Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XLVII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new form of violence, a new level of brutality:

Three trucks rigged with chlorine bombs exploded in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province Friday, in the latest efforts by insurgents to use the toxic chemical to boost the lethal power of their attacks, U.S. military officials announced Saturday.

The U.S. officials said at least 350 people and seven U.S. soldiers were injured and two policemen were killed in the attacks. As many as 10 civilians may have been killed in two of the blasts near Fallujah, said Col. Sami Jabara, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior...

Friday's attacks were the latest in a string of bombings this year in which insurgents laced bombs with chlorine to boost their lethality. In February, insurgents blew up a truck transporting chlorine gas tanks in Taji, north of Baghdad, killing nine people. In January, another truck carrying explosives and chlorine tanks exploded near Ramadi, killing 16 people.

Now might be a good time to reiterate an important point, one that is often lost amidst the partisan rhetoric of American political discourse: Opposition to the Iraq War, to Bush's war strategy, including the surge, does not mean support for the opposition, for the insurgents and terrorists who continue to brutalize Iraq, attacking U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians with virulent abandon.

The pro-war spin, most aggressively (and shamelessly) promoted by Cheney, holds that support for the troops means support for the war (that is, for the war according to Bush) and that opposition to the war means both non-support for the troops and support for the other side (that is, the terrorists).

But opposition to the war does not mean capitulation to terrorism. Rather, opposition recognizes that the war is largely unwinnable, that gross mismanagement on the part of the warmongers has left the U.S. in an untenable position, and that a large-scale U.S. presence, not to mention an increasing U.S. presence, only makes the situation worse, that is, keeps Iraq in a state of perpetual violence from which it will not soon emerge.

Regardless, the use of chlorine bombs by insurgents indicates that the situation is worsening, despite all the optimistic happy talk about how the surge is working.

And, as I and others have said over and over again, there is no end in sight.

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Update on the Khmer Rouge tribunal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've written a couple of times already about Cambodia's efforts to set up a tribunal to examine the genocidal crimes committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge three decades ago, as well as to judge the perpetrators (those still alive) -- see here and here. When last I posted, ten days ago, "procedural differences" threatened to sink the process. Specifically, there were differences between the foreign and Cambodian judges on the application of international legal standards and local law.

But it now seems that a deal may soon be reached:

Cambodian and international judges have resolved most of their differences over procedures for a planned Khmer Rouge tribunal, court officials say.

But a key disagreement about the role of foreign lawyers remains unresolved...

A final agreement has once again proved elusive but [court officials] say that most issues now only need fine-tuning, and the threatened walk-out of international officials failed to materialise.

The judges have called a full meeting of legal officials to approve the rules at the end of April.

Let's hope that justice, at long last, prevails.

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Truth, Justice, and the American Way

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another great cartoon from the AJC's Mike Luckovich:

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Surge, surge, and more surge

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It looks like Petraeus wants to escalate the surge:

The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial "surge" of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.

The appeal -- not yet made public -- by General David Petraeus for a combat aviation unit would involve between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships, said the Pentagon sources. That would bring the planned expansion of US forces to close to 30,000 troops.

"This is the next shoe to drop," said one senior Pentagon official closely involved in the war planning, who requested anonymity because of prohibitions against publicly discussing internal deliberations. "But you cannot put five combat brigades in there and not have more aviation guys, military police, and intelligence units."

And yet "even supporters of the stepped-up US commitment in Iraq [have] criticized the Bush administration," including one of the more prominent advocates of the surge, indeed, one of the key strategists behind the very idea of the surge (as Slate's Fred Kaplan explained back in December):

"There is a problem in the way the administration reported the surge numbers to begin with," said Frederick W. Kagan, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "When they initially reported the numbers they only reported the combat strength of the brigades, and they did not count support troops" and other personnel that the operation would need.

"Petraeus has now requested what many thought would be needed to begin with," Kagan said, "but it looks like another surge."

Be careful what you wish far, it seems. The surge, a bad idea to begin with, is fast getting out of hand.

Where will it end? And how much more deception will Bush employ to keep his disastrous war not only going but expanding?

The Carpetbagger Report has more.

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Gonzo gone

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's firing (or "resignation") is inevitable, reports CBS News, "just a matter of time".

And -- no surprise here -- the firing of the federal attorneys was all about "partisan politics," according to one of the fired. They didn't "play ball" with Republicans.

Bush is "pugnacious," as usual, refusing to bow to public and political pressure, but he's likely just waiting for the right time to pull the trigger.

We won't have to wait long.

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The spy who testified before Congress

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And here she is. Valerie Plame. Her expression -- a look of what-the-fuck exasperation -- is priceless.

(Photo from the Globe.)


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Why Hillary can't win

By Libby Spencer

The blunt triangulation that worked to put her husband in office has become a double-edged sword and Hillary has cut her throat on it. Bill won before Blogtopia was invented and while Hillary has embraced "teh internets" as a political tool, she apparently doesn't yet understand that the days you could equivocate according to your audience are long over.

Either she's for staying in Iraq or she's not. Either she's for gay rights or she's not. She can't have it both ways and in trying to do so, has effectively written herself out of the race.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Covert Plame

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In testimony before the House Government and Oversight Committee today, outed CIA agent Valerie Plame stated that she was in fact, and contrary to right-wing claims (lies), covert at the time her identity was made public by conservative pundit Robert Novak.

Think Progress has the video here (along with a round-up of the right's "false claims").


See also WaPo: "It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover," Plame told the committee. Her identity was blown "carelessly and recklessly".

See also our co-blogger Libby Spencer over at The Impolitic, as well as updates on Plame's testimony from Barbara O'Brien at The Mahablog.



See Taylor Marsh: "Let's also remember that this whole event stemmed around Joseph Wilson deflating the Bush administration's case for war. Nothing is clearer."

See also David Corn, Steve Benen, Cernig, and, on the right (and questioning Plame's covertness), James Joyner.

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A positive sign of progress in China

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC:

China's parliament has wrapped up its annual session, passing a landmark law to increase private property rights.

It also approved a bill ending preferential tax treatment for foreign firms, setting a standard rate of 25%.

Premier Wen Jiabao ended the session as he had begun it last week, promising a move to more sustainable growth.

He also raised issues such as corruption, regional ties and international fears over China's military build-up.

Very good. Now how about some democracy and human rights?


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Bleeding Mitt Romney

By Creature

Conservative Hugh Hewitt, author of the new book: A Mormon in the White House? Ten Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney, stopped by The Situation Room yesterday to help to answer the question: Are American's wary of electing a Mormon President?

The short answer from Hugh was yes, they are wary, but this is only because the Left is after Romney with "vicious" and "bigoted" attacks. And why would the Left want to attack Romney? Because Romney is the "conservative in the race," and as a result they have the "most interest in bleeding him." Whatever that means. So, as Romney moves hard to the Right, his water-carrier points Left. Except as I recall that's not how it played out at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference.

Outside the ballroom at the Omni Shoreham, a man was strolling about in a dolphin costume and a T-shirt declaring "Flip Romney: Just another Flip Flopper From Massachusetts." The porpoise was ready to burst his blowhole: "First he was pro-choice, now magically he's pro-life. First he's for gun control, then he's against it."

Other CPAC attendees handed out full-size yellow Romney flip-flops announcing, "1992: Romney voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas for president." On each chair was a "Romney multiple-choice exam" about gun control, taxes, abortion and gay rights; the answer to each question was "both A and B." Another flier juxtaposed Romney's photo with John Kerry's, warning that Romney "told Planned Parenthood he supports Roe v Wade!"

Yes, Hugh, this was at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The Left may be pricking Romney here and there, but it's your own kind that is doing the "bleeding." Please leave the Left out of this one.

Update: CNN has the Hewitt transcript up, and I'm sure this is just a mistake--and I did double check with my DVR, but where Hewitt accuses the Left of "bleeding" Romney the CNN transcriber uses the word "building." Like I said, clearly a mistake, unless of course the term "bleeding" was a bit too "Passion of the Christ" for CNN. Who knows?

BLITZER: Were these attacks against him on policy issues or because he's a Mormon?

HEWITT: A Mormon. These are specifically Mormon. He's also been attacked for being a flip-flopper from the left. That's not a conservative critique of him, either.

Now, there are concerns. When you have a Reuters poll that says 43 percent of Americans have some question, obviously that's going to be on the right as well as the left.

But the public attacks that have been the most vicious -- and I go to the "Slate" one as probably the most bigoted attack -- have come from the left. I think it's because he's the conservative in the race, as you know. And, as a result, they have the most interest in building [bleeding] him and they're doing their best to try to do so. [emphasis on building/bleeding is all mine]

Complete CNN transcript here.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Trial of Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour, Part 1: Welcome to the Circus

By Grace

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up! Step right up! Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Media Circus! Dare you step into the tent? Behold feats of daring that will astound and amaze! See creatures that will dazzle and terrify you! You won't believe your eyes.

So, hurry, hurry, hurry! It's a limited engagement, folks, right in the heart of Chicago! Step right up! Come and see the Media Circuuuuuus!

(May not be appropriate for children under the age of ten).

Has anyone
seen the coverage on Conrad Black's upcoming trial recently?

Silly me, of course you have. If you live in Canada or Britain, you've probably been drowned in front-page reports (I swear, if I see another "rise and fall" headline...) - not only of the charges of fraud and tax evasion (among other things), as well as the current jury selection process, but every little aspect of Black's life. From his days at Upper Canada College, expelled for selling stolen exams, to his attempt at regaining the
Canadian citizenship that he once publicly renounced for a British title.

Even his wife, Barbara Amiel-Black, has drawn much attention for her extravagant spending habits; most news items reference a 2002
Vogue article (I actually have a copy of the issue), in which she was quoted as saying, "...I have an extravagance that knows no bounds." Some have alleged that her lust for a lavish lifestyle, and her husband's desire to provide it for her, was one of the reasons that Black had taken the funds from his own company, Hollinger International.

Meanwhile, Black's lawyer, Edward "Fast Eddie" Greenspan, has been
gabbing to the press, much to his own detriment. Yesterday, he told journalists that the U.S. judge, Amy St. Eve, had "certified" him to be "stupid"; St. Eve stated that she had never denounced Greenspan as such and gave him a dressing-down in court. That's trouble already: Greenspan is a well-known Canadian lawyer, but knows little about U.S. law. Strike one. Getting on the wrong side of the judge? Strike two. Oops.

The media certainly has shone a spotlight on this case, but the Blacks and their entourage are making no attempt to move out from under it; in fact, they appear as if they're getting quite comfortable there.

But on the cold, hard evidence of the trial? Well, it's hard to discern what's fact from fiction at this point, but based on statements from employees and shareholders of Black's former media empire, it looks like the Lord of Crossharbour is going to have a difficult fight on his hands.

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It's Mugabe who should be terminated

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following up on the story of the brutal assault on opposition activists in Zimbabwe, the tyrant Mugabe has in predictable fashion come out swinging:

Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has said Western critics of his rule can "go hang", in response to accusations of mistreatment of opposition leaders.

Mr Mugabe said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had triggered violence which led to arrests and alleged beatings of its leaders...

"When they criticise the government when it tries to prevent violence and punish perpetrators of that violence we take the position that they can go hang," he said.

Lovely. (And complete bullshit, of course.)

The good news here is that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai "now out of danger and has suffered no permanent brain or scalp damage".

The bad news is that Mugabe is still in power.

(For a first-hand account of the Harare rally, and the police brutality, see here.)

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below. Thanks.]


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Ecstasy bust

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last Friday, Toronto police made a huge drug bust in the northeast part of the city. According to CityNews, a local media outlet: "at least 140,000 Ecstasy pills and 214 kilograms of MMDA, worth an estimated $21.4 million on the streets," as well as "a cutting agent, which allows the drug makers to turn out even more pills using a kind of filler. If that had been added, the entire haul could have been worth an unbelievable $40 million." Deputy Police Chief Tony Warr stated the obvious: "This would be a significant dent in the supply for Toronto."

And to make matters even worse: "Two children -- an eight-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy -- were both living inside the house. The lab was in the basement. They've been turned over to the Children's Aid Society and checked out in hospital as a precaution."

Now, I tend to think that drugs such as ecstasy should be legalized. People -- including young people -- are going to take them anyway, and although high-profile busts like this one arouse public attention and suggest that the good guys are winning the war against the bad guys, and reinforce the conventional notion that drugs are bad and must remain a prominent target of law enforcement, it seems to me that the war on drugs, an unwinnable endeavour, should be replaced by a regime of regulation and control -- and education. Ecstasy is bad for you -- and other drugs are far worse. (And it's even worse given the various cutting agents, the other drugs, unknown to users, that are often added to what is a relatively harmless foundational drug, MMDA or MDMA.) But so is alcohol -- and so is much of what we are free to do in a free society. It is education that allows us to make informed choices, including to take calculated risks. If after being educated you still want to do E, you should be free to do so.

Where to draw the line, though? Should cocaine be legalized? Heroin? Meth? I'll leave line-drawing for another time. Suffice it to say that drugs like ecstasy could be legalized and lines could be drawn. This would be easier in Canada than in the U.S. We are much more liberal up here, after all, and it likely won't be long before marijuana is legalized (or "decriminalized"). Other drugs could follow. The point is to recognize that the war on drugs, the enforcement of illiberal laws that don't work, cannot succeed. Once that line is crossed, it will be possible to discuss in concrete terms what drugs should be legalized and how best to do so -- and to begin to educate ourselves (and our children) honestly about the risks associated with drug use.


But back for a moment to the CityNews article:

The oh-so-typical fearmongering is there, too: "[T]here was evidence that whoever was making the pills was designing them specifically to appeal to young teens. They found pill presses ready to imprint pictures of popular cartoon characters on the Ecstasy. 'These drugs are widely available at school dances,' reveals Det. Sgt. David Malcolm. 'They're widely available at raves.' Cops are warning parents to keep an eye out for anything suspicious."

Quite the amazing revelations: Ecstasy is available at dances and raves. (Obviously.) Pills are imprinted with cute pictures to lure in young people. (They all have "pictures" on them. But you think that's why teens take them?)

This isn't the sort of uneducated nonsense that often accompanies mainstream news stories about drugs, and especially the "party" drugs like ecstasy, but even here there is no effort to present any other side of the issue than the unequivocal anti-drug one. There is no attempt at all to educate.

Except this: The article ends with a lesson on "How to Spot An Ecstasy Lab In Your Neighbourhood". Seriously. Go read it. I admit that "[a] strong smell of chemicals coming from the premises or the garage" should arouse suspicion, but several of the other points are dangerously Orwellian:

-- "Tenants who appear to be overly secretive, keeping their distance from neighbours and frequently displaying paranoid or odd behaviour."

-- "Smokers who are always going outside to have a cigarette."

-- Occupants who "frequently pay their bills with cash".

-- "Be especially suspicious if they start to spread the garbage around on other people's lawns to make the contents less obvious."

Yes, by all means, let's all spy on one another and report any and all "suspicious" behaviour to the police. This is what happens when fearmongering trumps education and when a losing war on drugs loses control. If drugs and drug use were out in the open, if they were able to be discussed openly and intelligently, and if drugs like ecstasy were legal, this sort of culture of secrecy and paranoia wouldn't exist nearly to the extent that it does even in a relatively liberal place like Toronto.

Freedom demands much of the free and enlightenment does not come easily.

But the alternatives only keep us in darkness.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Credit where credit is due

By Creature

Presidential posturing? Perhaps. Do I care? Not one bit. Biden does angry very, very well.

(H/T: C&L -- Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Hugo 'n' Rudy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy. This doesn't look good: "Rudolph Giuliani's law firm lobbies for Citgo Petroleum Corp., a unit of the state-owned oil company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the U.S.'s chief antagonist in the Western Hemisphere."

I tend to agree with Shakes that this is "passingly amusing," if not necessarily damning. Still, "it just reaffirms that Giuliani is a hypocritical, integrity-challenged corporate whore". And like she says, if this were a Democrat -- say, Obama -- with this sort of connection to Chavez, the right would be going "absolutely apeshit".

For an excellent post on Rudy's problems, including this one, see Tim F. at Balloon Juice: "The potential self-destructiveness of the Giuliani campaign is almost impossible to put into words."

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Frog porn, German-style

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Globe: "Mating moor frogs are seen in a pond in the suburbs of Leipzig, Germany."


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A lot of dirt under the rug

By Capt. Fogg

I don't remember whether it came before or after relaxing arsenic standards for drinking water, but one of George W. Bush's first executive orders was to arrogate unto himself and former presidents and vice presidents the power to hide the evidence of their misdeeds. Presidential records might seem to be the property of the folks who pay presidents to work for them, but the party that used to say they would run the country like a business has no intention of letting the public know what they do and for reasons even the less skeptical are starting to see. To quote from Orwell's 1984, "Ignorance is strength." He stays strong as long as we stay ignorant.

At first I thought the idea was to protect his father from information about the Iran-Contra affair, but it's obvious he was doing what past leaders from the Caesars to the Communists did: making sure history was on his side by writing it.

One of the few glimmers of hope coming from our new Congress is a bill co-sponsored by chair of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA.) The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 is being debated in the house as I write this.

"There are those who would like to rewrite history, and to the extent we can keep that from happening, I think this bill goes a long way," says Waxman. He's right, and we have a long way to go.

Updates and more information at The Gavel.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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British leadership on global warming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's an impressive initiative from across the pond (from where I am):

Britain on Tuesday became the first country to propose legislation setting binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions as it stepped up its campaign for a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

In its draft Climate Change Bill, the government said carbon dioxide emissions had to be cut by at least 60 percent by 2050, set out five-year carbon budgets to reach the target and created an independent monitoring committee to check annual progress.

I haven't yet looked into the details of the legislation -- both opposition parties, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, find the bill flawed but generally approve of it -- but it seems like a good start. And possibly more. Possibly the start of an international effort to follow Britain's lead.

Conservative criticism has focused on the timing of the targets, not on the essence of the legislation. Conservatives prefer annual targets to "five-year carbon budgets". But Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth still expressed his support: "We have been calling for a Climate Change Bill and today's publication is a welcome step forward." And his party is with him: "[Conservative Leader] David Cameron has pushed climate change to the top of the political agenda."

Yes, there is consensus not just in the scientific community around the world but across the spectrum of British politics as well.

The right-wing, business-friendly Telegraph was not amused, but see The Independent and The Guardian:

Something of the spirit of 1997 surrounded yesterday's publication of the climate-change bill, a sense that politics can still hope to change the world for the better. A government whose confidence is rotting after a decade in power, that is stuck in Iraq, worried about public-service performance and today facing a big parliamentary rebellion over nuclear weapons, is putting forward legislation of tremendous potential and ambition. It is doing so partly on grounds of crude politics. It has to compete with a Conservative party determined to make the issue its own, as well as Liberal Democrats who say that it was always theirs. But the government also knows that attempting to limit climate change is the right thing to do. The bill represents a response to a threat which is real and growing, and which will change human existence as people now understand it. There can be no nobler challenge for politicians than this.

Brilliantly put. I could not agree more.

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The future is seaweed

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Haaretz:

The dramatic increase in the price of fuel in recent years has succeeded where many environmental groups have failed: It convinced many firms around the world to seek alternative sources of energy. One of the cheapest alternatives, already commercially available, is the production of fuel from a variety of agricultural produce, mostly corn.

However, the increase in the demand for corn has also caused a significant price hike and developing nations' populations are experiencing difficulties obtaining corn for consumption.

It is now possible that new technology may offer a solution to the problem, which Israeli firm Seambiotic Ltd. revealed earlier this week. The technology allows the production of commercial quantities of fuel from a surprising source, one that will not undermine global food sources: seaweed.

Okay, I'm intrigued. How does it work?

The new technology unveiled by the firm at an international conference on marine biotechnology that opened on Sunday in Eilat, allows the industrial cultivation of seaweed through the use of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Instead of allowing the polluting gas -- one of the main contributors to global warming -- to escape into the atmosphere, the gas passes through a filtration process and enters a pool, where it feeds microscopic seaweed. The seaweed is used to produce fuel.

Well, why not?

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the point where global warming can be brought under control, where global temperatues can be stabilized and not inflated by reckless human behaviour, requires a multifaceted approach that includes cleaner cars, carbon trading, renewable energy sources, and precisely this sort of outside-the-box innovation.

I hope it works.

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When your friends turn against you

By Michael J.W. Stickings


The Australian is reporting that change may be coming to Pakistan:

THE US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power...

Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials -- previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism -- outlined a succession plan to replace him.

US officials told The New York Times the plan would see the Vice-Chief of the Army, Ahsan Saleem Hyat, take over from General Musharraf as head of the military and former banker Mohammedmian Soomro installed as president, with General Hyat wielding most of the power.

Sorry, Pervez. It just ain't workin' out, you know? I mean, I know we said all those nice things about you -- heck, you even got to go on The Daily Show and get some laughs -- but, well, shit, you're not doin' a good enough job gettin' the terrorists for us. I mean, we'd do it ourselves but, you know, we're kinda busy in Iraq. Surgin'.

We want our kind of people running your godforsaken country, get it?

Or, hey, maybe we're just fucking with your mind.

Trust us. We know what we're doing. Everything will work out for the best.

Or not: "This PNAC-driven foreign policy has the anti-Midas touch of absolutely screwing up everything within reach." This would likely be no exception.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iraq 101: A Refresher

By Creature

Dick Cheney took the United States to war in Iraq because he wanted to:

a) fight the scourge of global terrorism
b) bring democracy to region (the shining beckon theory)
c) acquire the 2nd largest oil reserves in the world

Extra Credit: Name that Oil Company (circa 1998)

“Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas — reserves I’d love _________ to have access to.”

Answer key: (c), duh; (Chevron)

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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You might want to avoid Zimbabwe for your next family vacation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yet another example of the brutality of the Mugabe regime. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and others, 50 activists in all, were arrested by police during a prayer rally on Sunday and were horribly beaten by the police:

As the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader and the other activists were led away from the Harare court to a hospital for treatment, Mr Tsvangirai condemned their treatment by police.

"It's a horrible assault. A sadistic attack on defenceless people," he said.

Speaking to the BBC from the hospital, MP Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Mr Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC, described how he and his colleagues were beaten up.

"I can hardly walk. They were hitting me on the buttocks and on my legs, the fibula. I was assaulted while I was lying prostrate. There were others who were assaulted while standing and in the process tried to defend themselves, which is why we've got so many people with fractures of the hand and so forth.

"It was the most vicious assault I have ever witnessed," he said.

Mr Biti said Mr Tsvangirai was in "a very bad condition".

"I saw him being assaulted. There was a time when for 15 minutes they were assaulting him with their baton sticks non-stop. He has got a cracked skull and his face is puffed up and he has bruises all over. He must have passed out at least three times."

And they still face the criminal charge of "incitement to violence".

The sooner the world is rid of Robert Mugabe, the better.

(The Guardian has more here, The Washington Post here.)


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Brass bigotry

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So Chairman of the JCS Gen. Peter Pace thinks that "homosexual acts" are "immoral," eh? (And that homosexuality should be prosecuted in the military (and in society?).)

Over to you, John Aravosis: "No, I'd say 'immoral' is letting our own injured and maimed soldiers sleep in their own urine when you all knew about it and didn't give a damn. Immoral is lying to the American people in order to get us into a war. Immoral is sending hundreds of thousands of US soldiers into battle without the proper armor. Immoral is risking the lives of our soldiers by still not having a plan for victory or exit."

And to you, Pam Spaulding: "Well it's nice to see a refreshing, frank, Tim Hardaway kind of anti-gay statement coming from the military leadership, which has presided over countless immoral military acts in Iraq. Way to go."

Yeah, and way to fight a war for freedom.


Update: Pace is now saying that his comments reflected his "personal moral views," just "some personal opinions about moral conduct".

Incredibly lame.

Pace doesn't just support the military's ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy, he thinks homosexuality is immoral and that homosexuals should be persecuted. In other words, he's a bigot.


Update 2: Pelosi is right: "I think the military should carefully consider changing the policy. We need the most talented people, we need the language skills, we need patriotic Americans who exist across the board in our population. We don’t need moral judgment from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs."

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Dick Cheney deserves a punch in the mouth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Seriously. With all that's been going on at Walter Reed, and elsewhere, and with all the evidence that Bush is screwing the vets, Dick Cheney still has the nerve -- although one wonders if he feels anything at all, if he thinks anything other than what he is programmed to think -- to accuse Congress, the Democratic Congress (of course), not only of "not supporting the troops" but actually of "undermining them" (emphasis mine).


Yes, this is exactly what the warmongers like Cheney mean by "supporting the troops": Not sending them off to risk their lives in a war that makes no sense, not denying them adequate care upon their return, but supporting Bush and funding his wars.

Supporting Bush = Supporting the troops.

Get it?

And if you don't support Bush and fund his wars (with a blank cheque, no less), you don't support the troops. In fact, you undermine them. And you support the terrorists. You're with the enemy.

Not supporting Bush = Supporting the terrorists.

See how it goes?

It's so fucking ridiculous. (And so fucking desperate.) Is there a bigger asshole in U.S. politics than Dick Cheney?

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Monday, March 12, 2007

What's up with Chuck Hagel?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, who knows? He may or may not run for president -- as the Omaha World-Herald reported today, he is "postponing a decision" on his political future:

The decorated Vietnam veteran and chief Republican critic of the war in Iraq today stopped short of making a decision about either pursuing a White House bid or seeking a third Senate term. He said he wants to keep his options open.

"I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date," he said during a press conference at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Several political analysts said Hagel could have a much tougher time running for president by waiting."

He's a substantial long shot. For the Republican nomination, literally, the Republicans would have to decide to completely abandon (President) Bush and the Iraq war. And it would probably tear the party apart," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

A Hagel candidacy would be a statement candidacy, not a viable candidacy with any chance of winning the nomination. He is right about the Iraq War, and some Republicans (and perhaps many) may privately agree with him, but the Republican Party is generally not a party of mavericks (see McCain, 2000). And Hagel isn't just a maverick, he's an outspoken critic of the president and the party's orthodoxy on the key political issue of the moment. He's more conservative than his sympathizers on the other side -- including the author of this blog post -- would often care to admit, but there is no forgiveness among Republicans. And I suspect Hagel doesn't want any right now.

And yet I hope he runs. I may disagree with his positions on most issues, but I admire him and find him to be one of the most credible of America's public figures. With no chance of winning the nomination, at least he'd be in a position to speak his mind and to demand of the leading Republican candidates -- Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Brownback -- that they defend their pro-war positions on Iraq free of nonsensical spin.

Although, come to think of it, this might be good for the GOP. So scrap that. I hope he doesn't run. I hope he remains a voice of reason in the Senate, a voice of sanity in a party that hardly has any left, a thorn in Bush's side. And I hope he leaves the stage of wannabe presidents to the stale cast of characters who have already made up their minds and decided to run. Let them fight it out, let them support Bush, let them defend the Iraq War or propose what to do next, let them pander to the GOP base on the right-wing fringe of American society.

Why should Hagel sully his credibility by joining them?

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"Where the hell were you in the Vietnam War?"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So asked decorated Vietnam veteran and former senator Max Cleland of draft-dodging warmonger Dick Cheney -- Crooks and Liars has the video and transcript here.

The full quote: "Where the hell were you in the Vietnam War? If you had gone to Vietnam like the rest of us, maybe you would have learned something about war. You can't keep troops on the ground forever. You gotta have a mission. You gotta have a purpose. You can't keep sending 'em back and back and back with no mission and no purpose. As a matter of fact, the real enemy is Al Qaeda, it's Al Qaeda stupid, it's not in Iraq."

The stupid -- Bush and Cheney both -- didn't go to war. The stupid sent others to fight their disastrous war in Iraq, to die for their lies and delusions. The stupid want still more war in Iraq. The stupid want war with Iran. The stupid have blood all over their hands.

The stupid don't have a fucking clue.

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Kagan's surge of sibling loyalty

By Libby Spencer

Robert Kagan must be plenty tired from heaving those huge buckets of White House water in this piece but I guess it's worth it to him to hear the applause from the few remaining true believers. This would have been funny as an Onion satire but it takes on a truly pathetic patina as a "serious" opinion piece.

Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.

Such is the disdain of the neo-cons for us little people that Kagan apparently believes we haven't noticed the political opposition has been ignored and circumvented -- not surmounted -- and only a thoroughly deluded partisan could describe the deployment of about 5,000 men into a city of 7 million as "flowing." Trickle would be more apt.

As for his substantial proof that the surge is having a significant effect, he makes vague statements about increased optimism among the remaining population and cites the disappearance of miltias within the city without noting that the bulk of the educated middle class Iraqis have long abandoned their country and the militias have not been disbanded, but have merely regrouped outside the limits of our reach. His "evidence" is peppered with a lot of ifs and maybes and willfully ignores that for the "stricter clear and hold" strategy to work in the long term would require US troops to remain in Baghdad for years, not months.

In short, Robert is saying he completely buys into his brother Fred's wishful thinking. Fred, you must recall for yourself, since the WaPo fails to mention it, is the author the surge strategy. Unfortunately, wishful thinking may buy the neo-cons some time, but it won't win a war. Nonetheless, I'll answer Robert's question.

If I'm wrong and the surge succeeds, I'll send sweets and flowers to his brother myself, along with my hearty congratulations. I'd ask in turn, if the critics are right and the surge fails, will he and his cabal of the clueless finally wake up and admit the neo-con dream has become a nightmare?

Meanwhile, for the ultimate short version of Kagan's column, see Heretik's not to be missed post.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Israel recalls "naked ambassador"

By Heraclitus

Okay, I'm just pilfering this title from the
BBC story. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was going to be about some kind of nudist diplomat who insisted on greeting local officials in his birthday suit. Not quite.

Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked apart from bondage gear.

Wait, "apart from bondage gear"? Meaning like, he was apart from, not near bondage gear? Why is that detail in the sentence. Oh -- here's what they mean:

Reports say he was able to identify himself to police only after a rubber ball had been removed from his mouth.

I guess this is what a John Le Carré novel would look like if it were made into a movie by Quentin Tarantino.

Meanwhile, I know diplomats are known for being understated, but Israeli foreign ministry spokeswoman Zehavit Ben-Hillel takes this to a whole new level:

"We're talking about behaviour that is unbecoming of a diplomat."

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The Halliburton move

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So Halliburton is planning on moving its corporate headquarters (and its CEO, Dave Lesar) from Texas to Dubai. Interesting.

At the announcement yesterday, Lesar claimed that the move would "bring more balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio," allowing it to expand its operations throughout the Middle East, but, needless to say, questions arise, not least with respect to taxes. As one lobbyist put it: "If there's a huge tax shift, then it's taking money from U.S. taxpayers while they're taking no-bid contracts." It may make good business sense to move overseas, but, given the company's image and reputation as a Cheney-friendly war profiteer, this doesn't look good at all.

Some of the company's critics are not amused -- and rightly so. For example, Sen. Leahy: "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years. At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash."

And here's Time's Karen Tumulty, at Swampland, who asks the right questions: "Is this about tax breaks? Getting beyond the reach of congressional subpoenas? And what about all that sensitive information that Halliburton has had access to? At a minimum, reincorporating in Dubai would mean that Halliburton will be paying less taxes to the U.S. Treasury, even as it collects billions from government contracts." Halliburton may not reincorporate, but it looks like the House will investigate.

The whole thing stinks.

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I'm with Chuck

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's time for Gonzo to go: "Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man. But he either doesn't accept or doesn't understand that he is no longer just the president's lawyer, but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution, even when the president should not want it to be so. And so this department has been so political that I think for the sake of the nation, Attorney General Gonzales should step down."

Nice? Whatever.

The point is that federal prosecutors have been fired and that the FBI "broke the law in order to conduct secret surveillance on Americans," as Libby put it the other day. And so much else besides -- see this NYT editorial for an overview of Gonzo's many transgressions while in office.

(Although, as Christy reminds us, it's important to look at who really calls the shots in the White House.)

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A krazy pardon

By Michael J.W. Stickings

More from Krazy Kristol:

In a piece in The Weekly Standard, the neocon rag of which he is the editor, Bill Kristol argues that Bush should pardon Libby... now.

The trial "should not have been brought in the first place," and Libby (like "any Bush-Cheney official") never stood a chance in a D.C. court. Moreover: "There was no underlying crime and Libby was not responsible for the appearance of Valerie Plame's name in Robert Novak's column." Therefore:

And now is the time for it. If the president does intend to pardon Libby, there is no reason to wait. The president will learn nothing important about the case during the appeals process that he doesn't already know... The argument for continuing to stay out of it is presumably that the verdict could be overturned on appeal, and Bush wouldn't have to make a tough decision. But the core of the injustice -- that the case was brought at all -- was produced by a dereliction of duty by the executive branch. Bush is the head of the executive branch. He should rectify that earlier mistake -- not hope some judges take him off the hook.

And" "Bush won't be able to 'stay out of it.' Others will continue to place his White House at the very heart of it, as the Libby appeals move forward." A pardon would thus be good both for Bush and for the country (and presumably also for Libby):

Bush has an interest in being as strong an executive as possible for the remainder of his presidency. So does the country. This argues for an immediate pardon. Everyone who would be outraged by a pardon now would in any event spend the next year and a half being outraged at the prospect of a postelection pardon. But many of those who are demoralized now by Libby's conviction, and by the administration's passivity in defense of its people and policies, would be reinvigorated by a pardon.

Okay, this is all predictable -- but is it krazy?

Perhaps not. If Bush is intent on pardoning Libby, he might as well do it now -- why wait? Although there is something to be said for letting the case run its course through the justice system. And I don't quite see how a pardon would allow Bush to be the "strong" executive Kristol desires him to be "for the remainder of his presidency". A pardon would only be defensible if Bush, like Kristol, considers the entire case to be a sham (or if Bush decides not to let Libby take the fall). If so, however, a pardon would require Bush to explain why he considers the entire case to be a sham. Is he prepared to do that? I suspect not. Of course, Bush could pardon Libby and refuse to defend the pardon regardless of whether or not he considers the entire case to be a sham. He and his spinmeisters could claim that Libby has been the victim of a witch hunt, for example, or somehow that justice has not been served by the guilty verdict. I suspect, however, that Bush would be widely criticized for pardoning Libby regardless of the reason for doing so, regardless of the spin. The "demoralized" on the right would celebrate a pardon, perhaps, and some may even be "reinvigorated" by a pardon, but with Bush's popularity so low and the media finally doing their job and subjecting his decisions to intense scrutiny (on occasion, at least), I suspect that the outrage at a pardon, which would be seen as yet another example of Bush's refusal to take responsibility for his administration and to hold accountable both himself and those who work for him, would be significantly greater than Kristol assumes.

To be sure, a pardon would provoke outrage beyond the ranks of the "demoralized" no matter when it was issued. A pardon after the 2008 election, or on Bush's way out of office in January 2009, would arouse a good deal of cynicism. But, for Bush, I don't see how pardoning Libby now is the slam dunk Kristol makes it out to be. (For more, see Michael Isikoff and Richard Wolffe at Newsweek -- a pardon may not come soon.)

I go back and forth on this. I think Libby is being scapegoated and that his conviction serves to distract attention away from the crime that preceded the covering up. The focus needs to be on the crime -- and particularly on who knew what and when and who did what and when (that is, it would seem, on Dick Cheney). It could be argued that a pardon, particularly a premature one, would re-focus attention on the crime -- a pardon would not bring about closure, it would only beg further investigation. But it could also be argued that allowing the case to run its course through the justice system would prompt an investigation regardless.

Either way, it does seem to me that the case against a pardon is much stronger than the case for one. Libby broke and law and was found guilty. That ought to take priority over partisan political considerations on both the left (pardon so as to expose the wretchedness of Bush's presidency once more) and the right (pardon because there never was a crime or to free Bush from this cloud over his presidency or to reinvigorate the demoralized).

(For an excellent articulation of the case against a pardon (and against the case for a pardon on the right), see The Anonymous Liberal.)

Did I say "cloud"? Yes -- and that's what Kristol said on Fox yesterday morning: "I mean, it’s going to be hanging out there. Not to pardon him and to go into a defensive crouch, which is where the White House is now, is to leave that cloud hanging over his White House and over the war." (From Think Progress, which has the video.)

That really is krazy, and Juan Williams put it well in response: "But don’t you think -- I mean, look. The cloud exists. And if he were to pardon, he would exacerbate all those tensions. In fact, I think he would -- it would be more than a cloud. It would be a veil at that point, because people would say there is no accountability in this administration for their actions and they excuse their friends."

Kristol is krazy if he thinks a pardon would remove the cloud. It wouldn't. It would only be more of the same from a president who thinks he is right about everything and yet doesn't want to be accountable for anything at all.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fairly unbalanced

By Libby Spencer

I might have added this to my Kondrake post as an update but it's simply so brilliant it deserves a post of its own as the must read of the day. Jurassicpork offers some clues as to "why the Nevada Democratic Caucus pulled out of Fox 'News’s' proposed coverage of the Democratic Presidential debate" and has assembled perhaps the largest collection of Fox News faux pas screen captures in the history of Blogtopia.

Trust me on this. Go read.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XLVI

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A round-up of death and destruction:

-- "A car bomb exploded Sunday in central Baghdad near a truck carrying Shiite pilgrims returning home from commemorating a sacred holiday, killing at least 20 people and injuring 25, a day after Iraq and its neighbors expressed their commitment to bolster Iraq's security."

-- "In mainly Shiite Karrada, a second car bomb exploded in front of a Sunni mosque, killing one and injuring four, said police."

-- "In Mosul, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a suicide bomber walked into the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni political group, and blew himself up, killing four, including three guards, and wounding another two, said Mohammed Shakir al-Ghannam, a party official in Mosul."

And so it goes. Enjoy your Sunday.


Update: The AP puts the death toll of the Baghdad car bombing at 31 (at least).

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Bad vodka

By Michael J.W. Stickings

When in Russia, avoid the samogon. With Putin having tripled the price of vodka while in office, Russians have been turning to this black market moonshine as an alcohol-delivering alternative. As the BBC reports, however, samogon is also called "the yellow death," and for good reason. Drinkers of samogon -- which the BBC correspondent says has a bouquet of "rocket fuel with a touch of boot polish" and which may contain a medical disinfectant as an additive -- turn "a vile shade of yellow," succumb to liver disease, and, in some cases, die. Some estimate as many as "10,000 poison cases and 1,000 dead" around the country.

An interesting and horrifying glimpse into the other Russia.

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Dude, Where's My Tape?

By Creature

The reviews are in and Dude's a hit! Miami criminal defense lawyer David O. Markus raves:This movie is better than "the Keystone cops. You can't help but be suspicious." U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke jumps on the Dude buzz-wagon calling Dude: "Incredulous!" and "Difficult for me to understand." Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald agrees: "It is difficult to put into words how extraordinary this is."

Dude, Where's My Tape? stars the irrepressible Ashton Kutcher as the bumbling Pentagon employee who, after a hilarious night of torturing, misplaces the very interrogation tape needed to break his case wide open. Dirty bomb or dirty cop? Find out now at a courthouse near you.

Rated PG-13 for strong language, extreme violence, general incompetence, and hubris. Some scenes of isolation, torture and the stripping of civil rights may not be suitable for younger viewers. Constitutional discretion is advised.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)


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