Saturday, November 04, 2006

Weekend polls and predictions

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Newsweek: "As President George W. Bush jets across Red State America this weekend, Republican candidates are falling further behind Democratic rivals... If the elections were held today, 54 percent of likely voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their district versus 38 percent who would vote for the Republican -- a 16-point edge for the Democrats."

And Bush's approval rating is just 35 percent.

But: "Expect to hear lots in the news and on the Web during the next few days about the GOP’s '72-hour campaign,' the party's hyper-organized, multimillion-dollar get-out-the-vote effort that uses mailing lists, consumer marketing information and high-tech data crunching to find Republicans and roust them to the polls."

Will the Democrats be able to match that effort?

See also MyDD.


The Weekly Standard: The staff of the leading neocon rag give their midterm predictions. Only one of the 17 predicts that the GOP will hold on to the House. Eight predict that the Senate will stay Republican, five that it will go Democratic, and four that it will be a 50-50 tie when all is said and done.

Then again, these guys still think going to war in Iraq was a great idea.


The Post and the Times have good overviews.

From the former: "'The bottom just fell out,' said Amy Walter, a House analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Her publication predicted yesterday that Republicans will lose 20 to 35 seats. Rothenberg predicted a 34-to-40-seat Democratic gain. 'The House is gone,' he said"


Rasmussen Reports: "On the final Saturday of Election 2006, the race for control of the Senate is tied. The Rasmussen Reports Senate Balance of Power summary now rates 49 seats as Democrat or Leans Democrat and 49 seats as Republican or Leans Republican and two as Toss-Ups. The two remaining Toss-Ups are both seats defended by incumbent Republicans -- Jim Talent in Missouri and George Allen in Virginia."

And check out The Cook Political Report and The Rothenberg Political Report for the latest prognostications from the best in the business.


And see Robert Kuttner in the Globe: "November 2006 will be remembered either as the time American democracy was stolen again, maybe forever, or began a brighter day."

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Bush and the base

By Michael J.W. Stickings

They're not listening anymore. In Iowa on Friday:

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Read my lips. No new taxes.

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

As part of his increasingly desperate attempts to shore up Republican support ahead of Tuesday's elections, President Bush has taken to threatening that Congress under the control of the Democrats would raise taxes. Ignoring the fact for a moment that the Republican profligacy of the last six years in running up record budget deficits constitutes a tax on future generations, this statement coming from the President who has done more than any other to increase the powers of the Executive Branch is without any credibility. Last time I checked, Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the power to veto Congressional legislation. If preventing tax increases is really that important, let Bush put his money where his mouth is and use his veto. Otherwise, the President bears as much responsibility as Congress for any tax increase.

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“Take these lies and make them true somehow”

By J. Kingston Pierce

If this video doesn’t get you fired up and ready to vote next Tuesday, November 7, I don’t know what will. It recounts the rise and fall of George W. Bush and the disasters he’s caused--and ignored--during his almost six years in the White House. Provided that the administration doesn’t
tamper successfully with the midterm election results (and isn’t it a sad state of affairs that Americans now need to worry about such things?), maybe we can finally start to look ahead to a brighter, post-Bush future where fear no longer reigns supreme, where the United States is once again respected in the world, and where freedom is more than merely a White House talking point.

We want our fuckin’ country back!

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Stripping away the Emperor's clothes

By J. Kingston Pierce

If, in fact, Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress after next Tuesday’s midterm elections--
and the chances of that seem better by the day--print and TV pundits will be busy trying to figure out exactly what went wrong for Republican’ts, and what tipped the scales so heavily in the Democrats’ favor.

Did fault lie with the Bush administration’s
incompetent handling of the Iraq war, and the almost 3,000 members of the U.S. military who have died (so far) during that region-upsetting conflict? Should blame be ascribed, instead, to the prez’s too little, too late approach to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005? Did voters simply lose the last of their already dwindling trust in George W. Bush after the White House’s warrantless domestic spying scandal, or maybe after Bush--who’d previously chided officials for releasing government secrets--himself endorsed the selective leaking of classified intelligence information from a “National Intelligence Estimate” on Iraq to New York Times reporter back in 2003? Or was the tipping point provided by the sex and corruption scandals that have embroiled the GOP over the last few months?

Actually, as Salon editor Joan Walsh
writes, the failure of Bush’s party this election cycle might have been ensured by none of those factors:

Long after all the votes are tallied, the election-spending totaled up, the ads rated, the exit polls examined, I think we’ll find that the most crucial election-season event this year was the publication of Bob Woodward's “State of Denial.” I’m not going to debate Woodward’s journalistic shortcomings--my friends Sidney Blumenthal and Arianna Huffington have done a great job of that. Of course it must be said that the picture of the Bush administration that Woodward shatters--a decisive Bush, a sober, experienced Dick Cheney, an innovative, risk-taking Rumsfeld--was in fact a portrait heavily of his own creation, in his previous books “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack.” Yet history could eventually absolve Woodward for those sins because he ultimately laid bare both the administration’s dissembling and its incompetence in executing this awful war.

Reading “State of Denial” was unexpectedly disturbing for me. It made me realize that the only thing worse than my angry liberal bubble (in which I’d assumed that Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice either didn’t know or didn’t care about the chaos in Iraq) was learning that in fact some of them did know, a few of them even cared--and they still couldn’t make a difference in stabilizing the country or fighting the insurgency. Watching Powell and Richard Armitage, and then to a lesser degree Rice and Stephen Hadley, try to challenge Rumsfeld’s iron grip on Iraq, and on Bush’s perception of it, was incredibly depressing. It was another Hurricane Katrina moment--if Katrina showed their incompetence domestically, “State of Denial” documented it in Iraq, and the consequences have been even deadlier. This week brought even more confirmation that victory, or even “peace with honor,” is virtually impossible in Iraq, with the news that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered U.S. troops out of Sadr City, where they were seeking a missing U.S. soldier. It puts the lie to Bush’s simplistic formulation “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” Maliki is standing up, the United States is having to stand down while its soldiers are still in danger, and the odds are looking good that in the end we’ll find that we exchanged a Sunni tyrant for a Shiite.

If only Woodward had brought forth his latest portrayal of a negligent, self-deceiving, and war-torn White House two years ago, before the 2004 presidential race, the country might not have had to endure the loss of international credibility and moral righteousness, and the deepening of domestic political divisions that have marked the second Bush administration. But better late than never, I guess.

READ MORE:Rumsfeld’s Lethal Denial,” by Jason Leopold (TruthOut); “How Bush Deceived Public on Iraq,” by Bob Woodward (Newsweek).

(Cross-posted at

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DeWine plumbs new depths

By Heraclitus

Here I was, just trying to enjoy a little Conan O'Brien (which is hard enough when Darrell Hammond is the guest), when what to my wondering eyes should appear? The dirtiest and most unscrupulous political ad this side of a swift boat. Mike DeWine, who it increasingly seems is headed for an ass-whupping on Tuesday, has a female law enforcement agent (I think she may have been with the highway patrol) talking about a twenty-year-old criminal investigation. What investigation, precisely? It seems that when Sherrod Brown was Secretary of State of Ohio, there was an investigation into drugs being sold out of his office. The female cop is complaining that one of Brown's employees sold her drugs but was later promoted.

Okay, so who contacted the police and initiated the investigation? Sherrod Brown. Was the woman who allegedly sold dope to the undercover cop arrested? Were charges filed? No and no. Have there been any new disclosures or revelations that would justify suddenly drudging all of this back up days before the election? No. All of this has been a matter of public record since 1990.

Nevertheless, this ad is suggesting that some horrible miscarriage of justice has been perpetrated. By whom? Could Sherrod Brown have single-handedly orchestrated and executed a cover-up? Of course not. So who is DeWine really attacking? Well, not just Sherrod Brown. He's essentially casting aspersions on the entire criminal justice system in Ohio, for it would have required the involvement of countless players at both the local and state levels to prevent an arrest if one had been warranted.

So it's not just the sleaziness of this baseless and breathtakingly dishonest personal attack that repels me. It's the fact that DeWine is willing to smear the police and prosecutors who handled the case, that he's willing to impugn the credibility of law enforcement in his home state, just to trip up the other guy. But then, I don't know why I'm surprised. Even in his own ads he looks like a reject from the Keebler Elves who can't even comb his own hair. He doesn't have much else to run on.

It should be noted, however, that this story is not without its comic element. A run-down of the charges against Brown's office can be found here (I can't tell if this site is right-wing or just glibly cynical). One of the items that this website found significant was that a clerk in the accounting office apparently brought some marijuana brownies into work. The brownies seem to have been ingested by someone who had never known the pleasures of Mary Jane's company, and the novice stoner was promptly rushed to the hospital. I seriously could not make this up. And this somehow reflects on Brown's suitability to be a US Senator twenty years later. Brown's campaign responds to the more serious allegations here.

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Cheney: "full speed ahead" on Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There was so much misguided outrage on the right over Kerry's botched joke, with desperate Republicans looking to use it to attack the Democrats more broadly on national security just days before the midterms, but the real outrage is that Dick Cheney, one of the prime architects of the Iraq War, and one of its most virulent defenders, seems to be so removed from reality and at odds with the American people on the war itself. Consider what he said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos to be broadcast on Sunday:

We've got the basic strategy right... It may not be popular with the public -- it doesn't matter in the sense that we have to continue the mission and do what we think is right. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right.

Persistence is one thing; stubbornness is quite another. Policy should not be determined by popularity, perhaps, but what if the policy is so misguided that public opinion turns against it? That's what's happening with the Iraq War. That's why Republicans around the country are running not just against the Democrats but against Bush and the war -- and one of the reasons why Democrats are up in the polls and in a good position to take back the House and possibly the Senate next Tuesday.

The Iraq War has been a mistake of historic proportions. It is a war based on the manipulation of intelligence, even on outright lies. It is a war that has been grossly mismanaged from the very beginning. It is a war that has left thousands of Americans dead. It is a war that has taken the lives of countless Iraqis. And Iraq itself, nowhere near the capacity for self-government, is descending ever further into chaos and civil war. And Americans have had enough.

And all because Cheney and the rest of the warmongers are doing what they think is right even when their war has been proven to be so disastrously wrong. This isn't stubbornness. It's delusion.

What is a botched joke compared to a botched war?

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Friday, November 03, 2006

The Arab world goes nuclear

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Disturbing news from The Times:

THE SPECTRE of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.

The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.

All want to build civilian nuclear energy programmes, as they are permitted to under international law. But the sudden rush to nuclear power has raised suspicions that the real intention is to acquire nuclear technology which could be used for the first Arab atomic bomb.

It's hard not to view this development as inevitable. As nuclear technology becomes more available, non-nuclear states may choose to avail themselves of it. Besides, Israel is already a nuclear power. Why wouldn't Arab states want to join the club? When a useful technology is out there -- and nuclear technology, however dangerous, is certainly useful -- it is rather difficult to contain it.

The problem, of course, is that this may be as much about nuclear weaponry as about nuclear power. Given that Iran is going nuclear, and likely pursuing nuclear weaponry, the acquisition of nuclear technology seems like defensive posturing. An expert quoted in the Times article suggests that the pursuit of nuclear technology by these states is a "security hedge". They may use their would-be or budding nuclear programs as bargaining chips in future security and trade negotiations. But if they go ahead and develop nuclear weapons, they'll also have the ultimate deterrent. And that could mean a nuclear arms race in a part of the world that is already unstable. And it could also mean nuclear technology, if not actual weapons, falling into the wrong hands.

The U.S. and Europe would do well to seek to curtail this development sooner rather than later. The Bush Administration has already handled Iran and North Korea poorly, but now the U.S. in particular needs to take the lead in preventing what could be one of the gravest security threats of our time. And that means entering into serious negotiations with Tehran and, at the same time, ensuring that the Arab world knows that Israel doesn't have America's unconditional support to pursue whatever military action it likes.

The cost of failure could be devastating.

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Straight-talk pandering to the fundies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So you think John McCain's a moderate, a maverick, the sort of Republican even liberals can get behind? Think again.

His campaign for the White House, already well underway, has compelled him to pander to the GOP's fundamentalist base. Either he believes in what this base believes, in which case his moderate-maverick image has been a put-on all along, or he doesn't, in which case he's a shameless hypocrite, a typical politician grasping for votes.

Consider what he's up to in his home state of Arizona. The Arizona Republic is reporting that McCain "is starring in two new television spots for Proposition 107, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ensure that same-sex marriages or civil unions are never legal in Arizona and ban governments, such as cities or towns or universities, from providing benefits to unmarried domestic partners".

This isn't some sort of compromise position that would protect the traditional definition of marriage while allowing same-sex couples to enter into legally-recognized civil unions. This is illiberal extremism. And McCain is standing firmly behind it and speaking out loudly for it. Proposition 107 is stringently anti-gay. If approved, it would permanently deny gays and lesbians in Arizona the human and civil rights associated with marriage. It would legally establish gays and lesbians as sub-citizens. However it is spun, it is truly hateful.

And how is it playing in Arizona? According to a recent poll, only 30 percent of voters support Proposition 107. 56 percent are against it.

McCain stands with a minority of Arizonans on the wrong side of this issue. Yet doing so will allow him to parade his social conservative bona fides before the base heading towards '08.

Whatever his genuine beliefs, this is today's John McCain.

You can watch the ads at Protect Marriage Arizona -- click here.

For more, see Pam Spaulding, who puts it less generously than I do here.

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The battle over political narrative

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I just wanted to let you know this Friday afternoon that I've had an article published at The National Interest online: "The Battle over Narrative, Post-Midterms". The direct link to the article is here.

I may post it in full before next Tuesday's midterms, but here's how it opens:

Let’s assume that the Democrats win back the House but not the Senate. Let’s also assume that the situation in Iraq continues to worsen or remain poor, at least in terms of American public and political perception.

The realities on the ground in Iraq and in other global hotspots like Iran and North Korea aside, the American political landscape over the next two years is likely to be dominated by a battle for control of the dominant political narrative in preparation for the presidential election in 2008. Even the races within both parties for the 2008 nomination will be battles for narrative control.

This battle will challenge what has been an enduring political status-quo in the GOP’s favor. Since the 9/11 attacks, the White House and the Republican Congress that has rubber-stamped its policies have controlled the narrative of American politics. Republican success in both 2002 and 2004 only confirmed that voters in large numbers bought the spin that the dangerous post-9/11 environment required Republican, and specifically Bush’s, leadership. Bush came into office as a self-declared "uniter", and he had an opportunity to lead a bipartisan political climate after 9/11, but instead both the War on Terror and the war in Iraq have been used as wedges to establish a clear divide between strong, loyal Republicans and weak, disloyal Democrats.

And the narrative stuck, for a time, until it started to unravel. With Iraq looking more and more like a failure of historic proportions and with the disaster that was Katrina exposing devastating flaws at the top, the Republican narrative collapsed.

Needless to say, I hope you read the whole thing.

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Friday afternoon poem

By Heraclitus

A war poem seems appropriate for a host of reasons. And this particular war poem is, of course, "one of the greats":

Wilfred Owen

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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Fun with propaganda

By Heraclitus

Okay, here's some light-hearted Friday afternoon blogging.

I'm not sure what to make of the first poster (see below). Like my brother said, "He looks hardcore." At first I thought this was a bit of advertising, and the Mr. Peanut depicted was the advertising logo. I thought he had cast aside his monocle and top hat and gone out to fight (and although he's wearing a WWI helmet, this is a WWII poster). But then the bottom of the poster says "United States Department of Agriculture." So apparently this was meant to bring in recruits from Georgia or something.

Then there's the submarine one. To quote my brother again, it sounds like it's some kind of innuendo. But I don't know; the fella looks too smug to be doing any volunteering in the boudoir. The women is obviously paying special attention to his medal; she seems to like small things.

The final poster has to be one of the all-time best examples of ridiculously heavy-handed messages from your government. Anytime the government puts out a poster telling you who your friend is, you know something has gone terribly wrong. And why was this necessary? Were there a lot of Chinese infantrymen showing up to get haircuts or buy groceries in rural New Hampshire in 1944?

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A Bush sandwich

By Creature

You are judged by the company you keep.

The Guardian brings us the details.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Bottom feeders

By Creature

The GOP makes signs.

Fort Bend County Democrats are irate about campaign signs linking Democrats to illegal immigrants and terrorists, but the Republican county commissioner who paid for them said they accurately reflect Democratic positions.

Early voters in the heart of the heated race to succeed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were greeted Wednesday with red and white signs that read: "Want more illegals? Vote Democrat" and "Encourage Terrorists. Vote Democrat."

Have the Republicans ever met a gutter they didn't like?

TPM gets the credit for reading the signs.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Not yet safe

By Creature

In their zeal to prove themselves right, the GOP's incompetence once again shines through. From today's NYT:

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb. [...]

“For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,” said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nation’s nuclear arms program. “There’s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.”

Once again... so much for safer.

Once again... will anyone be held accountable.

Once again... the WingNuts are "outraged" at the NYT.

UPDATE: The Xsociate opens his files to bring you more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another Republican leaves the Party

By Heraclitus

Much like
John Cole, Frank Schaeffer, a writer on the military and long-time Republican, has decided he just can't stomach the Republican Party anymore. For Schaeffer, the last straw was George Allen's smear of Jim Webb. As he writes in The Dallas Morning News:

I'm a Christian, a writer, a military parent and a registered Republican.

On all those counts, I was disgusted by an e-mail I just received that's being circulated by campaign supporters of Republican George Allen, who's trying to retain his Senate seat in Virginia.

The message goes like this: "First, it was the Catholic priests, then it was Mark Foley, and now Jim Webb, whose sleazy novels discuss sex between very young teenagers. ... Hmmm, sounds like a perverted pedophile to me! Pass the word that we do not need any more pedophiles in office." Democrat James Webb is a war hero and former Marine, wounded in Vietnam and winner of the Navy Cross. He was writing about class and military issues long before me and has articulated the issue of how the elites have dropped the ball on military service in his classic novel Fields of Fire. By the way, that's a book Tom Wolfe calls "the greatest of the Vietnam novels."

Mr. Webb's son is a Marine in Iraq. That's an uncommon fact in this era in which most political leaders' children act as if it is only right and proper that it's someone else's war to fight.

Mr. Webb also happens to be running against a desperate opponent supported by people who circulated the stupid e-mail, something that reminds me of a 2000 smear campaign aimed at another war hero, John McCain.

The question, of course, is whether this disgust will spread far enough for the Dems to seize control of at least one Congressional house. The major polls increasingly suggest that we are headed for just such an outcome (but who knows until we actually see the election results). The question then, in some ways a much bigger one, will be whether a defeat will prompt any soul-searching among the Republicans, if it will lead them to repudiate tactics like this. My guess is no; the Hannitys and Limbaughs and Malkins are such an integral part of the GOP propaganda machine that I can't see the party turning it's back on them. The Democrats have been handed a series of stinging electoral ass-whuppin's, and I haven't seen any real soul-searching among them. In other words, while I think it's plain to all that we need a counterbalance to the "sociopathic brat" in the White House, as Amanda Marcotte recently called him, I'm not especially optimistic that this election will reverse or even check any of the trends that seem to me to augur so poorly for American democracy.

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Fact: The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain

By Heraclitus

This probably won't suit everyone's sense of humor, but you may or may not have heard of the amusing series of "Chuck Norris facts" out there. The title of this post is probably the most famous. You can actually get some of them on t-shirts. Some of them are just silly, like "Fact: Chuck Norris drives an ice cream truck covered with human skulls." Here are some of my personal faves:

Chuck Norris invented Kentucky Fried Chicken's famous secret recipe, with eleven herbs and spices. But nobody ever mentions the twelfth ingredient: Fear.

The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist.

What was going through the minds of all of Chuck Norris' victims before they died? His shoe.

Police label anyone attacking Chuck Norris as a Code 45-11.... a suicide.

The opening scene of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" is loosely based on games of dodgeball Chuck Norris played in second grade.

In the Bible, Jesus turned water into wine. But then Chuck Norris turned that wine into beer.

Time waits for no man. Unless that man is Chuck Norris.

There are no steroids in baseball. Just players Chuck Norris has breathed on.

When Chuck Norris was denied an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's because it was 10:35, he roundhouse kicked the store so hard it became a Wendy's.

Scientists have estimated that the energy given off during the Big Bang is roughly equal to 1CNRhK (Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick).

When Chuck Norris has sex with a man, it won't be because he is gay. It will be because he has run out of women.

Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter.

In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.

Apparently, Chuck Norris is also a fundamentalist Christian. And he has decided to use the Chuck Norris facts as a way to proselytize. Hence the following gem:

Alleged Chuck Norris Fact: “There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.” It’s funny. It’s cute. But here’s what I really think about the theory of evolution: It’s not real. It is not the way we got here.

Best segue ever. For more on Chuck's religious beliefs, see Pandagon.

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France to declassify documents relating to Rwanda genocide

By Heraclitus

A brief follow-up to my recent post on the controversy surrounding France's role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994: France has announced that it would declassify 105 documents relevant to the investigation currently taking place in Rwanda. Read more here.

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The siege of Baghdad

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bush told the AP yesterday that he's "pleased with the progress we're making," referring to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what about Iraq? We follow the death and destruction closely here, contrasting it with the happy words coming out of the White House, but here's a MUST-READ article from The Independent, "Baghdad is under siege". It begins: "Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital."

The situation in Iraq is far worse than Bush and his warmongers will ever admit. The country is rapidly descending into ever more severe chaos. It is civil war.

Make sure to read the whole article. And to educate yourself in the truth.

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Lunacy begets lunacy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bush on Cheney and Rumsfeld to the AP: "Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them."

I have no comment worthy of such absolute insanity. So I'll quote Sullivan, with whom I'm in agreement on this:

George W. Bush just gave the most powerful reason for voting Democratic next Tuesday. He has reiterated unconditional support for the two architects of the chaos in Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He intends to keep Rumsfeld in his job until 2008! Why not a medal of freedom while he's at it?

Let me put this kindly: anyone who believes that Donald Rumsfeld has done a "fantastic job" in Iraq is out of his mind. The fact that such a person is president of the United States is beyond disturbing. But then this is the man who told Michael Brown he was doing a "heckuva job." And, yes, our Iraq policy begins to look uncannily like the Katrina response.

The president, in other words, has just proved that he is utterly unhinged from reality, in a state of denial truly dangerous for the world. He needs an intervention. Think of this election as an intervention against a government in complete denial and capable of driving the West off a cliff. You can't merely abstain now. Bush just raised the stakes. And he must be stopped.

Bush must be stopped and the Republican Party must be stopped. And the way to do that is to vote Democratic. Honestly, it's as simple as that.

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An appeal to the voters of Connecticut

Guest post by Edward Copeland

Today I want to appeal directly to any Connecticut voters who may stumble in here. While it seems clear that Censorin' Joe Lieberman will get re-elected as an independent, thanks in no small part to Ned Lamont's post-primary bungling, you all need to think about what message sending Lieberman back to D.C. will give.

I don't know if Lamont can revive his candidacy -- maybe he should try a real Machiavellian move and make appearances or ads with the "official" Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger where they both gang up on Lieberman's sense of entitlement to the office over the actual party nominees voters selected in the democratic process. This election has never been purely about Iraq -- this is about a senator who has lost touch with his constituents and his party. This is about an egomaniac so obsessed with his own self-worth that instead of accepting the voters' opinion -- you know, the way a democracy is supposed to work -- he decided to keep running as his own one-man party in a pique of pissiness.

On top of that, look at who has been giving him much of his campaign money post-primary -- the same people who funnel millions to Dubya and his right-wing colleagues. While Lieberman says publicly that he will caucus with Democrats if re-elected and Democrats have promised him that he will keep seniority if elected as an independent, which party will control the Senate is very close. Since we know Lieberman has communicated with Karl Rove and received much GOP help, who is to say that he hasn't made a deal with Republicans as well? And if the Senate outcome is close or tied, he might not choose to caucus with the Republicans since they are really responsible for saving his ass.

Connecticut is not a conservative state -- Bush got his butt kicked there twice and Lieberman has agreed with him and the GOP a lot. He's not a real Democrat and he never has been. The people of Connecticut owe it to themselves and to the country not to send this charlatan back to the Senate -- especially since if they do, they are unlikely to see him back in Connecticut much again.

Then again, maybe that's why they want him to win.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A desperate party

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to Greg Prince, Republicans are "fighting old battles" by going after John Kerry. And he puts the whole overblown incident in context. What Kerry said is nothing compared to "the suspension of habeas corpus, the illegal wiretapping, the deceit and manipulation of intelligence to justify the Iraqi occupation, the failure to secure American ports, the cronyism, the profligate spending, the deferral of science to superstition, the influence peddling, the corruption, the pedophile coddling..."

Quite so.

Elsewhere, Greg provides a long list of "GOPers who desperately deserve to lose," state by state, along with links to articles that explain why.

out both posts.

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Kerry's apology (in context)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Alright, Kerry has apologized both at his own website and on Imus. So enough already. It was a stupid joke, a "poorly stated joke," a "botched joke," and he should have been far less ambiguous in telling it. And he should have known better.

But... no. What was there to know better? All that happened was that he missed one word of the joke. The botch was a single word: "us". He said college students should study hard or "get stuck in Iraq," but what he meant to say was "get us stuck in Iraq". In other words, those who didn't study hard got us stuck in Iraq. Get it? Bush didn't study hard and got us stuck in Iraq. The joke, such as it was one, was about Bush, an intellectual failure, not the troops in Iraq, and certainly not the entire military.

But who has not missed a word in a speech? Who has not misspoken? Certainly not Bush, whose outrage at Kerry's remark, like that of McCain and the rest of the Kerry-bashers, has been phony and forced.

Not that the apology/explanation will satisfy the Republicans and their blogospheric minions, all of whom are looking to pick a fight, any fight, and for whom Kerry is a convenient target of abuse. They removed his remarks from context, if they even took the time to know the context, which I doubt, if they even care about the context, which they don't. But they're desperate, and in their desperation there seems to be no ceiling to their political depravity.

They are outraged at Kerry and are using his "joke" as an excuse to hurl vicious accusations at the Democrats, but where is the outrage at the Republicans' vilification of gays and Latino immigrants, at the reprehensible smear campaign that Republicans are waging from coast to coast?

Well, the Republicans have no time for such introspection at the moment, not that they would understand just how repugnant their smear campaign is anyway. They're down in the polls, they're likely to lose the House and possibly the Senate, and, as we all know by now, this is how they operate both in victory and in defeat, both when up and when down. As Jonathan Chait put it at the L.A. Times the other day, "Republicans don't want an actual choice election, they want to run against a mythological Democratic Party so frightening that the voters overlook all the GOP's failures".

Kerry stupidly (and unintentionally) played into that mythology of a villainous Democratic Party that is not just frightening but unpatriotic and traitorous.

But that's all the Republicans have left. The fact that they refuse to let this go; the fact that their campaign has been reduced to distortions, misrepresentations, and baseless accusations; the fact that they are re-vilifying the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee (and a decorated war hero) -- these facts signal that they are truly a defeated party no matter how next week's votes turn out.

There's your context for Kerry's joke, the Republican response, and Kerry's apology.

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John Cole on the GOP

By Heraclitus

Be sure to read John Cole's powerful post on what he, a lifelong Republican, thinks of the current GOP. A sample:

In short, it really sucks looking around at the wreckage that is my party and realizing that the only decent thing to do is to pull the plug on them (or help). I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends -- but I don’t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don’t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson’s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse. I don’t know how to react to people who think that calling anyone who disagrees with them on Iraq a “terrorist-enabler” than to swing back. I don’t know how to react to people who think that media reports of party hacks in the administration overruling scientists on issues like global warming, endangered species, intelligent design, prescription drugs, etc., are signs of… liberal media bias.

Read the whole post here.

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Internets round-up: The future of Iraq

By Heraclitus

I hate to suggest that there's something more important than John Kerry's latest demonstration that he is to politicking what W. is to governing, but I'd rather write about the future of Iraq. I will say this about Kerry, though -- his bizarre and moronic refusal to apologize for his comments, and his apparent determination to come out swinging against the White House, are weirdly out of place now, all the more so because they were so sorely missing during his own presidential campaign. It's as if someone just now showed him the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. I think it's just further proof that he has the worst instincts in the history of democratic politics.

(Okay, if you want more, see the
excellent John Cole. When I see Cole take on a large swath of right-wing bloviators, blogular and otherwise, I feel like I'm watching the scene at the end of Unforgiven where Clint Eastwood walks into the saloon and kills everyone. Just a taste: "The Republicans are corrupt, morally bankrupt, have no ideas, no principles, and are hoping upon hope that this latest distraction will help to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, the bleeding they care about is at the polls and not the bleeding in Iraq.")

So, getting back to Iraq -- while Bush has been pledging to tweak his strategy and trying to disavow the "stay the course" mantra--as if the criticism of him sprang from some irrational dislike of that phrase, rather than from his own staggering ineptitude -- others have been having serious, adult conversations about the best and most plausible course of action for the country. I'm not talking about McCain's call for more troops -- all the troops in the world will be to no avail as long as the civilian leadership is incompetent, as it clearly is. At the same time, though, simply arguing for withdrawal is not a respectable position either. So, why not kick off this round-up with everyone's favorite, Christopher Hitchens? I'll leave my thoughts on Hitchens for another post; for now I'll just note that he not only makes the obvious moral arguments for why we are obliged to try to see Iraq through to some sort of decent peace, having let all the genii out of the bottle, but also presents a hard-headed argument for why it is in our vital interest to do so, especially in light of the growing power of Islamists within Iraq:

[D]oes anyone want to argue that a Talibanized Iraq would not require our attention down the road if we left it behind us?

There are many different plans to reconfigure forces within Iraq and to accommodate, in one way or another, its increasingly tribal and sectarian politics. (Former Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith's suggestion, arising from his admirable book The End of Iraq, involves a redeployment to the successful and peaceful north, with the ability to answer requests for assistance from the central government and the right to confront al-Qaida forces without notice.) But all demands for an evacuation are based on the fantasy that there is a distinction between "over there" and "over here." In a world-scale confrontation with jihadism, this distinction is idle and false. It also involves callously forgetting the people who would be the first victims but who would not by any means be the last ones.

Again, the argument is not merely that Iraqis will fall victim to Taliban-like factions in Iraq, but that a precipitate US withdrawal from Iraq would turn that country into the new matrix or seedbed of Islamist terrorism.

So, given that rather glum reality (and I think Hitchens is probably right that it is a reality), what is to be done? Hitchens mentions one possibility, Peter Galbraith's plan. Another proposal has been set forth by
Gareth Stansfield in The Telegraph. Stansfield argues that the only viable solution is to divide Iraq into five federated regions:

[T]he ability to project power in Iraq has devolved, chaotically, to localised forces. The unitary state is on the verge of failure, if it has not actually failed already.

The Coalition, though, still seems to be wary of embracing a federal plan as a means to maintaining the country's integrity, even though the Iraqi parliament (dominated by Shi'a and Kurds) passed a bill earlier this month allowing federal regions to form (by majority vote in the provinces seeking merger).

The law, which unsurprisingly failed to win Sunni support, will be reviewed over the next 18 months in a bid to bring its opponents round.

So the next year and a half is crucial to designing a federal model that will be accepted by a majority of Iraqis. Several prominent observers, particularly in the US, have suggested a tripartite division of the country, with maps showing a neat arrangement of Kurdistan in the north, a Shi'a-dominated south, and a Sunni central zone.

But, if the intention is to build a stable political system, then "three regions" is simply not the way to do it. A three-way split would likely mean that the political process would be dominated by Kurds and Shi'as (as it is now) at the expense of the Sunnis, unless each region were given the power of veto — which itself would make any progress almost impossible to achieve.

Stansfield also notes that Baghdad creates a huge problem for a simple tripartite division, since it comprises significant numbers of both Shia and Sunni, and since it has been a center of violence:

With these requirements in mind, a three-region solution could create more problems than it resolves. But a system based upon five regions would seem to have more chance of succeeding. A five-region model could see two regions in the south, one based around Basra and one around the holy cities. Kurdistan and the Sunni region would remain, but Baghdad and its environs would form a fifth, metropolitan, region.

Under such a division, each region would need to build alliances and make compromises to achieve its particular objectives: Kurdistan, for instance, the most monolithic of the new "states", would need to find agreement with at least two of the other regions to achieve any particular objective. There would also be plenty of opportunity for cross-communal relationships emerging due to the existence of the metropolitan Baghdad and two Shi'a regions.

From what I can see, however, Stansfield never explains how this is going to bring stability to Baghdad. There are already major sectarian tensions and violence in the capital city; how is making it the center of a "metropolitan district" going to change that? Nevertheless, the rest of the plan seems to me more promising than a tripartite division.

For more on the plan for a fivefold division, see this
brief post by Oliver Kamm. In The Times of London last week, Tim Hames made an argument that Saddam is to blame for Iraq's fracturing into warring factions. For a response to this claim, see this post by Oliver Kamm and my (much shorter) discussion of it here (see especially the quote from Noah Feldman). For more on the growing rift between the US government and what central authority there is in Iraq (specifically Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki), see this AP article.

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Tempest in a teapot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Everyone's all over the now-notorious John Kerry "joke" -- you know, the "botched joke" that college students should study hard or "get stuck in Iraq".

CNN has the story here. Kerry himself has a response here. And the much ado in and around the blogosphere is here.

It was a stupid thing to say. He may be right, if I interpret his insinuation correctly, that many of the men and women in the armed forces, particularly the ones doing the fighting in Iraq, come from poor and uneducated backgrounds. This was a point vividly illustrated by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11, and it's a valid one. But his either/or is ridiculous. You don't either do well in college or head off to boot camp. The military isn't a collection of collegiate failures.

However, the huffing and puffing from Bush, McCain, and the various occupants of the right-wing insane asylum is outrageous, too. Kerry did not insult "every soldier serving in combat," as McCain suggested. Nor was his remark "insulting and shameful," as Bush suggested. It was just stupid, not least as it comes just a week before the midterms. Kerry should have known better than to provide Republicans with such ammunition.

They're blowing it out of proportion, of course, but they're desperate, and with many voters just now beginning to pay attention to politics, Kerry's "joke" gives Republicans something to cling on to as they struggle to present Democrats as soft on national security. Everything has been going the Democrats' way, but it's been a challenge to overcome the GOP-fabricated stereotypes that have long plagued them. With one "joke," Kerry has reminded voters that Democrats have been, or rather have been perceived to be, anti-military and soft on national security, certainly not the party to wage the war on terror or to deal effectively with the myriad threats America currently faces.

John Kerry, I believe, is a good and decent man. A hero. A proud veteran. I supported him enthusiastically in '04. But this is hardly what Democrats' need. This one "joke," badly presented and terribly miscalculated, gives Republicans a dash of hope when for all intents and purposes they had little hope left. They'll milk this until there's absolutely nothing left, and then some, and they'll use it to smear all Democrats with insinuated label of "traitor". With so many races so close, even a slight breeze could make all the difference. Let's hope not, but this "joke" could turn out to be just the gust of wind Republicans needed to make the midterms competitive again.


Regardless, it seems to me that the incident at the Allen campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia was far more serious than Kerry's "joke". If you missed it, here's the Post: "A Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen at a campaign rally in Charlottesville yesterday was shoved, put into a headlock and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers."

First the macaca comment and now this. Oh, and all that racism. The entire Allen campaign, from the senator on down, seems to amount to nothing but organized thuggery.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Election talk

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As some of you know, I'm a regular guest on Subject2Discussion, an excellent web radio show and downloadable podcast out of Las Vegas that airs every Tuesday from 10-12 pm ET. I was on last week, and I'll be on this evening for half an hour starting at 10:30. Shaun and I will be doing a "trick or treat" in anticipation of next week's midterm elections.

You can listen to the show live at LV Rocks (click on "Listen Now"). Or, you can listen to it later by clicking on "Podcasts" or by going to a separate S2D site here (no, you don't need an iPod). The show will open in your computer's media player.

It looks like I'll also be on next week at 8 pm to discuss the election results in real time. My good friend Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice will take over at 8:30.

I'll also be live-blogging the election next Tuesday, with regular updates throughout the evening and night as the results come in.

I hope you listen in to S2D and continue to check in at The Reaction for ongoing election coverage.

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Trick or treat

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Mike Luckovich of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

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Is morality undergirded by biology?

By Heraclitus

I always find attempts to find some basis for morality in evolutionary biology woefully misguided. At times I suppose I can see them as at least well-meaning, but usually I just find them annoying and risible. The pseudo-religious overtones of such attemtps are obvious enough; now that God is dead, or, to quote Nietzsche again, now that the study of the monkey has replaced the study of God, some mysterious but presumably all-powerful process called evolution must stand surety for a moral world order, must assure us that our moral intuitions have something other the accidents of history to back them up. Personally, I'm not buying it. There are some many obvious problems with this claim--why do people so rarely act as they ought to? Why are human beings so very good at ignoring injustice in their midst if it serves their interests to do so?--but one in particular I want to say a little more about.

But before I criticize the particular claim put forward below, I should also note that it's all to the good of morality that it not be the result of biological impulses. How can an action be moral or ethical, in any meaningful sense of the word, if it's not freely chosen? Again, the rump religiosity of the proponents of these theories becomes transparent in their eagerness to find some super-human authority in the cosmos who is making sure things turn out alright for them after all. If God can't be the cosmic parent tucking them in at night, maybe evolution can.

The New York Times has an article in today's paper about a new book arguing a version of this thesis. The book is called Moral Minds, and its author is Marc Hauser, a biologist at Harvard. I don't actually want to be too critical of the book, in large part because I don't trust The New York Times to give it a fair summary (aren't I obnoxious?). So, for instance, according to the article, Hauser seems to think that human beings are "hard-wired" for morality by evolution, where "morality" is understood as acting according to group norms. So, on this view, regarding oneself or others as individuals rather than members of a group (read: herd) is unnatural, and, presumably, immoral and bad. I don't want to assume that Hauser actually holds this view, but I do want to use the following paragraph from the article as an example of what I maybe find most ridiculous about attempts to ground morality in evolution.

Dr. Hauser believes that the moral grammar may have evolved through the evolutionary mechanism known as group selection. A group bound by altruism toward its members and rigorous discouragement of cheaters would be more likely to prevail over a less cohesive society, so genes for moral grammar would become more common.

So, cohesion is a social value that helps a society thrive and replicate its DNA (if we're going to take that absurdly reductionist view of human motivation, which most people arguing for an evolutionary basis for morality do). But that means that altruism stops once one goes beyond one's community. Cohesion within one's group is an evolutionary good, but altruism towards those outside it is not. The tribe that would be most successful in replicating its DNA would be the one that uses its internal cohesion to attack all the tribes they can, kill their males, and enslave and pregnate their females. Evolution would dictate empire, not democracy, and certainly not an international regime of human rights. Ancient Rome would be the most advanced society we've ever seen from a purely evolutionary point of view, and there would be no explanation for why humanity, or at least humanity in the West, moved from the morality of ancient Rome, a morality of imperial subjugation and slavery, to the morality of Christianity, which taught that every human being has absolute dignity because he or she is made in the image of God.

To put the matter more succintly, the Great White Shark has not evolved in millions of years. Why? Because it cannot kill any more efficiently than it already does. That's what nature is: animals literally eating each other alive. Trying to show that this natural world somehow constrains us to act morally strikes me as not only contemptibly slavish but ludicrously wrong-headed as well.

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America: Globalization's Loser?

By Heraclitus

Der Spiegel has an interesting series of excerpts from a best-selling book in Germany,
World War for Wealth: The Global Grab for Power and Prosperity," by Gabor Steingart, an editor of Der Spiegel. This particular article is especially interesting to Americans; it argues that the United States is in decline globally. Steingart focuses on the economic reality in the United States, and in particular shrinking incomes and, of course, the massage trade deficit, which includes individual trade deficits even with less developed countries like Russia and the Ukraine. Steingart identifies three key features of the US that have helped it rise to power but which have also set the stage for its disintegration, especially in the economic global market. The three traits are "a high concentration of optimism and daring," a "radically global" outlook that has defined the country from its inception, and the fact that "the United States is the only nation on earth that can do business globally in its own currency." But from these apparent strengths or virtues come the following weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

But there is a flip side to the coin. First, Americans are so optimistic that they often blur the line between optimism and naivete. Public, private and corporate debt far exceeds any previously known dimensions. Forever piously trusting in a future rosier than the present, millions of households are borrowing so much money that they end up endangering the very future they're looking forward to. The lower and middle classes have practically given up on putting aside any savings. They're going into the 21st century like a poverty-stricken, Third World family, living from hand to mouth without any financial reserves whatsoever.

Second, globalization is striking back. The United States has promoted the worldwide exchange of commodities like no other nation, and the result is that their local industry has begun to be eroded. Some production sectors -- such as the furniture industry, consumer electronics, many automobile part suppliers, and now computer manufacturers -- have left the country for good. In the recent past, free trade has primarily benefited the very rival states that are now mounting an economic offensive on the United States -- and which have cut off a large slice of America's global market share for themselves.

Third, the dollar doesn't just strengthen the United States; it also makes it vulnerable. The government has pumped its currency into the world economy so vigorously that the dollar can now be brought to the point of collapse by external forces - such as those in Beijing, for example. Former US President Bill Clinton spoke of a "strategic partnership." Current President George W. Bush would later speak of a "strategic rivalry." They meant the same thing. There's a form of dependence that obliges economic actors to cooperate in normal times. But when times change, there is the temptation to engage in a show of strength.

Incidentally, I'm not persuaded that China is the next global superpower. As readers probably know, for years now, if not decades, Chinese parents have been aborting female fetuses and giving birth to males--not exclusively, of course, but often enough that there is a major imbalance in the population between young males and young females. Large numbers of young men who have no chance of marrying are not good for a society. Expect crime and a generally destabilizing surge of discontent from them. And second, Chinese society is disproportionately elderly, and will only become more so over the next few decades (check out this animated pyramid tracking the population change in China between 1950 and 2050). So China will have major internal problems to deal with over the next half century, even if it can rid itself of its current class of kleptocratic overlords.

I don't know enough about economics to pronounce on the validity of his argument or arguments, but Steingart's piece is worth reading in full. Among other things, he makes a strong case that globalization, a set of trends that emerged in the 1970's, has been steadily eroding the American middle class and making the American working class poorer, even as it makes the wealthiest one-fifth of the country richer than ever, and thereby accelerates the fragmenting of American society into economic classes. You've probably heard that argument before, but Steingart makes it especially clearly and concisely.

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The cost of climate change

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've written about it many times here, over and over and over again. But here's a new perspective:

Failing to curb the impact of climate change could damage the global economy on the scale of the Great Depression or the world wars by spawning environmental devastation that could cost 5 to 20 percent of the world's annual gross domestic product, according to a report issued yesterday by the British government.

But don't look for the U.S. to take the lead, or indeed to do much of anything: "[T]o shift U.S. climate policy would entail policies that exact a price from politically influential and economically powerful industries." And that isn't about to happen anytime soon.

The BBC has an excellent article on the report here. And both the BBC and The Washington Post have good "in depth" features on climate change -- I recommend them both.


Some of my more recent posts on climate change:

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Target: Zawahiri

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It is being reported -- by ABC's The Blotter, for example -- that Ayman al-Zawahiri (perhaps al Qaeda's #1) was the target of a missile attack on a madrassa in Pakistan yesterday morning, missiles likely fired by a U.S. predator drone. "Between two and five senior al Qaeda militants were killed in the attack, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the U.K., according to Pakistani intelligence sources," but it seems doubtful that al-Zawahiri was there.

However: "Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News they believe they have 'boxed' Zawahiri in a 40-square-mile area between the Khalozai Valley in Bajaur and the village of Pashat in Kunar, Afghanistan. They hope to capture or kill him in the next few months."

You don't think they'd manage to capture or kill him by next Tuesday, do you?

November surprise, anyone?

(I do not apologize for the preceding snark. You all know how the game is played. You all know how the Bushies operate.)

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Civilian deaths in Afghanistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And, lest we forget, we must also be ever mindful of the human cost of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, forgotten Afghanistan. From Reuters:

A leading human rights group on Monday urged NATO to do more to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan, saying reports of increasing civilian deaths were "turning the local population against" the Western alliance...

Afghan authorities are investigating allegations that about 60 civilians were killed last week as a result of NATO operations in Kandahar province, where the Taliban was born. Local leaders and villagers said dozens more were wounded and 25 houses were razed during several hours of NATO bombing.

I'm not against NATO operations in Afghanistan -- indeed, I (and many others) have long argued that the war there should have taken priority over the misadventure in Iraq, if only Iraq hadn't become the obsessive focus of Bush's attention -- but, clearly, this latest development isn't good. With Afghanistan teetering on the brink of anarchy, with a national government under Karzai that is little more than a municipal government in Kabul, and with the Taliban and al Qaeda still very much a dangerous and influential presence in the region, it is imperative not only that the war go well for the allies but that Afghani hearts and minds be won over.

Killing civilians, however unintentional, isn't exactly the way to do that.

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