Saturday, October 28, 2006

Webb's wise words

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Jim Webb: "Since 2003, President Bush has laid out nine different plans for victory in Iraq, none of them serious and none of them workable. And most seriously, this incompetence has hindered our ability to fight international terror."

-- "It gives me no great pleasure today to be saying `I told you so.' It pains me as an American that our casualties are again escalating while this president and his followers are still incapable of bringing forward an intelligent, commonsense approach to ending our involvement there."

-- "Over the past several weeks a few realists in the Republican Party, such as Sen. John Warner and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, have begun to make their voices heard. They are moving away from the fantasy world of this administration, toward real solutions."

-- "A Democratic Congress will demand from day one that the president find a real way forward in Iraq. We'll work with the administration and other Republicans to develop a concrete plan, but none of us are ready to settle for empty rhetoric, or the same old unacceptable results."

All of which is right on the mark. Which is why Democrats deserve to take control of Congress. And why Webb deserves to be elected senator from the state of Virginia.

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Is al-Zawahiri now al Qaeda's #1?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Perhaps, according to this interesting piece in today's Globe and Mail: "Some speculate the world's second-most wanted man, a pioneer in the use of suicide bombings and martyr videos, has become the group's new No. 1.":

"Ayman al-Zawahiri prefers to be the second man; he feels it's the most effective position," said Mohammed Saleh, editor-in-chief of Egypt's al-Hayat newspaper and an expert on political Islam. "He put Osama bin Laden in front, until now. Osama might be sick, dead or look different. The circumstances obviously require [Mr. al-Zawahiri] to be in the spotlight."

The piece includes a good bio of al-Zawahiri. Check it out.

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The identity politics of the GOP

By Heraclitus

Amanda Marcotte has an extremely interesting post up on the current state of ideology in the US. She argues that there is no dominant ideology in the US at present, because although liberals have one (though I think it's definitely debatable whether the Democratic Party has one), they're not dominant, and the conservatives are in fact an incoherent mish-mash of libertarianism and social conservatism. But the "conservatives" are held together by a certain form of identity politics, which enables GOP voters to ignore their differences and come together and vote for the particular brand of identity politics the Republicans have been successfully shopping to voters for at least ten years. It's the most interesting thing I've read on American politics this election cycle, and I highly recommend it.

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Only in Italy: The transgendered tale of Vladimir Luxuria

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Or maybe in Thailand.)

I'm fully supportive of the rights of transgendered individuals, but I can't help but find this incident from the zany world of Italian politics amusing:

An Italian opposition MP and former showgirl has expressed outrage after meeting a transgender colleague in the parliament's ladies' toilets...

The incident led to heated debate about which toilet the transgender MP, known as Vladimir Luxuria, could use.

Ms Luxuria says she has been using ladies' toilets for years.

Using the men's would have created even bigger problems, she said.

The matter has now been passed to parliamentary procedural officials to resolve.

I suppose I'm with Luxuria on this (what else is she to do?). The opposition MP and "former showgirl" (a member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party), Elisabetta Gardini, referred to Luxuria as "him" and said that encountering her in the washroom was "like sexual violence".

Which is both insensitive and stupid.


Vladimir Luxuria is, needless to say, a controversial figure in Italian politics (and that's saying something). A Communist from Rome and a member of Prime Minister Romano Prodi's governing coalition, l'Unione, she is Europe's first transgendered MP and the world's second (after New Zealand's Georgina Beyer).

And the right hates her -- "better to be a fascist than a faggot," said Fascist Alessandra Mussolini (whom I once wrote about here) -- which is a good reason to like her.

Her website is here (in Italian).

For more on her feud with Mussolini, see here (also in Italian -- but really worth watching even if you can't understand what they're shouting at each other -- imagine a transgendered Congressman and a Fascist Congressman shouting at each other on, say, Meet the Press -- if only American politics were that much fun -- oh, Mussolini's the outraged blonde).

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Letterman exposes O'Reilly

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Letterman to O'Reilly last night: "You're trying to put words in my mouth just the way you put artificial facts in your head."

Great line.

Great put-down of O'Reilly and the talking-head sham that he is. Colbert does it every week from Monday to Thursday, but it's awfully nice to see someone with Letterman's stature and audience do it.

At Crooks and Liars, SilentPatriot provides the video, some of the transcript, and a response to yet another of O'Reilly's lies (namely, that there was a connection between Saddam and the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, when there wasn't).

We need O'Reilly to be exposed like this more often.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Show your support for the Dixie Chicks

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to Variety, NBC is refusing to air national ads for the new Barbara Kopple documentary Shut Up & Sing, which examines the aftermath of the Dixie Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines's now notorious remark during a concert in 2003 that the Chicks are ashamed that President Bush is from their home state of Texas. (The ad has run in New York and L.A., but not nationally.)

Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Co., which is releasing the film, put it well: "It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America. The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is profoundly un-American."

It seems that "NBC's commercial clearance department said in writing that it 'cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.'"

How ridiculous. This is about free speech. This is about not having one's political views censored -- in this case by a private broadcaster that is acting as a political censor.

This is about everything America is supposed to stand for.

Think Progress has the ad here. Go watch it.

Gleen Greenwald, as usual, has some excellent commentary here. And see also The Carpetbagger Report, Crooks and Liars, AMERICAblog, and Balloon Juice.

Greenwald: "Leave to the side for the moment the fact that this controversy is far more likely to help the film than hurt it. Far more important than that issue is the emergence of a very disturbing trend whereby television networks are refusing to broadcast political advocacy material that will offend the Republican power structure in Washington."

Exactly right. As Steve Benen of TCR puts it, "this is part of a trend". One that threatens the very foundations of American democracy.

That trend must be stopped. Show your support for the Dixie Chicks, free speech, and unpoliticized airwaves. Go see Shut Up & Sing. Buy a Dixie Chicks album. Or more than one. Or just a song. Check out the Shut Up & Sing blog at MySpace. Check out the Dixie Chicks' website. And their Columbia/Sony website. And their MSN website. And support Conservation International.

And watch these two clips. The first is the theatrical trailer for Shut Up & Sing. The second is the Dixie Chicks on Letterman this past May performing "Not Ready to Make Nice," their bold and courageous response to the controversy.

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American pollocracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Craving more poll numbers? (I admit, I'm following the key midterm races pretty closely.) Kos as a pile of new ones here. To say that some of key races are tight -- New Jersey, Virginia, and Tennessee, for example -- is an understatement. Some look good for Democrats (Iowa), but some are quite disappointing (PA-08). We shall all know for sure soon enough.

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Republicans on the attack: Race, sex, and desperation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Latino immigrants are being targeted by Republicans in their attack ads, but this GOP strategy isn't limited to Latinos. As WaPo puts it today:

On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.

And so Republicans are attempting to portray Democrats as "fatally flawed characters". Consider these examples:

-- "In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. 'Hi, sexy,' a dancing woman purrs. 'You've reached the live, one-on-one fantasy line.' It turns out that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25."

-- "In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell, trailing by more than 20 points in polls, has accused front-running Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland of protecting a former aide who was convicted in 1994 on a misdemeanor indecency charge. Blackwell's campaign is also warning voters through suggestive 'push polls' that Strickland failed to support a resolution condemning sex between adults and children. Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a line suggesting that sexually abused children cannot have healthy relationships when they grow up." (They've also played the gay card.)

-- "In two dozen congressional districts, a political action committee supported by a white Indianapolis businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, is running ads saying Democrats want to abort black babies. A voice says, 'If you make a little mistake with one of your hos, you'll want to dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions asked.'" (Ah, the reverse race card!)

You all know they can't win on the issues. You all know they're desperate. You all know the writing is on the wall. And you all know they'll stop at nothing.

And, here, you'll notice that their obsession with sex is driving their negative ads.

Welcome to the Republican Party of 2006.

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Cheney: Torture is a "no-brainer"

By Heraclitus

Not to suggest that there's anything more important than kinky passages in Jim Webb's fiction (passages that even Michelle Malkin doesn't want to talk about, for crying out loud), but you may have heard that beloved VP Dick Cheney has declared the practice of waterboarding suspected terrorists a "no-brainer." Cheney then, however, in the next breath goes on to assert that "we don't torture." Of course, this is the same game the Bushies have been playing for a while now, claiming that they aren't using torture, while at the same time refusing to say what exactly they are doing. "We don't discuss techniques," as Bush told Bill O'Reilly, who actually did a first-rate job of exposing Bush on this question.

The White House, of course, is strenuously denying that Cheney's comment can be construed as support for torture, since the US government isn't torturing anyone (but why not, if it's a "no-brainer"?). Tony Snow's denials promted the following remark from Andrew Sullivan:

Lies; lies, and more lies. At the heart of this election is whether the American people should support people who have contempt for the most basic of American liberties, who have suspended habeas corpus for the indefinite future and who think it is a "no-brainer", in this respect, to adopt the moral interrogation standards of the Khmer Rouge.

This should not be a partisan issue or even a political issue. It is a civic responsibility. Vote Democrat or abstain.

It wasn't that long ago that Sullivan was about as militant a presence as you would find on the right-wing blogosphere, sort of a more nuanced, well-informed and literate Glenn Reynolds. How far he's come in, what, three years? It's too bad his case is so rare, but it also says a lot about what's really motivating the various GOP cheerleaders and pundits.

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Friday afternoon poem

By Heraclitus

Well, I was going to try to do some light-hearted Friday afternoon blogging with images, but--surprise, surprise--Blogger isn't letting me upload images. Oh, Blogger, will you ever be adequate?

Anyways, instead, a Friday afternoon poem. Sorry if it's a little glum or acerbic, but, well, it's raining here. And the poem is still good clean fun. Who better to kick off your weekend than Philip Larkin?

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

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Read the Signs

By Creature

Jeff, Dave, whatever, so long as he hates the gays too. The Anonymous Liberal explains:

Jeff Lamberti is one of the few Republican candidates willing to be seen in public with the President, and the President can't even bother to get his name right. He called him Dave, repeatedly. Hilarious.

And here is the transcript:

This campaign only ends after the voters have had a chance to speak. No doubt in my mind, with your help, Dave [sic] Lamberti will be the next United States congressman. (Applause.)

Dave [sic] and I believe a lot of things. We believe that you ought to keep more of your own money. We believe in family values. We believe values are important. And we believe marriage is a fundamental institution of civilization.

Another example of the president with his blinders on.

The NYT has more on the GOP's rush to "reignite" the issue of gay marriage.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

As dirty as it gets

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Who's the new bogeyman for an increasingly desperate Republican Party? You know, the new scapegoat, the new incarnation of the Other? Why, it's the Latino immigrant, of course, as the editors of The New Republic point out in a new editorial.

Latinos only recently were "destined to form the bedrock of Rove's implacable Republican majority" -- "socially conservative and entrepreneurial," and hence Republican, in Rove's myopic view. And now? They're the targets of shocking GOP ads. The editorial is available online by subscription only, but here are a couple of examples:

-- "In North Carolina, House candidate Vernon Robinson is airing a spot depicting a white man who gazes at a sign that reads, help wanted: bi-lingual only! A narrator helpfully adds: 'These illegal aliens pay no taxes but take our jobs and our government handouts, then spit in our face and burn our flags.' Then, one Latino man grabs his crotch and another flips the camera a middle finger."

-- "Down in Georgia, Republican incumbent Mac Collins has used similar material to bludgeon his opponent, Jim Marshall. More in sorrow than in anger, the ad intones, 'Jim Marshall joined his liberal leader Nancy Pelosi and voted to waste our tax dollars printing election ballots in Spanish.' It's a complaint interrupted by the villainous voice of a Mexican bandido sneering, 'Muchas gracias, Señor Jim Marshall.'"

Um. Wow. Looks like the old "race-baiting" is back.

So much for the mirage of Bush's compassionate conservatism. So much for "the Bush ethos of tolerance" and "its political embrace of Latinos". Of course, this is the House GOP, not the White House, but, as the TNR editors argue, "the current moment raises serious doubts about his initial sincerity". After all, "Bush has shown hardly any willingness to stop the party he leads from spewing vile racism".

And vile racism it is. The GOP is back to its dirty old strategy of vilifying the racial Other and playing on detestable White fears and prejudices. It was Blacks not so long ago. Think Bush's father. Think Willie Horton. The recent Other is cultural and sexual, homosexuals, a persistent target of Republicans from the president on down. And now Latinos have joined gays and lesbians. They are the enemies of choice for a party that is exposing its inner self once again to the American people as it faces defeat at the hands of a resurgent Democratic Party. At least it's being honest about itself. At least it's stripped away the pretense of tolerance to reveal its true colours -- it's true colour.

Republicans had convinced a lot of people that they had changed. Apparently they haven't.

The unabashed bigotry is back.

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Rush Limbaugh is an asshole (revisited)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I want to direct you to two of the best posts I've ever read about Rush Limbaugh and everything he's about. And, really, about everything everyone like him is about, which is to say much of the Republican Party and the conservative movement today. The authors of the posts are Lance Mannion and Shakespeare's Sister.

Many of you, I'm sure, have already formed strong judgments about Rush. You either love him or hate him. (I'm assuming that most of you hate him. I like to think highly of my readers.) Nothing much comes as a surprise. Even attacking Michael J. Fox, claiming that he's faking the symptoms of Parkinson's (or that he didn't take his medication), isn't much of a surprise. That's just Rush for you. He's an asshole.

But I still recommend these two posts. A quote or two won't do them justice, but here's a preview:

Lance: "Although I'm sure he got a sadistic thrill out of mocking Fox, Fox doesn't matter to him as a person. Fox is just another obstacle to the one thing Limbaugh feels strongly about, which is as I said, that rich white guys like him should run the country and be allowed to do whatever they want."

Shakes: "Limbaugh is just one of many loathsome characters who have made names for themselves by treating politics as a game, a fun and profitable little pastime that has no real-world consequences—and the richer he gets, the more real a lack of consequences becomes for him."

Click on the links and read on.

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Somber and Subdued

By Creature

Yesterday the president gave another stump speech news conference. Flexibility aside, stay-the-course, of course, was the general message. However, the news out of the conference was not the president's message, but the president's tone. See, finally the president has learned, just in time for the elections, that petulance does not play well in Peoria.

Facing public dismay over the war in Iraq, President Bush on Wednesday somberly acknowledged the broad scope of American setbacks and missteps there. But he urged Americans to look beyond the violence on their TV screens and avoid disillusionment over a war he said was being won. [...]

While most Republican candidates have sought to turn voters’ attention away from the war, Mr. Bush chose to address it head-on, adopting a subdued tone, a new emphasis on tactical flexibility, and directly acknowledging the public’s reservations. [emphasis me]

Somber and subdued is the new swagger. Somber and subdued is the new spin.

The NYT has more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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"Control of the Senate still a longshot"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So says Chris Bowers at MyDD: "Before our euphoria gets too crazy, keep in mind that Republicans still have the inside track to maintain control of the Senate." (See also my post on Democrats getting "closer" -- click here.)

Why is this? Webb is making up ground in Virginia but still trails Allen. And Ford and McCaskill are slipping in Tennessee and Missouri, respectively. (And then there's Lieberman in Connecticut.)

Indeed, Chris says he'll be "stunned" if Democrats manage to take the Senate. And yet he reminds us of this: "As we sprint to the finish line this year, it needs to be remembered that taking back our country is a long-term project."

Indeed it is. Win or lose the Senate, hopefully 2006 will be the year that a major step was taken to advance that project.


As some of you may have noticed, we have a couple of new ads running (via Blogads). They're over at the top of the right sidebar. One of them is from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. I support the DSCC's efforts and I encourage you to click on the ad to learn more about the key Senate races around the country and what the DSCC is doing to help Democrats win them.

The other ad is from The Blue Fund, the manager of two new no-load diversified mutual funds that "invests in companies that both 'act blue' and 'give blue'". It builds its portfolios "on core Democratic values like environmental sustainability, community participation and respect for human rights". Having had a chance to look into it, and being quite impressed, I encourage you to click on the ad and learn more. There are risks to investing, of course, but I think it's important to invest responsibly.

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Why Bush is responsible for North Korea's plutonium bomb

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(This is an update to my recent post on Bush Administration officials "rooting" for a North Korean nuclear test.)

We now know that the bomb North Korea tested was a plutonium one, not a uranium one. For the significance of this, see this excellent piece by eminent nuclear physicist James Gordon Prather at The National Interest.

Prather argues that the Agreed Framework developed under Clinton successfully contained North Korea's nuclear program. Once in office, and then with North Korea a member of the so-called "Axis of Evil," Bush "saw the Agreed Framework as constricting and welcomed a North Korean (and Iraqi and Iranian) withdrawal from the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]". North Korea withdrew and "restarted [its] Plutonium-239 producing reactor".

What this means is not only that North Korea's development of a plutonium bomb occurred on Bush's watch but that Bush is himself responsible for North Korea's development of a plutonium bomb. Indeed, according to Prather: "Bush can put a nuke-armed North Korea on his list of foreign-policy achievements."

And what a list of achievements that is: Iraq is descending into chaos, genocide continues in Darfur, and Iran and North Korea are developing or have developed nuclear weapons. And then there's the rift over Iraq between the U.S. and Europe, as well as the loss of American credibility worldwide as a result of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the rendition of prisoners to secret prisons and foreign jurisdictions that sanction torture. And then there's Afghanistan, which has largely been ignored. And... well, it's all bad.

Quite the presidency this has been, eh?

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There has to be a clever Madonna song title reference here...

By Heraclitus

...but I just can't think of it. I recently wrote a post suggesting that white celebrities just forego mentioning Africa altogether (I'd even be in favor of passing a law requiring it, since I hate free speech). Madonna figured prominently in that post, for her attempts to adopt a baby boy from Malawi. Well, now Madonna is back from Africa, and going on the offensive (and on Oprah, no less). She is not only trumpeting her aristocratic virtue in being moved by the suffering of children, but...well, what do you think is the most offensive thing she could do? What bit of rhetorical over-reaching would you find most absurdly distasteful? If you said "casting herself as a victim," you win. If you said "casting the criticisms of her as morally wrong," you also win. Madonna is not only the victim here, but criticism of her consumerist approach to alleviating poverty in Africa will also discourage others from adopting children as she did. Apparently, she still doesn't understand why people are less than admiring of her ploy of going to Africa and carrying off someone else's child as a symbol of her moral goodness, a pendant to pin to her chest to remind the world of how noble she is.

To be fair to Madonna, I haven't read all of her comments, nor do I plan to. Nor do I plan to elaborate any criticisms of her beyond the snarky and skeletal jibes deployed above. To be fair, she apparently does fund several orphanages in Malawi, and is currently setting up an orphanage for 4,000 children outside the capital. Still, when you read her statement that she first saw the boy in a documentary about Malawian orphans she is financing, and that she became "transfixed" by him, you can't help but hear echos of the way others may describe a handbag, or perhaps the way Alan Alda's character describes his attraction to Mia Farrow in Crimes and Misdemeanors.

And if I wanted to engage in some bashing of liberalism here (for which I'm simply too exhausted), I'm sure there are many interesting and enlightening comparisons to be made between Madonna's words and actions here and Ivan Karamazov's comments on the suffering of children.

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Preparing for withdrawal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, has announced that "he may call for more troops to be sent to Baghdad, possibly by increasing the overall U.S. presence in Iraq".

But don't misunderstand what's going on here. John McCain and the neocon hawks may want troop levels to be substantially increased, but there is neither the military might nor the political will for that to happen. Instead, the U.S. is preparing to pull out of Iraq or at the very least to decrease its troop levels substantially. Indeed, Casey "said he now believed Iraqi forces would be ready to take over security responsibility from the Americans no sooner than late 2007 or early 2008". This paln, such as it is one yet, "pushes back the withdrawal," but, with winning the war in its current form no longer a possibility, withdrawal is inevitable.

This is the groundwork: tough talk on doing more to establish order, encouraging words about how well the Iraqi forces are doing and how close they are to being ready to take over security responsibility, denials that Iraq is descending ever further into uncontrollable chaos, and, looking ahead to the end, a loose timetable for withdrawal. This will be, if it is not already, the new "stay-the-course" strategy, the new spin in defence of the management of the war, as well as of the war itself.

Bush will never say the war was lost, nor that it didn't work out quite as planned. Rather, he and the war's supporters will say that they did what they could to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq, that the Iraqis are ready to take over, perhaps even that the Iraqis have asked the U.S. to leave, and that all is as well as could be expected (and if it isn't, it's the Iraqis' fault).

And that will be that. Hands will be washed, responsibility will not be taken, and Iraq will be left with the mess Bush made.

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A rhetorical timetable

By Creature

When is a timetable not a timetable? When it has nothing to do with time.

Iraqi leaders have assured the United States they will stick to a timetable of measures over the next year to curb violence and allow U.S. troops to go home, Washington's top officials in Iraq said on Tuesday. [emphasis me]

We have measures, we have benchmarks, but we have no dates. Thankfully we did have a rare joint news conference to announce the news that something may have changed in Iraq, though I'm not so sure what. It's big spin-cycle news. The administration has embraced the timetable rhetoric, hollow as it may be, to show that they are flexible. To show that in the face of a huge electoral defeat they are flexible and brave enough to change the message in hopes the American people will fall for their charade once again.

Flex more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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What do you expect from a guy named Corker?

By Heraclitus

Speaking of Andrew Sullivan, his feud with Glenn Reynolds has been one of the odder developments of the right-wing blogosphere in the past few years. There's a definite sort of post-break-up bitterness to it; it's like watching two people both trying to convince their mutual friends that the other person is totally at fault and is completely horrible. Only it's all taking place on the very public internets. Also something distinctly odd about how each attacks the other on his own blog without ever addressing him directly, choosing instead to discourse on the other's moral and intellectual failings in his absence and, of course, quote the supportive email. Very weird, but also fairly amusing.

I personally, of course, "side" with Sullivan, because, well, Glenn Reynolds. (Okay, that's not really fair. I actually like and respect Sullivan, as regular readers will know, since I frequently cite him. But Reynolds is about three beers away from being Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin.) Anyways, in the course of bashing Reynolds, Sullivan provides a You Tube clip of a very cheesy GOP Senate ad in Tennessee. It's pretty dumb even for a Republican attack ad. When I think of Tennessee, I prefer to think of Lamar Alexander, or, better yet, Bob Dylan looking for Alicia Keys "even clear through Tennessee."

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Iraq continues to hurt Bush

By Heraclitus

new poll from ABC shows that the Iraq War is increasingly unpopular not only among Democrats and Independents but among Bush's own base.

An improving economy notwithstanding, opposition to the war remains the prime issue driving congressional voter preference. And the war's critics include not just eight in 10 Democrats but 64 percent of independents, 40 percent of conservatives, 35 percent of evangelical white Protestants and a quarter of Republicans.

It matters: Among the four in 10 registered voters who favor the war in Iraq, 73 percent support the Republicans in their congressional districts. But many more, nearly six in 10, oppose the war, and 78 percent favor Democrats for the House.

Further evidence that Bush and the GOP may finally have reached the point where their ideological arrogance and incompetence shine through everything that they do, and no amount of dirty campaigning can kick up enough dust to hide that. But, of course, it ain't over till it's over.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Democrats "closer" to taking control of Senate

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to MSNBC, "there is no evidence of a national Democratic 'tidal wave,'" but new polls "show Democrats are slightly closer to taking control of the Senate than they were last month". See the article for the latest results from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Missouri, New Jersey, Washington, Montana, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In Washington, Cantwell (D) is well ahead of her Republican challenger. But Democrats need to win six of the other seven races to take control of the Senate. Pennsylvania and Ohio look good, but the other races are extremely tight. Allen (R) has a four-point lead in Virginia and Whitehouse (D) has a five-point lead in Rhode Island, but the spread in the other four states is only two or three points.

Which means: turnout, turnout, turnout. Democrats may be "closer" than they were, but Republicans can still pull off victories in these extraordinarily close races.


IMPORTANT: See MyDD's "Use It Or Lose It: A Call for Action From the Netroots," with phone numbers of Democrats in safe seats. Call and "ask them to give 30% of their campaign funds to Democratic challengers and/or party committees!"

For more, see Taylor Marsh and Ezra Klein (via LG&M).

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Rush Limbaugh is an asshole

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is what he said about Michael J. Fox on his radio show: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." (from WaPo)

There's no excuse for this reprehensible allegation from a reprehensible man. Rush is an asshole.

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What's the matter with Idaho?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sure, that may be something of a rhetorical question, given that Idaho is about as red as it gets, but the good news is there's a mini rebellion going on in that state's 1st Congressional District, where Republican Bill Sali, an eight-term state representative, is embroiled in a surprisingly tough race with Democrat Larry Grant, a former Micron executive.

Sali is an extremist even by current Republican standards. As Bruce Reed put it recently at The Has-Been, Sali won the primary "with a commanding 26 percent of the Republican fringe". "Human Events calls him a 'swashbuckling conservative.' The leading political historian in the state, Randy Stapilus, dubbed Sali 'one of the weakest Idaho state legislators in the last couple of decades.'" (Check out Stapilus's pre-primary profile, which includes these nuggets: "He has been Mr. Anti-abortion in the Legislature, more than anyone else, for a decade and more." "You want a flat-earther (to use the critical terminology)? Got your flat-earther right here.")

Yes, in Reed's words, Sali is "an embarrassment". Consider this: "Earlier this year, Sali brought the Democratic minority leader, a breast cancer survivor, to tears on the House floor by alleging that abortion could cause breast cancer. The Republican speaker of the House was so angry, he stripped Sali of his committee assignments and started fuming like Idaho's favorite son, Napoleon Dynamite. The speaker said of Sali, 'That idiot is just an absolute idiot.'"

Which pretty much sums it up.

While Bill Sali is an absolute idiot, Larry Grant is right for Idaho and right for America. Hopefully the voters of the Fightin' First will send him to Washington.

(The Idaho Statesman has endorsed Grant, who is "the right choice for this district and for these times". Read the endorsement in full for more on the two candidates. Tip: IdaBlue, which seeks "to bring rationality to Idaho politics". To which I say: Good luck. A Grant victory would be a nice start.)

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France and Rwanda

By Heraclitus

We've got quite the France-fixation here at The Reaction. Just recently,
Michael called attention to the continuing riots in France. Shortly thereafter, the BBC filed this report warning of a return to full-scale rioting in France. Then there was my brief profile of Segolene Royal, a front-runner for the Socialist nomination for the Presidential election. And, of course, there was my enthusiastic praise of France for curtailing freedom of speech, which is certainly one of the more overrated phenomena of the past two hundred years.

The latest round of Francomania is less encouraging. Testimony at a tribunal in Rwanda on the 1994 genocide has implicated France in the killings (the
Wiki article on the genocide is excellent; see also this BBC piece). From the BBC:

A former senior Rwandan diplomat has told a tribunal that France played an active role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Former Rwandan ambassador to Paris Jacques Bihozagara said French involvement stemmed from concerns about its diminishing influence in Africa.

France has, of course, denied any involvement:

"France has not expressed regret," AFP quotes Mr Bihozagara as saying during his three-hour testimony.

He added that even after the genocide the French government had not apprehended genocide suspects living in France.

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in Kigali says that it is also alleged that French soldiers provided escape routes to militia escaping to the Democratic Republic of Congo after the massacres.

French soldiers were deployed in parts of Rwanda in the final weeks of the genocide under a United Nations mandate known as Operation Turquoise to set up a protected zone.

But Rwanda says the soldiers allowed Hutu extremists to enter Tutsi camps.

"Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone," Mr Bihozagara said.

The panel's findings are expected within six months.

A French military court is conducting a separate investigation into claims that French soldiers played a part in the genocide.

For more on the complicity of France, and of the Western powers generally, with the genocide in Rwanda, see the work of Linda Melvern. Like this article in The Guardian, or one of her books (click on her name to see them listed on Amazon).

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An Open Letter to the GOP

By Heraclitus

Okay, I know we tend to slant more or less left here, but we also strive for fair and balanced reporting of the political and cultural trends that matter to you. I'm therefore very happy to present this "Open Letter to the GOP," contributed by guest blogger Rod T. Straight (warning: the following may contain biting satire):

My fellow Americans,

Recently, I was at the grocery store, buying childrens’ cereal. Having perused the cereal boxes and given them sufficient consideration, I can only say that I am shocked, outraged, and disgusted. Only now do I realize what a sick and perverted world we live in. It is a world where innocent children are used as mere pawns in the twisted social and political agendas of the homosexual movement. That's right. ALL OF THE CEREAL BOX CARTOON CHARACTERS ARE GAY!!! Gay as paint. Queer as a three-dollar bill. Okay, Tony the Tiger is probably an exception, and maybe Dig 'em the Frog, but the rest are switch-hitters at best. Sonny, the bird from Coco Puffs? He’s flamboyantly gay (the brightly colored, striped sweater, the overly emotional behavior), also known as "flaming." The Sugar Bear seems innocent enough. Kind of pudgy, always wearing a sweater; he kind of seems like the dad from Eight is Enough. Then you remember -- HE’S ALWAYS SINGING!!! Toucan Sam, like Sonny the bird, TALKS WITH A DAMN LISP!!! And they don't get any lighter in the loafers than that damn leprechuan from lucky charms. Snap, Crackle and Pop may be just weenie enough to be straight and still walk around in those absurd, gay-assed costumes, but Count Chocula and the rest are not only gay, but campy. Oh, foul, foul, world, where homosexual activists have infiltrated the graphics departments of cereal companies!!!

Now it all makes sense. Now we can see why the country is slouching towards Gomorrah. Now we can see why American is in danger of doing something as unspeakable evil and demented as electing a Democratic Congress. This is not right. We don't need a bunch of homos selling us our cereals. We need good, strong cereal cartoon chacters, as Dubya used to say before he lost the ability to string even three words together coherently. Here are my new, decidedly un-gay, suggestions:

Angry, Angry Ape -- Angry, Angry Ape goes around beating the shit out of people who look at him funny -- mostly Frenchmen and Arabs. He has big, muscular arms and a very angry face. On the cereal box, he would be swinging his arms wildly and glaring menacingly, with bloodshot eyes, out at the kid eating the cereal. The grain part of the cereal would be red, from all the blood Angry, Angry Ape beats out of people, and the marshmallow things would be the faces of foreigners with black eyes and broken noses.

Sweary Snake -- The main purpose of this character is just to have a picture of a snake on the cereal box, crawling through some sort of circular thing. That's right, get the penis-vagina equation into their heads early. That's the way it's gonna be, boys and girls!!! Sweary Snake swears a lot, but in a manly, heterosexual way. The marshmallow pieces would be swear words, but good, old-fashioned swear words, like Goddamnit and Son of a Bitch. That'll teach 'em.

Peety the Postal Parrot -- Peety the Postal Parrot is a parrot who worked for the post office and one day came in with an AK-47 and blew a bunch of motherfuckers away. Teach the kids when they're young, assault rifles are part of the American way of life. The marshmallow pieces would be AK-47s, grenades, and dead postal workers (the kind with the little xes in their eyes).

Harry the Whoring Hippo -- The name says it all. Harry gets it on with women, nobody else -- NOBODY ELSE, DAMMIT!!! Sure, he usually has to pay for it, but that's better than being some damn fruit. He's a good role model, especially for the boys. But isn't a hippo a somewhat grotesque animal to present in such an overtly sexual manner? Hell, no. Let these kids learn that the average American diet, starting with these sugary breakfast cereals, will make them a bunch of fat asses for most of their lives. Get used to it. Just don't use that as an excuse to become some kind of damn pansy. The marshmallow pieces would be various naked women and little packets of penicillin.

Okay, these are all just prolegomena. We come now to the true peak of the new generation of breakfast cereal cartoon marketing devices, the top dog, the creme de la creme.

Blowing Shit Up Orang-Outang -- Blowing Shit Up Orang-Outang is where it's at. He blows shit up. Sometimes it's some asshole's car, sometimes it's another country. But he blows shit up. He's a good, strong cereal box cartoon character. Teach our kids the importance of aggressive violence. (Also note the similarity of his name to "poon-tang." This is crucial.) The marshmallow pieces would be various kinds of missiles and RPGs and the occasional mushroom cloud.

Now that you know the truth, get out there and spread it. There hasn't been a scandal of this magnitude and reach since Jerry Fallwell pointed out that the Teletubbies were homos. We need to get the word out, for the future of this great nation of ours. Thank God there's an election coming up. Get out there and vote Republican, and David Kuo be damned!

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Hooray for North Korea!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At Think Progress, Joe Cirincione reports (from an article in the Post) that "[s]enior Bush administration officials wanted North Korea to test a nuclear weapon because it would prove their point that the regime must be overthrown". According to the Post article, these officials were actually "rooting for a test" (my emphasis).

Cirincione interprets this revelation as "evidence of how the administration’s national security policy has become completely divorced from reality". I concur, although I was thinking in simpler terms: It's yet more evidence of just how crazy both the people and the policy are. Containment and engagement -- in other words, serious diplomacy, worked. The Bush approach, a combination of neglect and rhetorical aggression, has done nothing to diffuse one of the world's most pressing crises.

And now we find that they were hoping for a nuclear test, for a rogue regime run by a brutal totalitarian to test a nuclear bomb and therewith to become a nuclear power, for an event that could ultimately provoke widespread destabilization in East Asia, perhaps even a regional arms race?!

I'd be surprised if it weren't all so predictable. They've gotten so much wrong, why not this, and so much more wrong, and at a new level of craziness, than we thought?


And, lest we forget, there's Iran, which, according to the Post, "has taken another step in its ability to enrich uranium".

Good thing Bush is so focused on staying the course, or not, in Iraq.


UPDATE: We now know that the bomb North Korea tested was a plutonium one. For more on the significance of this, see this excellent piece by nuclear physicist James Gordon Prather at The National Interest.

Prather argues that the Agreed Framework developed under Clinton successfully contained North Korea's nuclear program. Once in office, and then with North Korea a member of the Axis of Evil, Bush "saw the Agreed Framework as constricting and welcomed a North Korean (and Iraqi and Iranian) withdrawal from the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]". North Korea withdrew and "restarted [its] Plutonium-239 producing reactor".

What this means is not only that North Korea's development of a plutonium bomb occurred on Bush's watch but that Bush is himself responsible for North Korea's development of a plutonium bomb. Indeed, according to Prather: "Bush can put a nuke-armed North Korea on his list of foreign-policy achievements."

And what a list of achievements that is: Iraq is descending into chaos, genocide continues in Darfur, and Iran and North Korea are developing or have developed nuclear weapons. And then there's the rift over Iraq between the U.S. and Europe, as well as the loss of American credibility as a result of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the rendition of prisoners to secret prisons and foreign jurisdictions that sanction torture. And then there's Afghanistan, which has largely been ignored. And... well, it's all bad.

(I intend to post this update as a new post, but I'll keep it here as well.)

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Down to the wire in Virginia

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new Mason-Dixon poll gives Republican incumbent George Allen a four-point lead over Democratic challenger Jim Webb in the Virginia Senate race -- 47 to 43. Allen has "regained a narrow lead" after "a two-month freefall in voter support" that saw his lead dwindle from 16 points down to a virtual tie.

As Kos explains it, "this is essentially a ground game" now. Webb will campaign with former Virginia Governor (and presidential drop-out) Mark Warner towards the end of the campaign and "the DSCC is dumping money into the state".

It ain't over yet. Webb -- a distinguished military man in contrast to the un-ethical, buffoonish jackass that is Allen -- still has "a fighting chance".

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The grand ol' party of extremism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

WaPo is reporting -- and in so doing stating the obvious -- that "Republicans are losing the battle for independent voters, who now strongly favor Democrats on Iraq and other major issues facing the country and overwhelmingly prefer to see them take over the House in November".

Well, that's what happens when your electoral strategy is to rally the base by moving to the extreme on social issues and you choose to wage a war that must now be considered one of the great disasters of American history. Rove's "base strategy" may have worked in '04, when 9/11 was still politically exploitable, Iraq didn't look quite as bad as it does now, and Kerry ran a poor campaign, but it won't work now.

The Republican Party, from Bush on down, has been exposed for what it is. Its corruption, incompetence, and injustice, not to mention its extremism, is clear to all.


For more, see our friend Daniel DiRito at Thought Theater, who wonders if the "mighty middle" has been awakened.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

King of America

By Heraclitus

In the midst of all the drudgery and pain-in-the-assery of adult life — bills to pay, emails to send, errands to run, angry phone calls to make, groceries to buy and then consume before they spoil — the sheer joy and release of rediscovering a favorite piece of music cannot be overstated. It’s like recovering a childhood memory or being confronted with a familiar but forgotten sensation in the natural world, like the smell of the air in the springtime, after the first thaw. Just now I’ve been listening to Elvis Costello’s King of America, which I humbly submit is his best album. Its virtues are too many to list, and even trying to throw in one line about every great song on the album is too much. Sure, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was a mistake, and I’m not particularly fond of “Glitter Gulch.” And, yes, the drums tend to be too strong and too loud. But the two instruments that define the album, at least for me, are the stand-up bass and the organ. Of course they’re not on every song, and they don’t even play the most important parts on all the songs they’re on, but they run through the album and provide its depth and texture, the backdrop against which all the other instruments emerge (e.g., the accordion on “American Without Tears”).

As for the songs, who can not love the opening number, “Brilliant Mistake”?

He thought he was the King of America
But it was just a boulevard of broken dreams

A trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals

The words of love in whispers and the acts of love in screams

But the peak of the album, for me, is “Indoor Fireworks,” EC’s most achingly beautiful and melancholy song. It’s the purest example of Costello’s amazing ability to construct a melody which begins by heading in one direction, so that you are sure of exactly how it will develop, then turns back on itself, twisting around, becoming something completely strange and extraordinary. At first, this is confusing, then frustrating, as you start listening to the song repeatedly, and continue to be flummoxed. Finally, however, you learn the melody and movement, and you can’t remember what you used to expect, can’t even imagine it being any different. “Indoor Fireworks” is I think the best example of this phenomenon, but others that come to mind offhand are “Tramp Down the Dirt” and “And In Every Home.” It reminds me of an affecting passage from Nietzsche:

One must learn to love.—This is what happens to us in music: First one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life. Then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity. Finally there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing; and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it and only it.

But that is what happens to us not only in music. That is how we have learned to love all things that we now love. In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fair-mindedness, and gentleness with what is strange; gradually, it sheds its veil and turns out to be a new and indescribable beauty. That is its thanks for our hospitality. Even those who love themselves have learned it in this way; for there is no other way. Love, too, has to be learned.

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Why Obama should run

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller makes a good case for why Obama should run (and he may). It's not that he supports Obama, it's just that "we need his voice in the fray".

There's a lot not to like about Obama, particularly his "strong disdain for progressives" and his "sickening praise of Bush". So why should he run? "For the Democratic Party, we would be able to engage our hero in a debate over policies and ideas, and we'd be able to take him down off a pedestal and actually grapple together with common challenges. That would make us as a party stronger. For the country, all Americans would be able to move beyond the rock star persona, and get to the substance, and that would be good. Public debate is better than rock star adulation."

Well put. I'm not sure I'd support Obama, particularly in '08, but it would certainly be interesting to have him in the race. (And there is the Veep spot, after all.)

For more, see Crooks and Liars, which has the video of Obama's appearance on Meet the Press yesterday.

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Let there be more lies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And the lying continues.

Following right on his boss's heels, White House Counselor (mouthpiece) Dan Bartlett today denied that there was ever a "stay-the-course strategy" in Iraq.

Think Progress has the video, the transcript, and a lot of rather damning evidence. Again and again and again, Bush and those who speak for him, like Press Secretary Tony Snow, have stated that U.S. policy is to "stay the course".

As late as August 30 of this year -- that is, less than two months ago -- Bush said this, to applause: "Iraq is the central front in this war on terror. If we leave the streets of Baghdad before the job is done, we will have to face the terrorists in our own cities. We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century."

There is so much wrong with that statement.

-- Iraq is only "the central front" because Bush's misadventure has made it so. What of the other fronts against an enemy that simply cannot be fought in such old-fashioned terms? They have been forgotten, and ignored.

-- Pulling out of Iraq does not mean that "the terrorists" will come to "our own cities". They came on 9/11 to "our cities," and they may yet come again. If they come because of Iraq, it will only be because the war has strengthened them and bolstered their cause.

-- The war the U.S. should be fighting isn't in Iraq, which is rapidly descending ever further into chaos. Rather, it should be fighting a war all over the world with its allies against the far more nebulous enemy that was behind 9/11 and other attacks like it, an enemy that cannot be pinned down to a single state like Iraq.

-- The Iraqis just want the U.S. out. The terrorists who orchestrated 9/11, and those like them, are waging a broader war against America's very existence. With exceptions like Zarqawi and his kind, the insurgents in Iraq are not those terrorists. Some are, to be sure, and some have been drawn by the opportunity to fight against what is seen as a U.S. occupying force. But what of the terrorists everywhere else? And what of the terrorists in Iraq who will eventually go elsewhere? The war will not put an end to their aspirations.

-- Victory in Iraq will not be an ideological triumph. In the long-term, liberal democracy may yet take root there. But the Iraqis are fighting for self-determination, not necessarily for an ideology, and certainly not for Bush's ideology. Besides, what would constitute victory? Peace? Yes, but at what cost? Self-government? Yes, but to what extent? And is that even possible given the violent sectarianism that has risen out of the ashes of Saddam's regime?

And, of course, there's that reference to staying the course. Not that that's ever been the strategy. Of course not. Bush would never have said anything like that.

Surely the President of the United States isn't the blatant liar he would appear to be.

Oh, forget it. He's a liar. And we have the evidence to prove it.

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Balad is Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last month, I wrote about the nature and degree of Iraq's sectarianism -- see here. Responding to a (conservative) proposal that the U.S. send more troops to Iraq, I argued that there has been "an underestimation of the severity of the sectarian divides that have re-emerged in Iraq since Saddam's fall".

Like other tyrants, Saddam had brutally controlled Iraq's sectarian groups, often through mass murder, but the failure on the part of the U.S. to plan effectively, or at all, for post-Saddam Iraq, or rather for Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, was the glaring mistake, error of errors, that prevented a seamless transition of power to the coalition occupying force and, thereafter, to the Iraqi government: "The civilian leadership -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz -- failed to anticipate what an occupation would mean, as well as require, because on a more fundamental level they failed to understand Iraq, including the sectarianism that was bound to re-emerge upon Saddam's fall."

This is not to say that the current sectarian violence was inevitable. However, it was likely that these historical divides would, once Saddam's rule was removed, provoke violence, as they most clearly have, not least because Saddam himself had brutally oppressed two of the country's three major sectarian groups, the Shiites and the Kurds. It would have taken great sensitivity to and understanding of Iraq's history, religion, and culture for the eruption of violence to have been prevented, but the U.S., as we now know, didn't even try. America's civilian leadership, starting at the very top, wasn't sensitive and didn't understand. It still isn't and doesn't.

Which brings us to this: As The Washington Post reports in a must-read article today, the city of Balad has succumbed to Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence: "What brought this Tigris River city north of Baghdad to this state of siege was a series of events that have displayed in miniature the factors drawing the entire country into a sectarian bloodbath: Retaliatory violence between Sunnis and Shiites has soared to its highest level of the war, increasingly forcing moderates on both sides to look to armed extremists for protection."

What is happening to Balad is happening to Iraq generally: "[A]ll that was left holding Balad, and Iraq, together -- the desire for peace and normality still held by the great majority of Iraqis, and the generations of intermarriage and neighborliness between ordinary Shiite and Sunni Muslims -- was ripping apart."

Balad is ripping apart. Iraq is ripping apart. No amount of U.S. troops will put an end to this violence. Neither, at the moment, will any government in Baghdad. Which leaves us with a seemingly hopeless situation that may only end with partition or with the emergence of a new Iraqi strongman. Or perhaps, more hopefully, it will end through attrition. Perhaps once the U.S. leaves the violence will die down somewhat and the Iraqi government will be able to impose some sort of peace, however fragile, that contains the country's sectarian groups.

Surely the majority of the Iraqi people don't want to live with this violence, after all. And surely the violence is being driven by minorities on all sides. And yet -- one wonders -- will the experience of Balad become, in full, the experience of Iraq? If so, there may be no future for Iraq whatsoever. It will implode, with massive casualties, and some future peace will have to be found amid the rubble, amid whatever is left behind.

One wishes it were otherwise, that peace would prevail according to the majority of the Iraqi people, but those wishes, at present, are being crushed by the harsh realities of a country in collapse.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XIX

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, Sunday was another deadly day in Iraq:

At least 15 Iraqi police recruits were killed Sunday when two buses taking them to Baghdad were ambushed by insurgents north of the capital, a local police official said. Twenty-five recruits were injured in the attack, and 20 others were kidnapped, he said.

The U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of four soldiers and a Marine, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq this month to 83 -- the highest monthly toll since 84 U.S. troops were killed in November 2005. Attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have increased 43 percent since midsummer, U.S. military officials say.

What is there to say at this point? Except that Bush is a liar. It was "Stay the course" ad nauseam until, on Sunday to George Stephanopoulos (via Think Progress), he said this: "Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,” George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job, and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting to tactics. Constantly."

What a bunch of fucking nonsense.

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France in flames

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's been a rather tumultuous past year or so for the French.

Last November, there were the riots — a state of emergency, if not quite another revolution — that, with multiple triggers sending alienated and in some cases highly politicized youth into the streets, exposed the deep cultural, political, and economic rift between mainstream French society and the largely ignored and depressed immigrant communities throughout the country.

Then, this past March, barricades were once again erected in Paris, in and around the Sorbonne, this time in response to proposed employment legislation.

The government gave in on the employment legislation, but the violence in some of the country's immigrant suburbs continues. The Times reports:

The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

To my understanding, this is a French problem more than, say, a Europe-wide problem, or a problem specifically about Muslim immigration. France's immigrant underclass is indeed alienated from the rest of the country, and it makes sense to me that its young people — who want to join French society, not separate from it; who want to share in the country's wealth, not destroy it — would take to the streets to express their anger and frustration. It's just alarming that this violent expression of anger and frustration is still going on a year later. The French government promised to do something about the root causes of the riots. It has evidently failed to do so.

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Down by 17, Lamont donates $2 million more

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to the Hartford Courant, Ned Lamont donated another $2 million to his Senate campaign" yesterday. As well, "[t]he Lamont campaign questioned $387,000 in cash disbursements by Lieberman's campaign shortly before the Democratic primary".

Lamont is down by 17 points, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. Will this latest injection of cash make a difference? Or is it too late?

I'm afraid it might be over for Lamont.

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