Saturday, August 19, 2006

Show your work

By Creature

Today's Lesson: The algebra of cable news.

Yes, this post requires math, but since logic plays no role in this equation, the problem may be unsolvable. Jon Stewart is your professor. Use Think Progress for your text. And our case study involves a cold murder case springing back to life.

Please keep your eyes on your own paper.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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They have a record

By Creature

The Carpetbagger hones an argument.

The point that I think goes unmentioned too often is that the president's (and the Republican Congress') record on national security issues is really bad. I know, it's a well-kept secret, but it's true.

We're talking about an administration that largely ignored Clinton's advice about dealing al Qaeda; didn't take the "bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S." memo seriously; invaded Afghanistan but failed to follow through on our commitments; can't catch bin Laden; launched a devastating war in Iraq that has increased the terrorist threat; watched the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran get considerably worse; leaked classified information for partisan gain; and launched an illegal surveillance program that produced a flood of useless tips. Closer to home, they've rejected Democratic efforts to boost homeland security.

Why not make this the signature campaign issue for 2006?

Okay, I'm in.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Lies, damned lies, and Big Tobacco

WaPo: "A federal judge ruled [on Thursday] that tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws, concluding that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of their product and ordering the companies to make landmark changes in the way cigarettes are marketed."

Well done, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler.

Unfortunately, Kessler "could not impose billions of dollars in penalties that had been sought by the Justice Department in its civil racketeering suit against the eight defendant tobacco companies," but this is still a major step towards finally holding Big Tobacco fully responsible for what it's done to the American people -- and indeed to people all around the world. Surely this is a crime against humanity. Accountability ought to come at a massive cost to the perpetrators of this deception.

Kessler: "In short, defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted."

Big Tobacco is a huge racketeering ring. More than that, it's a killer.

We know the truth. Now it's time for retribution.


For more, see Michael Mann's great film The Insider, with Al Pacino as 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman and Russell Crowe as tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand. It's one of my favourite films of all time and certainly one of the best American films of the past 25 years. It's truly exceptional.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Bolton and Marsh

John Bolton won't talk to Taylor Marsh (one of our favourite bloggers here at The Reaction). And I doubt he ever will. Like so many on the right, he evidently much prefers the sycophantic company of his own ideological kind. This is why conservatives flock to Fox News. It's a safe place to be.

Marsh, a legitimate journalist, is too unsafe for someone like Bolton. She might ask some tough questions, she might back him into a corner, she might embarrass him.

I'd love to see that interview, wouldn't you?

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From Iran to Syria to Hezbollah

More evidence of who was really behind the conflict in Lebanon, from USA Today:

The United States blocked an Iranian cargo plane's flight to Syria last month after intelligence analysts concluded it was carrying sophisticated missiles and launchers to resupply Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, two U.S. intelligence officials say.

Yes, it's the Iranian connection.

But where were the missiles made? China.

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Peacekeeping problems

After initially supporting Israel in its "war" with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and while still defending Israel's right to defend itself, I came quickly to acknowledge the need for a diplomatic resolution to a conflict that had seemingly escalated out of control with no clear end in sight. But a diplomatic resolution also meant an international peacekeeping force, and that peacekeeping force is already, and predictably, running into problems.

For example:

It is a problem that two countries that do not even recognize Israel as a sovereign state, have pledged troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force.

It is a problem that France, which cozied up to Iran but which offered to lead the peacekeeping force, has thus far pledged only 200 troops. By comparison, Bangladesh has pledged up to 2,000 troops. Italy could send 3,000 troops.

And it is a problem that "the offers [of support] do not necessarily provide the right mix of troops and capabilities needed for the deployment" and that "[a] number of countries are calling for clearer guidance on the exact nature of the mission".

Is it a problem that Israel's two main supporters, the U.S. and the U.K., will only provide logistical support? Perhaps not, given the baggage of Iraq, but a stronger, more visible commitment to peace from these allies would surely lend credibility to the peacekeeping effort.

So many problems, perhaps insurmountable ones. Peace does not come easily.

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No more warrantless eavesdropping

WaPo: "A federal judge in Detroit ruled yesterday that the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional, delivering the first decision that the Bush administration's effort to monitor communications without court oversight runs afoul of the Bill of Rights and federal law."

Well done, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.

There's a lot of commentary on this story in the blogosphere. You can find all the latest at Memeorandum, but make sure to check out, above all, Glenn Greenwald, who in a must-read post with multiple updates declares that this is "extraordinary news -- extraordinarily good news -- on every level".

And it's about time.

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New poll puts Lieberman ahead in Connecticut

A new Quinnipiac poll gives Joe Lieberman a 12-point lead over Ned Lamont -- 53 to 41 -- in Connecticut's Senate race. The Republican candidate, the distinctly lame Alan Schlesinger, lags way behind at four percent.

There's still a long way to go until the election, but Lieberman's strong showing among Republicans could put him over the top unless Lamont is able to eat significantly into his Democratic support. That may yet happen as the election draws near, but the recent Democratic primary showed that Lieberman still has a good deal of support from his own party in his home state. Lamont only won that contest by four points. As well, I suspect that Lieberman will benefit so long as terrorism, an issue that plays to his hawkish bona fides, remains in the news. A key determinant will likely be how much influence external factors -- including terrorism, the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict, Iraq, Bush's approval ratings, and the relative popularity of the two parties -- have on the heavily nationalized race in Connecticut.

For now, it seems Joe still has some momentum left in the tank.

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Orrin Hatch is a dangerous idiot

Yes, yes, I know. There's something quite juvenile about calling prominent public figures dangerous idiots -- indeed, about name-calling in general. Yesterday it was George Allen, whose buffoonery borders on dangerous idiocy, whose intentional bigotry is dangerous idiocy. And today it's Allen's Senate colleague Orrin Hatch, whose flagrant partisanship with respect to the politics of fear also qualifies as dangerous idiocy.

What did Hatch do to qualify? Consider: According to The Salt Lake Tribune, he said recently that terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again". In other words, Bush and the Republicans stand between America and another 9/11. Elect Democrats at your own peril.

How stupid, no? How idiotic, no?

Yet it's hardly the first time Hatch played the terrorism card to attack Democrats as weak and terrorism-friendly. Back in 2004, a couple of months before the presidential election, he said that terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry". In other words, Osama supported Kerry. The only way to stop Osama and his ilk was to re-elect Bush. Democrats, if elected, will (indirectly) kill Americans. Elect them, to repeat, at your own peril.

Utter nonsense, of course, but such divisive rhetoric works. Republicans have successfully spun the narrative that Democrats are weak on national security and cowardly in the war on terror -- unreliable at best, abettors of terrorism at worst. The narrative has stuck.

Republicans, now as desperate as ever given the prospect of defeat ahead, exploit terrorism for partisan purposes at home, while the Democratic plans to deal with such Republican errors as Iraq are largely ignored by news media that have been bullied into providing Republican-friendly "balance" (see Brock, David, The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy).

Dangerous idiots like Orrin Hatch need to be held accountable for what they say and how they say it. It may indeed be rather unbecoming of me to call the Allens and Hatches of the world buffoons and idiots, but I'll continue to call them as I see them.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

North Korea set to test nuclear bomb?

ABC News is reporting that "North Korea may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb". The evidence obtained by U.S. intelligence is circumstantial -- "the unloading of large reels of cable outside P'unggye-yok, an underground facility in northeast North Korea, cables that could "be used in nuclear testing to connect an underground test site to outside observation equipment" -- but there is hardly a doubt that North Korea aspires to be a nuclear power.

But what can be done? Should the U.S. bomb North Korea (as I asked back in June)? Would stronger U.N. sanctions work? Would further six-party talks lead to some sort of diplomatic resolution, perhaps aid in exchange for nuclear disengagement? Should the U.S. sit down and talk to, and negotiate with, North Korea on its own?

Test or no test, the urgency is palpable.

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The beacon is fading fast

By Creature

This post was going to be about last throes and how the insurgency in Iraq is stronger than ever. I was going to use my exceptional cutting and pasting skills to quote an anonymous Defense Department official saying: “The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high level.” However, the real story, the real scoop, in this article about things that go boom has been buried way at the end. And it goes something like this:

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.” [the bold is all me]

So much for spreading democracy.

So what would be their alternative to democracy? Will the Bushies put Saddam back in power and call their whole Iraqi adventure a wash? I wouldn't put it past them. At a minimum they'll slap a colorful name on their "alternative to democracy" and pray we don't notice. Operation Bring Bremer Back has a nice ring. Or perhaps we will see Exile in Action: Chalabi Takes Control. No matter the name, if were a betting man, I'd lay a bundle down that the administration is holding on for dear life until November. And after November, all bets are off. This ugly picture, is not going to get any prettier anytime soon.

The NYT has more, but remember the real story doesn't begin until you get to the end.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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George Allen is a buffoon

I thought about including Allen in our "dangerous idiot" series, where he would find suitable companionship alongside Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, James Dobson, John Boehner, James Inhofe, and Sam Brownback (type "dangerous idiot" in the box above and click "Search This Blog" for more), but he seems to be more of a buffoon than anything else.

He may claim that his "macaca" slur was innocuous, as CNN reports here, but there's a pattern of bigotry that seems to run through his life. Whatever his intention here, whatever he meant to say about S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer working for Democrat Jim Webb, Allen's challenger in this year's Virginia Senate race, this incident seems to fit in with that pattern. Macaca, after all, is a genus of monkey (18 macaca species are found in East Asia, one in North Africa). How, given his history, his long history, are we not to assume that Allen was calling Sidarth, a South Asian, a monkey? Unless, of course, Allen was using "macaca" as a slur for North Africans and applying it ignorantly to a South Asian. Or unless he's just stupid.

So is he a buffoon? Yes, it would seem so.

But he's also an idiot (just as the explanation (excuse) being offered in his defence is idiotic.) And his position as a U.S. senator makes him dangerous. As do his aspirations to the Oval Office.

You do the math.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who's Sherrod Brown?

Why, he's the Democratic Senate candidate from Ohio, of course, and he's running against Republican incumbent and Bush loyalist Mike DeWine.

As part of Firedoglake's ongoing "Blue America" series, Howie Klein looks at Brown and his candidacy here. Check it out. Brown even appears in the comments section to answer questions from readers.

He's a strong candidate, would make an excellent senator, and certainly has our support here at The Reaction.

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The entrepreneurial Democrat

In case you missed it, Ned Lamont has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal -- and it's our must-read of the day. In it, he presents "the four lessons of [his] business life" and stresses that he wants to bring a renewed entrepreneurial spirit to Washington.

According to Lamont (and, needless to say, to all of us who inhabit reality), America is "bogged down in Iraq, and hamstrung in the war against terror, by leaders who lacked judgment, historical perspective, openness to other cultures and plain old common sense". He claims -- I think justifiably -- to "offer something different".

And just in case you buy the Republican spin, and the similar Lieberman spin, that he's some sort of dove whose victory would give comfort and encouragement to America's enemies, consider this: "We start with the strongest, best-trained military in the world, and we'll keep it that way. But here's how we'll get stronger by changing course. We must work closely with our allies and treat the rest of the world with respect. We must implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and put in place real protections for ports, airports, nuclear facilities and public transit."

Lamont brings a wealth of business success, as well as the perspective of a determined outsider, to his run for the Senate. I've been critical of him in the past, and I still think he needs to continue to define himself as something more than a hollow spokesman for the anti-war left, but he's absolutely right that America needs to change course. And he may well prove to be the right man in the right place at the right time.

Bush and the Republicans have had their chance. Too much of a chance. In desperation, with the prospect of defeat ahead, they will continue to claim, louder than ever, that Democrats are weak on national security and the war on terror. But being against the war in Iraq is not the same as being for terrorism. Indeed, it is Bush's irresponsible quagmire of a war in Iraq that has severely weakened America, that has distracted attention away from the terrorists behind 9/11 and those like them, away from security on the homefront.

Leadership for change will come from Democrats. It will come from Democrats like Ned Lamont.

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Bruno Kirby (1949-2006)

Bruno Kirby has died.

He was a fine, fine actor who appeared in some fine, fine movies over the years -- including When Harry Met Sally...; The Freshman; Good Morning, Vietnam; City Slickers; Tin Men; This is Spinal Tap; and, best of all, The Godfather, Part II, where he played alongside Robert De Niro, the young Vito Corleone. (You can find his complete filmography here.) He was never the major star, but his memorable performances added so much to those movies and to everything else he was in.

I watched When Harry Met Sally..., one of the truly great and lasting romantic comedies, last weekend. I don't even know how many times I've seen it. Many, many times. And it's always wonderful. Although Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are the focus, Kirby, playing Crystal's best friend, gives an invaluable supporting performance. The movie just wouldn't be the same without him. Now would be a good time to go back and appreciate, and admire, his work.

(Our guest blogger Edward Copeland has a nice post here.)

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Our new solar system

This is an amazing story -- it's being reported everywhere, but there's a particularly good piece at The Boston Globe. According to the International Astronomical Union, there are now 12 planets in the solar system, three more than familiar nine.

Pluto, once a candidate for demotion, is still a planet. The three new planets are:

  • Ceres, once called a planet but now considered a large asteroid located in the dense asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter;
  • Charon, Pluto's "moon"; and
  • Xena, a body located in the Kuiper Belt past Pluto that has yet to be officially named.

If accepted by the IAU's general assembly on Aug. 24, there will be a new, formal definition of what a planet is: "The proposal defines a planet as an object that circles the sun and is massive enough that its own gravitational forces compress it into a roughly spherical shape. Depending on its composition, a planet would have to be at least roughly 250 to 500 miles in diameter to qualify. It designates a new subcategory of planet, the 'pluton,' a Pluto-like planet that takes at least 200 years to circle the sun. Pluto, Charon, and Xena are all plutons, and scientists expect many more to be discovered. Under the proposal, Ceres is an ordinary planet."

Possible additional planets are Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea in the asteroid belt and Sedna, Orcus, and Quaoar in the Kuiper Belt. There are known to be "53 objects that meet the [new] criteria" -- and there are likely many, many more.

Absolutely fascinating.

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Caught in the middle

By Creature


July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new government has failed.

An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll in January.

The rising numbers suggested that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control, and seemed to bolster an assertion many senior Iraqi officials and American military analysts have made in recent months: that the country is already embroiled in a civil war, not just slipping toward one, and that the American-led forces are caught between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite militias.

Wasn't it just yesterday that June was the deadliest? But at least the GOP can still blame the liberal, anti-war, terrorist-sympathizing media for painting such a grim picture of the violence in Iraq. Or can they?

The statistics were significantly higher than previous civilian death tolls, and indicated that the news media had drastically underreported the level of violence in Iraq. [blame me for the emphasis]

Underreported and underexposed. The U.S. media should take a page from the Al Jazeera play book and show the dead, show the injured, show the body parts and blown off body bits. They should show the true mayhem we have unleashed then next time maybe we, as a nation, will think twice before rushing to war.

The NYT has more (or less since we still don't have a real picture of the violence in Iraq).

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Unrealism in the White House

For our must-read of the day, let's turn to a conservative, a real one, George Will, who has become one of the most eloquent and forceful critics of neoconservative foreign policy.

In his column in today's Washington Post, entitled "The Triumph of Unrealism," Will argues, correctly, that terrorism is best dealt with through law enforcement, not military action. He even suggests that "[c]ooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement" leading to the recent arrests of terror suspects in Britain validates John Kerry's view that the war on terror is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world". It is only "occasionally military".

Bush, his foreign policy team, and the neoconservatives don't seem to understand this. Even after all that has gone wrong in Iraq, even after the arrests in Britain, they claim, in the words of one "senior administration official," that "[t]he law enforcement approach doesn't work". Will: "[P]erhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike 'the law enforcement approach,' does 'work.'"

This is the "unrealism" of Bush's foreign policy. And it's not at all helpful in addressing the threat of terrorism or the world's other pressing and emerging crises.

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More politics with terror

By Creature

Cheney tempers his tone, but still calls those who support Ned Lamont terrorist sympathizers. This, all new rhetoric, brought to us by Reuters.

Vice President Dick Cheney blasted "Dean Democrats" -- a reference to Democratic Party chief Howard Dean -- for the defeat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary against an anti-war candidate, saying they were pushing for retreat that would increase danger to the United States.

"So the choice before the American people is becoming clearer every day. For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies," Cheney said at a fund-raising luncheon in Arizona.

Mr. Cheney, every minute you and your ilk remain in power we are increasing the danger to the United States.

I ask the voters of Connecticut: Will you stand for this?
I ask the voters in America: Have you had enough?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The comeback bigot?

Is Rick Santorum making a comeback in Pennsylvania's Senate race? Perhaps. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, the gap between the bigoted, bestiality-minded right-wing incumbent (and, here at The Reaction, one of our least favourite politicians in the history of politics) and challenger Bob Casey has narrowed from 18 points to 6 points over the past two months. The AP has the story here.

It should come as no surprise that the race has tightened, just as the Casey campaign expected. And there's still a long, long way to go. Santorum has a lot of money and may be counting on the Nader-like Green candidate, Carl Romanelli, to shave off some of Casey's support. Still, Casey is a strong candidate, the right kind of moderate Democrat for Pennsylvania. Let's hope he holds on to his lead through election day.

(For more on "santorum," see here.)

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An inconvenient ruling

By Creature

Bush v. Gore, lost in the black hole of history. This from today's NYT:

The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush is disappearing down the legal world’s version of the memory hole, the slot where, in George Orwell’s “1984,” government workers disposed of politically inconvenient records. The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum earlier this year, he snapped, “Come on, get over it.”

One of the most decisive and divisive cases in the history of this country and Justice Scalia wish us to, "Come on, get over it." However, as Adam Cohen explains, we should not get over it. At its heart the Bush v. Gore decision can help. Read on.

The majority reached its antidemocratic result by reading the equal protection clause in a very pro-democratic way. If Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis is integrated into constitutional law, it could make future elections considerably more fair. [...]

If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.

But since when is anything constitutional important to the GOP. It's about the politics, stupid. But it doesn't have to be.

In deciding cases, courts should be attentive not only to the Constitution and other laws, but to whether they are acting in ways that promote an overall sense of justice. The Supreme Court’s highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court’s own standing. The courts could start to undo the damage by deciding that, rather than disappearing down the memory hole, Bush v. Gore will stand for the principle that elections need to be as fair as we can possibly make them.

Read more. It's wonky, but worthy.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Existential malaise

According to Slate's John Dickerson, President Bush read Camus's novel The Stranger while on vacation this summer. According to Tony Snow, Bush "found it an interesting book and a quick read": "I don't want to go too deep into it, but we discussed the origins of existentialism." Which suggests that the president delved into Heidegger, or perhaps Nietzsche. I suspect he didn't, but I'm with John on this: "We want a book report!"

What does Bush think of Camus? What did he take away from this rather odd (for him) read (summer or not)? Did he find it challenging? Did it compel him to reconsider his Manichaean worldview? What does he think of existentialism? "Does his experience in Iraq push him to read works replete with themes of angst, anxiety, and dread? Was the president trying to gain insight into the thinking of Europeans who are skeptical of his plan for democracy in the Middle East, founded as it is on the idea of a universal rational essence that existentialists reject?" Will he now turn to The Fall. Or to The Myth of Sisyphus?

All good questions. At least, as far as we know, he isn't wasting his time with, say, Ayn Rand. Whether he gets the point of Camus or not, whether "he identifies with Meursault," the Arab-killer, or not, I'd much rather imagine him contemplating the meaning(lessness) of existence than wallowing arrogantly in his own righteousness. Although I suspect this is just some laughable effort by the White House spin machine to make the president look much more thoughtful than he really is, to "challenge the prevailing stereotype about the president's favorite place and his intellect". Or maybe Laura made him do it.

Next think you know, Tony Snow will enlighten us of Bush's understanding of the unbearable lightness of being. Now that would demand a book report!

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Presidential prematurity

On the conflict in Lebanon that has just been brought to a close -- and hopefully more than just a temporary one -- by a U.N.-sponsored cease-fire, President Bush may be right, to a point, that "responsibility for this suffering lies with Hezbollah". After all, history and the Israeli response notwithstanding, Hezbollah started it. Basically. Thus he is right that "Hezbollah attacked Israel" and "started the crisis". And he may also be right that "Lebanon can't be a strong democracy when there is a state within a state and that's Hezbollah".

But what about this? -- "Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis." Did it? It's too early to say. I hope it did, but I'm skeptical. And I'm certainly not so optimistic as to conclude that "[t]here's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon". As usual, Bush understands the world in such simple terms that he seems to neglect the nuances that lie between good and evil -- the nuances of reality.

I, too, "hope the cease-fire holds". But a lasting peace in the region will require more, much more, than Bush's overweening, confidence in the righteousness of his own faith-based oversimplifications.

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Cash to burn

It may be time for him to step aside in Connecticut, but Joe Lieberman, according to MSNBC, "will be able to raise the funds necessary to mount a campaign to keep his Senate seat, both Democratic and Republican donors say". Indeed, "Lieberman loyalists know he’s still a Democrat," and his campaign will be well financed by both these loyalists and "new Republican" donors.

All of which is to say that money likely won't be a factor. And that Lieberman could be in this race to the bitter end. And that it could get really ugly along the way.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Baggage, three years old

By Creature

This morning from Reuters we have a story about the new US lead action to gain control of the capital and stop the bleeding in Baghdad. The town is called Dora, a primarily Sunni district. The US has sealed the town and stopped the blood shed. The too-little-too-late twist here is that rather than focusing only on attacking the bad guys the troops are "offering economic opportunities to residents." It's working and the tone of this piece should be somewhat positive, however the sense of defeatism coming from the troops is palpable.

"The bottom line is that if we cannot provide Joe Mohammad with an improved situation, then he knows that nothing has changed. That fuels support for the insurgency and militias." [...]

He is dismissive of suggestions his is a classic "hearts- and-minds" operation, insisting his aim is simply to "improve people's lives."

"I don't like to think of this as hearts and minds. That has a lot of baggage attached to it," Gandara says, walking down an unpaved residential street toward a wide, five-foot deep hole filled with green, foul-smelling sewage.

Fixing the sewer is one of his projects and he has hired a contractor who was due to begin work in the morning. Now in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, he is nowhere to be seen.

"I'm going to chase this up," he says, after residents tell him about the no-show. "I'm very frustrated, but the contractor did say yesterday when he came here that he was concerned about his safety. How do you convince someone they are safe?" [...]

Gandara acknowledges the plan is unlikely to find universal support among Iraqis weary and mistrustful after three years of war, but he adds: "Is there any one golden solution? Heck no."

It seems like the right steps. The soldiers are doing the best they can, but three plus years into this war it's hard to imagine this band-aid approach will change the tide. The mere fact that Lieutenant Colonel Gandara acknowledges that the whole concept of hearts-and-minds "has a lot of baggage attached to it" lets us know that the window of real opportunity has closed in Iraq and now we are just biding time until it's time to go.

This is your Bush "adapt-to-win" strategy in action. It's more like adapt and pray things don't get worse before November. The GOP should be as humble and as realistic as Colonel Gandara is.

Reuters has more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Turning on Lieberman

There are a few columnists out in the MSM I tend to read on a regular basis. Jonathan Chait of the L.A. Times is one of them (not least because he's also an editor of, and frequent contributor to, The New Republic, one of my daily reads and in my view an outstanding publication).

Chait argues today that Joe Lieberman "should drop out of the race" for Senate in Connecticut. So do many others, of course, but Chait did not sign on to the Lamont bandwagon before the primary, is generally (like Lieberman) hawkish on foreign policy (including Iraq), and works for a magazine (TNR) that has supported Lieberman in the past and that continues to be supportive of many of his views. I wouldn't call him a Lieberman Democrat, but his argument against Lieberman here is persuasive in part because he hasn't been anti-Lieberman.

I recommend his entire column, but here's the core of his argument:

The best rationale for Lieberman's candidacy all along was that he was an important spokesman for Democrats who take seriously the threat of Islamist radicalism. Unfortunately, Lieberman was never an ideal messenger for that ideology. He has supported capital-gains tax cuts, ultra-loose financial regulations and the crucial vote on the grotesque bankruptcy bill. He has an almost pathological need to be liked by the far right.

Above all, he has maddeningly failed to acknowledge just how badly the Iraq war has turned out, which is different from insisting that we have to fix the mess we created. After all, many hawkish Democrats such as Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware supported the war and don't want to retreat but fully acknowledge President Bush's catastrophic management of the occupation.

Not that many of you need another reason, or any more convincing, not to support Lieberman, but, obviously, even some of Lieberman's former sympathizers are turning on him. I didn't take sides in the Lieberman-Lamont primary, and, as a "big-tent" Democrat, I've been fairly sympathetic to Lieberman over the years. He's never really been my kind of Democrat (although at times I've shared his hawkishness on foreign policy), but the party, I've argued, should have room for him.

And now? Well, the party should still have room for him, if he chooses to remain a Democrat, but it does seem to me that his independent candidacy in Connecticut is counter-productive, the elevation of self above party. Chait: "What's the point of running to uphold Democratic hawkishness when you're running against the Democratic Party and its chosen nominee?" A rhetorical question. There is no point beyond the pursuit of Lieberman's own self-interest. This "has stopped being a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party and become a battle for Lieberman to keep his prestigious job".

It's time for Joe Lieberman to step aside.

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Transatlantic terror threat 4

So reports The Sunday Times:

Security sources believe that a man arrested in last week’s anti-terror raids in Britain is Al-Qaeda’s leader in this country...

The Al-Qaeda leader -- who cannot be named for legal reasons -- acts as a suspected hub in a network of extremist groups. These include Kashmiri and north African groups based in this country. He is linked to a second suspect also in Britain who has "played a major role in facilitating support for the Iraq jihad".

The investigation continues.

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By Creature

Today on Meet the Press GOP chairman Ken Mehlman unveiled to an eager public a new talking point carefully crafted to counter the much derided Iraq strategy of stay-the-course. The new spin, on the same old plan, is "win by adapting." How exciting. But don't take my word for it. Here is the latest straight from the horse's ass mouth:
MR. MEHLMAN: Look, the fact is that our mission in the war in Iraq is critical. We agree on that; we agree it’s wrong to cut and run. But look, we’re not coming in and saying “Stay the course.” The choice in this election is not between “Stay the course” and “Cut and run,” it’s between “Win by adapting” and “Cut and run.”

Let me tell you what we’re doing. The fact is, before the successful Iraqi elections, the number of troops went up from 137,000 to 167,000. That’s adapting to win. Recently, the increased troops in Baghdad, adapting to win. We changed how the training of Iraqi forces occurred to involve more Iraqis.

That’s adapting to win.

And that's a whole lot of crap. The only thing the GOP adapts is their spin.

Democrats, you have been warned.

UPDATE: Think Progress is thinking right along with me. Go see Mehlman, his new talking point, and the evidence against him.

UPDATE II: Jon Stewart is also thinking right along with me. Making fun of the GOP is fun.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The end is near (update 3)

Israel and Lebanon have approved the U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire to end the current conflict. The two Hezbollah members of the Lebanese Cabinet voted to approve the resolution, but, according to CNN, a meeting "to discuss implementing the plan" has been postponed "to give government officials more time to discuss the plan with Hezbollah". Needless to say, "[t]he postponement sparked concern worldwide among leaders with high hopes for the resolution". Apparently Hezbollah wants "to keep its weapons south of the Litani River -- a zone the U.N. resolution calls for demilitarizing".

In the meantime, the violence continues:

Israel and Hezbollah pounded targets with heavy missile barrages Sunday, looking to inflict maximum damage in the final hours before a cease-fire resolution was to go into effect.

Israel reported that 250 rockets hit its territory, including the port city of Haifa. At least one person was killed in the rocket attacks.

The Israel Defense Forces, meanwhile, launched what appeared to be one of the heaviest bombardments on southern Lebanon in the 33-day-old conflict, and struck targets in Beirut's southern suburbs.

If there is peace, it will be a tenuous and fragile one at best. So much remains in doubt.


For more, see Ed Morrissey:

Does anyone not believe that this crisis has been precipitated by Hezbollah's refusal to leave southern Lebanon and disarm? The cease-fire proposal put the onus on them to cease their attacks on Israel and to dismantle their military wing. I warned earlier that such a requirement would eliminate the need for Hezbollah at all; their entire raison d'etre for the Lebanese people has been as a shield against the Israelis. If the Lebanese Army took that function away from them, they just become another terrorist militia, a construct of which the Lebanese have rightly tired.

He may very well be right. Hezbollah stands to lose a great deal if there is peace.

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