scott McClellan were retired? Or does it rather have more in common with the swiftly announced departures of Claude Allen and David Safavian from their posts, a few days before we hear of federal investigations?"

As I said yesterday, there may have been tension between Goss and Negroponte and Bush may have been dissatisfied with Goss's performance. Negroponte in particular must have understood the extent of the damage Goss was doing to the CIA.

(He was Bush's man at the CIA. He was there to shake things up for Bush, not to provide him with impartial intelligence.)

But this wasn't handled like other high-level departures. Something happened to force Goss's hand, to push him out so suddenly. That something wasn't Bush or Negroponte. It was Kyle Foggo, a Goss appointment to the #3 position in the CIA and a key player in Hookergate currently under investigation by the CIA's inspector general. (Although Foggo has also announced his resignation. Quite the coincidence, eh?)

It may not be The New York Times, but the New York Daily News is looking beyond the conventional wisdom:

CIA Director Porter Goss abruptly resigned yesterday amid allegations that he and a top aide may have attended Watergate poker parties where bribes and prostitutes were provided to a corrupt congressman.

Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, could soon be indicted in a widening FBI investigation of the parties thrown by defense contractor Brent Wilkes, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery conviction of former Rep. Randall (Duke) Cunningham, law enforcement sources said.

A CIA spokeswoman said Foggo went to the lavish weekly hospitality-suite parties at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels but "just for poker."

Intelligence and law enforcement sources said solid evidence had yet to emerge that Goss also went to the parties, but Goss and Foggo share a fondness for poker and expensive cigars, and the FBI investigation was continuing.

There's a lot more on this over at Memeorandum, where you can find reaction from around the blogosphere. Go have a look. Just don't forget the name Foggo. The truth is in there somewhere.

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Fingers crossed

By Creature

The Washington Post today breaks down the peace agreement signed between the government of Sudan and the biggest Darfur rebel faction. The Post gives the United States, and Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, credit for the final push that brought these parties to agree after "three days and nights of almost continuous negotiations." Not all of the rebel factions signed onto the deal, but it is hoped "the momentum generated by the agreement would persuade doubters to eventually sign on." The peace plan is described as "complex" and the experts on Darfur are understandably "divided on the prospects for success."

Overall this must be treated as good news. And, if credit is due to the White House for pushing the parties together, then, yes, I give the White House credit. However, here is my problem, and it's typical of a Bush administration solution. It's possible that the treaty signed is all pomp and no circumstance.

"This is a feel-good agreement for the West," said Ted Dagne, a specialist in African affairs at the Congressional Research Service.

I hope this is not the case. I also hope that the signing of an agreement does not mean the world will once again put Darfur out of mind. Progress has been made. Let's keep an eye out. Let's keep the pressure on. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Read more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Friday, May 05, 2006

The surprise resignation of Porter Goss

As you may have heard by now, CIA Director Porter Goss resigned today: "Porter J. Goss was forced to step down yesterday as CIA director, ending a turbulent 18-month tenure marked by an exodus of some of the agency's top talent and growing White House dissatisfaction with his leadership during a time of war."

Goss "gave no reason for the departure". However, The Washington Post (see link above) is reporting that he was essentially forced out: "[S]enior administration officials said Bush had lost confidence in Goss... almost from the beginning and decided months ago to replace him. In what was described as a difficult meeting in April with Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, Goss was told to prepare to leave by May, according to several officials with knowledge of the conversation."

This may or may not be true -- I have no reason to doubt it -- but consider the positive White House spin: The Post quotes a "senior White House official" who claims (in the Post's words) that Goss's "departure was accelerated after Bush launched a shake-up of his White House staff in hopes of beginning a political turnaround". This spin emphasizes Bush's leadership (or, rather, his alleged leadership) and the Bolten-fueled misconception that this is a new, more responsive, more responsible White House. (Remember Bolten's five-point plan?) The Post treats this claim uncritically.

Fox News, Bush's Pravda, goes a step further and reports the spin right at the outset: "CIA chief Porter Goss resigned Friday to the surprise of many in Washington, although some sources say there have been rumblings of Goss' departure and that his move is just another part of the recent White House shake-up." The entire article lets Goss off the hook. It emphasizes Bush's prise of Goss, Bush's confidence in a smooth transition, and "the problem with leaks" (these leaks "may be, in part, what caused Goss to take his leave"). Conservative stalwart and Fox News regular Bill Kristol is quoted as saying that Bush in fact wasn't "dissatisfied" with Goss's performance. There is no further mention of the "White House shake-up". Was that placed in the opening paragraph just to throw us off the scent?

Speaking of Kristol, what the Fox News article conveniently omits is his assertion, on Fox News itself, that there's something else to the story. Think Progress has the video and transcript. Here's Kristol's key assertion: "I think there were either serious disputes or some internal problem at the agency or some scandal conceivably involving an associate of Goss’. Who knows? Something that popped this week and that caused this sudden event this Friday."

Ah, yes, the scandal. Here's Political Animal: "The news that CIA director Porter Goss has resigned after less than 20 months on the job — announced by the White House at prime news-burying time, Friday afternoon — may or may not be an indication that Goss will soon be enmeshed in the cigars-and-hookers scandal now swirling about Dusty Foggo, Goss's number 3 man at the agency."

But then what of the spin? There may have been tension between Goss and Negroponte and Bush may have been dissatisfied with Goss's performance. But surely this has nothing to do with Bolten's shake-up at the White House. After all, are we really to believe that the chief of staff has such authority over the intelligence community? It's one thing for Bolten to push out the White House press secretary, a lackey like Scott McClellan, quite another for him to force out the director of the CIA. And yet that's what Fox News would have you believe. It's even one of things a far more reputable outlet like the The Washington Post would have you believe.

My advice: Don't believe it.


Around the blogosphere:

The Carpetbagger Report: "I think it's fair to say that Porter Goss' resignation is poised to be the next big disaster for Bush's presidency." (If it is a scandal, "why would the president sit alongside Goss — in the Oval Office — for the announcement?" Regardless, it's likely that "something awful has pushed Goss out".)

Daily Kos: "This isn't part of some White House shake-up. This is a scandal-plagued Bush appointee resigning just as an investigation into another Republican corruption scandal hits too close to home."

Taylor Marsh takes a look at Hookergate. So does Josh Marshall. And Jane Hamsher. And

The Left Coaster looks at different possible reasons for Goss's sudden resignation. So does Political Animal.

Preemptive Karma: "The White House is going out of their way to spin this as Goss being in a 'transitional' head of the CIA... and that they knew all along his tenure would be short. Which is of course utter bullshit -- because they'd have sold his confirmation that way if it were true."

See also The Moderate Voice, The Mahablog, The Next Hurrah, War and Piece, Booman Tribune, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, CorrenteWire, NewsHog, TBogg, and our co-blogger Creature at State of the Day.

I'll have more on this over the weekend.

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Global warming and the spread of disease

Do you need more evidence that global warming is both very real and very bad? Consider this from the Post: "Global warming -- with an accompanying rise in floods and droughts -- is fueling the spread of epidemics in areas unprepared for the diseases, say many health experts worldwide. Mosquitoes, ticks, mice and other carriers are surviving warmer winters and expanding their range, bringing health threats with them."

Will it take some epidemic to stir us into action?

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Gay Iraqi boy shot dead

Iraq is such a lovely place, isn't it? This horrific story is from Britain's Independent:

Human rights groups have condemned the "barbaric" murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay.

Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani...

The killing of Ahmed is one of a series of alleged homophobic murders. There is mounting evidence that fundamentalists have infiltrated government security forces to commit homophobic murders while wearing police uniforms.

Human rights groups are particularly concerned that the Sadr and Badr militias, both Shia, have stepped up their attacks on the gay community after a string of religious rulings, since the US-led invasion, calling for the eradication of homosexuals.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani recently issued a fatwa on his website calling for the execution of gays in the "worst, most severe way".

Don't get me wrong. I realize that Saddam committed heinous atrocities, and I'm not pinning the blame here on the U.S. or more broadly on the war and the American occupation. And I'm certainly not lumping all Iraqis together. I'm sure there are many who are outraged or otherwise saddened by this. The problem is that -- Saddam or no Saddam, U.S. or no U.S. -- this virulent current of anti-gay sentiment is alive and well in Iraq. Sentiment? Is that even the right word? This is hatred. Murderous hatred.

Here's Andrew Sullivan: "I have yet to hear anything from the major national gay groups. Surprise! Alas, I don't expect the Bush administration to protest this -- because they need Sistani so badly. But they should."

Yes, they should. But they won't.

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Blame Chappaquiddick

By Creature

The right-wing fangs are out. The cable news tabloids are all abuzz. The transparent glee on the faces of the likes of Rita Cosby and Sean Hannity could be seen, burned into the screen, even after the TV was off for the night. What was all the excitement about? A Kennedy scandal. A Kennedy scandal that may have included alcohol, but definitely included a car crash, with a sprinkle of special privilege thrown in for good measure. This time it was Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), supposedly an all-around nice guy despite he clear lack of moral grounding, just ask Joe Scarborough.

It seems Rep. Kennedy crashed his car in the wee hours of Thursday morning. It seems that he was drunk. It seems the bigwigs in charge of the Capitol Police let it slide. No sobriety tests were conducted at the scene. Kennedy blames a mix of sleep medication and a prescription anti-nausea drug. The right-wing blames Chappaquiddick. It's amazing how fast archived, and irrelevant, footage of Sen. Edward Kennedy made it to the TV.

But wait, here is my big problem with all of this lunacy: When the Vice President of the United State shoots a man in the face, and is given special privileges by the local police, no one on the right is up in arms. When a Kennedy is given special privileges the sky has fallen down. This is utter crap. You know what? Kennedy should have been given a sobriety test AND the VP should have been given one as well. The VP nearly kills a man and the right is all excuses. A Kennedy has a car accident and his head should be on a platter. No one should have any special privileges, period. But, come on people, can you smell the double standard here? It stinks like Brit Hume's lips after an interview with the VP. The right leaning media have been waiting to catch a Democrat with their pants down, they have one now, and the venom is endless.

P.S. How come when a Democrat is in trouble it is usually over a personal matter, and when a Republican is caught in a scandal it usually involves a tax payer getting screwed?

Update: Kennedy is going into rehab, and the right wing is still running rabid.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Happy days are near again

Guest post by J. Kingston Pierce of Limbo

For those of us waiting impatiently to cheer the entry of a more competent, less ideologically motivated, and more honestly compassionate U.S. president into the Oval Office, every day’s new allowance of bewildering or downright disheartening political tales can be hard to take.

George W. Bush bases his foreign policy decisions on his religious faith? Republicans are trying to turn immigrants into criminals, not only in Mexican border states such as Arizona, but nationally as well? (No wonder American streets have been filled with protesters this week.) Bush isn’t satisfied with the carnage in Iraq, now he wants to launch a war on Iran as “his legacy”? Clark Kent Ervin, the former Homeland Security inspector general, was pressured to “tone down” his criticism of domestic security failures in the months prior to the 2004 presidential election? A probe growing from the conviction last year of U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-California) on bribery charges has opened up a GOP prostitution scandal and brought the CIA’s executive director, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, under scrutiny? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), so highly regarded under President Bill Clinton, has now been sufficiently enfeebled by incompetent management and so demonized after its failures during and after Hurricane Katrina, that the Senate wants to scrap it altogether?

Is it any wonder that we can’t open a newspaper or Web site these days without groaning? Yet as Bush’s lame-duck quack becomes ever clearer and more prominent, there are reasons to be optimistic again.

It gives me hope... that Bush’s poll ratings are tanking, after years of their being falsely pumped up by overly favorable media reports of his performance. The latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies assessment finds the prez eking out an embarrassing 36 percent approval rating--his lowest level yet recorded in that particular poll. Similarly, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that only 34 percent of Americans approve of what the prez is doing in office, “two points under his previous low.” And a fresh CBS News survey shows Bush with a 33 percent rating, his numbers being dragged down by skyrocketing domestic gas prices and the worsening situation in Iraq. All these figures follow last week’s CNN poll, which pegs Bush at a measly 32 percent approval. Republicans must be praying overtime, in hopes that Dubya’s popularity doesn’t fall into the 20s before they have to face voters again in the November midterm elections.

It gives me hope... that recent polls also find voters saying -- by double-digit margins -- that they’d prefer to see Democrats in charge of Congress after November.

It gives me hope... that D.C. journalists have their frickin’ panties in a twist over Stephen Colbert’s appearance at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Robert A. George, a New York Post editorial writer and former senior writer for Newt Gingrich, opines in The Huffington Post that Colbert “simply sucked” and that most of his 15-minute routine was “really forgettable.” Pundits appearing on the FOX morning program Fox and Friends contended that Colbert’s performance went “over the line,” as far as making fun of their favorite leader, and that it was “not very funny.” U.S. News and World Report quotes a Bush aide as saying that the prez is “angry,” “ready to blow” over his evisceration in front of the Washington, D.C., press establishment. But I agree with Salon’s Michael Scherer, who remarked yesterday that “Political Washington is accustomed to more direct attacks that follow the rules. We tend to like the bland buffoonery of Jay Leno or insider jokes that drop lots of names and enforce everyone’s clubby self-satisfaction... Similarly, White House spinmeisters are used to frontal assaults on their policies, which can be rebutted with a similar set of talking points. But there is no easy answer for the ironist. ... So it’s no wonder that those journalists at the dinner seemed so uneasy in their seats. They had put on their tuxes to rub shoulders with the president... They invited Colbert to speak for levity, not because they wanted to be criticized.”

Yet criticize, he did. In the most pointed but understated way possible, assuming the narrow-minded, unwavering political persona of a right-wing commentator. His barbs hit hard, not only at Bush but also at the smug majority of D.C. journalists, because they have been complicit in foisting upon the American public the illusion that the Bush regime deserves attention and obeisance because it is all-powerful and all-knowing, when in fact the exact opposite is becoming more obvious by the day. But of course, if Bush is a joke, then how does that make the minor-celebrity inkslingers attentive to his every mangled statement look? Not so good, eh?

It gives me hope... that while many members of the so-called mainstream media remain afraid to call Bush on his repeated hypocrisies and double-standards, others -- often in the blogosphere -- make sure to point out when the White House is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Case in point: The prez’s ludicrous insistence that the American national anthem should be sung only in English, not in Spanish--an opinion that Senate Republicans are now trying to enforce with legislation. But as Think Progress so helpfully points out, Bush himself sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish during his 2000 presidential campaign. Does the Republican Party really believe it can attract Hispanic voters by marginalizing them for their language?

It gives me hope... that a GOP plan to mail out $100 checks to Americans, as a way to allay public anger over gas prices (and, perhaps, prevent voters from punishing Republicans for their failure to head off the increases), is being roundly rejected. The New York Times reports that voters have phoned or e-mailed GOP senators to ridicule the rebate as “a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.” The Times quotes an unnamed Republican senatorial aide saying his boss’s constituents have asked, “Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?” Adding insult to injury, buffoonish Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) has now had to turn tail on this bribery idea, because U.S. oil companies, which would have been taxed to pay for the rebates, don’t want to cooperate. And we all know who controls both this White House and Congress, don’t we?

It gives me hope... to see 10 states (including California, New York, and Massachusetts) taking the anti-environment Bush administration to court in order to “toughen mileage regulations for sport utility vehicles and other trucks.” While the Busheviks remain in deep denial over the dire consequences of global warming, and insist that drilling the hell out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the only way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil sources, these states are defying the administration’s “wisdom” on a fuel-economy policy that substitutes ideological rhetoric for common sense.

It gives me hope... that the White House is being forced to release logs showing how many times convicted Republican “superlobbyist” Jack Abramoff visited with administration officials, including Bush. Afraid of being tainted by association with Abramoff, a former friend of Tom DeLay who raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign, outgoing White House press secretary “Stonewall Scotty” McClellan once told reporters that “the President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him” -- a claim that Time magazine subsequently proved to be bogus. Now, thanks to a lawsuit brought by the public interest group Judicial Watch, the administration must “produce records of Abramoff's visits from January 1, 2001, to the present.” The logs are something short of a smoking gun; but they may provide information about just how willing to Republican White House was to craft legislation favorable to Abramoff’s high-paying clients.

And it gives me hope... to see that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the White House’s CIA leak scandal (a.k.a. Plamegate), has Karl Rove in his crosshairs. “Turd Blossom,” as Dubya calls him, has been a major suspect in the “outing” of former CIA agent Valerie Plame almost since the beginning, but when Fitzgerald first closed his noose about the White House last October, it was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who found himself indicted for lying and obstruction of justice. No charges were filed against Rove. However, following Rove’s grand jury testimony last week -- the fifth time he has been summoned before the grand jury -- the press reported that the former White House deputy chief of staff (who was recently reassigned to help arrest the flow of GOP blood in November) was “more worried, not less, that he’s going to get indicted.” The New York Times says Fitzgerald “is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges” against the man often described as “Bush’s brain.” If Rove is indicted, that would not only steal time away from his formulating a face-saving Republican campaign message, but make it harder for the GOP to duck responsibility for having created a “culture of corruption” inside and outside the nation’s capital.

As essayist Jean Kerr once said, “Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” And, like so many other Americans, I have been feeling awfully pessimistic for a long time now. I’m ready for a change.

READ MORE: “Falling Through the Floor,” by Charlie Cook (The Cook Political Report); “Is It Time?” by Frank Dwyer (The Huffington Post); “A Different Kind of Discouraging Poll for Bush,” by Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report).

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

New animals found in Atlantic

According to the BBC, "A three-week voyage of discovery in the Atlantic has returned with tiny animals which appear new to science. They include waif-like plankton with delicate translucent bodies related to jellyfish, hundreds of microscopic shrimps, and several kinds of fish."

It's a fascinating story. Be sure to check out the "In pictures" feature, too. This little creature here is a baby octopus.

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Climate change... on Jupiter

We may not be the only ones experiencing global warming. A new storm on Jupiter suggests that that planet "is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe". has the story here.

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An inconvenient briefing

By Creature

With Tony Snow slated to take over the White House daily press briefing, it has become fair game, and fashionable, to declare that the daily press briefing is broken and in desperate need of repair. So, what would be the best way to ensure transparency and a return to productive, informative briefings? Why, it's simple, take out the television cameras and shut down the live feed. It's genius really. Maybe, without a stage, the stenographer class will stop its showboating and return to the steno pool from which it came.

This all begs the question: How come I didn't hear anyone in the Bush administration complaining about the daily press briefing when the press was helping them whitewash their ill-advised march to war? Sure, the moment the press finds a bit of backbone* it's all boo-fuckin'-hoo, the press has ruined the stew.

Today the Associated Press takes a look at this call to disarm the media through the eyes of a few former press secretaries. I find the hypocrisy astounding.

The problem, they say, is that the daily session has become a hostage to television cameras with both sides frequently posturing and sparring to the point that little actual news is imparted.

Why is there no actual news being imparted? Perhaps it's the stonewalling, the spinning, and the lies.

"The press briefing today I believe has lost much of its usefulness," said Marlin Fitzwater, who was a press secretary for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Why has it lost it's usefulness? Perhaps it's the stonewalling, the spinning, and the lies.

Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush's first press secretary, wrote in The Washington Post: "Gone are the days when this daily session was a serious affair..."

Why are the daily sessions not a serious affair? Perhaps it's the stonewalling, the spinning, and the lies.

I blame the press for a bunch of things. Things like, oh, maybe, giving GWB a free pass leading up to the 2000 election, giving GWB a free pass for the mess that was the Florida recount, giving GWB a free pass for not preventing 9/11, giving GWB a free pass for not capturing Osama, and of course, giving GWB a free pass during his march to war, but for the deterioration of the daily press briefing, I blame the White House. It's a fact: the daily press briefing has become an embarrassment--an embarrassment for the White House. No wonder they want an end to the show.

Brief more.

*Of course the media only found their backbone AFTER they felt safe enough to hide behind Bush's falling poll numbers.
**And because I'm such a giving guy, here's a bonus thought that couldn't fit into the post above: No comment, it's more than just an answer - it's a political philosophy.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Domestic riff

By Creature

Why does Laura Bush hate America?
Asked her opinion [regarding the singing of the national anthem in spanish] on Wednesday in an interview with CNN's John King, Mrs. Bush said, "I don't think there's anything wrong with singing it in Spanish."

And if the president wasn't such a slave to his saber rattling base, he would have agreed with his wife. Sing it, Mr. President!

Read more.

Update: Watch more. Think Progress has the video.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Sorry, I just had to put the title of this post in all caps. The reality of global warming is obvious to many of us, but its deniers occupy the highest reaches of political life and continue to block efforts to deal with it appropriately. Despite all the evidence, these deniers have long claimed that there's just too much uncertainty to reach any definitive conclusion. And so all we get is reckless stonewalling.

But now, according to The New York Times, we have this:

A scientific study commissioned by the Bush administration concluded yesterday that the lower atmosphere was indeed growing warmer and that there was "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system."

The finding eliminates a significant area of uncertainty in the debate over global warming, one that the administration has long cited as a rationale for proceeding cautiously on what it says would be costly limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases...

The report's authors all agreed that their review of the data showed that the atmosphere was, in fact, warming in ways that generally meshed with computer simulations. The study said that the only factor that could explain the measured warming of Earth's average temperature over the last 50 years was the buildup heat-trapping gases, which are mainly emitted by burning coal and oil.

It should come as no surprise that the White House is resisting the findings of its own study. Its "truth" is not our truth. Its reality is fantasy. And the facts don't mean a thing.

More government-sponsored studies will be conducted, but delaying and denying will only lead us ever more swiftly to our ruin. This study tells it like it us, like we know it to be, but things won't change until the all-too-real problem of global warming is taken seriously by those who have the power to do something about it.

Until then, we will continue to be our planet's worst enemies... and hence our own.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Senate to hold hearings on Bush's willful lawbreaking

From The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage, who once more is all over this important story:

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

''There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. ''What's the point of having a statute if... the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"

That's a very good question, Senator. Thanks for asking it. Bush's willful lawbreaking, which I recently addressed here, has been one of the most dangerous and damaging elements of his disastrous presidency. It needs to be exposed for what it is. I just hope Specter is more serious about this than he seems to be about cutting off funding for Bush's domestic wiretapping (which our co-blogger Creature addressed here).

Let's call it George W. Bush v. The Constitution of the United States of America.

It's time to take sides.

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That Dick Cheney, he’s a good fella

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

There have been many jokes made about Dick Cheney selecting himself as the vice presidential candidate when he was put in charge of the search committee, but no one’s really laughing anymore. Cheney has been the most influential and powerful vice president in history. Perhaps he saw his opening to be president without ever having to be elected to that office. I guess the joke is on us.

George Bush is a lightweight. He has no intellectual curiosity, he views the world in a very limited and simplistic way, and he understands very little about public policy, diplomacy, or how the government works. Bush was a blank slate, someone Cheney could sweep aside or at the very least manipulate. It appears that Cheney holds the power; he just let’s George think he’s in control by presenting him with binary choices that, of course, have clear right and wrong answers. “Hey George, what do you think, should we let Saddam Hussein continue to terrorize his neighbors, develop nuclear weapons, and murder his own people OR should we do something about it?” Bush may be the “decider,” but his choices are likely limited, and once the decision is made Cheney deals with the details.

There are so many things that are unprecedented about this vice president, the lighter side of things being he shot someone in the face. On the more disturbing side, he made numerous personal trips to the CIA when gathering, or rather cherry-picking, intelligence to support an invasion of Iraq. He convened secret meetings to set our energy policy, a policy that has resulted in the rip-off of public utilities by Enron, record high gas prices for consumers, and obscene profits for oil companies. The latest unprecedented role of the vice president to be revealed is that Cheney may have been given the authority to preside over National Security Council meetings. Cheney’s presence at these meetings has resulted in what an unnamed senior official describes as “the most dysfunctional NSC that ever existed”.

Clearly, Cheney knew exactly what he was doing when he resigned his post at Halliburton and picked himself to be the next (Vice) President of the United States. This may not have been an ideologically driven move on his part, but rather an offer he simply couldn’t refuse to extend to himself. James K. Galbraith, in his article “Predatory State” appearing in the June issue of Mother Jones, writes about the “profit is king” culture in which our current leaders are steeped:

That a government run by people rooted in this culture should also be predatory isn’t surprising—and the link between George H.W. Bush, who led the deregulation of the S&Ls, his son Neil, who ran a corrupt S&L, and Neil’s brother George, for whom Ken Lay sent thugs to Florida in 2000 on the Enron plane, could hardly be any closer. But aside from occasional references to “kleptocracy” in other countries, economic opinion has been slow to recognize this. Thinking wistfully, we assume that government wants to do good, and its failure to do so is a matter of incompetence.

In Cheney’s hands, Bush provides the perfect cover for the looting of our treasury. Bush seems to have no aversion to criminal behavior; in fact, it runs in the family, and when the theft becomes noticeable, just blame the lost funds on his incompetence. I mean, really, how hard is it to sell the idea that Bush just wasn’t smart enough to make the government work? It’s almost hard to imagine Cheney not taking the opportunity when, like Henry Hill said in
Goodfellas, “Everything was for the taking.” For someone like Dick Cheney, “everything” would be awfully hard to pass up.

So what do we do about this rogue administration with Cheney at the helm? One of the most common reasons given by those on the left for not getting behind impeachment is the fear of President Cheney. Well, for all intents and purposes, we already have a President Cheney -- so how could that possibly matter? But for those who still can’t imagine legitimizing his power, how about this? As David Swanson suggets, impeach Cheney first. Sounds like a winner to me.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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The starving beast

By Creature

Hey, Mr. President, the sky is falling. What do you propose we do? Do I even have to ask? From The Washington Post:
President Bush and congressional Republicans agreed yesterday on a $70 billion package of tax-cut extensions that they hope will help halt the deterioration of their political fortunes.
- - -
And the compromise is sure to spark a new round of recriminations from Democrats, who say the Republican Party continues to favor wealthy investors over lower- and middle-income workers, without regard to a budget deficit that is expected to reach $370 billion this year.

With deficits soaring, with spending soaring, and with a war still to fund, I have to believe that tax cuts for the wealthy can no longer be a winning strategy for the Republicans. This is not only irresponsible government, it's unconscionable. The have-mores continue to prosper, while the have-nots slowly go under. The beast is being starved. Mission accomplished.

Read more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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U.N. Security Council divided over Iran resolution

An update from The New York Times:

The United States, Britain and France have drafted a binding Security Council resolution requiring Iran to stop key nuclear activities, but Russia and China are already resisting, officials involved in the negotiations said today.

The draft resolution, which has not been made public, expresses "serious concern" that Iran has not complied with its international commitments and calls on it to stop producing enriched uranium, which can have both peaceful and military uses, and return to the negotiating table, according to officials involved in drafting it.

In its current form, the resolution does not include a fixed deadline for compliance or a specific threat of action against Iran if it does not comply, the officials said.

Also, it seems that "Iran [has] succeeded in enriching uranium to 4.8 percent, a higher level of purity than it [has] previously stated". But will it stop there?

Stay tuned.

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"Nuestro Himno" and Republican stupidity

For more on the "Nuestro Himno" controversy -- another wedge issue manufactured by desperate conservatives -- see Steve Benen's update here. Seems that "in 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Education commissioned a Spanish-language version of 'The Star Spangled Banner,'" that "[t]he State Department's website... features four-separate versions of the anthem in Spanish," and that "Candidate Bush sang it quite frequently in 2000 while on the campaign trail".

Still, Senate Republicans are making an issue of it. Lamar Alexander has introduced a resolution "calling for "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other traditional patriotic compositions to be recited or sung solely in English" (see here). The bill's co-sponsors include Bill Frist, Mitch McConnell, Pat Roberts, Jim Bunning, and Ted Stevens, some of the most unabashedly partisan Republicans in the Senate.

But how would this work? Would violators be ticketed? Or perhaps deported? Would there be language police roaming around predominantly Spanish-speaking neighbourhoods? (Oh, and what about the First Amendment? Don't you love how these guys trample all over the Constitution when it suits them?)

As Steve puts it, "this 'Nuestro Himno' madness is a special kind of stupid.

(See also Shakespeare's Sister, Political Animal, Hullabaloo, and Preemptive Karma.)

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Bolivia's gas industry and economic self-determination

I noted last December that Bolivia had moved to the left with the election of Evo Morales, a Castro admirer and would-be Chavez, as president. Well, rightly or wrongly, Morales has seized control of his country's gas industry, according to The Washington Post:

Bolivian President Evo Morales seized control of the country's natural gas industry Monday, sending soldiers to occupy fields that he contends private companies have plundered for years.

Morales said that unless foreign energy firms agreed to give Bolivia's state oil company oversight of production and a majority of their revenue generated in Bolivia, the government would evict them from the fields.

"The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources," Morales said during a televised speech from a gas field near the country's southern border. "The looting by foreign companies has ended."

One should keep in mind that Morales is very much a populist. He described himself on election day as "the candidate of those despised in Bolivian history, the candidate of the most disdained, discriminated against".

I'm generally in favour of economic liberalization -- private ownership and open markets -- but one cannot deny that countries like Bolivia have historically suffered at the hands of invasive foreign interests and the anti-democratic strongmen who coddled them. Insofar as Morales is attempting to regain control over his country's natural resources on behalf of the Bolivian people, this may not be quite as troubling as it may at first appear to be.

In the end, we should cautiously applaud efforts at economic and political self-determination.

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What do the White House and Austin Powers have in common?

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

They both lost their mojo, baby!

But let's be more precise: Austin Powers (in The Spy Who Shagged Me) has his mojo stolen by his archnemesis Dr. Evil. Powers returns to 1969, where he and partner Felicity Shagwell recover it. And all is well, Fat Bastard and Mini-Me notwithstanding, until the appearance of Goldmember, which stunk.

The sad state of the shagless Bush came about quite differently. And I needn't get into it here. I'm sure you can all outline the causes of the demise of the Bush presidency.

But new Chief of Staff Josh Bolten wants to reverse course. He has no time machine at his disposal, at least none that we know of, but he intends on recovering the White House's mojo:

It's time for the White House to go on offense and "get our mojo back." Josh Bolten said Sunday in his first interview since taking over as the president's chief of staff.

Bolten made no promises of pulling up President Bush's all-time low approval ratings, but he said he and Bush have decided they want to be more open with the media and the public.

"We've taken advice from a lot of folks that we ought to put the president out more in ways that the American people can see what he's really like," Bolten said on "Fox News Sunday."

But he said that does not mean the president's policies are going to get an overhaul. "I don't think we need to change, but we do need to refresh and re-energize," Bolten said.

And that's the key. No change in substance, just change in style. Or, to put it differently, a new spin.

Bolten's resistance to change is laughable -- and all-too-predictable given what we know of this White House and its Rovian obsession with politics. Stubbornness isn't a virtue, at least not according to Aristotle, but Bush seems to misconstrue his own stubbornness for political courage. Which is why Iraq's turned out the way it has, why I'm pessimistic that there'll be a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, and why Bush has no domestic agenda left. He stuck to policies that were broken from the get-go and now his approval ratings are hovering in the low-30s.

This is about propping up Bush at least through this fall's midterms. With no substance to work with, no viable policy objectives beyond yet another military escapade, all Bolten has is a five-point plan that's pure PR (plus a collision course with Iran). Steve Benen discussed that here; I did here.

I wouldn't put anything past this desperate, degenerate White House, and the spin has worked wonders in the past, but it's simply too late for Bush to recover his mojo. It's long, long gone. Just like the swingin' '60s.

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Iranian women can now attend sporting events

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

Needless to say, I and almost every other sensible person in the world have been rather critical of Iranian President Mahmoud "Madman of Tehran" Ahmadinejad's incendiary rhetoric, both with respect to Iran's budding nuclear program and to Israel and the Holocaust. See my post at the the Report here (as well as here, here, here, and here at The Reaction).

Now, I suspect that much of this rhetoric is intended directly for domestic consumption. Iranians are notoriously pro-American (particularly the reform and youth movements), but old-style nationalism runs far deeper than any sort of appreciation for American culture in the Iranian psyche. To deflect attention away from domestic problems, largely economic, and to bolster his own popularity, Ahmadinejad may just be stirring up trouble by concocting an "us" and "them" dynamic. Hence the push to join the nuclear club.

(If you see certain parallels to how Bush is operating, well, that's my intention. Ahmadinejad's "Other" is America, Israel, and everything else that allegedly stands in the way of Iranian glory. Bush's "Other" is some nebulous conception of terrorism well beyond just al Qaeda, as well as his own critics.)

But — gasp! — let's pause to give credit where credit is due. And Ahmadinejad (sigh) deserves some credit. From The New York Times:

Women can attend games in Iran's stadiums for the first time in nearly three decades, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unexpectedly lifted a ban last week on their presence in the stands.

Senior clerics and conservative members of Parliament criticized the decision and said that frequent hooliganism at sporting events made them inappropriate for women.

But Mr. Ahmadinejad said women would promote better behavior.

"Certain prejudices against women have nothing to do with Islam," he said Friday, several days after lifting the ban. The speech seemed to present him for the first time as a supporter of expanded rights for women. "Unfortunately, whenever there is talk of social corruption, fingers are pointed at women. Shouldn't men be blamed for the problems, too?"

Um, yes. Sounds reasonable, no?

Men and women will be segregated, but don't think this isn't a huge step in the right direction (i.e., from authoritarian theocracy to liberal democracy). For all the current discussion about how best to deal with a nuclear Iran in the short term, such steps will ultimately benefit us all in the long term. (We may have to accept the reality of a nuclear Iran. Shouldn't it at least be a more progressive Iran?) The presence of women in Iran's soccer stadiums is indeed an encouraging sign that reform is possible.

(For more on this, see Franklin Foer's excellent book How Soccer Explains the World : An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, which includes a chapter on women in Iran.)

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Exposing Bush's willful lawbreaking

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

The Boston Globe is reporting that "[s]ince taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements on more than 750 new laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution". The Globe lists ten truly disturbing examples.

I still wonder what John McCain — once a maverick, now a sycophant, all with the Oval Office on his mind — thinks of this one:

Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Bush's signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.

Oh, and how about this little gem:

Aug. 5[, 2004]: The military cannot add to its files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can use any specific piece of intelligence.

In tandem with this piece, the Globe's Charlie Savage has a must-read
overview of Bush's willful lawbreaking (or law-ignoring):

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional…

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws — many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Whether or not Bush is the worst president of all time isn't really the question anymore. What we should be asking is whether he's the most dangerous president of all time. The Bush presidency may now be in full-out meltdown mode, but these repeated transgressions of the very foundations of America's constitutional self-governance — those old-fashioned checks and balances we all learn about, even up here in Canada — continue nonetheless. After all, whatever his approval ratings, however much of a lame duck he may be, he is still the president. He may not have much, if any, political capital left, he may have nothing in the way of a domestic agenda, and he may yet start up a new war with Iran, perhaps before the November midterms, but this — this is very much his legacy, right alongside the mess in Iraq.

For more, see
Glenn Greenwald, who, as always, is right on top of this: "We literally have a President who has been saying for years, right out in the open, that he can act without regard to the law whenever he wants, and we need to repeat that fact — and prove it — over and over until that debate is finally had."

Yes, we do. We need to scream in from the rooftops. We need to open up our windows and proclaim to any and all that we just won't take it anymore. And that's because America just can't take it anymore. Think what Bush will have left behind, what damage he will have inflicted, once his eight years are up. I welcome a debate, but ultimately we must demand that he be finally held accountable.

The Globe is on the case, Glenn is on the case, we must all be on the case.

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Voices in the wilderness on Darfur

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

This past weekend witnessed the Rally to Stop Genocide, a significant if relatively small protest held on the Mall in Washington. The Post reports:

Clutching signs that read "Never Again," thousands of protesters from across religious and political divides descended on the Mall yesterday along with celebrities and politicians to urge President Bush to take stronger measures to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region that the United States has labeled genocide.

They wore skullcaps, turbans, headscarves, yarmulkes, baseball hats and bandanas. There were pastors, rabbis, imams, youths from churches and youths from synagogues. They cried out phrases in Arabic and held signs in Hebrew. But on this day, they said, they didn't come out as Jews or Muslims, Christians or Sikhs, Republicans or Democrats.

They came out as one, they said, to demand that the Bush administration place additional sanctions on Sudan and push harder for a multinational peacekeeping force to be sent to Darfur.

Only — "only" — 10,000 to 15,000 people may have turned out, far less than for rallies in support of sexier causes, but it "was the largest public outcry for Darfur since the conflict began three years ago". Similar protests are "planned in 17 other cities".

I fully agree that something must be done and I applaud this moral outrage. There has been far too little of it. This is why I admire, and am a member of, the
Coalition for Darfur (go there for all the latest news).

But what to do exactly? Would a multinational peacekeeping force be at all effective? Who would lead it? Who would fund it? Would it operate solely in Darfur, or would it be permitted to cross over into Chad? Would it be responsible for protecting refugees, for repelling the Sudanese militias, for establishing order? Would it involve itself in the ongoing civil war? — the ones in both Chad and the Sudan, the ones that are so interlocked. How do you even keep the peace when there's genocide going on? Indeed, there's simply no peace to keep!

The Save Darfur Coalition would like to see the African Union assume the lead in Darfur. Or perhaps the United Nations. But, as Lawrence Kaplan
put it recently at The New Republic, what is most needed is U.S. military power: "[W]ill the African Union put a halt to the killings in Darfur? Absolutely not. Its Arab members have stymied the force at every turn. Will the United Nations solve the crisis? That seems extremely unlikely as well. The organization amounts first and foremost to a collection of sovereign states, many of them adamantly opposed to violating Sudan's own sovereignty. Can NATO save the day? Not really, given the fears of entanglement expressed by its European members. As in Bosnia before it, the victims of Darfur can be saved by one thing and one thing alone: American power."

Call me a liberal interventionist with an excessively optimistic view of American power, but I tend to agree. This doesn't mean that the U.S. should act unilaterally or without due regard for international institutions — we all know what quagmires come of that. However, I just don't see any other option. If we want to do something about Darfur, and not just talk about doing something, we need to accept the fact that only the U.S. can do it. Or, at least, only a coalition of forces led by the U.S.

Otherwise, I'm afraid, all we'll have are our "virtue and good intentions," as Kaplan put it.


Alas, this raises some tough questions: Is the U.S. prepared to send a military force to Darfur? Probably not, at least not one large enough to do much good. The military is already bogged down in Iraq, Iran is looming as the next target, and, of course, Bush simply has no credibility left. Could he possibly rally Americans in support of a sustained military campaign in Darfur given the memories of Somalia, the lack of immediate national interest, and the potential for significant casualties?

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The more things don't change, the more they get worse

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Monday, May 01, 2006

More blogging at The Carpetbagger Report

I guest blogged again at The Carpetbagger Report today, putting up a total of six new posts on Bush's willful lawbreaking; the crisis in, and rally in support of, Darfur; women at Iranian sporting events; what Bush and Austin Powers have in common; the unaccomplished mission in Iraq; and the failure to get Zarqawi.

I'll cross-post them here over the next day or two, but I encourage you to head over there to check them out. And do head over there on a regular basis to check out all of Steve's great stuff. (He just weighed in on the Colbert controversy.)

Oh, and what a pleasant surprise to discover just a moment ago that The Reaction was linked at Wonkette today, specifically my recent post on "Nuestro Himno" -- see here.

Happy May Day, everyone!

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I'd like to teach the world to sing "Nuestro Himno"

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report. This version has been modified.)

Should America's national anthem only be sung in English? Or is, say, a Spanish version acceptable? That's what the recent debate over the anthem is really all about. It's an offshoot of the debate over illegal immigration, but, more to the point, it's about how America conceives of itself as a nation. In other words, it's about identity.

The new Spanish version is known as "Nuestro Himno". According to
The New York Times, it "was released on Friday as part of the growing immigrants' rights movement".

The backlash has come from far and wide, but let's start in the Rose Garden, where (the bilingual and Latino-vote courter) President Bush said this: "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

I'll dispense with the first point, which has little to do with the second. Yes, prospective citizens of any country should speak the language(s) of that country. Community depends on communication, after all, and a healthy civic society is impossible where its members can't communicate with one another in even the most basic ways. Whatever its legal status, English is the language of the United States. I would expect people to be able to speak it, just as I would expect Canadians to be able to speak English and/or French. When I lived in Germany as a teenager, I was expected to speak German. And I did.

But what about the anthem? This is a tougher question. On the one hand, every political community needs its inviolable symbols. The flag, for example. It would make little sense for a national flag to be subject to individual self-expression. Think of Grandpa Simpson's 49-star flag. He simply refused to recognize Missouri. On this basis, shouldn't The Star Spangled Banner always be sung in English and with its original lyrics?

Perhaps in its official capacity (at the Olympics, for example), but it seems to me that the spirit of "Nuestro Himno" is quite American indeed. As our co-blogger Vivek K.
put it the other day: "Since when did America become an ethnic nation defined in terms of a dominant linguistic group, rather than a land built on the grand ideas of freedom and liberty? (After all, the Founding Fathers toyed with the idea of making German the official language so that the linguistic memory of English tyranny would be erased from the young nation.)"

America should be a strong enough political community to withstand diverse expressions of its national symbols, including its anthem. I'm concerned when the lyrics are translated loosely or otherwise changed, but surely different communities should be permitted to sing the anthem in their own language. Besides, does President Bush intend to make it a federal offence to sing the anthem in Spanish? Consider how such a nativist pander would be received anywhere outside the America-first fanbase of a
Michelle Malkin. (Although I do not mean to paint all conservatives this way -- see, for example, my friend Sister Toldjah, with whom I often disagree but whom I respect greatly).

If you want political communities based on language, which seems to be what these conservatives want, go (ironically enough) to France, where citizenship and nationhood have historically been defined in such terms. (To be French, you need to know French and to assimilate into French culture.) America, lest we forget, is a political community based on ideas, on political philosophy. As long as new Americans and prospective citizens accept the grand ideas of liberty and democracy that form the core of the American experiment in self-governance, and as long as they are able to communicate with their fellow Americans, why not let them wave the flag and proudly sing the anthem in their own native languages?

Simply put, America transcends language. So should its anthem.


As you may know, the Canadian anthem is sung officially (so to speak) in English, in French, and in both. Given our own long and tumultuous history with language, given the deep linguistic divisions within our federation, I wonder how the Quebecois would feel if, say, the anthem were sung in English and Italian. Or how we Anglophones would feel if it were sung in French and Chinese. Would we feel anything at all? Would it matter?

I wonder.

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The war on Rush Limbaugh's drug use

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

Rush Limbaugh still denies that he engaged in what's known as "doctor-shopping," or what The New York Times describes as "illegally [obtaining] multiple prescriptions for a drug from more than one doctor". Still, Limbaugh

was charged yesterday with prescription drug fraud and turned himself in to Florida authorities as part of a deal to resolve a lengthy inquiry into whether he improperly obtained painkillers.

Mr. Limbaugh, who is one of the nation's most popular radio personalities and is heard on nearly 600 stations, turned himself in [Saturday] afternoon to the Palm Beach County sheriff on a warrant for fraud to conceal information to obtain a prescription. He was released about an hour later on $3,000 bail, the authorities said.

I only regret that there won't be a trial.

As part of the agreement, which [Limbaugh's lawyer Roy] Black said would be filed with the court on Monday, the charge would be dropped in 18 months if Mr. Limbaugh continued to undergo treatment for drug addiction.

Mr. Limbaugh is also required to refrain from breaking the law during the 18-month period, pay $30,000 to Florida officials to offset the cost of the investigation and pay $30 a month for the cost of supervision, Mr. Black said.

Mr. Limbaugh filed a plea of not guilty in court. Mr. Black said in a statement that "Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor-shopping, and we continue to hold this position."

Pardon my Schadenfreude, but the thought of a right-wing blowhard like Rush undergoing "treatment for drug addiction" puts a smile on my face. No, it's not like he's a crackhead or anything, but you've got to admire the unabashed hypocrisy of all these moralizing conservative crusaders who lament the decline and fall of traditional, "family" values.

Keep on slouching towards Gomorrah, Rush. There's a special place there for you and your ilk.

(Hey, maybe Rush should move to Mexico!)

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert rocks White House -- too much truthiness for Bush?

Ah, the power of irony. Stephen Colbert turned in a brilliant performance at yesterday's Correspondents' Dinner. Joe Gandelman has all you need here. (See also the Post here.)

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Mexico's new drug decriminalization policy

(Originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report.)

This is somewhat startling news from Mexico:

Possessing marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if the drugs are carried in small amounts for personal use, under legislation passed by Congress.

The measure given final passage by senators in a late night session on Thursday allows police to focus on their battle against major drug dealers, the government says, and President Vicente Fox is expected to sign it into law...

Under the legislation, police will not penalize people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine.

People caught with larger quantities of drugs will be treated as narcotics dealers and face increased jail terms under the plan.

The legal changes will also decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of other drugs, including LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines and peyote — a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico's northern deserts.

The first thing that comes to mind is Steven Soderbergh's great film
Traffic, particularly the yellow-tinted scenes in Mexico with Benicio del Toro. If this is Mexico's new reality-based policy — one that is sensible and humane rather than purely punitive — isn't it about time the U.S. rethink the whole "War on Drugs" approach (which has been an utter failure, has it not?) and consider alternative ways of dealing with drug use?

It seems to me that Mexico, which has been on the front line (and the front line) of the drug wars, is on the right track.

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