Saturday, May 20, 2006

The massive crapfest known as Eurovision 2006

The Reaction from England

Just a quick post on the first full day of my vacation in Merrie England -- and how lovely it is here, despite odd weather that seems to change by the minute.

First, though, a big thank you to Creature and The (liberal) Girl Next Door for some excellent posts. There'll be more from them, and from others, in the days ahead.


As I flip through the newspapers and the various TV channels, it's clear that one story is dominating the domestic scene today:

Eurovision 2006, a massive crapfest that pits the various European countries against each other in a battle of bad pop music.

And, believe me, it's all bad. The British contestant is some guy named Daz Sampson. His entry is a loathsome song called "Teenage Life" (Britney-esque schoolgirl-clad dancers perform with him). The lyrics, should you need them, are here. The whole thing sucks. Didn't this country (of which I am a citizen) produce The Beatles and Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and Sting, Radiohead and Coldplay?

The other contestants are here. Check them out at your own risk (particularly the Finnish satanists).

Update: The list of finalists is here.

Europe must be in a state of more serious civilizational decline than I had previously thought. Honestly, this makes me long for American Idol. (I can't believe I just wrote that, but Eurovision 2006 makes that other crapfest with Simon, Randy, and Paula look like a celebration of musical genius.)

Talk to you soon.

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A tale of two commencement speeches

By Creature

First, we look at how the students of Louisiana State University reacted to the vice president:

The Veep got three standing ovations for his oratory.

Next, let's take a look at the reaction to John McCain from the students at the New School:

Senator John McCain of Arizona received a cantankerous reception during his appearance at the New School commencement Friday, where dozens of faculty members and students turned their backs and raised signs in protest and a distinguished student speaker pointedly mocked him as he sat silently nearby.

All I can say is bravo to the New School kids. And to the LSU kids, huh? You had a chance to confront the vice president. You had a chance to let him know how wrong he was to push the country into war. It's your peers that are dying in Iraq for a war of choice. Supposedly they are dying for the protection of your rights. Rights that the vice president has trampled at every turn. LSU, I just don't get it. Not one, not two, but three standing ovations. I'm sorry to say this, but you kids should be ashamed. Where is the outrage?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Friday, May 19, 2006

I'll pay for the one-way ticket to Florida

By Creature

So, I'm making my blog/news rounds hoping that something grabs me before I shut dowm for the evening. Just pretty much winding down from being wound up all week. Then I read this: The interview is with Donald "I-will-never-stand-down" Rumsfeld, the topic is Iraq. And in case you didn't catch that - THE TOPIC IS IRAQ. And go...
O’REILLY: No, they can’t lose militarily, but it’s cost the United States taxpayer about $400 billion up this point.

RUMSFELD: Think of what 9/11 cost us. Wouldn’t you rather fight those people over there instead of fighting them here?

The emphasis is mine, the absolute idiocy is Rummy's. I've said this before, and I don't want to say it again, BUT it looks like I have to... would you please, once and for all, RETIRE THAT DAMN LINE! Here's what I said a few months back:

[T]hat over-there-not-over-here line simply has to be put to bed. Done, over, retire the line. Take its license away. It's old, it's used, and it's flat out wrong.

Does anyone, besides 34% 29% of the American people, believe that by us going there, to Iraq, that we are any safer here, at home? Is it not possible that Osama has enough sickos, and more importantly, enough patience to carry out another attack here? Please. Our unprovoked attack, on a mostly defenseless nation, has increased the ire of thousands of middle-of-the-road Muslim men inciting them to take up the fight. We have not been attacked here because we have been lucky, not because we are over there, and certainly not because of George W. Bush.

So, please, enough already. Put that line out to pasture and find another excuse for our illegal invasion of Iraq. Maybe one that sprinkles in the truth. Maybe one that includes the words grudge, hubris, empire and greed.

I can't believe I really had to go through that again. On a Friday no less, with the Mrs. due home any moment. Jeez, now I'm gonna be all surly.

Thanks for nothing Think Progress. You really know how to push my buttons.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Calm before the storm?

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

It is important that we look ahead to the next big outrage and be prepared to act instead of becoming stunned into silence. It is hard for many of us to believe just how much has happened over the last six years, much of it unprecedented in American history. We’ve had an election decided by the Supreme Court, a pre-emptive war, another election conducted using secret software and where critical votes in Ohio were counted behind closed doors, impeachable crimes committed by a President that Congress refuses to impeach. These are outrageous events, and their impact on democracy has been glossed over by the press, swept under the rug by Congress and simply accepted by the people. There are sure to be more outrageous events to come as Bush finishes out his term and it is our job to first be outraged, and then to act.

What could the next big outrage be? Well, considering that the noose is tightening in the CIA leak investigation, it could be that either Karl Rove or Richard Armitage will be indicted on the underlying charge of outing a covert CIA agent with Dick Cheney and possibly even Bush added as unindicted co-conspirators (this is purely speculation on my part and probably amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking). That would be justice served, but the outrageous part would be if the President and/or Vice President refused to resign and/or the Congress still refused to impeach. Logically we think, “that would never happen,” but with the litany of things we thought would never happen that have already occurred, we should at least prepare ourselves for the possibility.

The CIA leak case is huge. It is being conducted by perhaps the most efficient and dogged prosecutor in the country and it involves the compromise of national security by our own administration and the lies they peddled in an effort to justify their war of choice. It doesn’t get much bigger than that and the trail seems to lead to the very top.

Now, we all got a little excited last weekend when Jason Leopold posted his story about Rove being indicted, understandable since we’ve been waiting for that news for a long time. But whether Jason Leopold got it right or he was set up to take a fall, in the end is far less significant than the story that got lost in the shuffle. The real big story this week is that Dick Cheney’s handwriting is all over the smearing of Joe Wilson and the outing of Valerie Plame.

While we wait for the Karl Rove indictment, let’s focus on what we already know for sure, but that can’t be stated enough. Scooter Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, has already been indicted in the CIA leak case. By all accounts, Scooter and Shooter were connected at the hip, driving to work together in the morning and hatching their plans of destruction for the day. It simply defies logic that Cheney wasn’t directing this assault on Joe Wilson’s credibility in an effort to save his own. Remember that Cheney was on the front lines selling the fear of mushroom clouds to the American people so he could unleash shock and awe on Iraq. If we are convinced that the Vice President (along with Condi, Rummy and Bush) was lying about the administration's reasons for invading Iraq and that he would do anything to cover up those lies, chances are, Patrick Fitzgerald is convinced of it too.

Right now it feels like the calm before the storm, the media is eerily quiet on this matter and all we can do is wait. I hope that Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation is as broad as possible, but that might not be in the cards. With Cheney’s handwritten notes suggesting a “junket” set up by “his wife” on a copy of Joe Wilson’s op-ed piece, it is clear that the Vice President is involved and Fitzgerald knows it. What he will be able to prove with the vast amounts of information that hasn’t yet been made public is another matter. Again, all we can do is wait, but we should use this time to prepare for the possibility that however shocking the revelations, charges and targets turn out to be, the press will continue to frame it in the best possible light for the administration, the Congress will continue to protect this White House and the people won’t really know what to think. If we prepare for this possibility, we will be more effective in encouraging our neighbors’ outrage and helping to turn public disgust into action.

The only way that this administration will let go of their power is if we wrestle it away from them. That means taking the opportunity to capitalize on the next big scandal and getting our friends, family and neighbors to go sit at the office doors of our Representatives in Congress and demand that they do something about it. Unlike the Republicans during the Nixon administration who were able to recognize that common decency required that they get on board with impeaching the President, current Republicans in DC have no such decency (and Democrats have no such courage) and it will require us pushing them to do the right thing. Most of us agree that Bush/Cheney should be impeached and there is certainly enough evidence to justify it. All we have to do now is convince our Congresspeople that there is no other option. We have let so many opportunities pass by already, we must be ready to make the most of the next one, whatever it turns out to be.


Update: Richard Armitage may not be in legal jeopardy, but may instead be a key witness for the prosecution. Either way, this case is huge and when it breaks, it will be critical that we take the spark of public outrage and fan it into a five-alarm fire.

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

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Shiny happy border

By Creature

Like Tom Cruise making the morning show rounds, the president was all over the news last night promoting his comprehensive immigration reform package. CBS had an interview. NBC had an interview. Fox news had an interview. CNN had an interview. There was the president, all macho manly with his sleeves rolled up (they tell him the sleeve thing polls well), sitting in front the border, smiling smugly for the cameras. Over and over again. The idea was defense of the fence. The politics was to take up enough time on the evening news to throw us off the Hayden confirmation trail. From the "big" speech on Monday to today's well timed trip to the border, immigration and all its crisis trappings served its purpose once again as one big distraction from the real issues of the day. Mission accomplished.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Fein's Gold

By Creature

Today intolerance made it out of committee. In a disgraceful display of pandering to the religious-right the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Arlen Specter, approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. If that weren't bad enough Sen. Specter, I assume due to his embarrassment over GOP bigotry, moved the vote from their usual public room to a private one. The good news is that Sen. Russ Feingold would have none of it. The fine senator from Wisconsin left the committee meeting in a huff after expressing his concern that the meeting had been moved.
"I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., shouted after Sen. Russ Feingold declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting.

"If you want to leave, good riddance," Specter finished.

"I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman," replied Feingold, D-Wis., who is considering a run for president in 2008. "See ya."

See ya, indeed. After the meeting Senator Feingold issued this statement:

"Today's markup of the constitutional amendment concerning marriage, in a small room off the Senate floor with only a handful of people other than Senators and their staffs present, was an affront to the Constitution. I objected to its consideration in such an inappropriate setting and refused to help make a quorum. I am deeply disappointed that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee [Specter] went forward with the markup over my objection." [Read More]

The amendment passed 10-8 and now will go to the floor of the Senate for debate. But wait, this story isn't over yet. In typical Specter fashion, he flipped, without even a chance to flop.

Not all those who voted "yes" support the amendment, however. Specter said he is "totally opposed" to it, but felt it deserved a debate in the Senate.

Now, maybe I'm naive in the ways of politics? But wouldn't it be best to vote your beliefs, not your politics. This is why Sen. Specter is dangerous, because when push comes to politics, he always chooses politics. At least Sen. Feingold has the balls to stand strong for what he believes in. Senator Feingold speaks for me.

Read more.

Update: Crooks & Liars has the Cafferty outrage over the committee vote. Thankfully someone in the media has the time for outrage.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Reaction in England

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'll be in England on vacation for the next couple of weeks. Vacation or not, however, I'll continue to blog, if perhaps less frequently than usual. And being in England could provide me with a whole new blogging perspective. Thank goodness for the internet.

Our co-bloggers and guest bloggers -- including Creature, The (liberal) Girl Next Door, Vivek Krishnamurthy, J. Kingston Pierce, Aspazia, and Greg Prince -- will post regularly while I'm away. If you've been to The Reaction before, you'll know that they all do excellent stuff. (If you're not familiar with their blogging, type their names above and do a "Search This Blog".) I may ask a few others to submit posts, too.

So there will continue to be a lot to read here, and it will be even more entertaining and stimulating than usual. Keep checking back.

Blog you from England.

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How does Rick Santorum sleep at night?

Guest post by Greg Prince

(Ed. note: I'd like to welcome The Reaction's newest guest blogger, Greg Prince. Here's what I wrote about him earlier this year: "I first encountered Greg as one of the two contributors to Uncorrelated. He's still there, but he's also set up his own eponymous blog, and I encourage you to check it out here. Greg is moderate in both political and temperamental terms, perhaps slightly to the left of center but certainly no ideologue, and he provides solid, sober commentary on a variety of topics. Both of his blogs are highly recommended. Check 'em out. -- MJWS)


An interesting bit of new research suggests the divergence of humans and chimpanzees might be more complex than originally thought -- with at least two points of separation.

Apparently gay marriage was destroying civilization millions of years ago as well...

A more reasoned approach might ask questions about missing links... but given Pat Robertson's latest antics, that's rather like shooting fish in a barrel.

Other voices: AMERICAblog, Hiding in the Backwaters, Queer in the Head, The Broken Hut, and Freakonomics Blog.

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The truth of Al Gore

Big Oil (via the Competitive Enterprise Institute) has taken to attacking Al Gore and his new documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. Think Progress has the story here:

The science is not questioned because the science behind global warming is indisputable. Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus that the earth’s temperature is rising due to human activity. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program concluded that humans are driving the warming trend through greenhouse gas emissions. And the EPA has said that the recent warming trend "is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years... due mostly to human activities."

For the oil industry, Al Gore’s film exposing the truth is perceived as a threat, and they have no shortage of funds to try to distort it.

Keep speaking the truth, Mr. Gore. It must prevail.


Speaking of the former vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential candidate, will he run in '08? He still says no, but...

A "relapse" may be on the way. Steve Benen has more here.

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Canada to stay in Afghanistan

The Globe and Mail has the breaking news:

A motion to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan narrowly passed in the House of Commons Wednesday night despite a lack of support from the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

The motion, which squeaked through 149-145, called for the support of the House in extending the military mission by two-years, after its current commitment expires in February 2007.

The minority Conservative government was supported by just enough Liberals (including noted academic and party leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff) to put the motion over the top.

Canada has about 2,300 troops in Afghanistan. And, according to the Globe, "Canada has... been asked by NATO to consider taking over the command of the entire Afghanistan mission in 2008".

Yet public opinion is deeply divided over Canada's military presence in Afghanistan. Sixteen Canadian troops have been killed there since 2002. The latest was Nichola Goddard: "A female Canadian soldier was killed Wednesday during an intense firefight with Taliban insurgents near Kandahar, marking what is believed to be the first death of a Canadian woman in combat in more than 60 years."

The debate will continue.

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In cold blood (in Iraq)

The Pentagon, according to MSNBC, has launched a "probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha". Locals claim that "U.S. Marines deliberately killed 15 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children".


Rep. John Murtha, the widely respected veteran and Pennsylvania Democrat who last year called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, says "the accounts are true":

Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that "there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

I'm not about to claim that this incident tarnishes all men and women in uniform. Most are no doubt performing their duties honourably and bravely. But this could prove to be "the worst single incident involving the deliberate killing of civilians by U.S. military in Iraq".

Not good. The terrorists may kill civilians with relentless brutality, but the U.S. military must act forcefully to condemn such incidents, punish those responsible, and ensure that nothing like them happens again.

Ultimately, the world's superpower must lead by example.

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Back in Somalia

The Washington Post is reporting this:

More than a decade after U.S. troops withdrew from Somalia following a disastrous military intervention, officials of Somalia's interim government and some U.S. analysts of Africa policy say the United States has returned to the African country, secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.

Remember Black Hawk Down? Some of these warlords may have been fighting against the U.S. in those bloody street battles in Mogadishu. And now they're on our side? How things change, eh? I suppose the enemy of my Somali enemy must somehow be my friend. Something like that.

There may be good and valid reasons for the U.S. to pursue friendly relations with these warlords, not least with respect to the war on terror. Given the overall state of chaos in Somalia, the country could well become "an al-Qaeda base".

Still, these warlords are now "well-equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and antiaircraft guns, which were used in heavy fighting in the capital last week". Could they eventually turn against the U.S.? Could they shift their fleeting loyalties to the very terrorist organizations the U.S. seeks to destroy? Will they contribute to the chaos rather than help to alleviate it? Are they actually committed to the war on terror (unlikely) or they rather more concerned with the acquisition of arms and their own place on the domestic stage (likely)?

This may be a risk worth taking, but it seems to me that it's a huge risk nonetheless.

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Chernobyl at 20

What is it like 20 years later? Still horrifying. Greg Prince, who will be submitting his first guest post here in the coming days, recently alerted me to an incredible Flash photo essay by Paul Fusco. As Greg puts it, it's "very much worth viewing". But it won't put a smile on your face. Nor should it. It's a reminder to us of a largely forgotten place. We know the name, but this is what it looks like now, the human face of the suffering that still endures.

Greg's post is here. Follow the link.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The allegorical realism of Big Love

At TNR, Lee Siegel offers an excellent critique, mostly positive, of HBO's Big Love, my favourite first-run show on TV, and of HBO dramas generally (like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos).

Best line: "Once TV looked for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Now TV looks for the ordinary in the extraordinary."

Key point: "The question that Bill's wives keep asking themselves is: are we here by choice or are we trapped? That is to say, how much are you willing to pay for financial security, for emotional safety, for romantic or sexual attachment? That is a pretty fundamental question. Usually it gets asked when couplehood reaches a dramatic breaking point. The really absorbing quality of Big Love is that it can ask fundamental questions without constructing breaking points. The calm, ordinary course of a polygamous day is inherently combustible. You don't need any splitting to see the seams."

Exactly. Which is why it's such a great show.


(Recommendation: If you don't already have a subscription to TNR, even an online one (which I have), you should consider getting one. Its center-left hawkishness may turn some off, but, overall, it's an exceptional publication.)

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Hottest. April. Ever.

According to ABC News, "[t]his past April was the hottest ever in the United States, according to records going back to 1895".

Make of it what you will. If you're so stupid that you don't even acknowledge the problem of global warming, let alone worry about what to do about it, I really have nothing more to say to you.

At least not in this post.

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Can Bush please anyone on immigration?

I haven't yet commented on Bush's well-received immigration address, but, to be fair, immigration is one of the few issues, if not the only issue, where I actually think he's on the right track, more or less, proposing a moderate course that includes both border enforcement and compassion.

For now, though, I'll hand the ball to Kevin Drum, who has put it well: "Bush seems to have done a good job of targeting the political middle, and these folks are going to be pretty disappointed when he's unable to deliver on his oh-so-reasonable plan. As near as I can tell, Bush's xenophobe base is more pissed than ever and planning to stay pissed; the House is still in no mood to compromise from its round 'em up and herd 'em home bill; Democrats are going to continue to hate him regardless; and the folks who were so impressed last night are going to feel like they were suckered when it becomes clear who really runs the Republican Party and how little clout Bush really has on this issue. By this time next month nobody's going to like him."

And, I mean, even if you don't like Bush and don't even care for his proposals for dealing with illegal immigration, aren't you happy to see the right rise up in anger against him? Consider the reaction from Congressional Republicans, for example -- see here. In the blogosphere, Michelle Malkin is naming the names of those Republicans who "sided with the open-borders Dems". Great, eh? She's hardly alone in her opposition to Bush's moderation. (See Joe Gandelman here and here.)

Immigration is the new wedge issue. To his credit, even if I don't agree completely with him, he's trying to steer a difficult course between the Scylla of amnesty and the Charybdis of detention and deportation.

The base will destroy him.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On Karl Rove's "utter nonsense"

According to Karl Rove, the greatest and most incredible genius in the whole history of American politics, President Bush's abysmally low approval rating has everything to do with how he's fucked up Iraq and nothing to do with how he's fucked up everything else. (I'm just not in the mood for pleasantries tonight.)

Not that that's how he put it. Here are his words: "People like this president." "They're just sour right now on the war." "There is a disconnect."

Ah, I see. Things are fine, except perhaps for Iraq, and that's that.

E.J. Dionne gets it right: "The problem is not that Rove was off message but that the country has gone off Bush's message, and shows no sign of coming back." And Rove "knows it". (See also Dana Milbank at the Post.)

Steve Benen is more blunt: "This is utter nonsense. Rove can't point to a single report anywhere that supports any of these conclusions. In fact, all available evidence suggests the polar opposite... People 'like him'? They 'feel a connection with' him? I don't think so."

Nor do I. An approval rating hovering around, if not below, 30 percent is about more than just "disconnect". Iraq may have played a big part in Bush's decline, but it's hardly the only problem. How about Katrina, tax cuts for the wealthy, the Dubai ports controversy, the NSA scandal, immigration, Social Security, massive deficits, a prescription drug plan for big pharma, high gas prices, torture, and the corruption of his party? And that's just what comes immediately to mind.

Sorry, Karl. We don't buy it.


Elsewhere, Newsweek looks at Turd Blossom's "state of mind". Think Progress has more.

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All Hail King George

By Creature

If Sen. Arlen Specter is all that stands between us and dictatorship, then, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new America. Today The Hill is reporting that Sen. Specter has bowed to conservative pressure with respect to a bill that would pretty much make legal Bush's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program. Way to go, Arlen! You manage to talk a good game, but in the end you always cave. For in-depth analysis, I send you to the great Glenn Greenwald. I've let Glenn know you are stopping by, so please don't embarrass me.

Now, for my own bit of half-assed political commentary, it's this paragraph at end of The Hill article that really has me going.

The panel had been expected to mark up Specter’s and DeWine’s bills Thursday but, instead, the committee will work on legislation on same-sex marriage. Two prominent conservative leaders, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, met Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week.

So, not only is Bush's America the new North Korea, we are the new Taliban as well. Not that this Talibanization of American politics is news or new, but it is still outrageous that these bigots control the legislative agenda.

[A hat tip must go to the good folks at Memeorandum.]

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Focus, people, focus

By Creature

If the president accomplished any mission last night with his "big" immigration speech it was to distract us, and the lapdog media, from the other real news of the day. And I'm not talking about killer alligators in Florida. I'm talking domestic spying. I'm talking Cheney and his propensity towards outing CIA agents with a total disregard for national security. And most of all, I'm talking about this:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Nineteen people were killed in a shooting and bombing attack at a bus garage in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.

Gunmen shot five Shi'ite militiamen. When a crowd gathered at the scene a car bomb detonated, killing 14 people and wounding 33.

On Sunday, a series of car and suicide bombs across the capital killed more than 30 people.

It's not that immigration reform is not an important subject, but its injection into the national debate is more about politics than anything else. The Republicans in Congress needed an issue to rally their base around before the November elections. They needed to pass some sort of legislation to show they were actually doing something on the Hill. The immigration "crisis" is about as much of a crisis as Social Security was post-2004, or, hell, it's as much of a crisis as Saddam was pre-2003.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Arming Venezuela

The U.S. is set to ban arms sales to Venezuela.

Which begs the question: The U.S. has been selling arms to Venezuela?!

Okay, okay, I know. The U.S. needs Venezuela's oil. Fine. But arms? Does the U.S. appreciate just what kind of a regime Hugo Chavez has set up for himself in Caracas?

And how's this for euphemism of the day: The State Department now lists Venezuela as "a country of concern".

Oh, really?

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The spying of America (press edition)

No, this doesn't surprise me in the least, this latest revelation from ABC News that the government is spying on the press. Does it surprise any of you?

Apparently, the government is trying "to root out confidential sources". Well, so much for confidentiality. It's ABC News, it's The New York Times, it's The Washington Post. And don't think it stops there. Spying on the press "as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation" is just the thin end of the wedge. And who knows how much of the wedge has been pushed in? As I mentioned in a recent post, there is no reason to trust the government, specifically the Bush Administration. Is this really about spying on a few select news organizations -- organizations that have exposed the Administration's malfeasance -- or is it about clamping down on the Administration's critics, on the free press generally? Perhaps the whole notion of a free press is now so obsolete as to be quaint.

So much for the freedom of the press. This Administration will stop at nothing, it seems, to abridge it.

Here's how Josh Marshall puts it: "I think we can set aside any pretense that administration policy on all manner of electronic surveillance isn't being brought to bear on political opponents, media critics, the press, everybody." And this is what's going on: "Once you set aside the law as your guide for action and view the president's will as a source of legitimacy in itself, then everything becomes possible and justifiable."

The rule of man replaces the rule of law. America succumbs to autocracy.

Kevin Drum: "There. Is. No. Oversight. At. All." A democracy with no oversight is no democracy at all.

Laura Rozen: "Spying on journalists, like spying on one's own domestic population, is a police state tactic, and one can't help but wonder had Congress been doing a more robust job of oversight, if journalists would be playing this heightened investigation and exposure role alone. But as it is, that's where we are. It's a dangerous moment, and an unsustainable one. Something really has to give. The oversight mechanisms have to kick in. The excesses, the overreach, the suspension of the law, have gone too far, far beyond a partisan argument. This has nothing to do with the war on terror or national security. This has to do with an attempt at intimidation to evade any sort of accountability. And it's done a huge disservice to this country."

Brilliantly put. I would, however, use a harsher word than "disservice". This intimidation threatens the very foundations of the country. Need I remind you of the First Amendment? That's pretty foundational.

Shakespeare's Sister calls them "traitors" -- "this whole administration," that is. Un-American, I would add. It's time for them to go.

See also Digby, Maha, Taylor Marsh, Steve Soto, Cernig, Pam Spaulding, and many more at Memeorandum. Read up on this. Your very rights -- for what is America without a free press -- are being obliterated.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Negroponte denied domestic spying

Seems Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said last week that the government was "absolutely not" engaged in warrantless "domestic spying". (Oops.)

Which means that he was either ignorant or lying. I suspect the latter.


Here's Fred Kaplan at Slate: "We have hit the point where paranoia is a proper frame of mind for assessing nearly everything this administration says or does."

Read the whole piece, but here's Kaplan's take on the NSA program: "[H]ere's the crucial issue: The executive branch of the government cannot be trusted with sole access to such massive and intrusive information. This has nothing to do with who the president is; it has everything to do with the nature of power. To dispute this fact is to dispute the need for checks and balances; it's to dismiss the constitutional premise of the U.S. government."

And here's a bit more: "This dispute is not over some legal fine point; it has all the makings of a constitutional crisis. Even on a less vaunted level, we are in the alarming predicament of facing a president who -- at least on this issue -- possesses absolute power. Bush and Gonzales may say they won't use the NSA data improperly. But there is nobody who can verify that claim."

Come on, do you trust the Bush Administration?

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An election in Chad

In case you missed it, there's been a presidential election in Chad, a highly unstable African country known mostly these days for its association with Darfur (there are some 200,000 Darfur refugees in Chad, not to mention various rebel groups). According to the BBC, President Idriss Deby, who first came to power in 1990, won re-election with 77.5 percent of the vote. For more on Deby, see here:

He originally came to power in 1990, and ruled provisionally until 1996.

He has since won presidential polls in 1996 and 2001, although both victories were marred by claims of electoral fraud.

Despite initially saying that he would not stand again, Mr Deby organised a constitutional referendum in 2005 which removed the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for him to seek a third term.

If that isn't troubling enough, consider that the leading opposition parties boycotted this most recent election. They accuse him of corruption, specifically of "siphoning off oil revenues". And that's not all: "They have accused the government of tampering with the electoral roll, abusing election laws and reshuffling the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to favour the president." The four other candidates "are known to be political allies of the president".

Observers from the African Union and non-governmental organizations have called the election "free, open and fair". But you have to wonder, don't you?

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Most Americans oppose NSA database (and what Democrats can do about it)

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 51 percent of Americans "disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens".

(Newsweek's Mark Hosenball and Evan Thomas have an excellent, must-read piece on the NSA here.)

The White House would rather discuss terrorism than Iraq or, well, pretty much anything else, and some Democrats might not want to engage Bush on terrorism, an issue he can dominate and where his fearmongering can overwhelm their opposition, but Democrats should not back down on this.

It's not just that a majority of Americans (at least according to this poll) oppose this NSA database and worry that the war on terror has gone too far domestically in infringing illegally upon their privacy, it's that Democrats need to be -- and to be perceived to be -- the party of national security, the party that can guide America through a difficult period of unconventional warfare at home and abroad, the party that effectively balances liberty and security, the party that keeps its eyes on the ball and doesn't lead the country recklessly into disastrous foreign entanglements, the party that is about more than just tough, divisive rhetoric and actually has a plan for success.

And Democrats can only do that if they engage Bush and the Republicans on the political field of terrorism and national security, if they challenge Bush's record, if they highlight the failures of Bush's presidency, if they refuse to back down and allow Bush to portray Democrats as the weaker party, the party that can't be trusted. Americans need to know that Democrats will defend them. They need to know that Democrats will wage an effective, aggressive war on terror both at home and abroad. They need to feel safe.

Bush will make the case that the NSA database, along with the NSA eavesdropping program generally, proves how tough he is. He will evoke, as he always does, 9/11. He will point to omnipresent terrorist bogeyman. He will try to terrify Americans with the rhetoric of mushroom clouds, of impending doom. He will wallow in the culture of fear. He will do what got him where he is today. And many, many will buy it.

But look at the record: the mess in Iraq, Osama still on the loose, the homeland still not secure. This is where Democrats need to turn. They need to point to the Dubai ports deal, to the response to Katrina, and, yes, to the NSA. Do Americans feel safer with Bush at the helm? Do they feel safer with Republicans controlling Congress? Do Americans want their government spying on them?

With the upcoming midterms so nationalized, Democrats should be able to hit Republicans hard on terrorism and national security. It won't be easy. Not with this White House. Not with the all-out desperation that is now driving the Republican leadership and seeping down into the rank-and-file. But Americans are waiting for Democrats to stand tall again, to show that they can indeed navigate the country through challenging times. This does not mean abandoning or otherwise devaluing more traditionally Democratic issues like health care, poverty, and the environment, but it does mean going after Republicans on what are, or what have been perceived to be, traditionally Republican issues.

With Iraq a mess, Osama still on the loose, and the homeland still not secure, Democrats can criticize Bush's leadership and offer an alternative to it. They can also tell Americans that they won't spy on them illegally. How does that sound?

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Notes on Dick

Two big stories on a truly despicable figure, both must-reads:

Newsweek: Michael Isikoff is reporting this: "The role of Vice President Dick Cheney in the criminal case stemming from the outing of White House critic Joseph Wilson's CIA wife is likely to get fresh attention as a result of newly disclosed notes showing that Cheney personally asked whether Wilson had been sent by his wife on a 'junket' to Africa."

Is this bad for Scooter Libby? Perhaps. Does it indicate that Cheney may have been behind the "outing" of Valerie Plame? Yes.

The New York Times: "In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials."

Does it surprise anyone that Cheney "took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution"? It shouldn't. This is pure Dick. Simply put, he has promoted an illegal program to spy on Americans within the context of a broad expansion of executive power.

Welcome again to Cheney's America. Check your rights at the door.

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