Saturday, May 27, 2006

Honestly, folks!

By J. Kingston Pierce

So, it has finally come to this. A new Zogby Interactive poll finds that only 24 percent of Americans think George W. Bush can be trusted. While that makes him appear downright scrupulous by comparison with the habitués of Capitol Hill (a measly 3 percent of survey respondents say they trust the Republican-controlled Congress), it doesn’t measure up to the 29 percent of the public who put their faith in the courts. Nor does it even begin to approach the 79 percent of Americans who, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, said they had confidence in Bush. In 1998, following the admission by President Bill Clinton that he hadn’t been honest with the country about his relationship with a certain plump young White House intern, Harris reported--with what sounded like shaking-head pity--that “a modest 54 percent” of Americans still believed Clinton would tell them the truth. Heck, Dubya would kill for a “modest” 54 percent trustworthiness rating these days. But he’s not likely to see such a thing in the near future--if ever--no matter how many times he stands before TV cameras to nibble at humble pie over the few mistakes he’s finally admitting to have made over the last six years.

As historian Sean Wilentz opined earlier this month in an excellent Rolling Stone essay titled “
The Worst President in History?”:

No previous president appears to have squandered the public’s trust more than Bush has. In the 1840s, President James Polk gained a reputation for deviousness over his alleged manufacturing of the war with Mexico and his supposedly covert pro-slavery views. Abraham Lincoln, then an Illinois congressman, virtually labeled Polk a liar when he called him, from the floor of the House, “a bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man” and denounced the war as “from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.” But the swift American victory in the war, Polk’s decision to stick by his pledge to serve only one term and his sudden death shortly after leaving office spared him the ignominy over slavery that befell his successors in the 1850s. With more than two years to go in Bush’s second term and no swift victory [in Iraq] in sight, Bush’s reputation will probably have no such reprieve.

The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk’s, suited to the television age--a crisis both in confidence and credibility. In 1965,
Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam travails gave birth to the phrase “credibility gap,” meaning the distance between a president’s professions and the public’s perceptions of reality. It took more than two years for Johnson’s disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll to reach fifty-two percent in March 1968--a figure Bush long ago surpassed, but that was sufficient to persuade the proud LBJ not to seek re-election. Yet recently, just short of three years after Bush buoyantly declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq, his disapproval ratings have been running considerably higher than Johnson’s, at about sixty percent. More than half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy than his predecessor, Bill Clinton--a figure still attacked by conservative zealots as “Slick Willie.”

Of course, the prez made the bed that he’s now forced to occupy. Determined long before 9/11 to invade Iraq and drive Saddam Hussein from power, Bush--goaded on by his neoconservative cronies--used public fear of further terrorist attacks, hyped-up intelligence about Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, and some two dozen other rationales to convince Congress that Iraq was a major player in the so-called war on terror, and that he needed the authority to begin carpet-bombing Baghdad at a moment’s notice. As we know now, at the time the war began, Saddam possessed no WMD stockpiles--a fact that’s done nothing to improve the public’s low perception of Bush’s capacity for candor, much less his popularity. (Polls show that 50 percent of Americans think the prez should be impeached if he lied in order to take the United States to war against Iraq in 2003.) Further contributing to Bush’s lack of credibility has been his Polyanna-ish representation of the situation in Iraq, even as the deaths of U.S. soldiers there increase in number (the count is currently up to 2,463) and insurgent violence makes the concept of “security” a joke. It’s because of the no-end-in-sight disaster in Iraq that 54 percent of people polled by the Los Angeles Times recently said they now don’t trust Bush to “make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran.”

Beyond all of that, there are abundant domestic reasons for Dubya’s drop in trustworthiness. He makes speeches about the evils of government spending and talks tough about vetoing spending bills, but then approves tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, signs legislation that escalates the nation’s already
record-setting debt, and balks at actually vetoing even one bill that crosses his desk. He delivers a prime-time televised speech in which he pledges to rebuild Katrina-thrashed New Orleans in “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen”; yet almost nine months after that hurricane flooded much of the Crescent City, the place still looks like a wreck. Then he denounces the media for revealing leaked information about the existence of his warrantless domestic spying operations (“a shameful act ... in a time of war”), only to subsequently have it disclosed by the press that Bush himself authorized the leaking of classified intelligence information concerning prewar Iraq’s armaments to a New York Times reporter in 2003. (Can you say “hypocrite”?) It didn’t help, either, that as the Jack Abramoff influence-buying scandal heated up, then-White House spokesperson “Stonewall Scotty” McClellan tried to distance the prez from the disgraced Republican lobbyist by saying, dismissively, that the closest Abramoff had ever gotten to Bush was when he attended a couple of crowded holiday receptions and a few insignificant “staff-level meetings.” (“The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him,” McClellan said.) Not long afterward, The Washingtonian and Time magazines reported that they’d seen photographs of the two men in much closer and more chummy contact. Contributing further to the sense Americans have that Bush is more prone to mislead than lead: his tone-deaf defense of the dubious Dubai ports deal; his right-wing sop of an assertion that “The Star-Spangled Banner” ought only to be sung in English (despite the fact that Bush himself used to sing it in Spanish on the campaign trail); and, probably, the continuing CIA leak scandal investigation, which threatens to pull Dick Cheney into court. It might even be hurting Bush, that he denies the science behind global warming at the same time as An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s new documentary about that very subject, receives glowing reviews and gears up for showing nationwide.

In the same way that it wasn’t any individual element of the
Watergate scandal, but rather an accumulation of criminal and mendacious acts, that ultimately brought Richard Nixon’s presidency to an ignominious end, so it is a gathering storm of shaved truths and politically driven deceptions that are sending Bush’s trustworthiness ratings into the crapper and making it harder for him to govern effectively. I’m reminded of something that Jimmy Carter said, back when he was running for the White House in 1976: “[I]f I’m elected, at the end of four or eight years, I hope people will say, ‘You know, Jimmy Carter made a lot of mistakes, but he never told me a lie.’” At the end of his own eight years in the Oval Office, Bush can only expect people to say that he made a lot of mistakes.

(Artwork from the
Pinocchio! Web site.)

What President Bush Has Done for Us,” by Joseph Hughes (Hughes for America); “The Bush Stops Here,” by Marty Kaplan (The Huffington Post); “Iraq: Bush’s Plan for Victory Is Really a Plan for Politics” (AMERICAblog).

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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What would Simon say?

By J. Kingston Pierce

Most discouraging news of the week: Far more Americans (63.4 million)
voted for the latest American Idol winner, 29-year-old soul singer Taylor Hicks, than have ever voted for a U.S. president. Maybe future White House contests should be turned into reality-TV series, just to get more people involved. Frankly, though, I wouldn’t want to watch Hillary Clinton trying to belt out “Lady Marmalade,” or Al Gore’s rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”; nor could I face George Allen butchering “Mandy,” or John McCain trying once again to suck up to Christianist conservatives by wrapping his aged vocal chords around “Hallelujah.”

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Friday, May 26, 2006

American parallels

The parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars are becoming painfully obvious if they weren't before.

Vietnam had the My Lai massacre. Iraq may now have its own version: Haditha.

The circumstances of what might be a cold-blooded massacre of civilians are eerily similar to the one in Vietnam. Charges of "murder, negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and filing a false report" may be filed against several Marines after they apparently retaliated to a roadside bomb (resulting in the death of an American soldier) by killing unarmed women and children in a village north of Baghdad. Current reports of the death toll vary: the military says 15, while a Republican lawmaker says 24 were murdered.

There is absolutely no excuse for this.

This is sorry state of affairs. Consider that another blow has been struck against an increasingly unpopular war, especially when it robs soldiers of their humanity.

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All apologies

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

After watching
George Bush try his hand at contrition, I immediately thought about the bullies I’ve known through the years. Most of them apologize at some point, but the apologies are never sincere and are only doled out with sarcasm or as a last ditch effort to get what they want when the bullying fails.

I think back to by grade school years and there were always bullies. Arrogant, insecure little boys that made themselves feel bigger by cutting other people down were despised and feared. I remember once, our resident bully John, in the middle of terrorizing a much smaller boy that had somehow ended up in his sights that day, John stopped and put his arms around the boy and said “I’m sorry man, you didn’t do anything wrong.” The two actually formed a sort of friendship after that and for the first time in the five years I’d known John, I actually had a little respect for him. He continued to be arrogant and a jerk, but the hardcore bullying stopped for the most part. I don’t know what kind of epiphany John had, but he admitted his mistakes at the height of his power and because he didn’t have to, I grudgingly accepted that he wasn’t all bad.

President Bush could have followed that model and admitted his mistakes when he was riding high on approval ratings that were bolstered up by his bullying behavior. He could have apologized for his inflammatory remarks like “bring it on” and “wanted dead or alive,” when it would have been sincere, but he didn’t. When the bully apologizes after having been beat down by the rest of the group, sitting in the puddle and looking around desperately for one friendly face, it garners no respect, it’s just pitiful and sad. Bush has earned his low approval rating. He has been bullying Americans and the rest of the world since his first day in office. Apologizing for his arrogant words, swaggering demeanor and bullying ways while he’s sitting in the mud looking for a way out means nothing. If he was viewed as weak before, he has now moved firmly into the realm of pathetic.

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

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Guilty at Enron!

The Reaction from England

Enron crooks Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling have been found guilty (Lay on 6 of 6 counts, Skilling on 19 of 28 counts). WaPo has the story here.

All I can say is that it feels good over here, too. Justice, evidently, has been served.

Check out the reaction over at Memeorandum (needless to say, this story is right at the top right now), but, in particular, I'd like to direct your attention to:

-- The Carpetbagger Report;
-- Professor Bainbridge;
-- Outside the Beltway;
-- Liberty and Justice; and
-- The Next Hurrah.

Much more from the blogosphere soon, no doubt. More from me later. (Scroll down for new posts from our co-bloggers and guest bloggers.)

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"The Jefferson Scandal": How does one of these things fit with the other?

Guest post by Aspazia

I spent most of my afternoon yesterday reading a book that calls into question how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is framed (Moving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New Psychiatry by Bradley Lewis). The book does not argue that psychiatrists should not consider mental disorders to be akin to diseases, but it does stress that the choice to frame mental disorder in this mainstream medical language is something to study. That is, how did the DSM come to be a set of inclusive and excluding criteria for diagnosing mental disorders? The answer lies in a very human story, wherein a few key players, deeply invested in bringing psychiatry in line with other medical specialities and thereby expunging any remnants of its Freudian heritage, reconceive mental disorders as clusters of signs and symptoms. What was taken out of the DSM was any 'theoretical account' of how on might have become depressed, for example and what was left were 'atheoretical descriptions' in the form of checklists. I am leaving a lot out of the story, but this is not the story I am interested in.

Rather, what captivated me about Lewis' book was how skillfully he made use of Michel Foucault's notion of the episteme. One way to clarify what Foucault means by an episteme is to think of it as a frame of reference (hence why I kept using the word 'frame' above). The opening paragraph to Foucault's The Order of Things, does a fantastic job demonstrating what he means by an episteme, and more importantly that how we make sense of the world is bound up with prior concepts and perhaps intutions about our landscapes -- what some philosophers call conceptual schemes -- that help us make sense of information.

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laugther that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought-our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography-breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame,(d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

Foucault's last line -- "the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that" -- poetically captures the sense that we make sense of the world through conceptual schemes, through lenses, if you will, that bring into focus certain objects and concepts, while blurring others. Foucault makes clear that these lenses through which we peer into the world are not something hard-wired, or even universal to all onlookers, but they are conditioned through specific historical events, wherein competing "theories" of what is lead to one view eclipsing all others.

Now, many readers out there might want to argue that this epistemological view is deeply flawed, making all knowledge seem radically contingent to historical and political circumstance, thereby making all we know a mere product of 'might makes right.' So be it. I will entertain these arguments. I am not interested in defending Foucault's theory of knowledge here. What I am really interested in is extending Foucault's insight of the episteme to yesterday's news -- you know, the story about
Rep. William Jefferson from Louisiana and the videotape of him taking bribe money.

I had read about this story first over at Shakespeare's Sister. Then, as I was packing up for the day, I heard the NPR coverage, which committed the same sin that annoyed Paul the Spud, namely that Jefferson's corruption would weaken the Democratic strategy to defeat Republicans in the mid-term elections by calling them the party of corruption. I became interested in the pervasiveness of this particular way of presenting the Jefferson scandal. So, I did some digging the other day to look at how various new sources first ran this story. Nearly every story included a paragraph such as the Yahoo story does (the one Paul the Spud takes apart):

Congressman Caught on Tape, Documents Say
Associated Press WriterMon May 22, 7:39 AM ET HEADLINE
( . . .)
The Jefferson investigation has provided some cover for Republicans who have suffered black eyes in the investigations of current and former GOP lawmakers, including Tom DeLay of Texas, the former majority leader.


Now, let's consider a few other news sources, in no particular order:


For Democrats, a Scandal of Their Own
WASHINGTON, May 22 — Democrats' plans to make Republican corruption a theme of their election strategy this year have been complicated by accusations of wrongdoing in their own ranks, leading the party to try on Monday to blunt the political effects of the unfolding case against Representative William J. Jefferson.

The constitutional question aside, some Democrats acknowledged that the headline-grabbing case involving a colleague they know as Jeff had the potential to dilute one of their core political arguments against the Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
( . . .)


Fox News

Documents Allege Rep. Jefferson Caught on Tape Taking Bribe
Monday , May 22, 2006
Associated Press
( . . .)
The Jefferson investigation has provided fodder for Republicans who have suffered black eyes in the investigations of current and former GOP lawmakers, including Tom DeLay and Randy "Duke" Cunningham.


3. CNN

Affidavit: $90,000 found in congressman's freezer
FBI wraps up search of Jefferson's office in bribery probe
( . . .)
With midterm elections in November, Democrats are trying to highlight GOP ties to the influence-peddling investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a Texas court, and last year's guilty plea of California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now serving an eight-year stretch for taking bribes from defense contractors.


4. LATimes:

Lawmaker, Democrats Feel the Chill

A probe notable for its freezer search makes it tougher for the party to use the corruption issue.
By Faye Fiore, Times Staff Writer
May 23, 2006

The idea that a member of Congress may have been caught in a bribery scandal is certainly nothing new. Lawmakers of old were known to walk the marbled halls, their briefcases bulging with cash.

Even the amount isn't particularly extraordinary. After all, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the disgraced former Republican representative from Rancho Santa Fe, recently was convicted of accepting almost 27 times as much in illegal gifts and graft.

But what stands out about the contents of the freezer belonging to Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson, as described in an FBI affidavit released Sunday, is the old-style simplicity of what investigators found: bundles of C-notes, wrapped tightly like leftover lasagna.

"Why the freezer? Why not the mattress?" asked Lara Brown, a political scientist at Cal State Channel Islands, who has studied 30 years' worth of modern House ethics scandals. She noted that 2006 was yielding a "bumper crop" of congressional embarrassments.

The fallout from the latest alleged wrongdoing could be politically costly — one more thing to cement voters' low opinion of Congress in an election year.

Democrats have been using the ethics storm swirling around the Republican Party as election-year fodder: Cunningham is now serving eight years for bribery and tax evasion. And the once-powerful and well-connected GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to defrauding clients and conspiring to bribe lawmakers in one of the most sweeping political scandals of modern times.


5. The Guardian Unlimited: (Same AP story as Yahoo)

Congressman Caught on Tape, Documents Say
Monday May 22, 2006 10:01 PM Associated Press Writer
( . . .)
The Jefferson investigation has provided some cover for Republicans who have suffered black eyes in the investigations of current and former GOP lawmakers, including Tom DeLay of Texas, the former majority leader.


Many of the newspapers ran AP writer Matthew Barakat's piece, which included what I am calling the "frame" of the newsarticle. The fact that the story is reported in relation to the upcoming midterm elections and Republican scandals is not in any way material to the "facts" of the story. And yet, most major news outlets included this commentary as a means of informing the public of Jefferson's graft.

This is political story was immediately incorporated into a larger narrative that has been running in the newspapers since the
Abramoff scandal: namely, both parties are corrupt and therefore there is nothing distinctive or important about the K Street Project.

While we can debate the usefulness of Foucault for larger epistemological debates, his insight that some interpretive frameworks are selected at the exclusion of others, and to further the political interests of those promoting such a framework is invaluable for decoding the Jefferson scandal.


Update: Via Majikthise, I discovered this little nugget. A blogger telling you exactly how the think tanks pull this sort of crap off.

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Crapfest 2006

Guest post by Greg Prince

Michael Stickings, blogging from London, comments on the regrettable state of pop music in Europe:

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.

He says the Europeans make American Idol look good... I wouldn't know. I refuse to watch it. But it makes me chuckle. We're currently in a period where there are some good things happening in music in the U.S., and not just in country music where otherwise "popish" artists find shelter when pop/rock is in an abysmal period.

But it really frustrates me that some of the really good artists in Europe aren't better known in the U.S. Just a few names to begin with:

Laura Pausini, Nek, Zazie, A-ha, Westlife, Brian McFadden, Eros Ramazzotti, Michael Learns to Rock... the list could continue on for quite a bit. Granted, these aren't new names, but they're very famous worldwide except for North America.

Moreover, they're all damn good and it really bugs me I have to pay a fortune to get their albums since they're not easy to find domestically. Without the internet I'd not have seen many of their videos either.

I have to chuckle at his pain. Maybe they'll find the next Spice Girls on the horizon.

And Eurovision isn't all bad. That's how ABBA was discovered, after all, with Waterloo in 1974.

(Ed. note: I didn't know that ABBA was discovered through Eurovision. Forgive me, Mamma Mia! devotees, but that, to me, lowers Eurovision even more for me. And I didn't think that was possible. Oh, but I did quite like Muriel's Wedding. And, okay, some of ABBA's songs are rather catchy. Sort of like influenza. -- MJWS)

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Sauce for the gander

Guest post by Greg Prince

The FBI conducted a raid on the congressional office of soon to be convicted as a felon representative William Jefferson (D-LA). It's interesting how both houses of Congress feel violated by the executive branch:

The Saturday raid of Jefferson's quarters in the Rayburn House Office Building posed a new political dilemma for the leaders of both parties, who felt compelled to protest his treatment while condemning any wrongdoing by the lawmaker. The dilemma was complicated by new details contained in an 83-page affidavit unsealed on Sunday, including allegations that the FBI had videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in bribe money and then found $90,000 of that cash stuffed inside his apartment freezer.

Republican leaders, who previously sought to focus attention on the Jefferson case as a counterpoint to their party's own ethical scandals, said they are disturbed by the raid. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that he is "very concerned" about the incident and that Senate and House counsels will review it.

Is this the same Bill Frist who is completely unconcerned about the privacy of our cell phone records? Is this the same Bill Frist who's enabling the Bush Administration's law breaking with illegal wiretaps in the name of "security"?

AMERICAblog says it well: "It's good to be king."

TMV: "It now turns out, the government reportedly knew that this raid was indeed unprecedented — which suggests bipartisan concerns over this not being separation-of-power as usual have some foundation."

What? Dubya taking unprecedented into his own hands just because he thinks he can? Surely you jest.

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Harper the Petulant?

Is this a sign of things to come if the Conservatives win a majority? Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally dropping hints on his governing style if his MPs ruled the House? Perhaps: the past couple of weeks have been extremely telling.

Surprising, to this Grit, that the budget was so beloved by the country, and the polls are tilting in this Prime Minister of a Hundred Days' favour. I was awed when he offered money to the cities (which he was rumoured to loathe), and amazed when he prepared to send millions in aid to Darfur. I'll admit, he almost had me for a second there - but there was nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it did.

First came the political appointment commission (essentially a review board), part of Harper's sweeping ethics plan to clean up government. For this task, the Prime Minister handpicked Gwyn Morgan, an ex-CEO from Calgary as his nominee for the lead position. Morgan was rejected by a panel of Opposition MPs (Liberals and New Democrats) due to previous remarks he had made, including statements against specific ethnic communities, such as: "The run-away violence (is) driven mainly by Jamaican immigrants in Toronto, or the all-too-frequent violence between Asian and other ethnic gangs...", adding that those cultures were "dominated by violence and lawlessness..."

In response to the rejection, Harper did not seek a new nominee. Instead, he scrapped the program entirely, claiming, "We'll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future. That's obviously what we'll be taking to the people of Canada at the appropriate time,"

This is disconcerting. It appears that in the Harper government, there is little room for compromise. Or, in fact, no room at all. Something as important as an ethics program to help clean up government was just dropped because his first pick didn't make it in. Considering Morgan's statements on immigrants and multiculturalism, it seems that the Opposition MPs had good reason to reject him for an ethics program.

Not only that, but it seems that Harper now frequently alludes to a calling an election when something doesn't turn out as he would have liked, while shifting the blame to fall on the shoulders of the Opposition.

But this is not all.

Today, the Prime Minister declared war... on the media, reporters and journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO), since Harper's election, requires that a list of journalists' names be compiled, and the office would choose who gets to ask the questions during a press conference. Needless to say, this could possibly stifle the hard-hitting questions and journalists in favour of easier questions from friendly media outlets.

(Wow -- am I still in Canada, or did I somehow manage to walk into a Bush town hall meeting?)

More and more of the Ottawa press corps have declined to post their name on the list - to which Harper has responded to fewer members of the gallery. This is precisely what happened yesterday just before his press conference on giving more aid to Darfur. All reporters refused to submit their names; the response to this was that no questions would be allowed. On such an important issue, it was imperative that the journalists get to the bottom of the story , and of course, ask some questions - to deny them that is, well, ridiculous. As a result, the press corps (almost all of them) simply left, leaving only news cameras behind to capture the PM's announcement for broadcast.

Rather than make any concessions, Harper boldly stated, while in London, Ontario, that he would no longer deal with the national media, and "just take the message out on the road." And not surprisingly, he accused the media of "be[ing] the opposition to the government..." and taking an anti-Conservative, pro-Liberal bias.

This is not the case. During the election, according to the Canadian Press, "senior Liberal officials earlier this year complained of an anti-Liberal bias in the national media.

"In the dying days of the last election campaign, Paul Martin's staff grumbled that reporters were out to get them and were working to elect Harper."

Just before the May 2005 budget vote, when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to the Liberals, members of the press audibly laughed when then-Prime Minister Paul Martin said that he didn't know if this move would effect the outcome of the non-confidence motion. If that wasn't an open display of mockery towards a Liberal Prime Minister, then what is?

If anything, news coverage towards to Tory government has been quite positive in recent weeks. Even the CBC's Rex Murphy, whom I respect for his intelligence and wit, has been singing Harper's praises for the last month or so. To denounce the media as being biased against the government would be incorrect.

The truth of the matter is, the national press gallery tries to be impartial - sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn't - but never has it been treated as poorly as it was today.

Interesting that someone now considered to be "moderate" has such uncompromising undertones.Now, in the face of all of that, just imagine what Harper could do... or rather, would do with a majority.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Those independent-minded Montenegrins

The Reaction from England

In case you missed it, there is now (or at least soon will be) a new sovereign state in the Balkans. From the BBC:

Montenegro has narrowly voted for independence from its union with Serbia, near-complete results say.

The head of the country's electoral commission said 55.4% of voters had voted to secede from Serbia, just above the 55% required for victory.

The result is set to erase the last vestige of the former Yugoslavia.

Yes, the dream is over. Hey-now, hey-now.

The dream of Serbian hegemony in the Balkans, that is. The dream of a Greater Serbia.

After so much bloodshed in Bosnia and throughout much of the former Yugoslavia in the '90s, after the genocide, the ethnic cleansing, committed by Milosevic's thugs, Yugoslavia ends as it should, with a peaceful referendum, a democratic expression of the will of the people in the last remaining hold-out.

Good for the Montenegrins, I say. I hope self-governance works out well for them. They haven't had it since 1918.


Given the closeness of the vote, "Montenegro's pro-Serbian unionist parties have demanded a full recount" -- see here. Apparently "19,000 votes are still in dispute".

For background, see here. For more on the break-up of Yugoslavia, see here. For my anti-eulogy of Milosevic, see here.

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Mission Accomplished again!

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

George Bush and Tony Blair are set to make an announcement regarding the war in Iraq later today.
After reading Tony Blair’s statements in The Guardian, it seems likely that the duplicitous duo will be announcing some sort of draw down of US and British troops. Just in time for the mid-term elections, is anyone surprised?

"It has been three years of struggle to get to this point and has been longer and harder than any of us would have wanted it to be but this is a new beginning."

It sure sounds like Mr. Blair is saying that the end is near.

Bush has said over and over that “when the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” and I imagine that he will give more of the same. Whether or not the Iraqi troops are really ready to “stand up” in the way that Bush has been selling is not relevant. His dismal approval rating needs some help and bringing some troops home, he thinks, will boost those sagging numbers. Democrats should have gotten behind John Murtha when he called for immediate withdrawal months ago, but they were simply too afraid to do what they knew in their hearts was right. Many of them thought that pulling out US troops would result in more violence and possibly a civil war, at least that’s what they said publicly, and felt it would be irresponsible to pull out prematurely. In reality, it was a political decision for most of them. They were afraid to advocate for what would surely be labeled by Republicans as a “cut and run” approach. What Democrats failed to realize was that Bush would advocate the same if it became politically necessary. And now it has.

Unlike Bush’s address on immigration that failed to boost his poll numbers, an announcement of a withdrawal of troops from Iraq may very well help him politically. Don’t expect him to frame it as a political issue though. It will be framed as US troops accomplishing exactly what Bush has been shooting for all along. Of course it’s not true, little he says ever is, but in the end, when Americans start seeing our troops arriving home, greeted at the airport by friends and family will happy smiles, flowers, banners and balloons, all will be forgiven.

Many Bush supporters that have left his side are looking for a happy ending. If Bush can give them that, complete with happy homecomings televised for all to see, they will be all too happy to come back and support this President. Bush understands that his approval is tied to this war. If he can put a happy face on it, he will. Now, Democrats will be in a position of having supported the President’s plan when it would have been smarter to force his hand. If Bush were making this announcement under relentless pressure from Democrats in Congress, it would be viewed as a sign of weakness on the part of the President and a victory for Democrats. This is yet another example of Democrats failing to do the right thing that would have also been the best political strategy. As it is now, the Democrats have nothing to be proud of, can take no credit and will be forced to sit idly by while the President reaps the benefits of a cut and run policy. Ironic, no?


Update: More news on the pending announcement can be found at Raw Story. This is the most cynical use of our military, a tool in the president’s bid to win a popularity contest. While I do think that withdrawing our troops is the only thing that we can do to help bring peace to Iraq, I do not trust this President to do it properly. He will bring home just enough troops to put on a show here at home and leave enough to cause further chaos in Iraq and the Democrats seem poised to let him get away with it. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

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

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spin, Spin, Spin

By Creature

Condi Rice spins the formation of a new Iraqi government:

Two key security positions in the Iraqi government, the defense and interior ministers, have not been filled due to a lack of agreement. Rice said it was a sign of "determination and maturity" that officials were taking the time to choose the right people.

What a load of bull. They simply put off for another day the hard decisions that needed to be decided today. At this point the formation of the "unity" government is more photo-op than anything else.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Still a Shill

By Creature

In a speech delivered Saturday night to the NRA retired General Tommy Franks declared war on his old buddies in the White House...
"I watched as America changed," Franks said. "That's not near done. We have to secure ourselves. We have to secure our Constitution."

I wish. Unfortunately that was Franks, not being frank. The former general continues to cast Iraq, and the American deaths in Iraq, as part of the global war on terror.

"What we're talking about is neither 2,400, 24,000 or 240,000 lives," Franks said at the National Rifle Association's annual banquet. "Terrorism is a thing that threatens our way of life. It doesn't have anything to do with politics." [Read More]

Except, Mr. Franks, your boys Bush, Rummy, and Cheney have used terrorism for political gain. They have used terrorism to justify the war. They have used terrorism at every turn to trample on the Constitution you believe the troops are fighting for in Iraq.

One would think the Kool-Aid the would have worn off by now.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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A cascading series of misjudgments

By Creature

Today the NYT publishes an extensive look at the Bush administration's failure to plan (or I should say, the throwing away and disregarding of extensive planning) for the formation of the new Iraqi police force soon after the fall of Saddam in 2003. It's very easy for the likes of me, on the far-left-wing of the political spectrum, to throw out the incompetence charge against Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, but after reading this article the incompetence charge seems like a compliment.

Like so much that has defined the course of the war, the realities on the ground in Iraq did not match the planning in Washington. An examination of the American effort to train a police force in Iraq, drawn from interviews with several dozen American and Iraqi officials, internal police reports and visits to Iraqi police stations and training camps, reveals a cascading series of misjudgments by White House and Pentagon officials, who repeatedly underestimated the role the United States would need to play in rebuilding the police and generally maintaining order.

There comes a point when one must ask if the "cascading series of misjudgments" by the criminals who occupy the White House is willful. I don't know exactly what they would have to gain by insuring Iraq would collapse into chaos, but it seems that is exactly what they wished to occur. Maybe chaos means more contracts for their crony friends. Maybe chaos means an excuse to point to Iraq as the terrorist bogeyman that it was not before the war. Maybe they wanted chaos to insure that American troops would stay in country. Stay to be ready and on the border of the bigger fish the neo-cons want to fry, that being Iran. I don't know the answer, but the result is clear. An Iraq in continued chaos.

The NYT piece is a long one, but it's a highly recommend read all the way through. So, please read more.

And, for those of you who may claim, oh here's another liberal blogger pointing out only the gloom and doom coming out of Iraq, I will also link you to the good news out of Iraq today. In a step the right-wing blogosphere is hailing as vindication of the Bush administration's policy the Iraqi parliament swore in its first permanent government since the fall of Saddam. Sure, this is a positive step, but let's also remember that two key positions were not filled. Positions that need to be filled if the government is to stop the descent into civil war and ethnic cleansing that mars Iraq's progress today.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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