Saturday, June 09, 2007

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LIX

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Just reporting the news:

A suicide bomber driving a tanker truck struck an Iraqi army checkpoint outside the capital today, killing at least 13 soldiers in the deadliest of a series of attacks against Iraqi forces as they try to take over their country’s security.

In southern Iraq, an apparent rocket attack at the U.S.-run Camp Bucca detention facility killed at least six detainees and wounded 50, the military said. No American casualties were reported.

Well, hey, no Americans, but at least the violence is still getting some MSM attention -- for example, on Page A22 of tomorrow's Washington Post.


More from that Post article:

-- "Fighting also broke out north of Baghdad in Diyala province, which has grown increasingly deadly for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers over the past several months."

-- "The violence broke out on a day when the Iraqi government criticized neighboring Turkey for launching artillery shells into Kurdish territory along the border in northern Iraq. An official with Iraq's Foreign Ministry, Muhammad al-Haj Hamoud, demanded in a letter to the Turkish charge d'affaires in Baghdad that Turkey halt its shelling, according to a ministry statement. The attacks have ignited 'huge fires' and scared the population in Dahuk and Irbil provinces, the statement said. The Turkish forces are targeting guerrillas from the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, who have used the border area to launch attacks in Turkey. The Iraqi government said that it did not condone the Turkish guerrillas' presence in Iraq but that the attacks could affect the 'friendly atmosphere' between the two countries."

Friendly. Right.

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Why Peter Pace had to go

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'll defer to Steve Clemons on this:

Pete Pace is out, and it's good for the country.

This is not quite on the same par as Truman firing MacArthur, but a civilian leader firing a general now and then can be healthy -- particularly when that General -- America's top general -- ventures into political matters that have absolutely nothing to do with his responsibilities as he did in writing a character commendation to the judge before Scooter Libby's recent sentencing...


In a similar political spat, Pete Pace was brown-nosing the President (he thought) in his condemnation of homosexuals as immoral. Again, this is another political issue he should have remained out of -- but given his responsibilities in managing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, there is reason why he might have commented to some degree.

But Pace's comments weren't structural -- weren't designed to affirm "don't ask, don't tell." They were political and denigrated a group of Americans currently serving in the military with honor -- at exactly the same time he has allowed the issuance of over 125,000 "moral waivers" in the case of other Americans entering the military with serious criminal violations on their record.


It's good to have Peter Pace out. The military is powerful enough in this country without inappropriate political posturing by its top commander in matters dealing with complex social issues like gay rights or weighing in on the degree of sentence deserved by a senior White House official convicted of a serious federal crime.

I would use stronger language than "inappropriate political posturing," but Steve's points are well taken. In just the past few months, Pace has proven himself to be an anti-gay bigot in league with the discredited lowlifes -- Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Feith et al. -- who excused the felonious behaviour of Scooter Libby.

Yes, indeed, it's good he's gone.

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Energy -- up close and personal

By Carol Gee

Whether Democrat or Republican, most Americans believe that global warming is a fact of life and that the U.S. needs more energy independence. An article in the Democratic Strategist, headlined "Uptick in support for energy independence gives Dems wedge," discussed this opportunity for Democrats to take the lead with this issue. To quote from the opening paragraph:

Democrats now have an extraordinary opportunity to win the support of a large and rapidly-growing majority of Americans concerned about energy independence and global warming. Large majorities now favor strong action to address these crises, according to a strategy memo written by Al Quinlan, Stan Greenberg, and the Center for American Progress's John Podesta.

Travel reinforces need for energy independence -- I am in that majority of people who see the need for policy change. And my recent travel experiences greatly reinforced the positive/negative energy and environmental realities for me.

  • Time after time I pulled out a $10 bill to buy gas for an almost empty tank. The result was not nearly enough fuel to raise the gauge to anywhere near "Full." More Ethanol and diesel pumps now made real the possibility of me filling my tank with the wrong kind of propellant.

  • Along much of the route from our home in Texas to my hometown in Wyoming, drilling rigs dotted the landscape. A risky race to ventilate the globe is taking place here in the fossil fuel rich West.

  • Road building in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming means a constant flow of closed lanes, miles of orange traffic cones, and slower progress from here to there.

  • Commercial trucks crowd already over-taxed highways, as free trade commerce flows from city to city and state to state.

  • Large crews of road construction workers are peopled by many Latino laborers and heavy equipment operators.

  • Drilling is happening in both rural and clearly crowded urban areas of Texas and Colorado as well as the pristine and vulnerable prairie and high desert areas of Wyoming. Both of these geographical conditions are negatively impacted by oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile Yellowstone Park's vast reserves of geothermal energy tantalize visionary planners.

  • Wind farming is much more evident in both Texas and Wyoming, as the distinctive profiles of large groups of big turbines dot faraway horizons.

  • Our years-old Chevrolet Prism averaged 40 miles to the gallon at various points of our trip. So we know that such energy efficiency is possible. Chevrolet no longer builds this model, ironically.
To summarize the needs for policy change -- We are already behind the European Union in recognition of global warming and what to do about dependence on fossil fuels. We need to borrow some of their more successful strategies. U.S. energy corporations should no longer run the Republican Bush administration's policy shops. Conservation and environmental groups in Western states deserve our increased support. Each of us needs to take the measure of our individual energy footprints and make the necessary moves to make them smaller. Democrats can confidently propose new energy policies that will garner widespread public support. And we do not have to wait for the presidential elections do do so.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Vienna Teng: "Pontchartrain"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I simply adore Vienna Teng. She's an incredible singer-songwriter with one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. This is "Pontchartrain" -- from her latest album, Dreaming Through the Noise -- performed live at The Independent in San Francisco on December 23, 2006 (recorded by Klaorman and posted to YouTube, which Vienna seems to embrace).

For more, see Vienna's website. Here are the lyrics to this deeply haunting song:

Sunday: dark water draining north, the heat swells and bursts like plague. Sunday: ever-so-faint slow tambourine glides onward toward the grave. who drew the line? who drew the line between you and me? who drew the line that everyone sees? darling, Lake Pontchartrain is haunted: bones without names, photographs framed in reeds. darling, what blood our veins are holding. the overpass frozen, fires ablaze at sea. who drew the line? who drew the line that cuts to the skin, buries me in? tell me who drew the line. darling don't close your eyes. (lie as darkness hardens. lie of our reunion. o lie if God is sleeping. o I believe you now.) darling, Lake Pontchartrain will cradle me, and all you left behind. listen: ever-so-faint slow tambourine is marching back through time.


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Scenes from Heiligendamm; or, what it's like to discover plutonium... by accident!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A G8 comedy featuring George, Angie, Vlad, and Nick. (Inspired by this and this.) The setting is a small German city on the Baltic Sea. Angie is seated between Vlad and George on an odd-looking contraption. Nick stands off to the side, exchanging pleasantries with Steve, Tony, Romo, and Shinzy. José is milling about with some B-listers, all ignored, well out of sight.

-- George: (gently rubbing Angie's shoulders) Hey, you know, Angie, I just had a pretty wild idea.
-- Angie: (quivering) What is it?
-- George: (smirking, feeling like a real decider) Well I, uh, I'm not sure how you pronounce it or anything, but I, uh, I believe it's ménage à trois?
-- Angie: (surprised, trembling in anticipation) Was?
(Just then, Vlad hands a cell phone to Nick and turns to George and Angie, smiling.)
-- Vlad: Hi. (mumbling) Sorry about that. Nick had me on with his friend Jean-Marie. Charming fellow. Great ideas. Hmmm.
-- Angie: (visibly shaking with delight) Vlad! Remember what we talked about the other day? George is into it!
-- Vlad: (foaming at the mouth) Oh really?! Da?!
-- George looks into Vlad's heart, then into his pants. The camera moves in on a close-up of an increasingly horrified George, and freezes. There will be no new Cold War tonight.

Laughter. Fade out.

(Seriously, what's the deal here with Putin and Sarkozy? To whom are they talking?)

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Why do I even know who Paris Hilton is?

By Edward Copeland

Stop the presses! Interrupt all broadcasts! Paris Hilton is going back to jail and she's crying! Howard Kurtz wrote a great column this morning about all this nonsense (and that was before cable broke away from news of Peter Pace's "retirement" to get back to Parismania).

Forget immigration, Iraq and -- what's that guy's name? -- Libby. We can all have a national meltdown now over Paris! Maybe Bush should pardon her so she doesn't have to keep wearing that designer ankle bracelet for the next 40 days. I wonder if Britney and Linsday can come over to her new "cell"--is Lindsay out of rehab? I'd better find my copy of Us--and they can pretend they're hitting the clubs. Paris, what are we going to do with you? Heyyyy. . . this would make a great reality show.

If the news channels, and I use the term news very loosely, were going to avoid topics of real significance (Also out there in the ether: William Jefferson's not guilty plea, a pending no-confidence vote against Alberto Gonzales and a report placing some of the locations of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe) to focus on something of cultural significance, how about focusing on something of cultural significance such as the impending end of "The Sopranos." Every time Paris Hilton's name has come up since she first forced her way into the public consciousness, I've asked others the same question: Why do we even know who she is? Yes, she's rich. Yes, she's an heiress. However, there are plenty of rich heiresses out there that we don't know. Has she achieved anything? People began talking about her prior to her reality TV show, so that can't take the credit. Certainly others such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith have spawned similar media hysteria, but say what you will about them, all three actually had accomplished something careerwise to put themselves in the public eye in the first place. Paris had done nada. Paris made Paris and the media bought right into it.

How can we expect the Fourth Estate to do their job on the myriad of serious issues needing scrutiny in the age of the Bush administration when they'd rather blather on about a young, rich party girl that no one should even be aware of outside of her friends and immediate family. I've said it before and I will say it again: Wouldn't it be great if some rich philanthropist actually started a television news operation that actually focused on the news and not trivia?

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A victory for Bush: The G8's meaningless climate deal and the bias of low expectations

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The headlines were all so positive, so happy, so full of sunny optimism: "G8 leaders agree to climate deal" (BBC); "G-8 Leaders Back 'Substantial' Cuts In Gas Emissions" (WaPo); "U.S. Compromise on Global Warming Plan Averts Impasse at Group of 8 Meeting" (NYT); and so on. An analyst at the BBC, hardly a news outlet to spin anything in Bush's favour, called the deal "a breakthrough in the long Euro-American stand-off over climate policy". The G8 leaders, as if guided by divine intervention, or at least by some miracle, agreed to "substantial" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They even agreed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan for a 50 percent reduction by 2050.

So -- wait. Does this mean that the U.S. actually gave in, that its position is not one of substantial negligence, that it is not a malevolent hegemon, that Bush's "new framework" is sincere and meaningful after all, that he is not an enabler of genocide? Could that all be true?

[Please pause for a moment as reality settles in.]


The headline at Canada's leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail, gets it right: "Climate deal struck -- with no firm targets". Yes, Merkel called the agreement "very great progress and an excellent result," but, according to the text of the agreement, countries must only "seriously consider" Merkel's 50 by 2050 plan. As the Post explains, "[u]nder the agreement, nonbinding goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions would be negotiated by officials from the world's top emitting nations by the end of next year". In other words, Bush didn't give in, he won. "The G-8 language echoes a plan articulated last week" in Bush's "new framework" speech. His national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, may be saying that the G8 leaders agreed to "a long-term goal, a long-term goal to substantially reduce emissions," but there is was no actual commitment to do anything at all -- other than to hold more talks (when what is needed is concerted leadeship and action). "What the United States proposed, and what I think got endorsement here, is a process whereby all the relevant countries can participate in the selection of that goal," said Hadley. In other words, Europe, Canada, and Japan may go ahead and do whatever they want. The U.S. -- perhaps along with Russia and non-G8 powers like China, India, and Brazil -- won't commit to do anything, and whatever it does do will be on its own terms.

That is a recipe for disaster, a disaster we know is coming.

Indeed, as it turns out -- whatever the rhetoric, whatever the spin, whatever the misleading headlines from around the world -- the U.S. did not give in, its position is one of substantial negligence, it is a malevolent hegemon, Bush's "new framework" is not sincere and meaningful, and he is an enabler of genocide.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Bush friend and ally, said that "what's been agreed for the first time is that we must have targets," that "we have to come toward real, mandatory, enforceable targets". Yet "[t]he United States was very clear that it will not agree to targets until it sees the entire world coming behind that concept".

The entire world? How is that even possible?

It isn't. It's just a cover for irresponsibility.


One more point: Once again, what we see here is an example of the low expectations that prop up Bush and that ultimately bias news coverage in his favour. Whereas Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 were held to high standards and criticized for failing, as it was inevitable they would, to meet them, Bush was often praised for meeting far lower standards.

This applied to the issues -- Kerry's nuanced positions on Iraq were ridiculed as flip-flops while Bush's simplistic happy talk was celebrated as a reflection of confident leadership, for example -- but also to how they conducted themselves as candidates, that is, to image and style. Gore was considered to be wooden, and when he wasn't being wooden, or perceived to be wooden, he was accused of trying to hard not to seem wooden, that is, of being a fake. Meanwhile, Bush's awful struggles with the English language were laughed away as evidence of his down-home genuineness, proof that he was just a regular guy. Indeed, while Gore and Kerry were presenting serious policy positions on key issues both domestic and foreign, Bush was being applauded for stringing a few coherent sentences together and for not mangling his pronunciations. Although Bush's has collapsed in the polls, and although Jon Stewart may respond with baffled and occasionally miffed incredulity when Bush says something typically atrocious, not much has changed in how Bush is perceived and covered. The low expectations remain firmly in place.

To wit: Given his record -- and the low expectations of him with respect to the climate crisis -- Bush has been praised just for acknowledging the reality of global warming. Not, that is, for actually doing anything about it, but just for not denying it, like so many on the American right. And isn't this precisely why he is being praised (or at least not being criticized) for the G8 deal (which, again, is anything but a "compromise" -- Bush got what he wanted)? Very little was expected of him leading up to the G8 summit. Blair was optimistic, as he often is, but the conventional wisdom was that the U.S. would block any effort to deal with global warming, including any "compromise" deal that required the U.S. to give in even a little. In the end, the U.S. didn't really give in at all, and yet Bush is being praised because at least something was accomplished, at least some deal was reached. It may be a hollow deal without any of the necessary commitments, but at least it's a deal. And so Bush walks away looking good, just because he succeeded in meeting, and indeed in surpassing, the (very) low expectations that everyone had of him.

Some things haven't changed at all from Bush's run for the White House in 2000 to the 2007 G8 summit in Germany. However unpopular he and his policies may be, he still finds it easy, at times, to blow away the doubters, the purveyors of those low expectations, who continue to serve him so well.

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Military activism

By Carol Gee

The term "military activism" is not an oxymoron for people whose defining war was Vietnam. But it could be a contradiction in terms for many of us who have retired, because our defining war was World War II. We were growing up during the 1940's, the decade when most everyone had come to agreement that World War II was a "just" war. We were united; no one protested.

The meaning of the term, for me as I first use it in this post, is "anti-war or pro-war activism within the ranks of the active military or among veterans." From the Korean War on, some American people -- including some veterans -- became disenchanted with the government's stated justifications for going to war. Vietnam was the impetus for the emergence of the first really significant antiwar veteran activism. Senator John Kerry cut his teeth in such public service soon after he returned from his stint in the jungles and waterways of southeast Asia.

What is the current level of antiwar or pro-war military activism associated with the war in Iraq today? An article in my current Democratic Strategist linked to a fascinating story in the Washington Monthly that was the basis for yesterday's South by Southwest blog post. It's title is "How a Democrat Can Get My Vote: Advice from seven recent war veterans." It opens with these statistics:

Three years ago, in 2004, 60 percent of military voters polled by the Military Times identified themselves as Republican. Today, that number is down to 46 percent, or less than half. The reason for this change is obvious: Iraq has gone from bad to worse. Afghanistan, too, is in trouble.

The article ends with links to seven short and very interesting essays (see *list below) "from a group of military veterans of various ranks and political persuasions, each of whom wrote a short essay in response," as well as a link to, quoting further from the Monthly,

"The Bitter End," a reported piece by Washington Monthly national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman, who argues, based on what he has seen in Iraq and at home, that Democrats are right on the merits of withdrawal from Iraq but misguided on what message that will send to our troops there.

Exploring the term "military activism" further, I was surprised when it became apparent that the government can also be the activists. I found a fascinating article from 2002 entitled, "The 'New Warfare' and the New American Calculus of War," the Project on Defense Alternatives' Briefing Memo #26, written by Carl Conetta, 30 September 2002. Table of contents:

1. Introduction
2. The new calculus of war
3. The new warfare
4. The poverty of analysis: a splendid little war?
5. Precision attack, chaotic outcomes
6. The new warfare: disappearing "the civilian"?

"Rosy scenario-with cautions?" -- Quoting the author's introduction reveals what might have been the "prevailing wisdom" in military thinking at the beginning of the war in Iraq:

One legacy of the 20th century's great conflicts was the emergence of a general societal presumption against war: the simple idea that war should be an instrument of last and infrequent resort. Although this lesson came at a very high price, it has proved difficult to retain. Especially since the end of the cold war, the idea has been in retreat. A new cost-benefit calculus is at work in American policy discourse and practice -- one accepting a lowered threshold for the use of force as an instrument of US policy.

Important in shaping this development was the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of global superpower conflict. This geostrategic revolution elevated America's relative power position to one of distinct military primacy and it mitigated concerns about the possibility that regional intervention might escalate to the level of an all-consuming nuclear conflagration.

Also important in altering America's war calculus has been the putative "revolution in military affairs" (or "RMA") which is associated with developments in the field of information technology. RMA capabilities are supposed to give the United States the capacity to fight regional wars surgically and to conclude them rapidly with minimal casualties and collateral damage. Much as the geostrategic revolution served to relax concerns about war escalation, emergent RMA capabilities have served to mitigate the fear that regional intervention might lead to "quagmires" reminiscent of the Vietnam War.

…the cautions -- The author's closing two paragraphs are eerily prophetic:

The increasing role of special operations troops and covert operatives, and the increased dependence on indigenous ethnic militias, may also have the effect of blurring the military-civilian boundary. In addition, the use of ethnic militias or other local irregular troops as proxies raises issue of control and accountability. In the aftermath of the Afghan war, some elements of the Northern Alliance may have committed grave and systematic breeches of the Geneva Conventions, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and several human rights organizations. At minimum, this could reflect badly on the United States and tarnish the moral authority of the war against terrorism.

The demise of the Soviet Union elevated America to a position of unparalleled global military superiority. Today the United States accounts for more than forty percent of world defense spending. In the shadow of the 11 September attacks, US military power may seem more relevant than ever. But America's preponderance of military power does not settle the question of how to employ this instrument or when. Nor does it tell us how best to balance this instrument with others in order to meet today's unique challenges. Although these questions are urgent ones, we cannot hope to answer them wisely without a better accounting of both the "new warfare" and the dynamics associated with military activism in the new era.

"Not so fast," says Russia. In the face of our current president's (OCP) weird missile defense proposal for/against(?) Russia, Vladimir Putin has been exercising a bit of military activism himself. The ContraCosta Times headlines the dilemma into which OCP has again gotten us, "Bush assuages, assails Putin on defense." To quote:

President Bush gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a double-edged message Tuesday, reassuring him that he has nothing to fear from a missile-defense system that he abhors, then slapping him verbally for backsliding on democratic reforms.

Bush's words threatened to inflame his already-tense relationship with Putin and to overshadow the Group of Eight Summit that opens today in Germany.

Bush said he intends to tell Putin when the two leaders meet Thursday at the G-8 summit that the U.S. plan to build a Europe-based missile-defense system poses no threat to Russia.

*The Seven Veterans' Essays:

-- One Soldier's Story: An Introduction - by Phillip Carter
-- Withdraw Decisively - by Ross Cohen
-- Stay and Fight - by Garth Stewart
-- Understand the War We're In - by Andrew Exum
-- Elect More Jim Webbs - by Clint Douglas
-- Bash the Generals - by Melissa Tryon
-- Ask Americans to Serve - by Nathaniel Fick

(Cross-posted from South by Southwest.)

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To pardon or not to pardon?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For an excellent post on why convicted felon Scooter Libby should neither be pardoned nor have his sentence commuted, see The Anonymous Liberal.

Key passage: "A careful, sympathetic, conscientious jury convicted Libby beyond a reasonable doubt on four felony counts. He showed zero contrition and was therefore sentenced in accordance with federal guidelines and practice. If that's the sort of injustice that warrants a presidential pardon, then we might as well just empty the federal prisons and grant amnesty to every federal inmate."

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The case for an Islamic London

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You want crazy? Here's crazy:

London's Time Out magazine has published a provocative article "argu[ing] that an Islamic London would be a better place" than, one presumes, the London of today. After quickly dispensing with "a hysterical, right-wing nightmare of a future Muslim London: where an cruel alien creed is forced on a liberal city," the article proceeds to explain that London is already heavily Islamic and why, issue by issue, Islam -- essentially Islamic theocracy -- would be so good for the city. Whether it's public health or social justice, race relations or the environment, education or the arts, all is right, Time Out declares, with Islam.

As McQ points out at QandO, this is quite likely an incredible parody. If so, forget crazy. This is brilliant, not least because one cannot help but read it without thinking of Islam's darker and often more prominent side. (You don't have to be some right-wing nut to worry about Islamic "justice".) The article makes such a strong and exaggerated case for Islam that it's obviously a big joke, and it compels us to think about Islam more seriously precisely by testing our sensibilities with such an extreme case. For non-Muslims who know London, and perhaps even for those who don't, the utopia presented here is a nightmare wrapped up in a pretty package. That's why it works. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks," as Gertrude puts it.

This is not to say, of course, that I find Islam to be a repugnant faith. It can be quite beautiful, whatever its problems, and there are more than a few. But let's say that Time Out had published an article arguing for an Evangelical Christian London. It should be obvious that such a utopian scheme could also be presented in a pretty package. But would that be any better? Or, rather -- as I prefer not to get into ranking organized religions -- would that be desirable? No more than the Islamic utopia, I would say, a utopia in which all darkness has been expunged.

As one who loves London a great deal and who has spent a lot of time there, what I prefer -- and what I suspect Time Out and its provocative parodists prefer -- is not an Islamic London or an Evangelical Christian London but a secular, liberal democratic London that is vibrant, dynamic, and open -- yes, very much the London of today. (Just like I prefer a secular, liberal democratic Toronto, my current home.) Warts and all, it is a great city, and this article reminds of that, and compels us to think about why, without saying anything about it at all, and in fact by compelling us to confront a radical alternative that is more nightmare than dream.


I reserve the right to take all this back if Time Out has gone insane and was being serious.

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Jeffersonian corruption

By Michael J.W. Stickings

When I saw this vague headline at The Hill -- "CBC digs in for Jefferson" -- I immediately wondered, being a good Canadian, what the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had to do with some guy named Jefferson.

Ah, but of course, it's the the Congressional Black Caucus, not the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and, well, that CBC, as the article states, "dug in its heels yesterday in defense of indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) and expressed concerns that a House ethics investigation on the lawmaker’s alleged corrupt activities could influence, even poison, a future jury trial". And that's pretty stupid, if predictable, when you think about it.

Jefferson, as many of you might know, is at the center of a major scandal. Last year, the FBI found $90,000 in cash at his house in Washington -- in the freezer, of all places, wrapped in aluminum foil and stashed in frozen-food containers. He was indicted this past Monday. Here's the story:

Federal authorities accused Rep. William J. Jefferson yesterday of using his congressional office and staff to enrich himself and his family, charging the Louisiana Democrat with offering and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support business ventures in the United States and several West African nations.

The 16-count indictment also accused Jefferson, a former co-chairman of congressional caucuses on Nigeria and African trade, of racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The indictment was handed up by a federal grand jury and capped a long and tumultuous FBI investigation.

The grand jury said Jefferson, 60, had solicited a bribe for himself and family members in a congressional dining room, falsely reported trips to Africa as official business, sought to corrupt a senior Nigerian politician and promoted U.S. financing for a sugar factory in Nigeria whose owner paid fees to a Jefferson family company in his home state.

In other words, Jefferson is pretty much the personification of political corruption. As the Post put it in an editorial, the indictment is "is staggering in the scope and audacity of the bribery schemes it portrays [him] as having peddled". On Tuesday, the House launched an ethics investigation of Jefferson. Meanwhile, Jefferson resigned from the House Small Business Committee, the last committee seat he held. Yesterday, a federal judge froze Jefferson's assets. He will be arraigned today in federal court.

Though he continues to deny his guilt, Jefferson hardly has any support left. The key exception is the CBC. While the House moved to investigate and his major hometown newspaper, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), said he had become "a liability for his district and Louisiana," a key concern for Democrats was whether the indictment would "rekindle a smoldering dispute between [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] and black lawmakers who were once pillars of her power. Indeed, the CBC has "stood by Jefferson and against the Democratic leadership" throughout this scandal.

What is evident is that the CBC is not pursuing justice but defending one of its own. (Those of you who have read Plato's Republic would be right to suspect that Polemarchus would likely side with the CBC on this, so flawed is his understanding of justice.) If Jefferson were white (or Hispanic, or whatever), the CBC likely wouldn't be in his corner holding firm on such principles as the presumption of innocence, which is precisely what it is doing now. The problem, of course, is that Jefferson is no ordinary citizen. He is a member of Congress and, as such, subject to certain ethics rules. The presumption of innocence is indeed a noble principle, one of the foundations of the American justice system (not to mention of liberal democratic justice systems generally), and is is one that must to be defended vigorously, not least in this time of peril for habeas corpus. But this is not about putting Jefferson on trial in "the chambers of public opinion," as the CBC chair, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), put it, rather than in "a court of law". Jefferson's day in court -- many days, one imagines -- will come.

For now, what is at issue is his conduct as a member of Congress, conduct that has been, in a word, appalling. It shouldn't matter that he is black (and a member of the CBC), nor that he is a Democrat. Whatever he has done to himself, his family, and his party, not to mention to the public, he has shamed the institution of which is a member, and that institution, such a vital one at the very core of American democracy, should have no place for him. The two parties continue to play politics, of course, and are hardly pure, individually or collectively, when it comes to ethical behaviour. But the right thing to do is what is being done, which is investigating Jefferson's conduct internally prior to, and irrespective of, a future trial.

Jefferson's conduct has been appalling, but it also appalling that the CBC continues to stand by him just because he is one of its own.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Headline of the Day (Paris Hilton edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's being covered everywhere -- including (of course) at CNN, which has proven over and over again that it just can't get enough of this sort of madness (think OJ and, more recently, ANS), and TMZ, which at least knows what it's all about and doesn't pretend to be anything else -- but the best headline comes from my friend and colleague Shaun Mullen at TMV:

Yes, that pretty much sums it up. But Shaun, who is a fine writer, deserves to be quoted:

Paris Hilton has finally done it to me. She has so outraged my sensibilities that here I am blogging on this sack of celebrity excrement instead of analyzing every jot and tittle of the presidential race.

As everyone but those hundreds of tortured souls rotting in Gitmo surely know by now, the hotel heiress was streeted only five days into her 23-day sentence (already reduced from 45 days) in a celebrity lockup for repeatedly driving drunk.

The reason: Paris couldn’t sleep and had become a sniveling mess. She will serve the rest of her sentence at home with a tracking device attached to her ankle.

Excrement, of course, deserves to be flushed. But what to do about a society that worships at the altar of such excrement? Ah, there's the real problem.

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An idea whose time has come

By Carol Gee

From the Clinton Climate Initiative: Many of us are unapologetic Bill Clinton fans. This is one of the reasons why our support has remained strong for so many years: The headline in the 5/16/07 Scientific American reads, "Clinton, cities, unveil $5 bln
buildings energy plan." To quote a bit from the story:

Five global banks will raise $5 billion in loans to make existing buildings up to 50 percent more energy efficient with New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg among the first 15 cities to take part.

Under the plan, unveiled on Wednesday by former President Bill Clinton, city governments and building owners will repay the loans plus interest with savings made from reduced energy costs created by the energy-efficient retrofit.

This is my first post as an invited co-blogger at The Reaction. I feel honored by the opportunity and humbled by the potential increase in readership. Because I am a fan, a frequent reader, a "linker," and a comment poster at The Reaction, Michael and I have been exchanging various types of communication for some time.

For a couple of years I have been among the ranks of
those I call the "little bloggers," with my political writing at South by Southwest. There I have various interests to which I regularly turn, including global warming, citizen activism, Congress and our current president (OCP -- the term makes him seem more temporary), the situations in the Middle East, and the European Union, and the space program.

Thanks again to Michael for his vote of confidence. I hope I am able to be up to the good standards of my fellow co-bloggers.

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Surgeon General Bigot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If all goes as planned, the nation's top doctor will be an anti-gay bigot. ABC News is reporting this:

President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., wrote a paper in 1991 that purported to make the medical argument that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy. Doctors who reviewed the paper derided it as prioritizing political ideology over science, and Democratic aides on Capitol Hill say the paper will make his confirmation hearings problematic.

Holsinger, 68, presented "The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" in January 1991 to a United Methodist Church's committee to study homosexuality. (Read the paper here.) The church was then considering changing its view that homosexuality violates Christian teaching, though it ultimately did not do so. Relying on footnotes from mainstream medical publications, Holsinger argued that homosexuality isn't natural or healthy.

Yes, go read the paper. It purports to be a purely scientific argument for what he calls "the complementarity of the human sexes," with respect to both intercourse and procreation, but what it really is is an attack on homosexual activity and hence on homosexuality itself. And remember, it was written in 1991, not 1891!

Holsinger does not allow that homosexuality could in any way be natural, or even safe. All he does is point to "evidence" that anal sex is dangerous: "[T]he varied sexual practices of homosexual men have resulted in a diverse and expanded concept of sexually transmitted disease and associated trauma." Apparently it did not occur to him that heterosexuals also engage in anal sex and other such "varied sexual practices". He even addresses, of all things, fisting. Indeed, there is a strange sensationalist quality to the whole paper, as if it somehow brought him pleasure to write about "anal-sphincter dysfunction" in all its many forms, not to mention "forceful anal penetration without lubrication against a resistant sphincter".

What is clear from all this is that Bush has nominated yet another theocratic ideologue for a key position in government. Hard to believe, eh?

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A blogging milestone

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Post #2000 was our election coverage last November. We've come a long way since then. This post -- yes, the very one you're reading right now -- is #3000.

I'd like to take this opportunity once again to thank our assistant editor (Creature), the co-bloggers, and the guest bloggers for the excellence they have brought, and continue to bring, to this blog. They are an amazing team.

I'd also like to thank all of you, our readers. I hope you like what you've found here and I hope you keep coming back for more.

And now, on we go.


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What's the deal with Iran and the Taliban?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC's The Blotter is reporting that Iran is arming the Taliban:

NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain.

Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke seems to buy it, but SecDef Robert Gates said earlier this week that there was no evidence "of the involvement of the Iranian government in support of the Taliban." So who is making this claim? Anonymous "NATO officials" and "a senior coalition official". Feel free to be skeptical.

Cernig is quite right that this effort to link Iran to Afghanistan (and to a larger proxy war) isn't new. Both his post and my post on the Cheney-Rice feud linked to a Newsweek article that asserted that "Cheney staffers have been intensely interested in a single issue: recent intelligence reports alleging that Iran is supplying weapons to Afghanistan's resurgent Islamist militia, the Taliban". A couple of weeks ago I posted on the effort to link Iran to both al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. And prior to any of this there were efforts to blame Iran for supplying arms to militias and insurgents in Iraq, efforts that went nowhere.

What seems to be happening is that Cheney and those close to him are trying to build a case for war against Iran, which is why they are so critical of Rice's recent attempts to reach out diplomatically to Tehran. If they can make (i.e., fabricate) the case that Iran is waging proxy war against the U.S. through al Qaeda and the Taliban, among others, then they can push for what would appear to be retaliatory war against a "proven" enemy. (Plus, Iran may soon have those WMDs.)

The problem for Cheney and those close to him, however, is that the evidence is sketchy at best, and more likely non-existent, since none of it makes much sense, which is why these reports rely on (suspicious) anonymous sources. As Cernig points out, after all, neither the British nor Afghan President Hamid Karzai are buying it.

The hoodwinking is all too transparent now.

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Turkish troops enter Iraq, details unclear

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It is being officially denied, but it seems, according to reports, that "[s]everal thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who attack Turkey from bases there". It is not clear how many troops were involved -- hundreds? thousands? -- but the information comes from two Turkish security officials "speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media". One of the officials said it was "a hot pursuit, not an incursion," while the other said it was "not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands".

Vague, but worrisome. As Ed Morrissey points out, "[t]he move threatens to destabilize the area most successfully adjusted to the new status of Iraq and bring the US and Turkey into diplomatic conflict". There has long been tension along the border and in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, given the effort by the Kurds to establish an independent state (Kurdistan) that would possibly include parts of Turkey, not to mention the effort by the Turks to block this. Turkey's foremost concern with respect to the Iraq War was that the Kurds would pursue sovereignty more vigorously than they had been able to under Saddam. Yet it has never been clear to me why the Kurds shouldn't have their own sovereign state. The question is what to do with the Kurdish areas of Turkey. This is a territorial dispute, after all, not just a border dispute. Some reworking of the border between Turkey and Iraq would seem to make sense, but of course what makes sense to a detached observer is hardly what makes sense to either side of such a dispute.

The concern is that this "hot pursuit" could trigger an escalation of tension on both sides of the border, not to mention further military action from both sides, that could turn the dispute, or what is essentially a small rebel conflict, into a full-scale war with the U.S. connected to both sides and with a diplomatic resolution looking increasingly unlikely.

Just what Iraq needs, right?

A story to watch, to be sure.

(For more, see Tim F. at Balloon Juice.)

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Orwellian Dick

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Vice President Cheney told Justice Department officials that he disagreed with their objections to a secret surveillance program during a high-level White House meeting in March 2004, a former senior Justice official told senators yesterday.

The meeting came one day before White House officials tried to get approval for the same program from then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who lay recovering from surgery in a hospital, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey.

Comey's disclosures, made in response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that Cheney and his aides were more closely involved than previously known in a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program. The program allowed the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas.

Comey said that Cheney's office later blocked the promotion of a senior Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, because of his role in raising concerns about the surveillance.

Okay, let's summarize:

1) Cheney (and his people) not only supported the (illegal) domestic surveillance program but actively advocated for it even against Justice Department objections. (Tyranny)

2) Cheney punished one of those at the Justice Department who raised concerns about the (illegal) domestic surveillance program. (Thuggery)

What a lovely human being.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bush 'n' Bono

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Self-righteousness must be a strong bond. I know which one's more dangerous, but, honestly, I'm not sure which one I find more annoying.

(Photo: The Globe.)

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Democracy, accountability, and the inevitability of failure in Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bob Geiger is reporting on yet more proof -- this time in a Senate Intelligence Committee report released before Memorial Day -- that General Eric Shinseki was right in his pre-war assessment of how many troops would be needed in Iraq for the occupation. He suggested about "several hundred thousand soldiers" and was promptly ridiculed and worse by the warmongers, notably Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. We've known for a long time that he was right -- the neocon warmongers have been calling for more troops for a long time, after all -- but this report not only clears Shinseki but also reveals that "the Bush administration ignored critical pre-war intelligence in their rush to invade Iraq," in Bob's words. More:

The report, which the previous Republican Congress successfully kept from being produced for two years, shows that months before the Iraq invasion, the White House knew from U.S. intelligence agencies that a civil war would likely erupt after Saddam's ouster, that al-Qaeda would quickly move to exploit the American occupation and that Osama bin Laden's organization would actually gain strength globally due to Bush's action.

One may be tempted to yawn at yet more evidence of pre-war malfeasance on the part of those itching for war, from Bush on down, and there are those, like McCain, who argue that the war is what it is and that there is therefore no need to go back and examine its origins (in this sense, the pre-war period, when the case for war was being made and the military plans were being drawn up and finalized), but I would argue that the war and its origins are inseparable. The war is what it is -- or has become what it has become -- because of its origins. The war has gone horribly wrong, of course, but it has gone horribly wrong not because of what could not have been foreseen before the war but because those who started the war ignored the warnings provided to them by the intelligence community, warnings that have been proven to have been nothing if not prescient.

One could argue that the war is wrong regardless of its origins, or that it would have gone horribly wrong no matter what, but the point here is that the decisions made at the highest level leading up to the start of the war, including the "decision" to ignore the warnings, essentially made success impossible. Once those decisions were made, once the ball got rolling, it was all but inevitable -- we can now say with the benefit of hindsight and the evidence available to us -- that the war would go horribly wrong.

True, the war is what it is. Whatever its origins, the reality is what is going on Iraq right now, and it is that reality that must be dealt with -- preferably by putting an end to the war sooner rather than later. But one of the key aspects of democratic politics is accountability. Those who started the war, from Bush on down, must be held accountable for what they did. And this means they must be held accountable not just for what has happened over the course of the war, that is, the gross mismanagement of the war, but for how they took the country to war, for the decisions they made at the war's origins.

This is not just for the sake of historical accuracy. It is for the sake of American democracy.

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Substantial negligence: Bush's "pathetic attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the world" on global warming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Blair may have thought he could convince Bush to agree to a "substantial cut" in greenhouse gas emissions at the G8 summit in Germany -- that is, to take global warming seriously -- but, as has been the case before, his hopes were the stuff of delusion. In an interview with The Guardian, Blair suggested that Bush's "new framework" -- which I debunked here and which another and more prominent critic, John Sauven of Greenpeace, called "a classic spoiler," "a disaster," and "a pathetic attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the world and an increasingly concerned US electorate" -- is "significant and important". He is right that Bush has admitted that global warming is a reality, but the "new framework" is nothing but an effort to look like he's doing something without really doing anything at all.

And, indeed, the U.S. has agreed to nothing at all at the G8 summit:

Washington says it will not agree to a deal on slashing greenhouse gas emissions at the G8 summit in Germany.

A top US climate official said the G8 should not dictate members' policies, but President Bush said he still had a "strong desire" for a post-Kyoto plan.

Bush may not be a global warming denier along the lines of many on the American right, but he is a unilateralist who refuses to pursue any sort of transformative international agreement on global warming. He wants to do it his way, to pursue some sort of post-Kyoto plan on his own terms, with talks conducted on his own terms. He may want to bring new powers like China, India, and Brazil into the mix, but what will that mean without a "substantial cut" in greenhouse gas emissions? Not much. And Bush doesn't want anything to do with a "substantial cut". In fact, he doesn't really want to do anything at all.

Ultimately, his "strong desire" amounts to fuck all.

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A nation turns its bored and lonely eyes to ten awesome Republican presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or not.

Certainly not.

Like the Democrats the other night, the Republicans took part in a debate last night in Manchester, New Hampshire. (That may be the most soporific sentence I've written in my 2+ years as a blogger.) You can get your fix at CNN, which co-sponsored the damn thing.

One highlight (and, admittedly, I've only seen highlights, and only reluctantly even then -- come on, the Jays rallied for six runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 12-11 victory over the D-Rays!): Brownback announced his support for the partition of Iraq. (Because that's worked so well in Northern Ireland, for example.)

What else? Well, Jeralyn at TalkLeft has a good round-up of the night's "lowlights". Giuliani once again played the terrorism card -- did you know he was mayor of New York on 9/11, by the way? He's proving himself to be America's chief fearmonger, surpassing even Cheney. (And, as you may know, he may be worse than Bush.)

Also: McCain likes the immigration bill, but Tancredo hates immigrants. Huckabee believes in creationism, but McCain isn't sure. (Jesus fucking Christ: What does it say about the state of the Republican Party, and of American politics generally, that creationism is discussed, and affirmed, by its candidates for the presidency at a debate in New Hampshire? Darwin is already persona non grata at these events. Next thing you know they'll be trashing Galileo and Newton.)

Once again, Paul made the most sense. He's a crazy libertarian, but at least he's consistent. (And he was a good guest on The Daily Show Monday night.) And he's quite right about Iraq, which puts him well ahead of the rest of them on the sanity scale. Not that that's saying much, but still.

Here's Ed Morrissey with a right-on-target assessment: "What it lacked in firepower, it more than made up in pointlessness." Man, at least the Democrats talked serious policy the other night. The Republicans seem to be yapping without any real purpose at all.

I'll leave it at that for now. Check back at Memeorandum for all the debate talk you'll ever need.


Update: Read Dickerson.

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Scooter gets thirty, Kristol goes krazy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I know, I know, I haven't commented on the Libby sentencing yet. Honestly, I don't have much to say. He got 2 1/2 years (or 30 months). That's it. (As is often the case, I'm with Benen on this.) There's a ton of reaction at Memeorandum, some of which I'm sure is worth reading.

Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Feith. These are just some of the discredited lowlifes, among others, who wrote pre-sentencing letters in support of Libby. Do you really want these guys on your side?

Krazy Kristol is steaming mad: He "feel[s] terrible for Scooter Libby's family". (Boo-fucking-hoo. Maybe Libby and his enablers should have thought about "Scooter Libby's family" before they committed their crimes.) It's all a gross injustice, you see. And Bush should pardon Libby tout de suite. But, well, a pardon may not be forthcoming, and for this, frothing at the mouth, Kristol verbally molests the once-president of his neocon dreams: "So much for loyalty, or decency, or courage." Really, it's taken this for Kristol to turn on Bush? I don't doubt Kristol's man-crush on Libby, but this looks to me like a convenient excuse to break ranks with a hideously unpopular president. (Creature has more on this over at SotD.)

And now... on to the appeals!

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Another good Bushie: General Petraeus and the surge deception

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let's play a quick game of compare & contrast (via TP):

-- Gen. David Petraeus (April): "We’re only about two months into the surge."

-- Gen. David Petraeus (today): "We haven’t started the surge -- the full surge -- yet."

Hmmm. What do you think?


General Petraeus has been widely celebrated for his competence, and his appointment as U.S. commander in Iraq was widely applauded -- the Senate confirmed him 81-0. He was seen as the right person to take over from Gen. George Casey and, indeed, the right person to lead Bush's new "strategy" for Irag, the so-called "surge" in Baghdad and Anbar province. "The New Way Forward," it was meant to be, or so it was spun, and we were told that the U.S. was in good hands.

Petraeus may indeed have good hands. He may indeed by quite competent. But, more and more, he's looking like yet another Bushie. Not a Bushie like Harriett Miers or Andy Card or Alberto Gonzales -- no, not a slavish sycophant, not a corrupt crony -- but a Bushie with respect to his deception in support of Bush's war, his doing of Bush's bidding. Like so many of the others at the center of this war, from the warmongers in Washington to many of those actually waging the war, Petraeus has shifted his views -- i.e., uttered lies, saying one thing and then the complete opposite, without any nuance at all -- in order to defend the indefensible, which is what this war has become.

John Kerry may have been for it before he was against it, or whatever, but this is far worse. For so long, what changed was the rationale for the war. It was this before it was that before it was that other thing, and so on. Whatever was the convenient way of selling the war to a gullible public. It was WMDs until no WMDs were found. It was 9/11 until the Saddam-9/11 connection was debunked. It was the democratization of Iraq and the Middle East until that utopian dream was finally put to rest. But what has also been changing for so long is the explanation of how the war is going. Mission accomplished, then, well, not so much. The last throes of the insurgency, then, well, not so much. And so on. And now what we have is the top U.S. military official in Iraq claiming that the surge hasn't even started just two months after he declared it was already two months old. Oh, he caught himself: the full surge hasn't started yet. But since when were there two surges, the not-full and the full? Well, since it became clear -- and it has, more and more -- that the surge, the one surge that was intended, has been a miserable failure.

But there can be no admission of failure, hence the Bushiness of Petraeus's self-contradictory remark. Instead of admitting to failure, Petraeus has simply changed the rules of the game. How can the surge be a failure if it hasn't even started yet? It's like taking mulligan after mulligan off the tee until your drive hits the fairway. It means trying to succeed not only by changing the definition of success but by pretending that past failures don't mean anything at all. The problem is, you can't keep rolling the dice until they come up sixes. You can keep swinging for the fences until you finally hit the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. You get the point. A mulligan or two over the course of a round of golf may be acceptable, but claiming that an entire war, or a major aspect of it, has been a mulligan, well, not so much. And that's precisely what Petraeus is doing.

And so the surge hasn't started, yet, and for that reason Petraeus won't know by September, as he also claimed he would, how things are going. Democrats and Republican dissenters, the ranks of whom are swelling, were looking ahead to September for a definitive statement on the reality of the war, but now it looks like they won't get one. I supported the removal of a timetable for withdrawal from the funding bill because it didn't make much sense to me to keep sending Bush a bill he would veto, but part of the rationale for compromise was a sense that we would have a clearer picture of the situation in Iraq by the end of the summer. A statutory timetable may still not make much sense -- Joe Biden was right last night when he said that the only way to end the war is to elect a Democrat to the White House in '08 -- but Democrats and Republican dissenters need to push back hard. What we have here, after all, is a concerted strategy to prolong the war indefinitely, to ignore failure by changing the rules and trying again. Just ask Petraeus (and Bush): When will the full surge begin? When will sufficient time have passed for judgment to be rendered? You may get answers to those questions, but they won't mean anything at all.

And that's because the only consistency is deception, the repugnant Bushiness of it all.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LVIII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

One can't possibly keep up with all the bloodshed, but here's what happened today (one major incident, anyway):

At least 15 people have been killed in a suicide car bomb attack near the Iraqi city of Falluja, police and the US military said.

At least 13 people were also wounded when the attacker detonated the car bomb in a market place, they said.

The attack came as the US admitted its security "surge" in and around Baghdad faced serious challenges.

A US security review said coalition forces controlled fewer than one-third of Baghdad's neighbourhoods.

So -- The surge isn't working, Baghdad isn't secure, and the violence continues. And Americans are dying alongside the Iraqis (if in smaller numbers). Indeed, the U.S. military reported yesterday that 14 American soldiers had been killed in the three days from Friday to Sunday. Consider the graph below, which shows an unmistakable upward trend in U.S. military deaths since the beginning of last year. May was a horrible month, and Bush himself has suggested that the summer, and particularly August, could be even worse.

What does this all mean? Things aren't getting better and may be getting worse. It is (long past) time for the U.S. to get out.

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Headline of the Day

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Seriously. Ouch.

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Keep it to yourself

By Capt. Fogg

There have been some, but not many, events in the American political circus that have left me feeling almost as bilious as last night's Democratic revival meeting. Ronald Reagan's colonoscopy photos on TV for one, and the detailed descriptions of Bill Clinton's dalliance posted on the Internet by the very same Republicans who were trying to make it illegal to talk about sex in cyberspace. Way too much information, as the cliché goes. I want to know more about all the candidates, but I don't to share a confessional any more than I want to share a bathroom with them.

I smell the same flatus-in-the-elevator, dirty laundry funk in the fulsome proclamations of fatuous faith by people claiming to be capable of filling the most powerful office on the planet. I don't want to know that the guy who feels chock full of sin has a finger on the button or can't get through a marital crisis without invoking invisible spirits and claiming fealty to a supernatural master with inclinations toward world destruction. I'm not impressed with someone who needs the spectre of eternal punishment resting on his shoulder to be able to make a moral or ethical decision. I'm just not impressed with faith at all; it's a sign of weakness.

Although I guess it's best that I know whatever batshit beliefs a candidate has, I still can't see such lapses of decorum as anything but vulgar if they are sincere and anything but disgusting if they are not.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Blocking research on global warming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The truth about Bush's commitment to tackling the most pressing issue of our time, the climate crisis, is that it is all rhetoric, hollow and counter-productive. In fact, the evidence clearly indicates that Bush wishes to block efforts to tackle the climate crisis -- blocking international efforts while also blocking efforts at home. Consider the latest example of irresponsibility:

The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases.

A confidential report to the White House, obtained by The Associated Press, warns that U.S. scientists will soon lose much of their ability to monitor warming from space using a costly and problem-plagued satellite initiative begun more than a decade ago.

Is this all about cost? That's the excuse, perhaps, but this move ought to be seen in the light of everything else Bush has done to block efforts to tackle the climate crisis, not as a single act of cost-saving. (And is this really the right place to cut costs?) Bush doesn't actually want to do anything about the climate crisis, he just wants to be seen to be doing something -- something that, in the end, turns out to be nothing at all.

But this isn't nothing. It's blocking, or at least cutting down on, scientific research on the climate crisis. It's actively preventing work from being done, even by his own government.

And it's truly appalling.

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