Saturday, June 10, 2006

Terrorism suspects detained in London police raid go free

Remember that police raid on a suspected chemical weapons laboratory in London on June 2? (If not, see here.) Yeah, well, it looks like there may have been a problem, according to the BBC.

Two men, Abul Koyair and Mohammed Abdul Kahar, both in their early-20s, were picked up and were being "held under the Terrorism Act 2000 and questioned on suspicion of terrorism involvement". Kahar was even shot by police during the raid.

So what's the problem? Well, it seems, there wasn't any evidence against the two suspects. Or at least not enough. Both men have been "freed without charge".


The authorities are unapologetic: "Police have defended the raid and said inquiries are ongoing." But they have to defend it, don't they? They can't admit that they made a mistake that included a shooting.

For all I know, "inquiries" may yet reveal more to the case than is presently known. Or they may not. Regardless, this is the sort of thing that can happen when law enforcement, particularly when the "law" deals with something as nebulous as terrorism, gets out of hand.

At the very least, an apology might be in order, don't you think? Perhaps even one from 10 Downing Street.

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Blaming FEMA: President Bush and the abdication of responsibility on Katrina

Brownie took the blame, whether he wanted to or not, and Bush had no interest in taking responsibility for the government's failure to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina. From CNN:

Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Friday that he received the e-mail five days before his resignation from a high-level White House official whom he declined to identify.

The e-mail stated that Bush was relieved that Brown -- and not Bush or Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- was bearing the brunt of the flak over the government's handling of Katrina.

The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.'"

The sender adds, "Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader."

Ah, yes, the leader. That, presumably, would be Bush. He preaches responsibility, but he never seems to take any himself. Here's how Steve Benen puts it: "To be sure, there are a couple of degrees of hearsay involved — president told someone, who told someone else, who told Brown — but it's certainly consistent with everything we've seen from the Bush White House from day one. When trouble arises, the buck stops anywhere but the Oval Office. The 'leader' has to be shielded."

And Digby: "The Bushies are counting on being vindicated by history as Truman was. I don't think so. This president is on record, more than once, saying that he expects his underlings to fall on their swords for him. It's not exactly 'the buck stops here.' History will properly record him as a coward, a dunce and a failure."

Thankfully, Brown has the evidence to vindicate himself, at least somewhat, and to show that it was Bush himself who didn't do what a "leader" ought to do in a time of crisis.

See also Shakespeare's Sister.

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Newt's nonsense

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've been enjoying the second day of the World Cup today, including England's lackluster 1-0 win over Paraguay, but there's a bit of Newt-related news that I thought I ought to pass on. Specifically, from the Post:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) expects to run for president in 2008 if the contest for the Republican nomination still seems wide open late next year, he said yesterday.

It may be dangerous to underestimate the man, but is American ready for President Newt? I suspect not. Although a Gingrich-Clinton race would be nothing if not, uh, stimulating.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Cowardice and compromise: Arlen Specter's fatuous flip-flop on NSA eavesdropping

No, the Republican-led Senate won't provide the checks necessary to balance President Bush's concentration of power in the executive branch with respect to the war on terror. Not that this should come as much of a surprise. Here's Pincus at the Post:

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed legislation that would give President Bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency.

Sen. Arlen Specter's approach modifies his earlier position that the NSA eavesdropping program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The new proposal specifies that it cannot "be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to gather foreign intelligence information or monitor the activities and communications of any person reasonably believed to be associated with a foreign enemy of the United States."

But what if the president defines his own "constitutional authority"? What if he defends eavesdropping in circumvention of FISA as part of his constitutional mandate "to gather foreign intelligence information," not to mention domestic intelligence information? If even the rubber stampers of the FISA court are too much of an imposition on the president, what assurances will we have that eavesdropping on Americans is being conducted properly?

In addition, according to the Post, "[a]nother part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law". As Glenn Greenwald rightly puts it, in yet another must-read post on this topic, this amounts to "the President's allies in Congress [enacting] legislation which expressly shields government officials, including the President, from criminal liability for past lawbreaking". This is essentially a pre-conviction (and even pre-trial) pardon -- "amnesty," to be precise. And it is, I agree, "reprehensible".

Reprehensible, yet typical. Specter may not be the most popular Republican among Republicans, and he may occasionally show signs of independent thought and a conscience, but, lest we forget, he's still a Republican. Nothing will change as long as they continue to run Congress.


Some reaction from around the blogosphere:

Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report and Political Animal: "It's hard to call this a 'compromise.' It's more accurate to call it a 'bad joke.'" More: "Specter believes the administration's surveillance efforts violated the law, but under his new approach, there's no punishment and no accountability. Silly me, I thought Republicans were against amnesty." Obviously not. Not for Bush, not for their own kind.

Kevin Hayden at The American Street: "Arlen Specter, supported by a still-complicit mainstream media, defends criminal lawbreaking while posing as an independent voice willing to challenge the powerful crooks. It makes me wonder if Specter, in his previous life as a prosecutor, ever jailed anyone."

Shakespeare's Sister: "If there was ever a time for the Dems to put their collective foot down and raise hell, this is it. It’s partisanship in the extreme, so vastly outside the realm of propriety in its blatant acknowledgement that this president is above the law, that it is sincerely un-American." I'm with you, Shakes.

TalkLeft: "Make up your mind, Senator Specter. Are you for the Constitution or against it? Do you believe in holding the administration accountable or not?" The honest answers: Against it and absolutely not. But you won't get the honest ones from Specter.

Tim F., the liberal voice at Balloon Juice: "Retroactive amnesty seems like a strange gift for an administration that has successfully stonewalled every attempt to investigate it."

The Heretik: "Only in Washington can a complete rollover and giveaway be called compromise." It's the cesspool on the Potomac, remember?

See also Hullabaloo, NewsHog, Think Progress, and, for some video, Crooks and Liars.

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Scattered, fragmentary acts of violence

By Creature

From yesterday's gaggle, we have Tony Snow being an ass. The quote below is in response to a question regarding the impact that al Zarqawi's death will have on the violence in Iraq.

This also gives us an opportunity to look at the war in a different way. Quite often it's very easy to measure what's gone on in Iraq in terms of explosions and IEDs. We have been crushing the opposition, but what happens is the opposition has been controlling the airwaves with scattered, fragmentary acts of violence.

First, we're "crushing the opposition?" Okay, I'll need to see the video on that one. I think if we truly were crushing the opposition, we would be hearing about it on a daily basis. The Pentagon does press conferences well. I can't imagine they let "crushing" slide.

Second, "the opposition has been controlling the airwaves?" This is just a clever way of bashing the media once again. Oh, that's right, we're crushing the opposition but the media won't show it. The media loves to show the military and their toys. C'mon Tony, you can do better than that. I won't even get into the dead media count, but I could.

And finally, "scattered, fragmentary acts of violence?" This is just insulting to the people who have lost their lives to these occasional (um, multiple times a day) acts of violence. This from CNN just a few days ago:

The main Baghdad morgue reported receiving 6,025 bodies in the first five months of the year, including those of 1,398 civilians killed in shooting attacks and other violent crimes in May, according to a high-ranking Iraqi Health Ministry official.

And these figures are just from the first five months of the year. "Scattered, fragmentary acts of violence." Incredible. These guys can't even be genuine on a good news day.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Zarqawi news

The BBC looks at how U.S. forces found Zarqawi, the new leads uncovered in post-bombing raids, what the killing will mean for Bush, what may happen to al Qaeda in Iraq after Zarqawi, and what a post-Zarqawi Iraq may be like. It also provides an obituary of the departed terrorist.

The Washington Post also looks at the bombing mission and post-Zarqawi Iraq. See also this.

Obviously, there's much more to be found elsewhere, but these are all good pieces.

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Zarqawi reaction

Blogger was down yesterday evening -- in fact, it just seems to have gone up again -- and so we haven't been able to do an update on the death of Zarqawi.

For the time being, let me provide you with a few good links:

-- Informed Comment (Juan Cole): "Zarqawi had been a significant leader of the Salafi Jihadi radical strain of Islamist volunteers in Iraq, and had succeeded in spreading his ideas to local Iraqis in places like Ramadi. He engaged in grandstanding when he renamed his group "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia," even though he had early been critical of al-Qaeda and had a long rivalry with it... Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon."

-- Firedoglake (Taylor Marsh): "Now we’ll get to see the truth about Murtha’s case regarding insurgents vs. al Qaeda types in Iraq. The reality is that it’s going to take a lot more than killing al-Zarqawi to change reality on the ground in Iraq. Good riddance to al-Zarqawi, especially what he did to Nick Berg. But his death comes so late in Bush’s preemptive war games it’s hard to appreciate it at all."

-- The Carpetbagger Report and Political Animal (Steve Benen): "Iraqi and U.S. officials agreed that his death would not necessarily stem the violence and insurgency — and as if to prove the point, an explosion ripped through a busy outdoor market in Baghdad just a few hours after Zarqawi's killing was announced. Still, when a dangerous terrorist can no longer wreak havoc, it's good news. One relevant angle to this story, however, that has not been emphasized (or even mentioned) by most news outlets today is that Zarqawi could have been taken out years ago, but Bush decided not to strike." (READ THIS!)

More soon.

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A sad day for the blogosphere

Guest post by Greg Prince

A blogger at National Review Online has chosen to post the name, employer, and even some potential clients of well-known blogger Armando, who has been a regular author at Daily Kos and Swords Crossed.

It is true that a lot of information was already out there on the web if you know how to dig -- it can be fairly said that Armando didn't really do a good job of protecting his anonymity. I don't find this to be a compelling excuse.

I was among the early members of Online Integrity, a site/pact devoted to blogosphere ethics which lists among its principles:

Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior.

I didn't necessarily agree with Armando, but he was one of the good guys. A class act, and someone who spent a significant amount of time and effort fostering real discussion and thoughtful discourse.

If he quits blogging, we are all made poorer by his loss.

Armando at Kos:

A major Right wing site has chosen to support a troll's campaign started at this site to out me.

The writing is on the wall. I will likely be giving up blogging as a result.

If people were wondering about why I was so adamant about this, I hope this explains it.

I have never written about my clients and whenever I had a conflict, I disclosed it. But people of ill will have no decency or limits.

If I sound bitter, it is because I am quite bitter about this.

So, this is probably so long kossacks and bloggers. I fade away.

Swords Crossed: "But, as oft-maligned as they are, lawyers are a valuable addition to the blogosphere (being generally skilled at writing persuasively), and they also have a unique set of public vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Anyone with knowledge of whois and with access to LexisNexis could drive every lawyer out of blogging in about a day if they wanted to, by publishing their firms and clients. I’d prefer not to see the blogosphere come to this."

Balloon Juice: "I can understand Armando’s desire for anonymity- he has already stated he will be no longer blogging, and while I disagree with him on virtually everything (although we agree on more things as of late), I think it is a loss for the blogosphere as a whole. At the same time, I can’t help but think that someone as high profile and as technologically proficient as Armando should have known better than to leave all the trails that he did. I know that sounds like ‘blaming the victim,’ but I can’t help but think that were my anonymity at a premium, I would have gone to greater lengths to protect it."

The Blogging Curmudgeon: "The reaction from kossacks has been swift and sure to condemn this violation of the sanctity of Armando's private life. But how private was it? He posts under his own name and tells all the world that he's an attorney. In the, I'm roughly estimating here, millions of posts with which he has deluged numerous websites, he has revealed many more of his particulars. It can't have been hard to reverse engineer his identity. If he was so interested in protecting his privacy, why didn't he make an effort to do so? I have no beef with anonymity — note the dearth of information about me on this site — but it does require a modicum of restraint."

All in all, it's another gotcha, and something that was unnecessary. The Swords Crossed commentary, in particular, deserves to be read in full.

(Ed. note: The Reaction is also an endorser of Online Integrity and its Statement of Principles. -- MJWS)

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Spinning Zarqawi

By Creature

For an administration in need of good news, today they got it. Not only was Zarqawi sent to meet his virgins, but Iraq's parliament also swore in three new ministers (finally). The three ministers include a Sunni Arab to head the defense ministry, and two Shiites to lead the interior and security positions. All good news for Iraq (until a new Zarqawi emerges), and a boost for the American military at a much needed time (though a real boost would be to get them the hell out of the way). The early media spin on all this news is that the White House has learned from their bravado mistakes of the past, and today they are talking in measured tones proving, in fact, that they recognize a long hard road ahead (if only they hadn't chosen to put us on this long hard road to begin with).

President Bush from the White House Rose Garden:

Bush said Wednesday's death of the Jordanian-born Zarqawi "is a severe blow to al Qaeda," a victory in the war on terrorism, and "an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide in this struggle."

"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continued patience of the American people. Yet the developments of the last 24 hours give us renewed confidence in the final outcome of this struggle, the defeat of terrorism threats and a more peaceful world for our children and grandchildren," he said.

The experts ring an even more somber tone:

Arab and Western security analysts were agreed on Thursday that Zarqawi's death in a U.S. air raid would not end the insurgency, even if it represents a rare triumph in Iraq for the Bush administration.

"There will be people that will be mobilized to join the caravan of martyrs, to emulate his example and to honor him," said Magnus Ranstorp, an al Qaeda expert at the Swedish National Defense College.

While the Iraqis themselves are even more skeptical:

Police escorted reporters to the house they said was destroyed in the U.S. air raid. But residents were skeptical.

"Zarqawi. Zarqawi. Zarqawi. That's all we hear about. Zarqawi was not here. This home belonged to displaced people," said a village resident, holding up a teddy bear and a child's knapsack buried in the destruction.

And, of course, the civil war will rage on regardless of Zarqawi's death:

[A]n explosion ripped through a busy outdoor market in Baghdad just a few hours after Zarqawi's killing was announced. The blast, in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood, killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 40, the Associated Press reported.

And the band played on.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Clinton v. Coulter

Updating my recent post on the dangerous idiocy of Ann Coulter, the AP is reporting that Senator Clinton has "lashed out at Ann Coulter for a 'vicious, mean-spirited attack' on a group of outspoken 9/11 widows, whom the right-wing television pundit described as 'self-obsessed' and enjoying their husbands' deaths".

Good for Hillary.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Senatorial sanity on same-sex marriage

Ah, some good news from WaPo:

A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, backed by President Bush and conservative groups, was soundly defeated in the Senate yesterday after proponents failed to persuade even a majority of Senators to support the measure.

But let's not give the Senate -- or at least the Republican side of it -- too much credit: The vote was 49-48 against the amendment. That's well short of "the two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment" and even of "the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and bring the measure to a final vote," but, still, 48 senators voted for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

This is the key wedge issue once again this year, as I noted on Tuesday, and it isn't about to go away. The Republican Party is very much the party of puritanical moralism, of theocratic governance, and its candidates will use same-sex marriage, playing to the fears of the bigoted, to divide the country in heading into November. The amendment failed in the Senate, but its spirit will live on as long as desperate Republicans do whatever it takes to win, as long as they debase the very concept of freedom.

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Toronto terrorism threat (UPDATE 7)

The Globe and Mail is reporting that "[t]he RCMP has quietly broken up at least a dozen terrorist groups in the past two years". These were "disruptions of national-level terrorist groups across the country," according to RCMP briefing notes for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.


It has been widely reported that one of the arrested suspects' targets was Parliament Hill in Ottawa and that the suspects had planned to take MPs hostage (as well as to kill Prime Minister Harper). According to the Toronto Star, however, this "alleged plot... was abandoned at an early stage because the suspects — who hail from southern Ontario — knew little about Ottawa".


Meanwhile: "Two suspects have been taken into custody in England for questioning in connection with the weekend terror arrests in Canada, according to a report on the BBC." The Star has the story here. The BBC report is here.

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Garcia's Peruvian comeback

We try to address elections around the world here at The Reaction, but I neglected to post on Peru's run-off presidential election held this past Sunday. As no presidential candidate received more than 50 percent of the popular vote in April's election, the run-off election pitted the top two candidates from the first election against each other, Ollanta Humala (30.6 percent) and Alan Garcia (24.3 percent). Results show that Garcia won the run-off with 52.5 percent of the vote.

The BBC has more here.

A few key points: Garcia was president from 1985-90. His presidency "was marked by rebel attacks and rampant inflation". Garcia "said the result was a blow to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had strongly supported [Humala]". Humala had promoted a "nationalist project". Garcia won Lima and "the more developed northern coast," while Humala "polled well in the southern and central areas". The BBC says that "Garcia's biggest challenge now is to unite a politically divided country".


For more election results from Latin America, see our previous posts on Chile, Bolivia, and Costa Rica, as well as these BBC articles on Haiti and Colombia.

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Toronto terrorism threat (UPDATE 6)

Target: Harper

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the PM was a possible terrorist target: "At least one of the 17 terror suspects arrested last weekend is accused of wanting to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an attack on Parliament Hill." In addition: "The alleged plot also involved taking political prisoners in exchange for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan."

All this from the suspect's lawyer.

The Toronto Star has more on yesterday's court appearance of 15 of the 17 accused.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq V

It's all just fun and games in the new Iraq:

Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday vowed to impose a strict new law-and-order plan to stem rising violence in Baghdad even as the Interior Ministry investigated whether Iraqi police played a role in Monday's mass kidnapping.

The news came on a day when bombs, mortars and gunmen killed at least 11 people and wounded 26 in the Iraqi capital -- and nine heads were found along a highway in Hadid.

And of course there's Haditha. And so much else -- past, present, future. Not that the White House sees it that way. Here's how Creature put it yesterday: "The Bushies continue to believe that Iraq is an 'image' problem, not an actual problem. They believe that if only they could change the storyline, then the American people will fall into line. But this story has already ended poorly. There is no director's cut. There is no alternate ending. There is only chaos."

Chaos and death. In that, the new Iraq resembles the old. Saddam was a mass murderer and the blood continues to flow well after the demise of his tyranny.

The loss of life should never fail to sadden us.

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Iranian development

There was a major development yesterday regarding Iran's nuclear program:

From the NYT: "In a sign that Iran may be willing to restart talks on its nuclear program, the country's chief negotiator did not immediately reject an incentive plan delivered by the European Union today, saying that the proposal deserved further study."

But that's not all. From the AP: "A package of incentives presented Tuesday to Iran includes a provision for the United States to supply Tehran with some nuclear technology if it stops enriching uranium -- a major concession by Washington, diplomats said."

I know I sound like a broken record, but let me repeat what I wrote last Thursday: "Let's not get too excited. This carrot-and-stick approach -- which is well worth trying, don't get me wrong -- is also an ultimatum. Iran must stop its uranium enrichment program or else. Will it?"

That's the question: Will Iran stop its uranium enrichment program, which is well underway (perhaps even further along than we know), in return for nuclear technology from the U.S. and various other carrots from the West?

I'd like to know the answer. What say you, President Ahmadinejad? Does this "incentive plan" work for you, or are you toying with us, stalling for time, committed to reaching your ultimate goal of nuclear power (and nuclear weaponry) in nationalist spite of the stick we carry and the carrots we dangle in front of you?

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Saving the frogs

My friend Holly (of TMV fame) sent me this great story from the NYT:

In a race to save amphibians threatened by an encroaching, lethal fungus, two conservationists from Atlanta recently packed their carry-ons with frogs rescued from a Central American rain forest — squeezing some 150 to a suitcase — and requested permission from airlines to travel with them in the cabin of the plane.

The frogs, snuggly swaddled in damp moss in vented plastic deli containers big enough for a small fruit salad, were perhaps the last of their kind, collected from a pristine national park that fills the bowl of El Valle, an inactive volcano in Panama.

In many parts of the world, habitat loss is thought to be the biggest driver of amphibian extinctions, but the frogs in El Valle are facing a more insidious threat.

For what it's worth, Joseph Mendelson and Ron Gagliardo have my admiration. They're heroes, are they not?

Above are the Canal Zone tree frog (top) and the lemur leaf frog (bottom).

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Wedging the base

E.J. Dionne says it well:

This month's offensive by President Bush and his allies in Congress against gay marriage and flag burning proves one thing: The Republican Party thinks its base of social conservatives is a nest of dummies who have no memories and respond like bulls whenever red flags are waved in their faces.

Yes, but they keep voting for him. In large enough numbers to push him over the top in '04, and that's precisely the strategy at work here. The base -- the bigoted base that, however disappointed with Bush's failure to do anything substantive in terms of same-sex marriage, would turn America into a puritanical theocracy -- may not turn out in November, taking a stand by refusing to vote, but where else can Bush turn? Congressional Republicans are running away from him, or at least running without him, he has no domestic agenda, and Iraq remains the monster problem that isn't about to go away anytime soon.

Oh, sure, Bush will make a public spectacle of pulling some troops out of Iraq, hoping to cash in at the ballot box on the inevitably tearful reunion scenes, withdrawal a sign of victory, and he'll continue to take credit for whatever success he can fabricate with respect to Iran, and bluster feebly if success turns to failure, and there may very well be another terrorist threat, just in time to resurrect the culture of fear leading up to the election, but Republicans (and Bush's legacy) may not have a shot without the usual suspects, those good ol' wedge issues like same-sex marriage and flag burning.

In case you haven't noticed, neither same-sex partnerships nor the burning of the Stars and Stripes has destroyed American civilization. (And, by the bye, we're doing just fine up here in Canada, thank you very much, even with all those loving gay and lesbian couples getting married and all.) But that's clearly of no concern to those who would stick in the wedge and divide man from man, woman from woman, American from American, Republican from Democrat. It's all about arousing the base, about buying votes with prejudice and pandering. It's about using bigotry to win over the bigots.

Welcome to Bush's America, 2006. Things will only get worse heading into November.

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Those damnable voting machines!

This must surely be a Sign of the Apocalypse: I agree with Lou Dobbs! Oh, the humanity! What has become of me?!

From The Brad Blog, we learn that Dobbs has spoken out against voting machine companies as "an outright threat to our democracy, to the integrity of our voting system, and to our elections process". (Jack Cafferty weighs in, too.)

What can I say? He's right. A tad hyperbolic, but right.

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Ann Coulter is a dangerous idiot -- Part Deux

The great Crooks and Liars has all the proof you need -- should you actually need any more -- that Ann Coulter is one of the more vile and reprehensible talking heads out there. The fact that she still gets invited to appear on major TV talk shows, the fact that her opinions are even taken seriously, the fact that she's still so incredibly popular among conservatives (especially among conservative folk) -- her very presence and popularity attest to the corrupt, dilapidated state of American culture and conservatism. News outlets that put her on TV clearly have no sense and no shame. Conservatives who love her are clearly either wicked or insane. There's simply no reason she should be treated as a credible commentator with anything important to say.

Ann Coulter is a talking obscenity.

And her latest obscenity is truly despicable. On NBC's Today Show, Matt Lauer read aloud some of her comments on the 9/11 widows:

  • "These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing Bush was part of the closure process."


  • "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much."

Wow. Does it get any more insensitive than that? Not by much, if at all. But, then, what do you expect from Ann Coulter? As Human Voices reminds us, she hates decency, she hates America, and she hates Jesus.

Ann Coulter. It's easy to write her off as a card-carrying member of the loony right, but she's a dangerous idiot nonetheless. That's because a lot of people pay attention to her, a lot of people support her, and a lot of people love her.

Nice, huh?

(Oh, by the way, just for further clarification, Ann is a dangerous idiot, a bigot, and quite possibly a felon. And I'm sure she's a lot else besides.)

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An honest portrayal, please

By Creature

I guess I'm feeling especially frivolous today, but I just can't seem to get away from posts relating to Iraq. [Here and here for my Reaction friends.] I know there are more pressing issues facing the nation. I know the gays are about to take over my bedroom and man-dog marriage is just around the corner. I know I really should be focusing my exceptional blogging skills on the burning issue of flag burning. Hell, since I'm so directly affected by the "death tax" -- I will be dead one day, you know -- I should invest some of my energy there. But no, I'll let the jittery GOP focus on the relevant. I choose to stay laser-beamed on the happy-shiny country that is Iraq. Why "happy-shiny"? Well, that's what the Pentagon says in their latest report to Congress, and they have no reason to lie. Do they?

Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh Burke chair in strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies and has closely studied the Iraq insurgency, yesterday criticized the new Pentagon report as presenting "a fundamentally false picture of the political situation in Iraq, and of the difficulties ahead." He said it "does not prepare the Congress or the American people for the years of effort that will be needed even under 'best case' conditions and the risk of far more serious forms of civil conflict."

Saying "only the U.S. government has the resources and access to information that provide a comprehensive overview of the situation," Cordesman added, "The American people and the U.S. Congress need an honest portrayal of what is happening, not lies by omission and 'spin.' " [Read more]

How can a problem be fixed when there is no acknowledgment that a problem exists? The Bushies continue to believe that Iraq is an "image" problem, not an actual problem. They believe that if only they could change the storyline, then the American people will fall into line. But this story has already ended poorly. There is no director's cut. There is no alternate ending. There is only chaos. It's a shame we have to wait until January '09 for the sequel -- Iraq Episode II: An Honest Portrayal.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Mogadishu down

By Creature

Today the NYT is reporting that the battle for Mogadishu is over and the "terrorists" have won.

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 5 — Islamic militias declared victory today over Somalia's traditional warlords in the battle for control of Mogadishu, quelling months of fierce fighting in the lawless capital but raising new questions about whether this regime, which American officials have accused of sheltering terrorists, will steer the country down an extremist path.

Is this another blow for the Bush administration's war on terror? Yes, but they won't admit it. If you remember last month Michael focused our attention on the growing battle for control of Mogadishu. As Michael stated:

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.

So how did the U.S. backing of our once former enemy play out in the fight for Mogadishu? Well, not so good.

Washington has been widely accused of secretly financing the warlords, who fashioned themselves into a counterterrorism alliance to root out Al Qaeda elements in Mogadishu. Although American officials have yet to confirm giving payments to the warlords, the widespread belief that money was changing hands only seemed to strengthen the hands of the Islamists among many Somalis.

Whether or not these Islamic militias turn out to be terrorist sympathizers is yet to be seen, but the fact that a backlash to the Bush administration's meddling may have contributed to the rise of a new Islamic state is interesting indeed. So much for winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Full court press

By Creature

More opinionated propaganda from the proudly partisan Washington Post. However, this is no ordinary propaganda piece. This opinion piece is written by a current member of the White House staff. Here, I'll show you. Let's start from the bottom up:

The writer is deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Talk about getting their message out. Now, what would that message be? Well, it seems there is a whole bunch of bad news bombarding the American people these days, but never fear Peter Wehner -- the deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives -- is here to give you all some perspective. Because, you know, from his position as deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives things really don't seem so bad.

After quickly brushing aside the bad news (Iraq, Iran, gas prices, immigration, and Katrina rebuilding) the deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives lets us know that:

[T]hey aren't the whole story -- and they ought not color the lens through which we see all other events. We hear a great deal about the problems we face. We hear hardly anything about the encouraging developments. Off-key as it may sound in the current environment, a strong case can be made that in a number of areas there are positive trends and considerable progress. [Read more]

I won't quote any more from the piece, mainly because I wouldn't want to ruin all the good news through my cynical liberal lens. And, I'm sure Peter Wehner -- the deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives -- wouldn't want my taint on his good news either.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are baring witness to a full court White House press to frame reality back to the delusion-filled bubble the Bush administration so successfully promoted to the American people before Iraq and Katrina exposed them for the incompetent fools they really are. I will say, this time, they are trying to do it with a bit more humility. They do admit that mistakes have been made, however all the humility in the world doesn't change the fact that actual governing is the last thing on the agenda for the image-over-substance presidency.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Toronto terrorism threat (UPDATE 5)

An American perspective on the arrests of 17 suspected terrorists here in Toronto comes from The New York Times. It doesn't add much to what I've already linked to and quoted -- specifically, to what you can find in greater detail in The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the CBC, and various other major Canadian news outlets -- but there is this: "Several of the people arrested by Canadian authorities in a huge counterterrorism sweep over the weekend regularly attended the same storefront mosque in a middle-class neighborhood of modest brick rental townhouses and well-kept lawns."

In other words, they're all quite, well, normal. Which perhaps makes this all the more frightening to us normal Canadians.

The Times piece closes with this: "The arrests that seemed to shock Canadians when they were announced by the Royal Canadian Mounted police on Saturday morning did not appear to create much lingering fear in the Toronto area outside the neighborhoods where the raids took place. The roads near the Islamic Center in Mississauga was closed this morning for a road race. And downtown Toronto was shut down by a charity bicycle ride."

Certain media outlets have been hyperventilating in FOX-like fashion, but to me and to many I know, the Times's impression is spot on. I live and work in downtown Toronto. I'm hoping for a normal Monday, just like my normal Sunday. (Unless, of course, normal isn't normal anymore. I'll leave that for another time.)


Want an example of such hyperventilation? Check out Rosie DiManno's latest column in the Toronto Star. Here's how she begins: "Be sickened. Be frightened. Be angry. But don't you dare be shocked." She goes on to refer to "an enemy within" and "[t]he Jihad Generation," as well as to "[b]lood streaming, mangled metal, severed limbs, inchoate rage and immeasurable grief".

Yes, yes, I'm taking this very seriously, as I've repeated again and again in recent days, and our police and security forces have apparently done extremely well, but such unreasonably over-the-top responses, even from typically over-the-top columnists, amount to little more than rabble-rousing fearmongering.

It's normal to be outraged, I suppose, but let's not overdo it. Surely some emotional detachment is in order.

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The next British invasion

Look out for BBC World, a new 24-hour cable news channel set to compete with CNN and FOX. (Hey, I'm excited. Seriously.) Joe Gandelman has more here.

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Leadership and diplomacy: Bush, Rice, and the spinning of success in Iran

Last week, co-blogger Creature wrote about "a happy, bubble-busting, propaganda piece" in The Washington Post, as well as about a similar "kiss-ass-fest" in The New York Times -- see here. According to the Times, Bush is informed, engaged, and fully in command with respect to Iran. Indeed, Bush was the courageous impetus behind, in Creature's words, "our willingness, for the first time in almost three decades, to join in direct talks with [the Iranians]".

The "talks" in question pertain to the carrot-and-stick approach to the Iranian nuclear situation agreed to by the U.S. and five other major powers, including Russia and China.

The White House would no doubt like us to believe that Bush was the driving force behind this latest effort -- an effort that may not go anywhere, as Iran likely will not agree to halt its uranium enrichment program, the necessary condition to receive any carrots). Let's assume for the moment that Bush was indeed what the White House would like us to believe he was and what the Times gullibly said he was. Did he have a choice? Not really. A military strike prior to exhaustive diplomacy is simply out of the question. The backlash worldwide, and not least in Iraq and from al Qaeda, would be enormous. Far too enormous. Even Bush isn't that foolhardy. Not now anyway. Could Bush leave diplomacy to Europe? No. Russia and China, neither of which even supports sanctions, weren't about to go along with E.U.-led negotiations. Besides, the Europeans were getting nowhere.

All of which is to say that Bush had little choice but to reach out to Tehran and to pursue "talks". All of which is to say further that Bush is likely not what the White House would like us to believe he was and what the Times gullibly said he was.

But the spin will go on. Why? Because Bolten says it must.

And yet...

Now we have this: The Post -- which has of late been exceedingly gullible, too -- is reporting that the key figure in reversing course towards diplomacy was not Bush but Condi Rice. It was she who met with Blair, Chirac, and Merkel, not to mention with Russian and Chinese officials. It was she who "felt the need to jump-start the talks and take control of the situation" according to one U.S. official.

Of course, Bush could still have been pulling Rice's strings and this gullible-in-its-own-right Post article claims that, regardless, "there was essentially no dissent among Bush's top advisers on joining the talks," nor from the Pentagon, nor even much from Cheney himself. A little too neat, don't you think? A little too packaged for mass media consumption, no? Surely that, along with Bush's ferocious leadership, is precisely what the White House wants us to believe.

Still, this seems to be the counterweight to the Bush-as-courageous-leader narrative: "[T]he administration's about-face, as recounted by U.S. officials, shows the dominant influence of Rice on the policymaking process. A year ago, she persuaded Bush to back the European talks with Iran. Conservatives were concerned but went along, thinking the European effort would fail. Now, Rice has moved the administration to a point unimaginable at the start of the second term."

What's true and what isn't? Who's ultimately behind this "breakthrough" with Iran -- Bush or Rice? Perhaps both stories, both spins, are equally true. And equally not. With this White House -- so lousy at policy, so adept at communications -- who knows?

Beyond the memoirs, those yarns of spin, from all the key players, perhaps some future historian will let us in on what really happened here. The spin is thick, but the truth must be in there somewhere.

But back to the treacherous present: We ought to pay close attention to the situation in and around Iran (as it is, not as they, the spinmeisters and the gullible ones, tell us it is). After all, for all this wonderfully optimistic news of Bush's leadership, Rice's diplomacy, and the supposed diplomatic breakthrough, this latest, much-ballyhooed effort could turn out to be utterly futile.

And then what? Spin won't solve the Iranian nuclear problem. And that will leave the White House without much ammunition at all.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

No Gore in '08?

According to the AP, Al Gore "has all but ruled out running for president in 2008, saying the best use of his time is to educate people about global warming".

Fair enough. He's doing an enormous amount of good in his life after politics, and global warming is just about as important as it gets.

But I still hope he runs.

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Toronto terrorism threat (UPDATE 4)

The Toronto Star is reporting that the RCMP "had to move quickly Friday night to arrest 12 men and five youths before the group could launch a bomb attack on Canadian soil" (at least according to the RCMP).

According to RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell, "[the] group posed a real and serious threat. It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts."

According to the Star, "[i]t's still unclear how the group of suspects is connected and police Saturday offered few details of its alleged activities". However, "sources close to the investigation told the Star that the investigation began in 2004 when CSIS began monitoring fundamentalist Internet sites and their users".

Indeed: "The delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate to a group suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in southern Ontario was part of an undercover police sting operation... Sources say investigators who had learned of the group's alleged plan to build a bomb were controlling the sale and transport of the massive amount of fertilizer, a key component in creating explosives. Once the deal was done, the RCMP-led anti-terrorism task force moved in for the arrests."


Fifteen of the 17 suspects appeared in court yesterday in Brampton, Ontario, a large suburb north-west of Toronto. The CBC has more here.


Meanwhile, a west-end Toronto mosque has been vandalized. It's not clear if there's a link to the arrests of the terror suspects. See also here.

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George W. Bush, old and new

Over at The Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen responds to a fairly stupid WaPo piece on Bush's attempts to reach out to dissenters and finds that, in fact, "Bush's Bubble remains very much intact":

On its face, the notion is startling. We've become so accustomed to a president who enjoys the safety of his little "bubble" that we're actually supposed to be impressed — front-page-of-the-Washington-Post impressed — that Bush is actually willing to be exposed to a few people whose opinions on isolated issues are slightly different from his own.

But Paulson (Treasury Secretary) and Snow (Press Secretary) are hardly dissenters. I agree with Steve:

Let's be clear: genuine tolerance for dissent includes sincere consideration of ideas that conflict with pre-conceived notions. What evidence is there that Bush has matured in this capacity? None.

The "new" Bush is the old Bush, the same old Bush. Nothing has changed. Even MSM gullibility remains disturbingly the same.

For more, see Taylor Marsh, The Heretik, and Firedoglake -- all good responses to the WaPo article.

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