Saturday, September 09, 2006

Not just skin deep...

By Grace

Now here's something you don't see everyday: a fashion magazine making a political statement. But then again, not every fashion magazine is Vogue Italia, known in the industry for its genuinely creative vision. Its primary photographer, Steven Meisel, is reowned for his artistic direction and his biting visual satire and social commentary when he's at his sharpest.

October's issue features Meisel's editorial, "State of Emergency," which takes aim at security measures taken under the Bush administration in the United States. Models are posed as being dragged from their cars with guns pointed at their heads, stripping down for airport security, and so forth; it's clear in these photos that there's a sense of overblown panic and the authorities are using excessive force (perhaps even abusing their authority?).

Now, of course, security measures and arrests aren't the be-all and end-all of the culture of fear that President George W. Bush is spreading, but they're two of the most graphic parts of it. And airport security checks, in their current incarnation, does impact regular people, as well as industry, in a major way. It's not quite Abu Ghraib (although the pictures may be taking a step in that direction, too, in terms of the treatment of those being arrested), and wiretapping is a difficult subject matter to get... fashion-y about, but the point is well made.

My only real nitpick, naturally, is that the targets of force are all Caucasian women, which certainly deviates from what's happening in reality. But then again, that's where we can't forget that this is a fashion spread whose real purpose is to shill the clothes. But the fact that they're taking on this topic is quite bold.

Also interesting to note is that this comes from an Italian publication. American Vogue would never allow something as incendiary as this on its pages.

Need convincing? Here are a couple of selected photographs from the editorial. Click on the image for the full size, or click on the link above to see the full set.

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Bush’s Iraq invasion fiasco

By J. Kingston Pierce

Raw Story this week posted a number of revelations from the new book
Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, written by Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation. Among the tidbits meant to spur sales:

• President Bush was driven by a visceral hatred of Saddam Hussein, which he privately demonstrated in expletive-laden tirades against the Iraqi dictator. In May 2002--months before he asked Congress for authority to attack Saddam--Bush bluntly revealed his ultimate game plan in a candid moment with two aides. When told that reporter Helen Thomas was questioning the need to oust Saddam by force, Bush snapped: “Did you tell her I intend to kick his sorry mother fucking ass all over the Mideast?” In a meeting with congressional leaders, the President angrily thrust his middle finger inches in front of the face of Senator Tom Daschle to illustrate Saddam’s attitude toward the United States.

• When Bush was first briefed that no WMDs had been found in Iraq, he was totally unfazed and asked few questions. “I’m not sure I’ve spoken to anyone at that level who seemed less inquisitive,” the briefer told the authors.

• After the [Iraq] invasion [in March 2003], Dick Cheney’s aides desperately sifted through raw intelligence nuggets in search of any evidence that would justify the war. On one occasion they sent the WMD hunters in Iraq a satellite photo that they suspected showed a hiding place for WMDs. But it was only an overhead photo of a watering hole for cows.

• Many of the White House’s most dramatic claims about the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction were repeatedly questioned by senior members of the U.S. intelligence community-but these dissents and views were suppressed or ignored by the White House. Admiral Thomas Wilson, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until May 2002, is quoted in the book as casting doubt on virtually the entire White House case for an invasion of Iraq. “I didn’t really think [Iraq] had a nuclear program,” retired Admiral Wilson told the authors. “I didn’t think [Saddam and Iraq] were an immediate threat on WMD.”

• Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle seriously doubted the case for war--and questioned the top-secret briefings they received directly from Cheney. One senior Republican, House Majority Leader
Dick Armey, warned the President in a September 2002 meeting that Bush would be stuck in a “quagmire” if he invaded Iraq. But Armey and others were afraid for political reasons to challenge the White House on the prewar intelligence.

Yet again, we see evidence of Bush’s arrogance, peevishness, and lack of curiosity about the evidence motivating some of his most critical decisions in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. But at least we’re spared any more mentions of his fondness for farting in front of new aides to get a laugh.

The whole Raw Story piece can be found

None of Hubris’ revelations are likely to improve the public’s mood about the White House’s handling of the Iraq war, or Bush’s role in that failed, deadly, and budget-busting campaign. A
new CNN poll already shows that Republicans are likely to pay--and pay hard--in this November’s midterm elections for their willingness to follow in lockstep behind the prez.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Posting as loud as I can

By Creature

Can I make it any clearer?



The Associated Press


Even FOX News

So now can we officially call the vice president a big fat liar? Dec. 9, 2001 Meet the Press:

Cheney: 'Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that -- it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.

Thankfully this is no more:

But still, even today, there is this:

And just in case the 40% still didn't hear me. From the Independent [UK]:

Sorry, but I just can't move on.

For more, I'll let the Stickings take you the rest of the way.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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A president without a plan is no president at all

Kevin Drum linked yesterday to a post by Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy regarding "a remarkable interview with Brigadier General Mark Scheid, chief of the Logistics War Plans Division after 9/11, and one of the people with primary responsibility for war planning".

According to General Scheid, Rumsfeld's "plan" for the Iraq War was essentially to go in, take out Saddam, and leave. That was it. There was no planning for a possible occupation of Iraq after the fall of Saddam's regime, and, indeed, Rumsfeld said he would "fire the next person" who said there ought to be.

I agree with Kevin that "this is old news". However: "The guy who was actually in charge of logistics has now directly confirmed that Rumsfeld not only didn't intend to rebuild Iraq in any serious way, but threatened to fire anyone who wasted time on the idea."

More: "[T]his also means that all of Bush's talk about democracy was nothing but hot air. If you're serious about planting democracy after a war, you don't plan to simply topple a government and then leave... The bulk of the evidence continues to suggest that democracy and rebuilding were simply not on Bush's radar."

The interview can be found in, of all places, the Hampton Roads (Virginia) Daily Press. It deserves more attention. It proves what we already knew, or suspected, but does so in such a way as to lay the blame squarely at Rumsfeld's, and by extension Bush's, feet.

When will Rumsfeld -- when will Bush himself -- be held responsible for what has gone so badly wrong in Iraq?

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The end of John Bolton

Eminent Bolton-watcher Steve Clemons is reporting at The Washington Note that "the Bolton confirmation process is now dead": "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is 'highly unlikely' to reconsider Bolton's confirmation again as things now stand."

The Bolton era may finally be coming to an inglorious end.


Given my opposition both to his nomination and to his recess appointment, I'll be quite happy to see him go, even if Bush is bound to appoint a replacement in much the same mold.

Allow me to reprint co-blogger Grace's wonderful haiku of May 2005:

Spring, and the world weeps.
Bolton is nominated.
Voinovich? Spineless.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Lies, damned lies, and the mythical relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released today shows that there were no "pre-war ties between Saddam Hussein's government and the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi". A separate report also "sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the run-up to the war in Iraq". Overall, the reports "serve to undercut the [Bush] administration’s assertions, made before the war and since, that ties between Mr. Zarqawi and Mr. Hussein’s government provided evidence of a close relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda".

The Senate Intelligence Committee is controlled by Republicans.

President Bush continues to assert publicly that there were pre-war ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. He makes that assertion to tie his misadventure in Iraq into the larger war on terror.

President Bush is willfully deceiving the American people.

President Bush is lying to the American people.


For more, see Steve Benen's analysis of the report at The Carpetbagger Report. The Senate Intelligence Committee doesn't address "how the White House used/misused/abused the available information," but "today's conclusions are yet another embarrassment for an administration that can hardly afford to look more foolish on national security matters".

See also True Blue Liberal, The Heretik, Firedoglake, and Linkmeister.

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The path to political propaganda

At The Huffington Post today, Max Blumenthal looks at "the secret right-wing network behind ABC's 9/11 deception," that is, behind its highly controversial and highly erroneous "dramatization" The Path to 9/11, "a gross distortion of history":

In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.

If you want to know what's behind all the fuss, this is a must-read post. For more, see Think Progress, AMERICAblog, TBogg, Orcinus, Firedoglake, and TPMmuckraker.

Joe Gandelman has also been following the story closely at The Moderate Voice. His latest post, with links to previous ones, is here.

At Unclaimed Territory, Glenn Greenwald puts the "dramatization" in political context:

The reason why there is so much intense objection over ABC's 9/11 propaganda film isn't merely because it inexcusably relies on total fictions in order to assign blame for 9/11 -- although that would be cause enough for protests. Well beyond its fabrications, what makes it so inexcusable is the timing of the film -- two months before a critical election -- along with the fact that it is tailor-made for advancing the Republicans' central electoral strategy of hyping the terrorist threat and blaming Democrats for failing to confront that threat.

Exactly. This isn't an accident. It's "basically one big five-hour, prime-time Republican propaganda political commercial on the most important political dispute our country faces". Republicans are desperate to hold on to power in November. And they'll do so, as they often do, by running on lies.

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Jurassic Fools

By Creature

Maybe the real battle of the 21st century should be about stopping this:

Global warming over the coming century could mean a return of temperatures last seen in the age of the dinosaur and lead to the extinction of up to half of all species, a scientist said on Thursday.

Not only will carbon dioxide levels be at the highest levels for 24 million years, but global average temperatures will be higher than for up to 10 million years, said Chris Thomas of the University of York.

Between 10 and 99 percent of species will be faced with atmospheric conditions that last existed before they evolved, and as a result from 10-50 percent of them could disappear.

"We may very well already be on the breaking edge of a wave of mass extinctions," Thomas told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

President Bush likes to say that when future generations look back at this time they will praise us for recognizing the enormity of the terror threat and thank us for saving their asses. Personally, I think they will look back at this time and call us fools for not taking steps to stop the only real threat that will be facing them and the planet.

Straight from the horses mouth:

"I'm worried, Katie, strongly worried about a world if we lose our confidence and don't help defeat this ideology. I'm worried that 50 years from now, they'll look back and say how come Bush and everybody else didn't see the fact that this group of people would use oil to affect our economy? How come he didn't confront the Iranian threat and its nuclear ambitions? Why didn't you support the moderate governments there in the region? And I truly believe this is the ideological struggle of the 21st century. And the consequences for not achieving success are dire."

No, the consequences of not listening to science are dire.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wanted: More troops in Afghanistan

The BBC is reporting that "Nato's leaders have urged member countries to provide reinforcements to help in its campaign against Taleban guerrillas in southern Afghanistan".

Now, I realize that "Nato troops took over leadership of military operations in the region from the US in July," but it seems to me (as to many others) that the situation in Afghanistan would be a lot better if the U.S. hadn't diverted so much attention, so many resources, and so many troops to Bush's misadventure in Iraq. America's NATO allies ought to provide the troop levels necessary to combat the Taliban effectively, and reinforcements may be coming, but where is the U.S. in all this? Has it not, to an extent, abdicated responsibility for Afghanistan? Has it not become so embroiled in the Iraqi quagmire that it just isn't in a position to continue the fight in Afghanistan?

And yet that is precisely where Taliban and al Qaeda forces remain (and perhaps Osama himself). The war on terror is essentially a war without major fronts, a war against a nebulous enemy, a war that requires law enforcement more than military might, but that doesn't mean that finishing the job in Afghanistan -- defeating the Taliban and securing the country to the point where the government in Kabul can govern effectively -- is no longer important. Bush and the U.S. seem to have forgotten that. Indeed, as I wrote back in July, Afghanistan has been largely forgotten and now faces a coming anarchy. And Bush seems to be ignoring it.

So, there aren't enough troops in Afghanistan? Should that come as any surprise? NATO can do more as a whole, but NATO's most powerful member might also want to pay a bit more attention itself. It was the U.S., after all, that launched the campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, well before the distraction of Iraq.

(On Canada's mission, and losses, in Afghanistan, see here.)

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Pictures of Mao

The BBC: "A collection of Mao Zedong memorabilia goes on display at a schoolteacher's house in China's Fujian province."

Of course, according to current Chinese revisionism, Mao barely existed. You can erase him from the history books, but can you destroy all the memorabilia?

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Democrats play politics with Rumsfeld

New Jersey Republican senatorial candidate Thomas Kean has called, as I mentioned on Monday, for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. I'm sure other Republicans dislike the defense secretary as well, and perhaps some would also like him to resign, but it's the Democrats, of course, who are his more vocal critics.

This was evident yesterday when a "Democratic-sponsored resolution [in the Senate] called on President Bush to replace Rumsfeld as a tangible way of showing that the administration was willing to change its Iraq policies". Republicans blocked the "no-confidence vote," but "the fact that the issue was even raised underscored the Democrats' increasing efforts to turn the controversial Pentagon chief into the focus of public discontent with the war in Iraq". "The resolution carried no force of law," but "the measure offered Democrats a chance to decry the continued turmoil in Iraq 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion, and an opportunity to portray Rumsfeld as a key symbol of the problems that have hampered the administration's goal of establishing a stable democracy there".

Fair enough. Rumsfeld is indeed "a key symbol of the problems," though, more than a symbol, he is very much the cause of those problems. Looked at another way, Rumsfeld is the problem. Or at least a big part of the problem.

The resolution amounted to little more than transparent politics, but calling publicly for Rumsfeld's ouster was a good strategic move for the Democrats. If Rumsfeld remains in office, he will continue to be an easy target for Democrats heading into the November midterms. He may never be "the focus of public discontent" to the degree Democrats would like him to be, but his critics will be able to point to him as one of the architects of all that's gone wrong in Iraq. More so even than Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld attracts blame. If voters refuse to hold his boss fully accountable for authorizing (and authoring) the war, they should at least hold Rumsfeld partly responsible for the ensuing quagmire.

But if Rumsfeld is ousted -- if he resigns of his own volition or at Bush's request -- Democrats will be able to take credit for applying the pressure that prompted his dismissal. It has been suggested that a Rumsfeld replacement at the Pentagon could be this election year's October surprise, and, indeed, his resignation and replacement could help Republicans, but how would Bush and Rove be able to pull that off now? Such a move would look like weakness, like giving in to Democratic demands. In this sense, the effect of the resolution is to tie Bush's hands and to head off a "surprise". In its anticipation of Bush's options, it was a brilliant move.

It would be best for Democrats for Rumsfeld to remain in office at least until after the midterms. It would probably be best for Republicans for him to be replaced before the midterms. Whereas Democrats want to be able to run against him (and all that he represents), Republicans want to be able to put him (and the quagmire) behind them and to run on a new, post-Rumsfeld effort in Iraq. That new war would be same old war, of course, even with the show of Iraqis assuming more responsibility for security, but a such a visible change at the Pentagon could be enough to persuade voters that Republicans are serious about pursuing a different course -- at least, that would be the Republican spin.

So, yes, this was a brilliant move. But it's important to remember that Iraq isn't just Rumsfeld's war. He may end up resigning, but ultimately Bush and Cheney are the ones who ought to be held accountable for Iraq and for every other example of gross misconduct and negligence that has occurred on their watch. When voters go to the polls in November, they ought to have Bush and Cheney on their minds, not Rumsfeld.

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Brown v. Blair

When will British Prime Minister Tony Blair step down? When, as is expected, will Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown assume the Labour leadership and move over to 10 Downing Street? Last month, I reported that Blair was determined to remain in office for at least another year. But Brown, his long-time rival, apparently wants him to leave sooner rather than later, and the rift between the two men seems in recent days to have reached a critical impasse. From The Guardian:

An all-out power struggle between the chancellor and the prime minister, culminating with allegations of blackmail by Tony Blair and a ferocious shouting match between the two men, appeared last night to have forced Mr Blair to publicly declare as early as today that he will not be prime minister this time next year.

That may not be enough for Gordon Brown, who is understood to have demanded that Mr Blair quit by Christmas, with an effective joint premiership until a new leader is anointed by the party.

Brown has "found himself under pressure to repudiate the move by some MPs to force Mr Blair from office now," and Brown's "Treasury [has] hinted... that it could accept a deal in which Mr Blair stood down by the beginning of May," but "[Blair's] view [is] that Mr Brown is orchestrating a coup against him".

Yes, a coup. There have been "allegations" and "accusations" on both sides, but Downing Street is using the word "blackmail" to "describe Mr Brown's actions over the past few days".

Yes, blackmail. These guys really don't like each other.

The Guardian has an update here. Brown is saying the right things, but his conciliatory comments may reflect "an attempt to head off suggestions that the party was descending into civil war over the succession". Brown may not like Blair, and he may desire No. 10 above all else, but he surely doesn't want civil war and he surely doesn't want to preside over a party in disarray after Blair's departure. His legitimacy -- and perhaps even his popularity -- will depend on him being seen as Blair's natural and inevitable successor, as well as on a legitimate, organic process. If his succession is seen as nothing but an anti-Blair power grab, the result of civil war (if not the precursor to an even bloodier one), he may not be able to keep Labour united, nor to remain in the leadership (should he even acquire it), let alone to defeat David Cameron's Conservatives in the next general election.

Update: Blair has announced that he will step down within a year but has not set a formal timetable. The BBC reports here: "He did not set a precise date but said he would do so in the future -- when it was in the best interests of the country." For additional commentary, see here: "By setting a 12-month timetable for his resignation from Downing Street and saying he will name the day later, he dearly hopes to bring an end to what has without doubt been the greatest threat to his leadership since 1997."

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Tattered T on the TV

By Creature

Smarter people than I weigh in on the news from the White House yesterday that, yes, there are CIA secret prisons spread throughout the world, and, wow, the worst of the terror worst are now being brought out "into the open.”

Out in the open, no doubt, to shine a political light on how great they have been in capturing terrorists and keeping us safe. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hasn't been in the news this much, well, since he was captured. The Bushies and the GOP need security brownie points. They may not have gotten the big-fish Osama, but the so-called 9/11 mastermind showing up in his tattered T all over the TV is the best they can do.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Just another month in the life and death of Iraq III

Remember those enthusiastic reports of an alleged drop -- a significant one -- in Baghdad's death toll for August? (I wrote about them here.) Well, they were wrong. And I was too quick to trust their veracity.

Essentially, the L.A. Times (and other news outlets) reported that the Baghdad morgue was "on track [in August] to receive less than a quarter" of the 1,800 bodies it received in July. The U.S. military attributed this decline to "a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence". Prime Minister Maliki claimed that "an atmosphere of reconciliation" was at hand.

I bought it. Specifically, I bought the claim that deaths were down in August. Indeed, I had "no doubt that the Baghdad sweep [was] doing some good". Nonetheless, I declared that "[the] "good" news [was] dangerously misleading". With the American-led operation in Baghdad, the violence there has only been "artificially lessened": "Once the American effort ends, or perhaps even before it does, the violence will likely return to its pre-sweep levels... The American sweep in Baghdad may be saving lives, but it isn't anything more than a stop-gap measure that makes things look better than they really are." And what about the violence elsewhere in Iraq?

I stand by all that, but now there's a twist. According to ABC News's Jim Sciutto, the death toll for August has been revised back up to July levels:

It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we're depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August -- heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working -- apparently didn't exist.

That's right. There was no decline. It was all made up. Why? By whom?

Officials at the Baghdad morgue have no good explanation for the dramatically revised number. We'll see what the U.S. military has to say.

We will indeed, but don't expect the truth.

Both the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities, after all, had good reason to report a significant drop in Baghdad's death toll -- that is, to lie. For both, as well as for America's civilian leadership back in Washington, a drop would have indicated that real progress was being made in establishing order in Baghdad, in protecting Iraqi citizens from the insurgents and more generally in combatting and overcoming the insurgency itself, transferring security responsibility from U.S. forces to Iraqi forces, and in setting up a stable political climate from which the U.S. could comfortably withdraw and in which the fragile Iraqi government could govern effectively.

But, again, it was all a lie. The violence continues. The killing continues. The truth can be found at the Baghdad morgue. And throughout the rest of a country in chaos.


Update: Our co-blogger Creature just posted on this very same topic at State of the Day. Go have a look at what he has to say about the "Lies & Propaganda".

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Democratic House?


At MyDD, one of the blogosphere's most important destinations and particularly so in and around election time, Chris Bowers examines some of the latest state-by-state poll data and finds "great news for Dems". Indeed, he "now forecast(s) a Democratic takeover" of the House.

Things look good and I remain cautiously optimistic. I hope he's right.

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Florida primary -- Oh my God!

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

Imagine waking up on a Wednesday morning and reading that Pee Wee Herman is now the heavyweight champion of the world or that Mark Karr was appointed Secretary of Education or that Sammy "the Bull" Gravano is the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve. But of course truth is stranger than fiction -- much stranger.

Katherine Harris: Her name has become a metonym for insanity, a metaphor for demented confidence. Katherine Harris thinks God chooses leaders; either forgetting or not knowing ( or not caring) that the cornerstone of the American Revolution was a rejection of that idea. Katherine Harris thinks only Christians (by her definition) should hold public office. She insists that this country was not founded to be a "nation of secular laws" because lies like that appeal to the ignorant, bigoted, superstitious rabble that vote Republican.

Katherine Harris: Delusional, demented, dishonest, and disloyal to American principles was the best the party could come up with, and, naturally, the Republican voters of Florida chose her to be their candidate to run against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Of course, voter turnout was poor, as can be expected at a time when the country's future is in the balance, and poor turnout works well for Republicans. Let's hope some Democrats manage to remember Election Day come November.

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The bin Laden reunion tour

By Creature

Maureen Dowd from behind the wall:

“History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake.’’ Mr. Bush said that the world failed to heed Lenin and Hitler, and it was essential to pay attention to bin Laden.

Too bad the president didn’t take time out from clearing brush at the ranch long enough back in August of 2001 to pay attention to an intelligence paper headlined “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.’’

After playing down bin Laden for years, barely mentioning him and minimizing his importance, W. has once more picked up a metaphorical bullhorn on the cusp of the 9/11 anniversary to make Osama the villain, using his name 18 times in a 40-minute speech. Once it would have made a difference to decapitate Osama, and it would still be great to do it. But it’s too late to stop Al Qaeda that way now. The organization has diffused to a state of mind, fueled by hatred of U.S. occupation of Muslim land.

W.’s plan to save his legacy and keep Congress out of Democratic hands is to absorb a misbegotten and mishandled war, Iraq, into the good wars of the 20th century, World War II and the cold war. Instead of just admitting he bollixed up Iraq, W. and his henchmen are ratcheting up, fusing enemies willy-nilly, running around giving speeches with the simplistic, black-helicopter paranoid message: All those scary Arabs are in league to knock us off and institute the rule of Allah.

The emphasis is all me, because if they want to spew rhetoric I'll always answer: PDB. It really is that simple. Bastard was asleep at the wheel.

Pay the fee for more Dowd or True Blue Liberal will satisfy you for free.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quick Post McGraw

By Creature


[Smells like politics to me.]

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XII

From the AP: "Police found the tortured, blindfolded bodies of 33 men scattered across the capital Monday and the U.S.-led coalition reported combat deaths of seven servicemen, a day after Iraqi leaders said the capture of a top terror suspect would reduce violence."

But I'm sure peace is right around the corner. Right where it always will be.

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Did Republicans appease the terrorists under Clinton?

Back in 1996, according to AMERICAblog, Republicans in Congress blocked President Clinton's efforts to expand wiretapping and to deal with Osama bin Laden.

This is an important post on an important story. Read it. Since 9/11, Republicans have run on terrorism, more specifically on the exploitation of the issue of terrorism, and have generally been extremely successful. More, Republicans have successfully spun the narrative, still prevalent in the news media, that they are tough on terrorism and trustworthy on national security while their opponents are cut-and-run doves who would expose America to more 9/11s and essentially the whole world to the omnipresent and ominous threat of "Islamofascism" (or whatever they prefer to call it and define it on any given day).

But the spin is not the truth and the narrative has been nothing but an elaborate lie. Hold the Republicans accountable for what they've really done, not what they claim they've done, this November, and do not let them get away with spinning the narrative any longer. It was Clinton, a Democrat, who recognized and sought to deal with the threat of global terrorism, the terrorism of al Qaeda and its ilk, long before 9/11. It was the Republican leadership in Congress that stopped him, that willfully and irresponsibly ignored the threat and left America exposed.

Now, which party exactly is tough on terrorism and trustworthy on national security? Which party tried to do something about terrorism even before it became a key electoral issue while the other has callously exploited it to win elections only after it could effectively be turned into a partisan issue in the wake of 9/11? Which party focused on terrorism both at home and abroad well before, and in anticipation of, 9/11 while the other has more recently pursued a disastrous military misadventure in Iraq that has nothing to do with terrorism and that has severely weakened America's ability to deal with terrorism?

Which party should be leading America through these troubled times? On terrorism and national security, and in contrast to the prevailing spin, the Democrats are the clear choice.

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Sign of the Apocalypse #37: Suri's poop (in bronze)

From the "artist" who brought you Britney's pro-life birth sculpture, otherwise known as SOTA #31, behold the latest piece of shit from Daniel Edwards, "Suri's Bronzed Baby Poop". Here it is -- see left -- in all its repulsive glory.

According to E! Online, which is surely about as trustworthy an entertainment news source as it gets (sarcasm intended), the sculpture was "inspired by the TomKitten spawn's first solid meal and the fecal matter that presumably followed". Like the Britney-on-her-hands-and-knees-giving-birth-on-a-bearskin-rug-to-Baby-Federline piece, this masterpiece of crap is on display at Brooklyn's Capla Kesting Fine Art gallery, which clearly operates according to different artistic standards than, say, the Louvre.

Director David Kesting: "A bronzed cast of baby's first poop can be a meaningful memento for the family." Um, okay. I'm sure Tom and the brainwashed Katie will love it. High-end celebrities like them wallow in self-absorption, and this is nothing if not an appeal to such wallowing.

Or am I being too hard? Here's how the gallery interprets the piece: "It's partially a statement on modern media that 'celebrity poop' has more entertainment value than health, famine or other critical issues facing society and governments today, and also the absurdity of the media coverage on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' new baby, Suri Cruise, which has reached stellar proportions, eclipsing far more notable events with more substance."

Well, fine. I can appreciate that. Just as I can appreciate the fact that proceeds from a forthcoming auction of the piece will go to the March of Dimes.

Still. However much I may find fault with the "modern media"'s obsession with celebrity, not to mention with the consumers who lap it all up, and however much I may find absurd "the media coverage" of Tom, Katie, Suri, and all the others like them, not least Brad, Angelina, and Shiloh Nouvel, there is something so pretentiously postmodern about the Suri poop sculpture, as well as about the equally pretentious and equally postmodern attempt to justify it as a legitimate and important work of art, not to mention a profoundly ironic one, that it must surely be a sign of some coming apocalypse, if not the Apocalypse.

Edwards' "art" aspires to lofty heights but ends up mired in self-importance, as much a reflection of media-driven celebrity-obsession as all that on which it aspires to comment so ironically.

Besides, if this particular piece is only "partially" a commentary on the media, what else is it?

A SOTA, of course. Our thirty-seventh.

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American "friendly fire" kills Canadian in Afghanistan

The Globe and Mail reports here.

Canadian troops already face "fierce Taliban resistance" in Afghanistan. Although some "friendly fire" (and what a stupid term that is!) is perhaps inevitable on any such battlefield, particularly where air support is required, it is difficult not to succumb to anger in response to such an incident.

Whatever my views on the Canadian operation in Afghanistan, and they are mixed, I am extremely proud of our troops. I do not necessarily blame anyone for this -- it was surely an accident -- but the incident, and the battle of which it was a part, highlights the incredible peril they face. I only hope the accidental peril they face from their friends can be avoided in future.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Denial (and I don't mean the river)

By Creature

"It is not politics but a confluence of events that has forced the security focus on Congress." -Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)

The party that wants to paint the Democrats as a party of terrorist sympathizers says their upcoming legislative agenda is not about politics. Of course I take them at their word:

Republican leaders hope to complete a defense spending bill, a defense policy bill, legislation to give Congress's blessing to the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program and to bring the president's military tribunals into constitutional compliance, and a port security overhaul.

And let's not forget the granddaddy of all non-political ploys:

A resolution commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will also likely be a vehicle for heated debate on the policies that followed.

At least the president didn't sink so low as to deny the politics behind his actions:

"They're not political speeches," Bush said Wednesday when asked if they might have an impact on the congressional elections just over two months away. "They're speeches about the future of this country, and they're speeches to make it clear that if we retreat before the job is done, this nation would become even more in jeopardy. These are important times, and I seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about."

If all this denial is true, I'd hate to see what playing politics with security really looks like. Thankfully, it's not an election year and all this political posturing is not about saving the GOP from achieving minority status once again.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Resign, Rumsfeld, Resign

So advises New Jersey's Republican senatorial candidate Thomas Kean Jr., according to The Moderate Voice's Joe Gandelman (linking to a prominent NYT piece).

I can say without much exaggeration that I despise Donald Rumsfeld and would be happy to see him go -- it may indeed be this year's October surprise. But what would his resignation accomplish? Would it not send the message that he, and essentially no one else in the Bush Administration, was to blame for Iraq? Would he not be scapegoated both by proponents and opponents of the war? Would it not be a great public relations event for Bush himself, who could be made to look authoritative and in control, not to mention for the militarist neocons who were behind the war far more than Rumsfeld ever was and who continue to argue that all would be wonderful if only the civilian leadership, particularly at the Pentagon, had managed the whole thing better?

On this, I'm with Yglesias: "The issue... is Bush, not Rumsfeld. It's not as if Rumsfeld just did some one dumb thing two weeks ago and Bush has the chance to wash his hands of it. The problem with Rumsfeld just is the problem with the Bush administration's national security policy. Pretending that there's some 'Rumsfeld issue' that could be resolved with a resignation at which point everything will be back on track is absurd."

It is absurd. But that's precisely how a Rumsfeld resignation could be spun. We all should know by now that Bush will never take responsibility for the disaster that has become his misadventure in Iraq.

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The same old Republican strategy

How do Republicans hope to hold on to power this November? Once again, as in '04, it's all about terrorism and turnout, says the Times (via Drum). That is, their Rove-directly strategy will be to scare the crap out of voters while simultaneously working to turn out the right sort of voters, those who have had the crap scared out of them on terrorism and those deeper in the base who vote according to their Republican-oriented values. So we'll hear a lot about terrorism and a lot about same-sex marriage and other such wedge issues of the evangelical right.

Drum: "Over the past 30 years the Republican Party has gone from Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney -- i.e., from conservative to reactionary to crazy to batshit insane -- and Rove's 'two T's' are further evidence that they have no intention of rowing this back. They're obviously getting more desperate in the face of possible electoral defeat this November, but other than that they're just doubling down on the same old strategy of cultural bloodletting in the service of economic plutocracy."

It's worked before -- in fact, it's been working extremely well since 9/11 -- so why not in November? Because, one hopes, Americans now know better and want a change in leadership in Washington and around the country. Because, one hopes, they know how Republicans have screwed things up and how Democrats offer a sensible, trustworthy alternative. Because, one hopes, they're ready to send the message that enough is enough.

Yes, one hopes. As uncharacteristic as it may be, I'll stick with the optimism this long weekend.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Whom would Hitler shake hands with?

By Creature

Frank Rich takes down the Secretary of Defense -- from behind the TimesSelect wall no less:

What made Mr. Rumsfeld’s speech noteworthy wasn’t its toxic effort to impugn the patriotism of administration critics by conflating dissent on Iraq with cut-and-run surrender and incipient treason. That’s old news. No, what made Mr. Rumsfeld’s performance special was the preview it offered of the ambitious propaganda campaign planned between now and Election Day. An on-the-ropes White House plans to stop at nothing when rewriting its record of defeat (not to be confused with defeatism) in a war that has now lasted longer than America’s fight against the actual Nazis in World War II.

Here’s how brazen Mr. Rumsfeld was when he invoked Hitler’s appeasers to score his cheap points: Since Hitler was photographed warmly shaking Neville Chamberlain’s hand at Munich in 1938, the only image that comes close to matching it in epochal obsequiousness is the December 1983 photograph of Mr. Rumsfeld himself in Baghdad, warmly shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein in full fascist regalia. Is the defense secretary so self-deluded that he thought no one would remember a picture so easily Googled on the Web? Or worse, is he just too shameless to care?

The Illustrated Rich: Name That Appeaser

Get more Frank Rich here. If you can't afford the entry fee, then True Blue Liberal has the cheaper version here.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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