Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sadr's strategy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is from an intriguing new piece at the BBC:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says the Shia militia known as the Mahdi Army has stopped its activities on the orders of its leader, Moqtada Sadr.

The president described this as a new phenomenon, and a positive response to the new Iraqi-US security plan...

"People now are cooperating with government forces against terrorism as part of the security plan," Mr Talabani said.

"Not to mention the fact that the Mahdi Army has become inactive. Apparently the instructions of brother Moqtada Sadr have been effective, whereby there are no longer complaints by brother Sunni Arabs about attacks against them like before."

Okay, let's think about this for a moment.

According to Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, Sadr has responded to the U.S.-led Baghdad surge in a positive way, that is, by inactivating his militia, described by the U.S. (according to the BBC) as "the greatest threat to security in Iraq". According to Talabani, then, the surge is working in part because it has brought about this positive development.

There are a number of problems with this analysis of the situation.

First, there continues to be widespread insurgent terrorism. There are frequent bombings, some of them on a massive scale, and the death toll continues to be high.

Second, the "people" to whom Talabani refers may only be those people who are benefitting directly from the surge. Whatever the pro-war spin, after all, the surge is being led by the U.S. with the support of Iraq's essentially Shiite sectarian government -- Talabani is the president, but Maliki, a Shiite, is the prime minister, and the government is dominated by Shiites; the Kurds are minor partners, but their goal is an independent Kurdistan in the north, and it can hardly be said that Sunni have bought into this new, post-Saddam Iraq. If anything, they are opposed to the current government in Baghdad. Shiites may be cooperating out of sectarian self-interest, not out of some newfound magnanimity in support of some future Iraqi democratic utopia where all three major sectarian groups get along peacefully.

Third, Talabani is assuming -- naively, I think -- that Sadr's motives are pure, that he has backed down out of deference to these supposed efforts to establish peace. But what if Sadr has rather backed down temporarily for strategic reasons? For that would make sense. The surge may in theory and in spin be an effort to pacify Baghdad, but, to repeat, it is being supported by Maliki, Iraq's Shiite leader. Maliki has long been close to Sadr. In backing down, that is, in inactivating his militia, Sadr accomplishes a number of strategic goals:

1) He boosts his ally Maliki's position atop the government. Maliki's relations with the U.S. improve and Maliki looks better all around for having seemingly gotten his ally to back down, enabling him to consolidate his power in Baghdad. And it is surely in Sadr's interest for Maliki to be in a position to consolidate his power.

2) He avoids bearing much of the brunt of the U.S.-led surge. In inactivating his militia, he protects it for future action. Biding his time, he secures his own position in post-U.S. Iraq. Why fight the U.S., after all? Why not wait until the U.S. has left -- and left behind a sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad run by his ally, Maliki? Why not hold out to fight the Sunnis more freely?

3) He essentially directs the surge at the Sunni insurgency. Instead of fighting the Sunnis himself, he lets the U.S. and official Iraqi troops do the dirty work for him. If the Sunni insurgency is severely weakened in the surge, which may be doubtful but a possibility nonetheless, his position in post-U.S. Iraq is strengthened.

There is a shocking lack of perspective in the BBC piece, but there is a shocking lack of perspective generally. What is certain is that Sadr hasn't suddenly become a good liberal democrat who looks forward to the day when Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds can all play together happily in a new Iraq that has transcended its sectarian divisions. He may have backed down, but he has only done so out of narrow self-interest. It's a calculated strategy, and it's a pretty smart one.


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Pelosi to Syria

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's not exactly "Nixon to China" -- it just doesn't have the same ring to it -- but I don't see anything wrong with the Speaker of the House engaging in dialogue, bipartisan dialogue, even with a rogue state like Assad's Syria. The White House opposes her visit because it opposes such dialogue generally. This is seen on the right -- and particularly on the blogospheric right -- as appeasing the enablers of terrorism. Which is to say it is being spun that Pelosi is a supporter of terrorism.

As Steve Benen points out, in a must-read post that explains in extensive detail just how foolish Pelosi's critics are (yet more evidence that conservative blogs may be getting everything wrong this year), some on the right are referring to Pelosi's visit not only as "repulsive" but even as an act of "treason".

Which is -- not to put too fine a word on it -- stupid.

Keeping open the lines of diplomatic communication -- that is, talking -- is a good idea no matter the context, but it is especially important given the quagmire in Iraq, rising tensions with Iran, the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the threat of international terrorism emanating from the Middle East, and, of course, the ongoing warmongering in the White House.

For Bush, this is about power and control. He wants all of it and concedes nothing. But the Democrats won last November in large part because of Bush's own failed policies, and, whether Bush likes it or not, Congress (even a Democratic one) also represents the American people and their interests -- in fact, much more directly than the president does.

No one should expect Pelosi to come back from Syria having resolved anything, but at least, at the very least, she is doing what Bush should be doing, and should have been doing all along, but refuses to do, and has been refusing to do all along.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Sweet heavens...

By Grace

A New York City gallery caused quite a stir today with its proposed exhibition, which was supposed to open on Monday. The Catholic League, headed by Bill Donahue, launched a wave of protest against the Lab Gallery in Manhattan when they announced that they would be showing a piece, entitled "My Sweet Lord", created by Cosimo Cavallaro. It's a six-foot tall sculpture of Jesus -- made entirely of milk chocolate. Two hundred pounds of it.

I had every intention of visiting the display during Easter weekend, however, the Lab Gallery and the Robert Smith Hotel announced this afternoon that they would cancel the exhibit due to intense public pressure, including death threats. I can only say that I'm extremely disappointed at this development.


UPDATE: See Joe Gandelman's excellent round-up of news coverage and blog reaction at The Moderate Voice. Steve Benen also has an excellent post up at The Carpetbagger Report. -- MJWS

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Mugabe 2008: A case of democracy sustaining tyranny

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to the BBC, "Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party has endorsed President Robert Mugabe as its candidate for the 2008 election".

Big surprise. Mugabe is 83. He's been in power since 1980. In fact, he's the only president independent Zimbabwe has ever had. His idea of democratic governance includes beating opponents and dissenters to a pulp, arresting them, and then blaming them for being beaten to a pulp.

And now he plans to run for re-election?

I'm sure it'll be entirely fair and legit.


Once again, credit to the U.S. State Dept. for at least saying the right things: "It's sad, it's outrageous and certainly we hope better for the Zimbabwean people."

But doing would be better than saying. Sanctions would be a start -- but only a start.

And it certainly doesn't help that Zimbabwe's neighbours have expressed support for Mugabe and oppose sanctions. Utterly shameful, but they must see a good deal of themselves in Zimbabwe's tyrant.

For more on Mugabe's "hold over African leaders," see here.

For more on Mugabe's political fortunes, see here. It could very well be that only a "palace coup" would liberate the people of Zimbabwe from Mugabe's ongoing tyranny.

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An embarrassing story

By Creature

I generally like Dana Milbank, but embedded in his piece today is a bit of the conventional, stuck-in-the-beltway thinking that exemplifies why the progressive blogosphere is up in arms over the media's coverage of the US attorney scandal.

The Bush administration's mishandling of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and the misinformation its Justice Department sent Congress turned an embarrassing story into a full scandal.

An "embarrassing story." Sorry, Dana, but this scandal is far from simply an embarrassing story.

This unprecedented second-term US attorney purge is about obstruction of justice and using the DOJ as a blunt political tool to help Republicans get elected. The bumbling, bungling Bush administration should indeed be embarrassed (though as I postulated this morning on State of the Day, at this point the bumbling and bungling seems too coordinated to simply pass off as unintentional incompetence), but more importantly they should be held accountable. And accountability is what this "embarrassing story" is really about.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The bitter truth about Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is Part L (50) of our "Just another day in the life and death of Iraq" series. Here are a few separate reports:

Tall Afar

A day after twin truck bombings laid waste to predominantly Shiite neighborhoods in the northern Iraqi city of Tall Afar, marauding Shiite gunmen and police executed dozens of Sunnis in retaliatory attacks that many Iraqis feared might precipitate a resurgence of open sectarian warfare.

The killings took place in a city once cited by President Bush as a sign of the U.S. military's success in pacifying the insurgency. Bush said in a speech almost exactly a year ago that the "example of Tall Afar gives me confidence in our strategy."

Mission accomplished, eh?



Bombs tore through crowds of after-work shoppers in Baghdad and a town north of the capital on Thursday in an onslaught of violence that killed more than 100 people, according to Iraqi government and hospital officials.

Both areas -- a bazaar in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Shaab and the farming town of Khalis in Diyala province -- are populated predominantly by Shiites, and Iraqi government officials quickly blamed the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But the surge has been a huge success, right?


Baghdad (Green Zone)

Iraqi insurgents are increasingly hitting Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone with rockets and mortar shells, officials said Wednesday.

Insurgents have struck inside the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, on six of the past seven days, once with deadly consequences. A U.S. soldier and a U.S. government contractor were killed Tuesday night by a rocket attack that also seriously wounded a civilian, military and embassy officials said. One soldier and at least three other civilians received minor injuries...

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said, "There are increasing attacks on the embassy."

So the war can still be won, huh?

I'm afraid "courage" and "resolve," as Bush put it recently, won't be enough to turn around this disastrous war. It must be so hard to make out the bitter truth through the fog of self-righteous faith.

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Sampson says

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Looks like Gonzales is a liar and Rove was in on purgegate. Here's WaPo:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was more deeply involved in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys than he has sometimes acknowledged, and Gonzales and his aides have made a series of inaccurate claims about the issue in recent weeks, the attorney general's former chief of staff testified yesterday.

In dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, D. Kyle Sampson also revealed that New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was not added to the dismissal list until just before the Nov. 7 elections, after presidential adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias had not been aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. Previously, Rove had not been tied so directly to the removal of the prosecutors.

Sampson's testimony also shows that, along with Rove, other senior White House aides were more closely involved in the dismissals than has previously been disclosed. It adds to evidence that some of the firings were influenced by GOP political concerns and that the selection process was not based on hard data.

Oh, really? Looks also like Gonzo has some resigning to do. And like Turd Blossom has some explaining to do -- under oath.

For more, check out The Anonymous Liberal and Political Animal.

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Update on the Iran hostage crisis

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From The Guardian:

The Iranian hostage crisis took a sinister turn last night when Tehran withdrew an earlier offer to release one of the 15 captive sailors and marines and issued a second, strangely-worded letter in her name calling for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.

The letter, signed by Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only woman in the naval crew seized last Friday, was addressed to "representatives of the House of Commons". Although the letter was handwritten, it was stilted and lacked the personal tone of the first letter, sent to her family the day before. The second letter appeared to have been dictated to her.

Lovely game the Iranians are playing. Jon Stewart and John Oliver got it right tonight on The Daily Show: We've been doing our best to keep bomb-happy Bush from going to war with Iran, but the U.S. and the U.K., Bush and Blair, will fuck Iran over this. What the hell are they thinking holding these 15 sailors and marines hostage and forcing them to speak out against the war in Iraq (and talking about putting them on trial)?


Via Sky News, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett: "This blatant attempt to use Leading Seaman Turney for propaganda purposes is outrageous and cruel."


Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council has "expressed 'grave concern,'" according to the AP.

And Blair said this in a TV interview: "The important thing for us is to get them back safe and sound, but we can't enter into some basis of bargaining. What you have to do when you are engaged with people like the Iranian regime, you have to keep explaining to them, very patiently, what it is necessary to do and at the same time make them fully aware there are further measures that will be taken if they're not prepared to be reasonable. What you can't do is end up negotiating over hostages; end up saying there's some quid pro quo or tit for tat; that's not acceptable."

Going to the U.N. may not be enough. Blair had wanted the U.N. to "deplore" the capture of the sailors and marines, not just express "grave concern" over it. That sort of wording (and wrangling over wording) matters in such high-falutin' diplomatic circles, obviously, but one suspects that other "measures" may be in the works.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

What the hell?

By Heraclitus

Have you seen the video in which Karl Rove participates in a rap ditty by proclaiming himself "MC Rove," whilst Tony Snow serves as background dancer and Colin Mochrie provides the beatbox? I shit thee not. I've never felt like such a gifted dancer in my life.

UPDATE: Be sure to see Nez's post on this little performance.

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm never been one for blogiversaries, as they are called, but I thought I'd mention that The Reaction is turns two today. It began on March 29, 2005 with this introductory post. This post is #2,688. What a long way we've come, if I do say so myself.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my co-bloggers and guest bloggers for their support, friendship, and amazing blogging. The Reaction would be so much less without them.

I would like to thank the many fellow bloggers out there whom I have had the opportunity to meet, if only virtually, and with whom I have developed lasting connections and even genuine friendships. This is about much more than links and hits. This is about community. There are far too many to mention, from all across the political spectrum and from non-political corners of the blogosphere, but I must in particular thank Joe Gandelman for long ago inviting me to join him as a co-blogger at The Moderate Voice, where I am now an assitant editor, and Steve Benen for inviting me to guest blog for him at The Carpetbagger Report on a number of occasions. Their support and encouragement, as from many others, has been incredibly generous and, as I've worked to build this blog into what it is today, invaluble.

I would like to thank all of you, the readers. I know there are bloggers who blog mainly for themselves or their friends and families, but this is mostly a political and cultural blog that is meant in some way to contribute to the arena of public discourse. We have had readers from around the world, from almost every country there is, if mostly from the U.S. and Canada. I am truly grateful that so many people from so many different places have taken the time to visit and to read, as well as to comment on, what we have posted. Hopefully we will continue to be worthy of your attention.

And I would like to thank my family and friends for all their love and support. And of course for putting up with me as I spend so much time on the computer, blogging away.

And so it goes. The Reaction turns two and we have no intention of stopping. Hopefully we will continue to grow and to get better with age.

But enough about us. Let's get back to the show.

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Medals for atrocities

By Creature

Today the Bush administration is catching flack for allowing a Russian general who is accused of "atrocities against civilians" into the White House for a meeting with the president. According to Think Progress, the White House "had no idea that [the general] was responsible for the brutal killings of civilians."

This claim is hard to swallow. While Think Progress says The Google could have been easily used to illuminate the actions of this Russian general, I point to the last line of this WaPo story to prove that, not only did the White House know of his atrocities, they subsequently copied the Russian modus operandi used to celebrate the general's failure.

Russian troops under Shamanov rampaged through the village of Alkhan-Yurt in December 1999, killing 17 civilians, according to human rights investigations. The soldiers looted homes and shot those who got in the way, including a woman over 100 years old. Shamanov threatened to shoot villagers who pleaded with him to halt the “cleansing operation,” investigators found. Rather than prosecute, the Kremlin gave Shamanov a medal — a medal he appeared to wear to the Oval Office.

Giving medals to those who are culpable. Hmm... sounds familiar. I'm just surprised the president didn't pin a Medal of Freedom on Shamanov himself.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lamb recipe

By Heraclitus

As you can probably infer from the picture, I got that digital camera I was mentioning a few weeks ago (by the way, apologies to our vegetarian readers). I bought it from this site, which was good, though they did try, successfully, to sell me a packet of accessories only a few of which I needed. In any case, now that it's in my possession, I promise to do everything in my power to make The Reaction one of those navel-gazing blogs that are all about what the bloggers ate for dinner. To wit:

Roasted Leg of Lamb

To those of you whose elementary butchering skills are better than mine, who own a sharper knife than I do, or who are just generally less lazy than I am (okay, that last group includes everyone), start with a leg of lamb and trim the fell (that stiff white coating), the fat, and anything else that's white (gristle, tendons, etc.). This, of course, can be difficult if the lamb is already in a net or webbing. I didn't do these things, and it cooked fine, but it would definitely be a more pleasant eating experience if the lamb were perfectly trimmed. In any case, once you've done that, put it in the tray. In a mixing bowl, combine the following:

1 tablespoon large grain sea salt, or 1.5 teaspoons of ordinary table salt
1-2 teaspoons of black pepper
1.5 tablespoons of rosemary
1 teaspoon mint

I usually always use a bit more of whatever spices a recipe calls for, but only a few shakes (you definitely don't want to be doubling the amount of salt in this, for instance). Add some olive oil to this mix, which will make it easier to spread over the lamb and will make it stick better. Somewhere between one-fourth and half a cup should be good. Rub the mixture (don't forget to actually mix it--look, this is a recipe for all levels of cooks) all over the lamb. Set the oven to 350 (make sure to let it preheat). If the leg weighs upwards of 4 pounds, cook it for 15-20 minutes per pound for a medium rare leg. If it's less than four pounds, go with 12-18 minutes per pound. Obviously, the sooner you take it out, the rarer it will be. I didn't have an exact weight for mine, but cooked it for about forty minutes. You can poke around at it; don't be alarmed if the blood runs red (I had red blood spilling out of mine at the slightest jab, but it was cooked all the way through). Unfortunately, I can't give you more precise times than those. Once you take it out of the oven, let it sit for about ten minutes covered (you can just fashion a crude dome out of tin foil if you don't have anything else). It's then ready to be served. It's delicious.

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Dog saves owner's life with Heimlich

By Heraclitus

Okay, not quite, but check out
this story from the BBC. A woman was choking to death on a piece of food which she couldn't dislodge by pounding on her own chest, so her dog knocked her to the ground and dislodged the food by jumping on her chest. He then licked her face to keep her from passing out.

"He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest."

Ms Parkhurst is recovering from chest and stomach wounds from Toby's jumping.

"I literally have paw print-shaped bruises on my chest. I'm still a little hoarse, but otherwise I'm OK," she said.

"They say dogs leave a paw print on your heart. He left a paw print on my heart, that's for sure.

"The doctor said I probably wouldn't be here without Toby. I keep looking at him and saying, 'You're amazing'."

This story obviously has a comic element, but what I find amazing is that the dog was able to understand that the woman wasn't able to breathe, understood that this was because a piece of food was stuck in her windpipe, and understood how to dislodge the obstruction. I never would have guessed that dogs (I'm assuming this isn't some kind of dog genius) have such comprehension of our own physiological processes.

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Did Gonzales cover up teen sex scandal in Texas?

By Libby Spencer

This is from World Net Daily, so take it with that in mind, but it appears Mr. "War on Porn" Gonzales, who vigorously pursues adult pornography, had no interest in prosecuting pedophilies in Texas.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's teenage boy inmates.

Among the charges in the Texas Ranger report were that administrators would rouse boys from their sleep for the purpose of conducting all-night sex parties.

The official reason given by the assistant US Attorney in Texas for the failure to prosecute was that none of the children complained of pain while enduring systematic sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by their keepers at juvenile detention facilities. He goes on to suggest that the children may well have been willing participants in the abuse because none of the of the victims could describe acts of retaliation for failing to engage in the orgies.

I'd note we're talking about inmates who are felony-level offenders between the age of 10 and 17 at the time they are sentenced to these facilities. Anybody know a teenage boy willing to admit he's afraid of anything? Neither do I and there certainly was evidence that sentences were arbitrarily extended for reasons unknown.

So what does this have to do with Gonzales? The federal Texas office had actually prepared indictments but never served them and rejected the case only after they heard from DC. Coincidentally, the scandal arose in the middle of the Republican governor's re-election campaign. They dumped the case on the local DA instead, as if they were going to pursue it during the campaign. Meanwhile the feds actively pursued minor voter fraud issues, leaving these young boys subject to further abuse. It was only after Perry won his election that the case was finally pursued and gratefully resulted in some badly needed reforms within the system.

Draw your own conclusions, but I'd say the circumstantial evidence points very clearly to yet another subversion of our justice system for political reasons.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Behold, a timetable

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't have time now to analyze this fully, but here's the latest (with some commentary below):

Senate Democrats scored a surprise victory yesterday in their bid to force President Bush to end the Iraq war, turning back a Republican amendment that would have struck a troop withdrawal plan from emergency military funding legislation.

The defection of a prominent Republican war critic, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, sealed the Democrats' win. Hagel, who opposed identical withdrawal language two weeks ago, walked onto the Senate floor an hour before the late-afternoon vote and announced that he would "not support sustaining a flawed and failing policy," adding: "It's now time for the Congress to step forward and establish responsible boundaries and conditions for our continued military involvement in Iraq."

Democratic leaders think the 50 to 48 victory greatly strengthens their negotiating position as they prepare to face down a White House that yesterday reiterated its threat of a presidential veto. The Senate vote was also the first time since Democrats took control of Congress in January that a majority of lawmakers have supported binding legislation to bring U.S. troops home.

I haven't been as aggressive a supporter of a timetable for withdrawal as other critics of the war, largely because in my view the waging of a war (even a bad war) should not be so tightly constrained, but I do think Hagel and (even more so) the Democrats are right on this. The Iraq War has been a failure. It should no longer be allowed to be waged unchecked by those (i.e., Bush and the warmongers) who have waged it thus far, that is, by those who are responsible for its failure. They have done nothing to deserve to be allowed to wage it unchecked, which is what Bush and his Republican enablers obviously prefer. They must be stopped. Or, at least, a serious attempt must be made to stop them. This is, in my view, such an attempt.

A veto may yet come -- or perhaps some compromise that essentially dilutes the timetable to the point of pointlessness. But a veto threat should not stop the Democrats and their few Republican allies from pursuing this as aggressively as possible. They will be called defeatists by those who still support this horrendous blunder, not to mention the horrendously blundering Bush, but they should remember that they are working to stop a war that has been grossly mismanaged, that has been a failure, that has weakened America's ability to respond to crises around the world, that has devastated America's reputation and moral standing in the world, and that is increasingly unpopular with the American people.

Besides, even if they lose -- which is to say, even if their timetable for withdrawal is not followed -- there is another, non-negotiable timetable that Bush and the Republicans cannot avoid. The 2008 presidential election will take place as planned and Bush will be gone by January 2009. A new president will occupy the White House. What matters is that that president is a Democrat -- which is to say, in this context, a president who will not continue to pursue Bush's horrendous blunder. One hopes that withdrawal will be well underway well before that next Inauguration Day, but at least we have that day to look forward to.


Update (3/30/07):

From the AP: "A defiant, Democratic-controlled Senate approved legislation Thursday calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq within a year, propelling Congress closer to an epic, wartime veto confrontation with President Bush."

Republicans Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith voted with the Democratic majority. "Democrat" Joe Lieberman voted with the Republican minority.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XLIX

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC:

Insurgents have blown up two trucks in the Iraqi town of Talafar, killing 50 people and injuring 125, police say.

One bomb was hidden in a truck that arrived at a market loaded with food supplies, and was detonated by the driver, a police spokesman said.

It was one of the largest attacks in Talafar since US President George Bush used the town to illustrate progress in Iraq, just over a year ago.

Other attacks took the day's death toll across Iraq to around 80.

Make of it what you will. I have no commentary to add.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

For Tony Snow

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Several days ago Libby wrote a wonderful post on Elizabeth Edwards and her courageous battle with cancer. And now it is also Tony Snow, Bush's press secretary, whose cancer has returned, and spread.

Cancer, of course, crosses party lines and ideological divisions. And this is one of those times when party and ideology should give way to compassion. From all that I have heard and read, Tony Snow is a good and decent man. Like so many on my side of the divide, I have never much cared for his spin on behalf of Bush -- but so what? I know I speak for everyone at The Reaction when I say that we wish him well and that our thoughts are with him and his loved ones as they face the difficult times ahead.

And this is also an occasion, if I may, to express my pride in the blogosphere. Whatever their differences, often bitter, bloggers from across the spectrum are united in their support for Snow, just as they were for Elizabeth Edwards. Here is what some of my favourite bloggers have been saying:

-- Steve Benen: "I'm pulling for him, I applaud his courage and tenacity, and I extend my best wishes to him and his family. Tony, if you see this, I have a good-natured message for you: Get back to work -- so I can go back to telling everyone how wrong I think you are."

-- Ed Morrissey: "I'm praying that Tony will recover and I can still have the pleasure of his company for a short time. Liver cancer is tough, but so is Tony. With our prayers, we can all hope that Tony has plenty of gas left in the tank. And let's not forget Elizabeth Edwards in those prayers, either."

-- Pamela Leavey: "My hope with the recent news of both Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow is that Congress will work to get more funding for cancer research. It’s sorely needed... I hope that both Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards live long and happy lives."

-- Will Bunch: "In his short time so far as White House press secretary, Tony Snow has struck me as a worthy adversary for a press corps that needs to have more of an adversarial relationship with the White House, and as a decent guy... I hope Snow gets well soon, so he can go back to where he belongs: on the receiving end of some tough questions."

-- Michael Linn Jones: "I know that his political views on most things are much different than mine. But he is also the kind of man I believe you could have a good disagreement and come away with the feeling you've just jousted with a gentleman. A decent one, too... I thank you for choosing the path you did that brought you into our lives. Stay on it. May you continue to irk me for a very long time with your conservative views."

(For more, see Memeorandum.)

Keep fighting, Tony. Friend and foe alike, we're all behind you on this.

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Cuban rodeo

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hey, it's another installment in our Amusing Photo of the Day series!

From the Globe: "A Cuban cowboy slips from his horse while trying to grab a steer during the 12th Boyeros Cattleman's Fair in Havana."

Boo-hoo. I feel far worse for the poor steer. But -- uh -- is that a Green Bay Packers helmet he's wearing?

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Bloody Congo

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With a new constitution that enshrines democratic rule, DR Congo held its first free elections in 40 years last July. Alas, they were elctions tainted by credible allegations of fraud. And now the country is awash in violence between government and rebel forces:

Up to 600 people may have been killed in last week's clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, European Union diplomats say.

The authorities have said about 60 people died in violence between the army and armed guards loyal to opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The EU diplomats expressed concern at the government's "premature" use of force which they say led to fighting.

President Joseph Kabila said his troops put down an armed rebellion.

That's always the excuse, isn't it? Not just for violence but for "arrest and intimidation" of the opposition.

The U.S. has rightly "condemned the violence. State Department spokesman Tom Casey: "[It] represents a set-back in the progress the Congolese people expect and deserve after last year's historic elections."

Historic? Perhaps. Legitimate? Perhaps not. Democracy is never perfect, but now Kabila's "democratic" government is doing what so many do where democracy is but a front for strongman rule: consolidation of power, suppression of opposition and dissent.

Far be it from me to take sides in Congolese politics, but I think we all know what's going on here.

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Liberals prevail in Quebec election

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the latest, as of 1:37 am, from the CBC:

-- Liberal Party (48 seats; 33.08% of the vote)

-- Action Démocratique du Québec (41 seats; 30.80% of the vote)

-- Parti Québécois (36 seats; 28.32% of the vote)

Premier Jean Charest's centrist and federalist Liberals thus win a second mandate, although they will govern in the minority in a closely divided National Assembly (the province's first minority government in almost 130 years). The ADQ, a conservative populist party, will be the official opposition under Mario Dumont. The separatist PQ, which had promised a referendum on sovereignty if elected, ends up third.

It looked as if Charest was going to lose his Sherbrooke seat, but he has prevailed.

The Liberals may have benefitted from the recent federal budget, the ADQ from the general unpopularity of the heretofore two leading parties and their respective leaders, Charest and André Boisclair, as well as from its platform of fiscal conservatism and cultural nationalism (nationalism without sovereignty, for now).

The Liberals were behind in the polls just a week ago, although they had generally been ahead since January.

For more, see Wikipedia.

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Gimme the fifth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It was only a matter of time:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's senior counselor yesterday refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Monica M. Goodling, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence, said in a sworn affidavit to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she will "decline to answer any and all questions" about the firings because she faces "a perilous environment in which to testify."

Definition -- "a perilous environment": any environment in which one is required to tell the truth.

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The Fred Thompson romance

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Unsatisfied with McCain, Giuliani, and Romney -- although perhaps not Brownback -- Republicans are searching desperately for a suitably conservative candidate to run in '08.

Enter: Fred Thompson of Law & Order, Die Hard 2, and The Hunt for Red October.

The hardest of the hardcore love him. Consider what Powerline's Paul Mirengoff has to say about the former Watergate lawyer and senator from Tennessee: "Thompson looks like the perfect blend of the Allen/Frist/Romney/Gingrich and McCain/Giuliani 'factions.'"

I know that sounds like a terrible insult, but, well, not to conservatives.

Ring the bell. See the drool: "He seems to combine the conservatism of the former cluster with at least some of the popularity and stature of the latter pairing... What will matter is whether Thompson is prepared to campaign diligently for the nomination. If so, he likely will represent a force to be reckoned with."

Yeah, whatever. Maybe. Actually, I suspect he would be a formidable candidate. All these conservatives evidently want is a more popular (and presumably less bigoted) George Allen. Thompson may very well be their man.

Remember, Republicans don't take a dump, son, without a plan.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Soviet Union of Venezuela

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rule by decree. One-party rule. Seizure of private property.

Since winning re-election in last December's election -- or, rather, "election," total sham that it was -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has worked hard to ensure that there is neither liberalism nor democracy in his country. He calls it his "Bolivarean" revolution, but tyranny is a better name for it.

On his latest tyrannical move, the seizure of private property, an ongoing effort, here's the BBC (link above):

Venezuela's government has seized more than 330,000 hectares (815,450 acres) of land to redistribute them under an agrarian reform programme.

President Hugo Chavez said 16 farms -- which he described as large and unproductive -- had been expropriated.

His government was moving towards a "collective property" policy as part of its "drive towards socialism", he said.

Socialism as tyranny, that is. A thug masquerading as a man of the people. Soon there won't be any freedom left in Venezuela but Chavez's freedom to control and oppress.

That's what his fucking revolution is all about.

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Take the twenty bucks

By Mustang Bobby

An old joke:

An attractive, well-dressed man walks into a bar and spies an equally attractive young lady. They strike up a conversation and after a few drinks and pleasantries, he says, "Would you have sex with me for a million dollars?"

"Of course," she purrs.

"Okay, well, then, how about for twenty bucks?"

"Of course not!" she replies indignantly, "what do you think I am?"

"We've already established that," he says. "Now we're just negotiating the price.

I was reminded of that old chestnut when I heard the White House is refusing to negotiate with Congress over their offer to let Karl Rove and Harriet Miers talk to them in private, without being under oath, and without a transcript. The White House says take it or leave it, and they're refusing to budge.

The White House knew from the moment they made the offer that Congress wouldn't go for it. It's a demeaning proposal, and they compounded it by calling it "extremely generous." How many different ways could they come up with to insult Congress, and the American people in the bargain? My guess is that we're about to find out.

The smart move would have been for the White House to say no to allowing Rove et al to speak to Congress from the git-go; to turn down the million dollars, as it were. Once they opened the door, they left little room to back out without looking like they're either caving in to Congress or being disingenuous by making an offer that they really didn't intend to follow through on.

Now they're stuck. The White House can't cite executive privilege because that ship sailed when they came out with their offer; letting Rove and Miers talk to Congress under any circumstances takes that off the table. (Besides, it's been established that executive privilege doesn't apply to conversations between aides in the White House; only to conversations with the president.) Second, they have a public relations disaster on their hands in the person of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who can't get through a day without coughing up the ball; in an interview on NBC he said he didn't remember a meeting in the Oval Office where President Bush supposedly passed along complaints about the U.S. attorneys going after too many Republicans and not enough Democrats. He doesn't remember a meeting in the Oval Office? No one kept any notes? And finally, even if there was nothing at all improper about the firings of the eight prosecutors, putting up this smoke-screen makes it look breathtakingly suspicious; what are they afraid of? As the Republicans were so fond of saying when the warrantless wiretaps were revealed, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about.

So the Congress has called their bluff. They're going to issue subpoenas, they're going to be served, there's going to be a court battle, and the White House is probably going to lose because in their infinite wisdom, the Republicans beat the crap out of the White House for fighting subpoenas during the Clinton administration. And even if they win, it will still look bad; when this is all over, the DOJ will look like just another third-world Ministry of Justice that takes care of its friends and persecutes its enemies, and Mr. Gonzales comes out of this looking like another incompetent Bush administration toady. Heckuvajob, Fredo.

They should have just taken the twenty bucks.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Krazy Kristol gets it right

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For once.

On Fox News yesterday -- where else? -- he said it's time for AG Gonzales to go. See it for yourself at Crooks and Liars. (Although it's hardly a courageous position to take. Gonzales doesn't have much support left even among Republicans.)


But wait. Let's not get too excited about this.

Gonzales may indeed have to go -- and I certainly hope he does -- but he would still be the scapegoat (along with his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson). After all, there's no way any of this happened without the knowledge and approval of the White House. Which is precisely why Rove, Miers, et al. need (i.e., must be forced) to testify under oath, even if Bush continues to play the executive privilege card.

Krazy Kristol may want Gonzales to go, but I'm sure he doesn't want the truth to come out.

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Hagel's rebellion

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Reuters:

President George W. Bush should stop being dismissive of opposition in Congress to the Iraq war and it is time that lawmakers set boundaries for U.S. involvement, a Republican senator said on Sunday.

"I think Congress is going to play a role now like we've not played before," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy from his own Republican Party.

"I am opposed to the president's further escalation of American military involvement. We are undermining our interests in the Middle East, we are undermining our military, we're undermining the confidence of people around the world in what we're doing," Hagel said on ABC's "This Week" program.

"We have clearly a situation where the president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort," he said. "It is now time, going into the fifth year of that effort, for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions as to our involvement."

Well, obviously -- to all points. But it's still good to hear from such a credible critic of the war. As I've argued before, he should forget about 2008 -- he no chance of winning anyway -- and remain "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".

If Congress is to stand up to Bush on Iraq and possibly other military action (e.g., Iran), it will need not just a united and aggressive Democratic majority but credible and courageous Republicans like Chuck Hagel.

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What it means (to the right) when Iran captures 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Friday, I looked at how this mini-crisis is part of a larger effort on both sides to escalate the tension and perhaps to prepare for military conflict between the U.S. and Iran. But what specifically is the American right -- the warmongering right -- making of the capture of the British sailors?

For an answer to that question, I recommend this excellent post by Cernig at NewsHog. Here's how it begins:

I know it shouldn't, but it still amazes me the knots that the US Right are prepared to tie themselves into knots in their lust for a war with Iran that will redress the perceived mortal insult of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. It's like a drug addict wheedling money to buy his fix -- any excuse will do. The trouble is that this fetishistic craving for revenge is what is driving not just the chattering pundits but also American foreign policy in the region. The catch phrase always was "real men go to Teheran".

Their latest excuse -- the causus belli de jour, if you will forgive my horrible mangling of languages -- is the seizure by Iran of 15 British naval personnel in the Shatt al-Arab waterway four days ago. They are now engaged in frantic hyping of this incident, quite willing to sacrifice 15 British seamen if it means they get their OK Corral showdown at long last.

It's a substantial post. Make sure to check it out.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ye Olde Romney

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Once upon a time:

If elected Massachusetts governor, Romney said in an endorsement meeting [way back when, in 2002], he would "preserve and protect" legal abortion. The judges he picked would probably do the same...

"You need someone like me in Washington," he said, according to [Deborah] Allen and two other abortion-rights activists, whose group was deciding whether to endorse Romney in the 2002 race for governor. Though running for state office, Romney hinted at national ambitions and said he would soften the GOP's position on abortion. The Republians' hard-line stance, he said, was "killing them."

How times (or, rather, Romney's political strategies) have changed -- in just five years:

Today, Romney is running for president and promising to pull the Republican Party in the opposite direction, returning it to the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan. He has renounced his support for abortion rights and has shifted his language on gay rights, campaign finance and other issues, bringing him more in step with Republican voters. He mocks Massachusetts, the state he led until January, as "sort of San Francisco East, Nancy Pelosi-style."

Whatever all the hand-wringing over political flip-flopping (Kerry's, McCain's, Romney's, etc.), I actually think it's quite healthy for a politician to adjust his or her views over time. It's often a sign of maturation. Consider Iraq. Maybe you were pro-war back in 2002/3 not because you agreed with the PNAC neocons about the use of American power to promote American interests but because you despised Saddam's tyrannical and genocidal regime and thought that U.N.-based diplomatic measures had simply run their course. Maybe you supported the war reluctantly but confidently, imagining that the warmongers knew what they were doing and had a plan not just for the invasion but for the subsequent occupation. Besides, Powell was on board, and he was far more credible than Cheney and Rumsfeld. And everyone -- everyone -- knew that Saddam had WMDs, and possibly also connections to al Qaeda.

Well, okay. But what if you're pro-war now? What if your views haven't been affected one way or the other by these past four-plus years of war? What if you haven't changed? Wouldn't this be a sign of a lack of maturation?

To be fair, Iraq is not abortion or gay rights -- the analogy isn't perfect. I'm certainly not saying that going from pro-war to anti-war is the same as going from pro-choice to pro-life. However, it is indeed possible for one's views on abortion or gay rights to change over time. Although I am personally pro-choice and pro-gay rights, I can see how someone's views might change in the other direction, from pro-choice to pro-life and pro-gay rights to anti-gay rights. It is more difficult (and disturbing) to see in the latter case, though, as it suggests the acquisition of bigotry against gays (if, that is, the pro-gay rights view was sincere in the first place). Although anti-gay rights activists claim to be defenders of the "family" and of "family values," many of them are quite clearly bigots -- bigots with Bibles. Some also see the pro-life position on abortion as one of bigotry (against women, in that case), and there is perhaps some truth to this. For me, however, and I realize this may be controversial, the pro-life position is more defensible than the anti-gay rights position. Which is also to say that a change from pro-choice to pro-life makes more sense to me than a change from pro-gay rights to anti-gay rights.

Regardless, what we see with Romney's changes on abortion and gay rights is not maturation but opportunism. It's one thing to run in Massachusetts, my former home state, where even a Republican must be a liberal on certain issues if he or she hopes to win statewide office. It's quite another thing to run as a Republican on the national stage, in a presidential race dominated by the party's social conservative (and religious right) base. Once a sensible, moderate Republican, Romney has changed because he has to.

So which is the real Mitt Romney? -- the pro-choice and pro-gay rights moderate or the pro-life and anti-gay rights conservative? I suspect it's the former, the one more like his father, the business conservative whose views on social issues tended to border on libertarianism. But who knows? It isn't easy to see the real Romney through the layers of GOP-friendly bullshit.

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Democratic payback or GOP payola

By Creature

Today on The Chris Matthews Show, under the banner "PAYBACK TIME!," Chris and his panel discussed what is behind the Democrats' bloodthirsty desire to get Karl Rove under oath regarding his role in the US attorney purge scandal. Chris and his panel completely ignored the seriousness of the scandal, and I believe an independent DOJ is serious business, and all agreed that getting Rove under the "klieg lights" is all about politics and payback. Both of which will come back to haunt the Democrats with the voters, to which, I call bull.

Richard Stengel (Time magazine): "I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them, because it shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance, that's not what voters want to see."

Norah O'Donnell (NBC): "The Democrats have to be very careful that they look like they're not the party of investigation rather than legislation and trying to change things."

Gloria Borger (US News): [In answer to the question: "What do the Democrats want?"] "They want the American public to see their public enemy number one ... and for some reason they think that it would help the Democrats to get him out there. I'm not that sure."

This is pure inside-the-beltway thinking.

First, to ignore the seriousness of the scandal, is not only a parroting of GOP talking points, but it belittles the importance of an independent DOJ and the importance of checks and balances.

Next, to ask "What do the Democrats want?" and for no one on the panel to put forth the simple answer "the truth" is ridiculous. I may be naïve, but I do fundamentally believe that is what the Democrats want here, and more importantly a few Republicans want this as well.

And finally, to the political point, I believe this inside-the-beltway panel cannot see past the DC monuments. Investigation and oversight (including Karl Rove being called up to testify) is exactly what the voters want to see. The 2006 midterm elections were about many things, but the overall theme was a disgruntled public that wanted, in some way, to hold the Bushies accountable. For this panel to try to frame this story as an overreaching Democratically controlled Congress is just plain wrong. These cautionary warnings to Democrats about overreach is exactly what got this country into the mess we are in today.

Update 3/26/07: Glenn Greenwald writes on the very same segment and includes the YouTube clip. Thanks, Glenn.

(H/T: my DVR -- Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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NYC police spied on "dissident" groups throughout the country

By Heraclitus

The Unapologetic Mexican, check out this story in The New York Times:

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

“Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.”

During the convention itself, 1,806 people were arrested and held without bail or access to a lawyer on minor charges that, according to The Times, would ordinarily be handled by a summons.

Whether laws were broken and, if they were, how serious the illegality was, has yet to be determined. Predictably, the head of the New York ACLU promises the records, which are in the process of being released, will show serious illegalities, while the head of the NYPD says there were none. But spying on groups throughout the country simply because they are critical of Bush and planning a protest is obviously unacceptable, regardless of whether it is strictly speaking illegal. As Nez puts it:

These latest revelations in how police have been (and still are, better believe it) working in our country and how closely they are colluding with the Federal Government show us that what our government is truly afraid of is You. That's right, baby. Time's 2006 Person of the Year. Did you know you were also Public Enemy #1s-#?....

Our government is terrified of the People. Because they know what the People, as a whole, have forgotten: That power is never voted upon or commanded or taken. It is always given. And so, it can be rescinded.

Speaking of Nez, check out this post on the GOP's use of terrorism in the past election.. It's not new, but it's one of the best descriptions of the what the Republican Party has become.

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The appearance of contradiction

By Mustang Bobby

From The New York Times:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior advisers discussed the plan to remove seven United States attorneys at a meeting last Nov. 27, 10 days before the dismissals were carried out, according to a Justice Department calendar entry disclosed Friday.

The previously undisclosed meeting appeared to contradict Mr. Gonzales’s previous statements about his knowledge of the dismissals. He said at a news conference on March 13 that he had not participated in any discussions about the removals, but knew in general that his aides were working on personnel changes involving United States attorneys.

Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, told reporters on Friday evening that Mr. Gonzales’s attendance at the hourlong meeting was not inconsistent with his past remarks.

“He tasked his chief of staff to carry this plan forward,” Ms. Scolinos said. “He did not participate in the selection of the U.S. attorneys to be fired. He did sign off on the final list.”

For an administration that proclaimed oh so loudly and piously that they would do everything they possibly could to restore "honor and integrity" to governing and scorned the machinations and the obfuscations of the Clinton administration, the Bushies certainly do seem to be doing their best to prove that they are better than the previous administration: they obfuscate better, they manipulate the news better, and they parse their words to the fine point that even defining what "is" is now sounds clunky and amateurish by comparison to the knife-edge of delineating whether or not the Attorney General actually "met" with his people over the dismissal of the eight U.S. attorneys.

David Brooks brought up a valid point last night in his roundtable discussion with Mark Shields on PBS's News Hour; this in itself is not a scandal that will bring down the presidency of George W. Bush. It probably ranks up there with Iran-Contra, and it certainly is more important than one man, one woman, and a cigar, but it's not on the level of Mr. Nixon directly ordering the FBI to stay out of an investigation. Be that as it may, it does fit into the pattern that this administration has shown of putting politics and partisan loyalty above the goals and objectives of good government, which is to serve the needs of all the people, not just the ones who voted for your guy, and that, coupled with the ruthless manner in which they deal with their opponents -- or "enemies," as former (whew) House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called them -- makes one extremely suspicious of the intentions of this administration. They've already demonstrated a cavalier attitude towards the truth in putting forth their reasons for going to war in Iraq, and they have clearly shown that they do not appreciate -- or even understand -- the consequences that come from such behavior. They have been shameless in their attempts to propagandize their points of view to the degree that they violate their own standards in putting out packaged information via bought-and-paid-for colleagues in print and on TV. As if they didn't trust that people like Armstrong Williams weren't already doing enough toadying for them, they had to pad it with a little cash just to be sure.

Mr. Brooks also said that this scandal provides a relief for the Democrats because it takes them away from the hard task of governing; who wants to spend hours laboring over a budget bill or some other such boring stuff such as ending the war in Iraq when there's breaking news about whether or not Karl Rove will testify under oath before the House Judiciary Committee? But that's not really fair. If the Congress of the United States allows the kind of behind-the-scenes political manipulations to go on without some kind of examination, then they would be contradicting what the people of this country voted for last November. The electorate didn't have a chance to replace the president, so they did the next best thing; they voted in Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and now they are expecting them to do their job, which includes bringing some accountability and oversight to the table. As Sen. Boxer (D-CA) noted the other day when she shut down the rants of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) during the testimony of former Vice President Al Gore, elections have consequences.

The wishful assumption on the part of Mr. Brooks and other Republicans is that the Democrats are incapable of multitasking. This scandal can prove that theory wrong as well as prove that the Democrats can do the bidding of the people. If the Democrats were to let this scandal in the Department of Justice go by without holding the Attorney General and all the others involved accountable, the appearance of contradiction would be on them. That, in itself, would be a scandal.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Dark sarcasm in the classroom

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In Colorado -- home to many of America's most dangerous purveyors of darkness, America's anti-Enlightenment -- a sixth-grade class has put global warming on "trial" and found humans not guilty of causing it. The teacher, Ken Poppe, is a global warming denier (and he says he doesn't "believe" in Darwinism). His son was the "lead prosecutor".

There's so much wrong here, so much wrong with the "trial" itself and so much wrong even with holding one as an allegedly educational exercise, but see Pharyngula's PZ Myers for a sensible debunking.

Poppe claims to have done this in the name of neutrality -- which is why, he says, he didn't just show An Inconvenient Truth -- but, as Myers puts it, "'[n]eutrality' is not a desirable characteristic in a science teacher," not when, as in this case, neutrality is a justification to present alternative theories on an equal plane even when there is overwhelming consensus in support of one of the theories:

When the two positions are a) supported by the evidence, and b) not supported by the evidence, you are not doing your job to claim that a and b are equal. To do so is to unfairly promote the status of the unsupported premise…which is exactly what Ken Poppe is doing. He is lying to promote crackpottery in the science classroom.

As with global warming denial so, too, with so-called intelligent design. Both the deniers of global warming and the opponents of evolution -- that is, in both cases, the opponents of science and enemies of truth -- have taken to advancing "anything-might-be-true" relativism as a cover for their moralistic crusades.

In Poppe's classroom, as in so many others, the victims are the children. Beyond that, such thought control affects us all.

We certainly don't need this sort of "education".

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The manipulation of terror

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you're looking for something good to read this weekend -- aside from what you might find here, of course! -- check out Zbigniew Brzezinski's latest op-ed in The Washington Post. It concerns the so-called war on terror, specifically how it has "created a culture of fear in America":

The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

None of this is new -- many of us have addressed the culture of fear that has emerged as a result of pernicious fearmongering since 9/11, much of it emanating from the White House -- but Brzezinski puts it all extremely well.

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