Saturday, July 07, 2007

[If Dick Cheney co-blogged at The Reaction]

Quote of the Day

By BigTime

"If they don't surrender, I'm saying it here, they will be killed." -- President Pervez Musharraf to Islamist militants barricaded in a mosque w/hundreds of innocent irrelevant women and children inside.

(Cross-posted at Undisclosed Location.)

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Ah, that wacky liberal media

By jeffaclitus

Hello. Sorry about the dearth of posts from yours truly (that apology directed at the two of you who want more posts from me, not the legions who are either relieved at no longer having to scroll past my addled rantings or who have no idea who the hell I am). The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have me less inclined to pontificate to the internets recently, but then Michael threatened to kick me off the blog, so I figured I better post something.

Anyways, Amanda Marcotte has a great post up about the extreme stupidity and dishonesty involved in the game of gotcha the media is playing with John Edwards, who claims to care about poor people but who actually has mad bank.

Few things show how the media has become an echo chamber for the concerns of the wealthy elite than the fact that they smugly conflate being a class traitor to them with being a hypocrite. Of course, as Hightower notes, these are the same people who played like Bush was a good ol’ boy because he has a cattle-less gentleman’s ranch in Crawford. The only rednecks they can really handle are the ones who are all hat and no cattle, I suppose.

This is the part where I express my enthusiasm for the phrase "all hat, no cattle."

But, be that as it may, I think she's right. It's more or less true that the media is "liberal" in the sense of not being especially taken with folks who can't discuss sex without using the word "abomination" (and who don't seem interested in discussing much else). But the idea that writers for the major newspapers and online outlets like Slate actually care about, say, the forty-some million Americans without health care is nonsense. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, "the media" represents the solidly, even banally, bourgeois outlook you would expect, promoting the interests of their class and having little attachment, sentimental or otherwise, to tradition. They only seem "radical" to some because there's such a lusty hold-over of old-tyme religion in this country (and because there's political and, in the case of Fox News and its like, monetary hay to be made out of bashing the liberal elite, which means above all the liberal media).

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Of blackboards, chalk, and legacies -- The constitutional crisis continues

Guest post by J. Thomas Duffy

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce to your one of our newest contributors, J. Thomas Duffy. He has long been one of my good friends in the blogosphere, and it is a genuine pleasure to welcome him to The Reaction. He has written a few posts for us already, and hopefully there will be many more. The author of a great blog called The Garlic, he writes about many of the major issues of the day, often addressing the many abuses of the current administration, with a combination of gusto, outrage, and humour that sets his blog apart from so many others. (He has been a freelance comedy writer since 1975, with experience in journalism and radio.) Some of his link-filled Garlic posts will appear here, but make sure to check out The Garlic regularly (and see, for example, this recent post that includes the lullabye "Hush Little Libby").



Okay, so it's been a holiday week. I should stifle my impatience that Congress hasn't filed impeachment papers, that the call for a Citizen's Arrest hasn't gone down yet.

Everyone must be waiting for a clean news cycle to spring into action.

The Blackboard and Chalk Part

So much for the faulty memory.

It appears I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby remembered very clearly that he'd better hustle his ass off and pay the $250,000 fine related to his felon conviction -- and within 72-hours of being bailed out by The Commutation Guy -- before anyone gets the wiser and messes up his "Hush and Keep Quiet" deal.

And, as Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, Surprise!" -- we have a legal kerfuffle brewing thanks to The Commander Guy (just at the moment he was morphing into The Commutation Guy).

The presiding judge, His Honor Reggie Walton, has pointed out to the Bush Grindhouse, of said felon, Scooter Libby, that the statute doesn't accommodate probation if a convicted felon doesn't serve any part of his sentence.

The Scooter Man didn't serve any part of his 30-month sentence.

The Bush Grindhouse still insists that the commutation was legit and that Libby is not receiving any special treatment.

So, speculation is this will be settled in the following manner: Scooter Libby will stay after work, and write on a blackboard: "I WILL NOT LIE OR OBSTRUCT JUSTICE."

500 times.

There. Done. Punished.

The Legacy Part

Boy, the legacy-building is really tough these days, especially when you break the law, cloak your work in secrecy, and, otherwise, don't do anything positive.

And he can't, technically, claim getting elected president on the Legacy Ledger -- that was handed to him by the Supreme Court.

So you compensate, right?

You build a new Iraq Embassy that could probably house a few dozen Spruce Gooses (and, apparently, following Mr. Hughes' lead, use, how should we say, different materials?).

You keep sending in troops -- and even more mercanaries -- to a war that was long lost.

And there's the arm-twisting of whatever remains of his deluded supporters to kick in big-time for a presidential library.

The only mystery or suspense about what would be housed in a Bush Presidential Library, with his (or Cheney's) penchant for burying everything, is if there'll be a copy of My Pet Goat in it.

But thanks to Glenn Greenwald the other day, The Uniter/The Decider/The Commander Guy can peek at what awaits him, as he shallowly and embarrassingly cuts the ribbon (assuming they don't put that out on a No-Bid Contract) on his post-presidency whatever-you-call-it building:

The tragic collapse of America's standing in the world.

And there's this caveat:

And in what is perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Bush legacy, large numbers of people around the world, over the last six years, have abandoned their belief in U.S. democratic values -- the exact opposite result, literally, of our ostensible objective in everything we have done in the last six years.

Maybe we need to get Bush to write on a blackboard 500 times:


Send chalk to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500


Bonus Links:

-- Lewis Libby owes his freedom to our corrupt political elite
-- Late Nite FDL: News Flash! They Don’t Hate Us for Our Freedom.
-- Washington, Lincoln Most Popular Presidents: Nixon, Bush Least Popular
-- Arianna Huffington: Oh, the Hardship: It Takes Libby Nearly Three Days to Pay His Quarter Mil Fine
-- Frank Rich: When the Vice President Does It, That Means It’s Not Illegal

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On Competition

By Carol Gee

cross-posted at South by Southwest

(photo: "Free-Pictures-Photos")

Their lucky day ? 7/7/07 - We have heard much in recent weeks that gives us reason to question whether we can trust Chinese goods. From tires to pet food, we worry about Chinese imports. The Food and Drug Administration recently detained imported Chinese farm raised seafood items. It seems, however that the Chinese may be taking baby steps towards better regulation, at least with drug manufacturers. According to today's China Daily headline, "China tightens quality control of pharmaceutical companies," the number may be very small as a part of the larger production system. To quote,

China's food and drug watchdog has revoked the production licenses of five drug manufacturers since last July.

. . . According to Bian Zhenjia, an official with the administration, the main task of the watchdog in the last six months of this year is to increase the number of GMP inspectors in pharmaceutical factories and monitor the production quality of narcotic drug makers across the country.

Embarrased update (around noon Saturday): I am leaving the above paragraph just as I wrote it as a lesson to myself. I composed this post before checking other sources, such as the New York Times. The China Daily left out the key details of the story, that China is sentencing officials to death as part of the crackdown. That is not what I meant by "baby steps." Is this the way China has decided to compete with us?! To quote from the NYT story,
For the second time in three months, a former high-ranking official at China’s top food and drug watchdog agency has been sentenced to death for corruption and approving counterfeit drugs, the state-run news media said on Friday.

. . . But the death sentences appear to be a strong signal that China is determined to crack down on rampant fraud, corruption and counterfeiting in the nation’s food and drug industries. . . The harsh penalties come at a time when China is under mounting international criticism over the quality and safety of its food and drugs.

They're together on this - This website carries a great photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton marching hand in hand in the Clear Lake Iowa 4th of July parade. The headline reads, "Clinton: Don't fear or ignore a stronger China." The story gives a good roundup of Senator Clinton's foreign policy view regarding future relations with China. The piece also notes that Senators Clinton AND Obama are co-sponsoring a bill to pressure China to stop undervaluing its currency. I again quote from the China Daily (of 7/6/07):

Senator Hillary Clinton, a leading Democratic contender for the US presidency, has called for frank dialogue with China on issues ranging from trade to currency to human rights and the environment.

. . . Clinton of New York, together with another Democratic front-runner in the November 2008 presidential race, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, have joined a congressional push to punish countries that undervalue their currencies as legislators seek to turn up the heat over China's currency.

"They're our competitors" - says Senator Obama. On The Issues To Barack Obama on foreign policy (April, 2007):

Q: What are America's three most important allies around the world?

A: The European Union as a whole has been a long-standing ally of ours, and through NATO we've been able to make some significant progress. We also have to look east, because increasingly, the center of gravity in this world is shifting to Asia. Japan has been an outstanding ally of ours for many years. But, obviously, China is rising and it's not going away. They're neither our enemy nor our friend. They're competitors.

They're about the past and the future - Senator Obama could have been speaking about his competitive relationship with Senator Clinton in the above answer - "neither our enemy nor our friend." I have admired these two candidates tremendously for their capacities to master the art of relatively fair competition. So far they have successfully walked this very fine line in their campaigns. It is good for the Democrats, and for the country for them to do so. The country sees an example of a civil rivalry; the Democrats avoid getting black eyes in a bruising primary race. Ann Kornblut in the (7/5/07) Washington Post writes a great analysis of their differing stances in, "From Obama, Clinton, Dueling Ideas of Change."

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) took aim at his main Democratic presidential rival during his July 4 campaign swing through Iowa, saying that "change can't just be a slogan" -- days after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) introduced her new slogan, "Ready for Change, Ready to Lead."

Obama has long cast himself as part of the future of politics, in contrast with a Clinton era that he portrays as part of a divisive past.

. . . Clinton, a two-term senator who also spent eight years in the White House as first lady, is trying a "change -- but not too much change" approach. Her advisers believe that her candidacy, to become the first female president, inherently signals change. But they also think voters want something familiar, rather than an unknown quantity of the kind that Obama, a first-term senator and an African American, might represent.

They're a good crop of potential Democratic presidents who will be quite able to handle the competition - with each other, and later with China. The United States and China are in the biggest competition of our generation. I submit that it is even bigger than our fight with terrorists. And the United States is in the midst of a competition of candidates that will happily (for some) end some 562 days from now, according to "TxSharon" at Bluedaze, who carries a Backwards Bush countdown clock on her blog. I stop by there often for her quirky Bush stuff, and just to see "BushTime" diminishing.

Their differing "takes" on things - References:

  • On The Issues - Every Political Leader on Every Issue. Bookmark this website, even if it seems a bit cumbersome. It is very useful if you favor issue-oriented material about both Democrats and Republicans.

  • China Web2.0 Review is a blog dedicated to track web2.0 development, review and profile web2.0 applications, business and services in China.

  • Marc van der Chijs' Shanghaied Weblog - Weblog from Marc van der Chijs, a Dutch entrepreneur in Shanghai, with observations about life in China and China related news

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Evidence of a deranged mind

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There is pessimism afoot across the land, and rightly so. America is mired in a disastrous war in Iraq, the economy (even when successful) leaves millions behind (and it has hardly been a rousing success in recent years), millions lack health insurance, the so-called war on terror has given way to partisanized fearmongering (even as the terrorist threat remains real and potentially far more lethal than 9/11), the Constitution and Americans' civil liberties have been trampled by a reckless president, as well as by an incarnation of evil he calls his vice president, democracy has been weakened by this administration's overt and virulent authoritarianism, which includes illegally spying on Americans and torturing detainees, the country and its citizens are swimming in rising debt, China and Europe are emerging as rival superpowers, North Korea and Iran are developing (or so it seems) nuclear weapons, much of the world simply hates America, and...

The list goes on and on. I'm sure you can fill in the rest.

One would be right to think, would one not, that something is rotten, horribly and perhaps irredeemably rotten, in the state of America. That the American Empire is in decline, and falling. That an existential crisis, political and psychological, has engulfed America.

But that's not the view of Krazy Kristol.

In a column in Time (via Think Progress), Kristol acknowledges that most Americans "think the country is on the wrong track" and "disapprove of the job performance of President Bush," but he attributes this not to some grand decline and fall, nor even to failed political leadership, but to "adolescent moodiness," the sort of moodiness that is common but not really serious, and certainly only temporary. Americans are just "moody again," that's all.

Oh, thanks, Bill. Thanks a bunch.

Not being American, I can't speak for Americans, and won't try to, but I'm sure they'll be happy to learn that they're just moody, and just in an adolescent sort of way -- especially the ones without jobs, without health insurance, without security, you know, the ones living in impoverished, crime-invested communities where there isn't much hope at all.

I used to think that Kristol, for all his ideological inanity and insanity, was a smart guy. Not so for some time, and certainly not now. And this analysis of "the public mood" is simply appalling. For all his (gentle) criticism of Bush and the way things have been done in recent years, he is not just neoconservatism's smiling fool but one of America's most simple-minded cheerleaders. Consider:

It may well be that no other country has ever been stronger than the U.S. today -- and it may well be that no other people in human history have ever had it quite so good.

This statement is evidence of a deranged mind, of a man who has lost his mind. America is in trouble, on multiple fronts, and no amount of wishful thinking and happy talk will make that trouble go away.

One wonders if Kristol was on ecstacy when he wrote this piece. For he has most surely narcotized himself against the truth.

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Converting former foes into friends

By Creature

Michael Gordon, the always reliable administration stenographer, pens a piece today for the NYT detailing the success American forces are having in converting our former Sunni foes into friends across the Diyala Province in Iraq. What seems to have gone unnoticed, possibly by even the writer himself, is that buried within the piece a strong argument for withdrawal is proffered.

Many Sunnis, for their part, are less inclined to see the soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear that American troop reductions are all but inevitable, and they are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias.

Knowing that "troop reductions are all but inevitable" has clearly effected the situation on the ground. While the wingnuts in the audience are convinced this shift in Sunni thinking can be credited to the surge, it's more likely that the Democratically controlled Congress' push for withdrawal is the impetus for the Sunni conversation to the American way.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Wake up, Wexler!

By AviShalom

It seems like ancient history now, but when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton over the grave threat posed to the Constitution by his unwillingness to talk about how he relieved stress in the Oval Office, some of his own defenders countered with the idea of "censure." In fact, the progressive organization, Move On, was originally formed to advance a petition to "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation."

One might wonder, then, why Rep. Robert Wexler, one of Clinton's most vigorous defenders on the Judiciary Committee, would be the one to propose a constitutionally meaningless censure of President George W. Bush over his commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence.

In his opening remarks as the Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings against Clinton, Rep. Wexler exhorted "Wake up, America" and he reminded listeners that:

When we started these proceedings, I expressed my fear that this impeachment, if successful, would forever lower the standard for impeachment for future presidents. In my worst nightmare, I did not foresee this.

No, evidently it has raised the bar, even for Rep. Wexler, who, one might guess, never in his worst nightmares could have imagined some of the things he has seen the current President and Vice President do.

Why not put impeachment on the table? In addition to the litany of other causes for impeachment, the protection of a convict whose crime was committed to protect the President and Vice President is precisely the sort of act for which impeachment was invented, as none other than James Madison himself noted at the Virginia ratification convention.

Let's get this right, Rep. Wexler: Put impeachment on the table, and let the President's defenders propose censure as a half measure.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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Is it January 2007 yet?

By J. Kingston Pierce

Just how bad are things getting for the Bush administration? Well, a new poll from the American Research Group shows that 54 percent of all adults questioned (and 50 percent of registered voters) favor the U.S. House of Representatives commencing impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney, while the country divides almost evenly on whether to impeach and remove George W. Bush from office as well.

By comparison, former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox notes in
Time’s Swampland blog that prior to President Bill Clinton’s partisan impeachment in 1998, a paltry 26 percent of Americans surveyed said that any such proceedings should begin.

Not surprisingly, decisive majorities of Democrats would like to fire both Bush and Cheney, while more than three-quarters of Republican’ts still oppose impeachment of either man. If that split left independents to decide the matter, we’d be looking at new White House management. As
TPM Café observes, “Among independents, 50% favor starting impeachment proceedings against President Bush, to only 30% opposed. And 51% of independents are also for starting impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney, to 29% opposed.”

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Back to the doctors

By Carol Gee

The medical backgrounds of the alleged terrorists recently arrested in the United Kingdom have been items of fascination for the great number of readers interested in my recent post here at The Reaction, "The irony of doctor/terrorists." I, too, remain fascinated, so today I return to the subject in much more depth.

Yesterday Great Britain lowered the "terror alert" level. Having detained a significant number of suspects, officials have stepped down just a bit. According to Stephen Fidler and Christopher Adams of The Financial Times, "Terrorist alert eased but threat persists." To quote from the story:

The terrorist threat level has been cut from the maximum, signalling that counter-terrorism officials believe a cell responsible for three failed car bomb attacks over the past week has been largely wrapped up.

...Security officials confirmed that investigators believed the main actors in the ring had been taken into custody. Eight people have been detained, all of whom have worked for the National Health Service and of which seven were doctors or trainee medics. Six were from the Middle East and two from India.

...The investigation would look into possible connections between the alleged plotters and others overseas, and examine the suspects' work history while in hospital to see if any of them used their positions for terrorist actions.

One of the eight -- a 27-year-old Indian doctor called Mohamed Haneef -- was still being held yesterday in Australia... Another Indian doctor, also recruited from the UK and who had worked alongside Dr Haneef in Australia, was released without charge.

In a strange way it is a very small world. After hearing about the UK terrorist crisis, I wanted to read what one of my good blogger friends thought about doctors as terrorists. Originally from Basra, Iraq, by way of immigration to Australia, then to the U.S., Fayrouz in Beaumont wrote this (7/4/07 -- from which I quote a portion) about "The terrorist doctors":

"Those who cure you are going to kill you.” That was the cryptic message from an Al-Qaida chief to an Anglican priest who tries to bring Iraqi sectors together. The latest wave of terror in Britain solidified my belief that the main goal of terrorism is to change our way of life. The second goal is to make us distrust each other.

...What's more shocking is the Iraqi doctors who were part of the new cell of terror. Just in time to screw up the hopes of many decent Iraqi doctors who want to make a future in Britain and other Western countries.

Now that Al-Qaida turned our attention toward Middle-Eastern doctors working in the West, I bet it's going to turn its efforts to recruit other unsuspected professionals of Middle Eastern background. They may be nurses, teachers, athletes, actors, professional women or even journalists. The terrorist recruiters and planners would do anything to build more mistrust among us.

I know that I won't change my way of life in the West. I won't let the terrorists take it from me.

We are still mystified by the idea of physicans becoming terrorists. Medical doctors belong to the helping professions, in my mind. As a middle class college student I was "socialized" into my profession - that of social work. I was taught the proud history of one of the "helping professions." I was required to be non judgemental, to follow strict ethical principles, to avoid acting outside of my area of expertise, etc. Thus another headline caught my eye, (for a story by Stephen Fidler and Roula Khalaf in The Financial Times, July 3 2007), "Suspects raise profile of ‘middle-class’ radicals." To quote:

British security services and policymakers face a critical question over the three failed bomb attacks in Glasgow and London. If the main suspects came from outside the UK, were they radicalised overseas or in Britain?

...Regardless of where they were radicalised, their background appears to be decidedly middle-class.

Militants from comfortable backgrounds have dominated the upper echelons of the al-Qaeda network since its inception. Osama bin Laden hails from one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia -- the bin Laden group is one of the biggest contractors in the kingdom -- and he is known to have earned a degree, perhaps in civil engineering, from the King Abdelaziz University in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

...His number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, meanwhile, came from a professional, middle-class family and followed in his father’s footsteps by studying pharmacology at the University of Cairo. Mr al-Zawahiri’s predecessor as leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad organisation, Sayyed Imam al Sherif, is said to have been a surgeon. Mr al-Sherif now leads a campaign against violence. Meanwhile, Abdallah Azzam, a Palestinian, and early leaders of the global jihadi movement killed in 1989, studied agriculture in college before turning to sharia law.

“The profile of a poor, destitute jihadi is not accurate,” says Dia Rashwan, expert on Islamist groups at Cairo’s al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies. “Notice how jihadis are good at IT -- and how they set up websites.”

The threat persists -- The most I have learned about what might be going on that could cause this phenomena is from a professor who has made a deep study of jihadis, who they are and what they are about. I watched her on C-SPAN last year. Professor Mary Habeck was also featured at Georgetown University's Women in International Security event, "Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror," October 26, 2005. I quote from the program summary:

Mary Habeck present the logic of al-Qa'ida and like-minded extremist groups by which they justify September 11th and other terrorist attacks.

...This book provided the background of the afternoon’s discussion on Islam, jihadism, and the mindset of jihadist terrorists. Habeck argued that after September 11, 2001, “Americans agonized over why nineteen men hated the United States enough to kill three thousand civilians in an unprovoked assault. Analysts have offered a wide variety of explanations for the attack, but the one voice missing is that of the terrorists themselves.” She delved into the history and root beliefs of Islam and showed the group how jihadists twist the meaning and intent of Islamic law to suit their own needs. She delineated the paradoxes among traditional tenets of Islam, more radical Islamist beliefs, and those ascribed to by jihadists.

Habeck described jihadism’s aberrant view of tawhid, the central belief of Islam (that there is only one god and he has no partners or equals), and its equally aberrant view of jihad. She discussed the political, ideological, and military goals of jihadists and articulated the appeal that jihadism has to those who believe in it:

It claims to be the only authentic version of Islam;
Jihadists are sacrificing their lives for their community;
They are doing something to attain revenge and retribution for the aggression they feel has been waged against them by secular society; and
Jihadism offers certain salvation and participation in liberation.

Habeck then discussed the problems with jihadism, and the real threat that it poses to the Muslim community:

Jihadists kill fellow Muslims and innocents;
They use terror in the name of Islam;
Their definition of jihad is difficult to swallow;
Jihadists declare takfir – declaring all Muslims that do not ascribe to their version of jihad (and other non-believers) as unbelievers who are unworthy of life and are non-human (They are thus divorced, and can have their property seized in the name of jihad);
They mix Islam and politics;
They ascribe to extremist shari’a;
They cross-fertilize wahabism and jihadism to form Wala’ wa’l bara (This is a prescription to love the believers and hate the non-believers–and distance yourselves from them and always hate them in your heart); and
Jihadists hold an aberrant view of tawhid.

But just what is the threat? I am not usually a fan of Christopher Hitchins. But he wrote something on 7/2/07 for Slate Magazine that raised some further questions for me. "Car bombs designed to kill women," was the headline. I am not sure whether I agree or disagree. But of one thing I am sure, it is a big mistake to over-generalize, or fall into stereotypical thinking that paints with far too broad a brush. Because one thing is true, the next thing does not necessarily follow. Misogyny is not the same as suicidal radical jihad. It may be a part of it, but somehow does not seem enough to explain the London and Glasgow events. In conclusion, I believe that we must be willing to learn an awful lot more about the minds of terrorists before we can be the least bit effective against their implacability.

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Another GOPer turns on Bush’s war

By J. Kingston Pierce

One day after Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) told reporters that he wants to bring U.S. troops home by next spring, a longtime hawk in the House says he too has had enough of Bush’s failed Iraq policies. From Editor & Publisher:

Rep. John Doolittle, a conservative California congressman, today joined others in his party rapidly deserting the president on the Iraq war.

At a town hall meeting in Rocklin and then in a meeting with the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee he questioned whether the conflict was worth the loss of more American lives. He said U.S. troops should be pulled back from the front lines “as soon as possible” and the fighting turned over to Iraqi forces.

A longtime supporter of the war, Doolittle called the situation in Iraq a “quagmire” on Thursday. “We’ve got to get off the front lines as soon as possible,” Doolittle said at Rocklin City Hall, the Bee reported. “And in my mind that means something like the end of the year. We just can’t continue to tolerate these kinds of losses.

“I don’t want to keep having our people dying on the front lines. I am increasingly convinced that we never are going to succeed in actually ending people dying (in Iraq). I think it’s going to be a constant conflict ... and if that is going to happen ... it needs to be the Iraqis dying and not the Americans.”

Later he told the Bee’s editorial board: “My belief is that the majority of my colleagues on the Republican side have become skeptical of all of this. And that’s a big change.”

Indeed, it could be. But as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) reminded everyone in a statement on Thursday, “we will not see a much-needed change of course in Iraq until Republicans like Senators Domenici, Lugar and Voinovich are willing to stand up to President Bush and his stubborn clinging to a failed policy--and more importantly, back up their words with action.” Their first opportunity--and the first opportunity for wavering Democrats to show more backbone on this matter than they have recently--will arrive next week, when a Defense Authorization bill comes up for a vote in the Senate.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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He doth protest too much

By Michael J.W. Stickings

President respects justice

Yes, Melissa, it's an actual headline.

In USA Today, no less.

Above some post-Libby "bullshittery" (Melissa's word) from the man whose job it is to defend the indefensible day after day after day, Bush spokesman Tony Snow.

It's a hilarious read. Seriously.

Consider: "[N]o president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush: The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government."

Uh-huh. Define "recent," "careful," "strengthen," etc. Or don't. What do I care? It's not like Tony has any credibility to begin with.

And the brownnosing here is gross, if typical. Seriously, Tony has his nose stuck firmly in Bush's ass: "[H]e did what he does normally, and what makes those of us who work for him proud. He proceeded on the basis of principle, and arrived at a sound and just decision — knowing he would take hits in the court of public opinion, but also knowing he was doing the right thing."

Right. Sure, Tony. Whatever. Your boss essentially pardoned one of his cronies. That's his "principle," that's "doing the right thing".

I'll leave further analysis -- such as one can hold the side-splitting laughter in check long enough to do any serious analysis -- to Steve Benen, who does his best. (Well done, Steve. You're a real trooper. Seriously.)

But let me just say this. Tony and the White House may or may not have been responsible for the headline. Maybe USA Today came up with it, maybe the White House suggested it -- who knows? (Do let me know if you know.)

Either way, what does it say about the state of the Bush presidency that it was deemed necessary to assert, even in a headline in a crappy (albeit hugely popular) newspaper, that the president of the United States "respects justice"? (Even if we lack a full understanding of justice in a genuinely Socratic sense, we generally get what justice means.) Should it not be taken as a matter of course that the president "respects justice"?

Apparently not. Not with this president.

This president has fucked up so badly, and fucked justice so thoroughly (the Libby thing is just the latest grotesquerie), that his shameless flacks have to go public with waves upon waves of sycophantic bullshittery.

Seriously, enough already.

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Porno Mitt

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The alluring headline at WaPo: Romney Criticized for Hotel Pornography

And what an amusing story it is: "Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who rails against the 'cesspool' of pornography, is being criticized by social conservatives who argue that he should have tried to halt hardcore hotel movie offerings during his near-decade on the Marriott board."

Yes, horny men in hotel rooms all over America, and all around the world, are jerking off at this very moment -- and it's all Romney's fault!

Sort of makes you go limp, when you think about it.

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Only 564 days left to top Tricky Dick

By J. Kingston Pierce

’s not really much that George W. Bush can be grateful for nowadays. U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), who’s long denounced Democrats wishing to fetter Bush’s war-making in Iraq, today joined a growing chorus of Republican’ts who want to withdraw nearly all American troops from Iraq by the spring of 2008. Meanwhile, as the fallout continues from Bush’s extraordinary effort to save ex-Cheney aide Scooter Libby from a prison sentence, the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled public hearings on the scandal next week, and U.S. Representative Robert Wexler (D-Florida) has drafted a resolution to censure Bush for his commutation.

Still, as Salon’s Tim Grieve
pointed out yesterday, Bush can be happy about one thing: “he isn’t the most unpopular president of all time.” Not yet, anyway. According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, that distinction still belongs to Richard M. Nixon of Watergate scandal fame, who has the highest unfavorable rating of any of the 43 men who have yet served in the Oval Office--60 percent. By comparison, Bush is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of those Americans surveyed by Rasmussen.

As this polling company explains, only three other U.S. chief executives score an unfavorable rating of at least 40 percent: Lyndon B. Johnson (42 percent), Bill Clinton (41 percent), and the current prez’s father, George H.W. Bush (41 percent). Of those, however, two enjoy favorable ratings that exceed 50 percent: Bush Sr. (57 percent) and Clinton (55 percent). George W. Bush’s favorable rating is a scant 41 percent, only slightly higher than Grover Cleveland’s (40 percent) but not as high as William McKinley’s (42 percent).

So who comes off best in this poll? Just half a dozen presidents are viewed favorably by at least 80 percent of the respondents: George Washington (94 percent), Abraham Lincoln (92 percent), Thomas Jefferson (89 percent), Theodore Roosevelt (84 percent), Franklin D. Roosevelt (81 percent), and John F. Kennedy (80 percent).

Such findings aren’t particularly surprising. Those last six chief execs are usually
ranked well by U.S. historians. And people have fairly short memories; their opinions tend to be strongest about leaders who have served recently, and they often contrast them unfavorably against those who served in the halcyon past--especially, in this case, the first four presidents: Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and James Madison.

What I do find remarkable is that eight presidents are barely recognized by Americans today. Seventy-four percent of respondents, for instance, have no opinion whatsoever about John Tyler. Sixty-three percent don’t voice a yea or a nay on William Henry Harrison. And the “no opinion” rankings go up from there: Franklin Pierce (59 percent), Martin Van Buren (58 percent), Millard Fillmore (56 percent), Zachary Taylor (55 percent), and James K. Polk (52 percent).

In addition to his being slightly less disparaged that Nixon, I guess George W. Bush can rest assured of one other thing: He’s done enough damage to the United States, both at home and abroad, that--unlike Tyler, Harrison, and those others--he’s not likely to be forgotten at any time soon.

GOP Senators Who Voted for Clinton Impeachment Dead Silent on Libby,” by Bob Geiger.

(Cross-posted at

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

All talk

By Creature

Today Sen. Pete Domenici became the latest Republican to pay lip service to the idea that a new strategy is needed for Iraq. Having seen the Iraqi government move no closer to any sort of bench, let alone mark, Domenici is now ready to embrace the language of the Iraq Study Group report in order to put the troops "on the path to coming home."

While I am glad to see the molasses-like movement of the GOP towards the withdrawal light, like Atrios, Marshall, mcjoan, and Benen I will not applaud any talk of a Bush revolt until there is action to back up their words.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Madison on suspicious sheltering and its constitutional consequences

By AviShalom

In the Virginia ratifying convention for the US Constitution,

George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to "pardon crimes which were advised by himself" or, before indictment or conviction, "to stop inquiry and prevent detection." [The points applies equally to commuting a sentence.--ed.]

James Madison's response:

[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty...

These quotes are located within a document prepared by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974. The passage quoting Madison's words has a very germane footnote by the author of the original source being cited by the Committee:

Madison went on... that the President could be suspended when suspected, and his powers would devolve on the Vice President, who could likewise be suspended until impeached and convicted, if he were also suspected.

The reference to the President or Vice President being "suspended until impeached and convicted" is worth thinking about, as is Madison's apparent claim that the House of Representatives can "remove" the President.

All impeachment procedures in other presidential systems that I am aware of provide explicitly for the suspension from all duties of the impeached official, pending trial. Obviously a suspension (which indeed would be at least a temporary removal) is neither explicit in the US Constitution nor has it been practiced in the two actual impeachments of US Presidents. But did Madison believe an impeached (but not yet tried) President or Vice President would be suspended from office? Did he perhaps even believe that the official in question could be suspended before the full House votes impeachment? One might infer that from the footnote quoted above. Did he believe that in the event of impeachment processes against both the President and the Vice President there would be an Acting President? Any Acting President, of course, in this scenario, would be the Speaker of the House. (And, following the passage of a bill of impeachment, is there any time limit on how long the party controlling the Senate's agenda can wait to begin a trial...?)

My emphasis in the quotations above, of course. Just working on that table-setting, the importance of which can hardly be over-emphasized...

Michael quoted Keith Olberman yesterday referencing these words of Madison, but I was not aware of their original source and context till today.

The above post was cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.

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Afghanistan and 2008 US presidential politics

By AviShalom

Six more Canadian soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan while riding in a "mine-resistant vehicle." (See also Michael's post from last night.)

Meanwhile, BBC World Service ran a radio documentary this morning about rampant corruption in Afghanistan. Police jobs are auctioned, because people are willing to pay to get in for the graft opportunities. The corruption may be driving more people to support Taliban insurgents. For all their brutality, the Taliban is remembered for being relatively clean, the BBC reported.*

With the ever-present possibility of an early election given Canada's parliamentary system and current minority government, the question of when to bring an end to the Afghanistan commitment is very much a matter of debate between the parties in that country. Yet the operation is almost totally noncontroversial in the US.

Even Bill Richardson, the only candidate among those with some realistic chance of getting the Democratic nomination who is calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq--"no residual bases left behind" --calls for increasing the US role in Afghanistan:

We must redeploy some of our troops to Afghanistan to stop the resurgence of the Taliban and to fight the real terrorists who attacked this country on 9-11.

That was a defensible position in 2004. Is it still in 2007?

Will any contender for the leadership of the USA dare suggest moving towards closure to the open-ended commitment in Afghanistan? Don't count on it. Not even Dennis Kucinich mentions it prominently on his issues page. Mike Gravel at least mentions it, sort of in passing, in the context of opposing military action against Iran (which he makes his second issue after Iraq). There appears to be almost total consensus that the commitment is worth continuing. Maybe it is, but it might be nice to debate the question.

* Sorry; I could not locate a link to the program; I heard it at around 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time today on the XM BBC channel.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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Timor-Leste results almost complete

By AviShalom

With results from last Saturday's parliamentary election in Timor-Leste (East Timor) nearly complete, the former ruling party, Fretilin, has seen its support slip badly from the commanding position it enjoyed as the former Indonesian-occupied country gained independence. With 29% of the vote, it has a plurality over the National Congress for the Reconstruction of Timor-Leste (CNRT), the party formed by the country's first (and now ex-) president Xanana Gusmao, which won about 24%. The next largest parties were the ASDT-PSD (16%) and the Democratic Party (11%). Three other parties won between 3% (the minimum required to win a seat) and 4.5%.

There was never much doubt that Fretilin would emerge as the largest party, as it is the party with the countrywide organizational apparatus. However, 29% is a pretty small total and its lead turned out to be quite narrow.

I have not seen seat totals, but with 52 of the 65 seats elected by nationwide proportional representation, the seats breakdown will closely reflect that of the votes. (Previously there also were 13 seats elected in single-seat districts by plurality, but as discussed in the comments at Fruits & Votes, it appears that these seats no longer exist.)

In 2001, Fretilin had won 57% of the vote. There are not many (or any?) other examples of young countries in which the "national liberation movement" has seen its support plummet so far and so fast. While the divisions within the country's political elite do not necessarily augur well for smooth power-sharing, the end of Fretilin dominance should be hailed as a promising sign in the development of East Timorese democracy. This is one young country that will not degenerate into a one-party state.

The formation of an alternative center of political power in Timor-Leste was aided by the constitutional design, which included not only proportional representation for the parliament, but also a separately elected presidency. The 2002 presidential election was won (with over 82% of the vote) by Gusmao, one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-Indonesian resistance, but one who had left Fretilin in the 1980s. He ran as an independent, and thus served as a popular and constitutional counterweight to Fretilin's dominance of the parliament.

In the country's second presidential election, held just this April, another prominent nationalist (and ex-Fretilin) leader, Jose Ramos Horta, was elected president. Serving as as Prime Minister at the time, Ramos Horta's 21.8% was good enough for second place to the Fretilin candidate's 27.9% in the initial round; he won the runoff easily (around 70%). The results of these two elections show that political pluralism is quite real in Timor-Leste.

The CNRT is not much of a party. As noted in the The Economist in the June 21 issue:

Members of [Gusmao's] brand-new party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of Timor-Leste (CNRT), are feverishly drafting a party constitution and programme. Mr Gusmão may well win even without them. The CNRT's rallies attract huge crowds. But its campaign relies solely on Mr Gusmão's charisma and on berating Fretilin for incompetence and corruption. The CNRT, whose name recalls the resistance coalition Mr Gusmão led in the late 1990s, does not even try to offer policies.

The CNRT is thus a classic example of a "presidentialized party" in that it is formed not be a programmatic vehicle but rather as a means to gain legislative representation to bolster the president. However, in this case, it is, oddly enough, the former, but still popular, president, rather than the incumbent, who has made the party one of the country's largest. The presidency is quite weak. So, in a sense, the CNRT allows for a second Gusmao term, at the head of the more powerful institutions of government, while Ramos Horta will hold the symbolic head-of-state role for which the Nobel Prize winner (1996) and UN Secretary General-aspirant is probably most suited.

Fretilin has rejected the president's call for a grand coalition with the CNRT. However, the electoral result and the minimal constitutional powers held by the presidency -- which include nominating as prime minister the party leader the president believes best able to form a stable majority -- will allow the CNRT and other parties to form a coalition cabinet.

From within my profession of political science, there are many voices that decry the selection of presidential or even semi-presidential models for young democracies. However, the Timor-Leste experience suggests that the mere existence of separate presidential elections, even for a relatively weak office, can be beneficial for creating an alternative pole of electoral competition for a leader who lacks the kind of on-the-ground organizational prowess that a "national liberation movement" can claim.

Democracy and development in a country as ravaged by occupation and war as Timor-Leste will always be difficult, but the completion of this second cycle of elections has given the country a chance.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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Bush 1 Clinton 140

By Capt. Fogg

It didn't take long. The viral e-mail full of misinformation and twisted logic hit my mailbox early in the morning on the 4th of July, a day already filled with flags, fake history and fulsome braggadocio. The ritualized sneering, the evocation of some sneerworthy but irrelevant straw man like Hillary or Jane or Bill; the non-sequiturs, the ad hominem attacks... it's like a thousand others.

It's titled Bush one Vs. Clinton 140 and it begins:

As Shrillery Clinton condemns G.W. Bush for commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence, I felt compelled to compile a short list of the pardons and commutations hat [sic] her wife, Bill Clinton, did in his last years and days as President of this country. This woman has more nerve than I can imagine in her condemnation of President Bush. Perhaps if Scooter Libby was accused or convicted of domestic bombings, sexual assault, bank fraud, solicitation of child pornography, tax evasion or cocaine traffficking, [sic] such as her family friends listed below are, Shrillery would be in favor of a pardon.

Of course this opening gambit is to make you think that the nationwide outrage is something Mrs. Clinton invented. I won't address the ritual name calling or allegations of gender ambiguity; it's just typical Republican sleaze, signifying nothing. Of course no one will bother to critically look at each and every case of presidential pardon either from Clinton or his predecessors but even so, the statement evades two important points, the first of which is that one's misdeeds are not excused by misleadingly similar misdeeds of others. The second is that pardoning someone who has served a sentence is not the same as removing the sentence of someone who has served no time while your friends pay his expenses and fines.

Libby was not, of course pardoned, he was simply excused from having to go to jail because, as the decider decided, the sentence which fell well within the guidelines for everyone else, was too severe. Since he reduced it to nothing, he must have felt that any sentence was too severe. This of course from a man and a party who have championed mandatory and severe sentences. The outrage of most of the public has more to do with the obvious cronyism and the additional increment of obstruction of justice that is this unashamed reward for loyalty. As laughable as it may be, the only way for them to deal with the flimsiness of this farce is to counterattack. -- and so they do.

No mention of course is made about Reagan's pardons or Bush the Elder's equally self serving gifts to those who broke the law in the furthering and covering up of presidential crimes and while none of that is relevant, it makes the reference to Mrs. Clinton's "nerve" a bit funny in a nauseating sort of way.

Somehow, all this faux outrage and haughty bravado reminds me of some images I saw of the last days of Nicolae
Ceauşescu, standing before a vast crowd he thought was there to praise him once again. He seemed stunned and incredulous that they were booing and jeering and yet he never stopped waving and acting as though he was the beloved patriarch; as though he were in control. Three days later he was put against a wall.

The nerve of an administration that may have the respect of perhaps 20% of the American public acting as though it was merely dealing with some insignificant and helpless minority while the nation counts the minutes until we are rid of them.

I remember another image; some words scrawled on a wall in Beijing after the massacre had been cleaned up and swept under the rug: "all this must be accounted for."

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Not nearly enough people "free at last"

By Carol Gee

(Longer version cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

The "I have a dream" speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, closes with these unforgettable words:

When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Today's post is about people whose freedom has again been stolen some 44 years later. The day after Independence Day in the U.S., too many do not enjoy the independence we celebrated. Victims of lawless kidnapping or quasi slavery, their stories make the headlines over and over.

Hooray, hooray! Johnston's free. The Palestinian group Hamas brokered the deal. They stand to gain much in the eyes of the international world, if they can be seen to be something other than merely a terrorist group. A great deal of the national and international television coverage yesterday was about the freeing of a kidnapped BBC reporter, Alan Johnston. The most interesting reading in the news came, in my opinion from Dated (7/4/07), the headline read, "Bbc Gaza reporter Johnston freed." Quoting from the colorfully written story"

Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist held hostage in the Gaza Strip since March has been released, saying it was "an amazing thing to be free".

..."It is just the most fantastic thing to be free," Johnston told BBC from Gaza, adding that it was "at times quite terrifying" not knowing when it was going to end.

..."I dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room... It's an amazing thing to be free," Johnston said at the home of Ismail Haniya, the ousted Palestinian prime minister and local Hamas leader who had brokered his release.

Johnston called his 16 weeks in captivity the worst of his life and likened his experience to being "buried alive."

In contrast the Johnston freedom story style was much more subdued in the UK press, true to form. There was little mention of the fact that Johnston was taken straight to the home of Hamas leader Ismael Haniya in the middle of the night. Opinions about whether this was the middle east cultural norm of hospitality for strangers, or merely for publicity effect, depends on one's political persuasion. "Just the facts" was the style of Andrew England in Jerusalem, writing for London's Financial Times (on 7/4/07). The headline read, "Kidnapped BBC reporter freed."

Freedom's long elusive in Columbia kidnapping - But, at least there is renewed hope that the long-held South American hostages may be alive. Again I turned to, who actually turned out to be part of the story as the recipient of the videotape itself. On (7/4/07) their headline read, "Hostage says Betancourt still alive." Quoting from the piece,

A soldier held hostage by Colombian rebels has confirmed that Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, kidnapped over five years ago, is sill alive. William Dominguez said he had seen Betancourt during a video message recorded in October and delivered to Al Jazeera's correspondent in the country on Tuesday. Dominguez was among seven soldiers and police officers shown on the new video, most of whom have been held hostage for about nine years, Holman Morris, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said.

The tape comes five days after Farc claimed that 11 politicians it had held hostage for five years died in the crossfire during a military raid on a rebel camp last month. The government denies the military attacked the camp and accuses the guerrillas of executing the 11 provincial lawmakers. The politicians were among 56 hostages, including Betancourt and three Americans, who the rebels want to swap for Farc members held in Colombian prisons.

The Columbian kidnap videotape story from the BBC News (7/4/07) carried the headline, "Columbia Hostages in video appeal." The act of kidnapping also captures the perpetrators, in a way. What negotiating power do they retain after their captives are freed? It is always a devil's bargain. To quote,

Colombian rebels have released a video showing seven hostages, some held for nearly a decade, pleading for the government to talk to their captors. It was not immediately clear when the video of the captured police officers and soldiers was filmed. It surfaced a week after rebels said 11 kidnapped politicians were killed as armed forces attacked a guerrilla camp. President Alvaro Uribe, who accused the rebels of murdering the men, is to lead anti-kidnap protests on Thursday.

...The father of soldier Pablo Emilio Mocayo, seized nine years ago, said the video was extremely distressing. "This tears my soul apart, [to see him] in these conditions, so thin, poor boy and I unable to anything," he said. Mr Moncayo has been walking across Colombia in chains in an effort to pressure the guerrillas and the authorities to reach an agreement to free the hostages.

Across the Atlantic from Columbia in Africa, there is a brand new kidnapping headline: "Oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria." It is from the BBC News of (7/4/07). The story is the latest regarding a large number of kidnappings in the region, which seem to be, in a bizarre way, part of the Nigerian economy. To quote:

Unknown gunmen have attacked and snatched five foreign workers from an oil rig in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta, security sources say. The attack comes a day after the main militant group in the area said it had called off a month-long truce. But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) says it has nothing to do with this new attack.

More than 100 foreigners have been taken hostage so far this year alone in the region. The hostages are usually released unharmed after ransom payments that the Nigerian government and oil companies involved always deny.

Part of the Chinese economy? During time when Southerners kept slaves in the United States some considered the slaves a necessary part of their economy. That must again be the case with these Chinese law-breakers. The headline, "Chinese slave labour trial begins" is from the BBC News (of 7/4/07). Quoting from the story:

A trial has begun of 12 people who are accused of involvement in a slave labour scandal in illegal mines and brick factories in northern China.

...The charges include illegal detention, forced labour and murder, Xinhua said. Almost 570 people trafficked as slaves, 50 of them children, have been freed in Shanxi and Henan in the last few weeks. The scandal came to light after some 400 distraught parents of children who had been sold into slavery set up an online campaign to raise awareness of the issue... The factories were allegedly run like prisons with guard dogs and beatings to prevent escapes.

Dr. King's prophetic words still call out to us. People of peace around the world must work and hope to take Independence Day forward to the day...

...when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing...

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Around the World: Darfur, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's our first "Around the World" post -- the first of an ongoing series -- a quick round-up of interesting and important stories from, well, around the world, stories that you might have missed or that might not be getting much attention here in North America or elsewhere:

1) Darfur -- rape and ethnic cleansing

A new report on the crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan has identified rape as a systematic weapon of ethnic cleansing being used by government-backed Janjaweed militiamen, and said Sudanese laws discriminate against female victims, who face harassment and intimidation at local police stations if they try to report the crime.

The report, "Laws Without Justice: An Assessment of Sudanese Laws Affecting Survivors of Rape," by the humanitarian group Refugees International, said rape was "an integral part of the pattern of violence that the government of Sudan is inflicting upon the targeted ethnic groups in Darfur."

"The raping of Darfuri women is not sporadic or random, but is inexorably linked to the systematic destruction of their communities," the report said.

2) Zimbabwe -- inflation and tyranny

Panic buying swept through the streets of Zimbabwe yesterday, as stores ran out of basic goods and shopkeepers complained that they were selling goods at a loss after the government ordered prices to be halved in a last-ditch effort to tackle hyper-inflation...

Inflation is currently estimated at 10,000% and rising. Armed soldiers and the youth militia are patrolling shops and open-air markets to enforce President Robert Mugabe's price controls. More than 200 retailers have been charged with crimes of charging more than the official prices, police confirmed yesterday.

3) Ethiopia -- civil war and tyranny

Ethiopia's government has been accused of forcing thousands of civilians from their homes in a campaign against separatist rebels in the south-east.

US-based Human Rights Watch says troops had burned homes, seized livestock and carried out arbitrary arrests.

Three stories from Africa. All horrible.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tyranny and freedom

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bob Geiger, on this Fourth of July, reminds us, without joy, of this line from the Declaration of Independence:

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

What was true then is true now.

Make sure to read Bob's fine and eloquent post: "One has to wonder what Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers would think of where we're at, 231 years later, if they could see the vision of Democracy they cherished so soiled and the 43rd president known not at all for his wisdom and entirely for his outrageous abuse of power."

And, even if you have many times already, read the Declaration. It is as important and as relevant now as ever before.

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A dark day for Canada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I won't get into whether or not we should be there, or for how much longer, but, needless to say, our presence in Afghanistan is taking its toll. And today -- today was one of the worst days yet:

A roadside bomb has killed six Canadian soldiers along with their Afghan interpreter, as the Taliban continue to launch bold attacks in an area the military considers largely pacified.

The explosion happened around 11 a.m. local time on a gravel road about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. The troops were travelling in an RG-31 Nyala, a vehicle manufactured in South Africa and specifically designed with a boat-like armoured hull to withstand mine blasts.

This brings to 19 the number of Canadian soldiers killed this year by so-called improvised explosive devices, which have emerged as the greatest threat to foreign troops in Kandahar province. In total, 66 Canadians and a diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

The question is, is it worth it? Is the cause worth the cost, and especially the human cost?

There is no easy answer -- Afghanistan is not Iraq, after all, and I do believe that we are doing some good over there, that there is some justice to the war there.

And yet. And yet. One wonders.

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A blogiversary

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I hope he doesn't mind, but I'm going to quote Creature's entire post at SotD:

It's three years today for our pal Fixer and the gang at Alternate Brain. Happy Blogiversary, Fix, and keep fighting the good fight!

Yes, from all of us at The Reaction. Well done on a great blog.

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The curse of the gadget

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We want them, we need them -- the flat-screen TVs and the digital radios, I mean, and so much else like them, these mass produced, mass-consumed techno-icons of human divinity, extensions of our post-Nietzschean (faux) godliness -- but, wouldn't you know it, they're bad for the environment.

Humanity. Gotta love it.

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Diapers not included

By Creature

Alex Castellanos, Mitt Romney's media consultant, muses on why the GOP will win in '08:

"It's going to be a very tight race, and ultimately a Republican will still have an advantage," he said. "We're still the daddy-bear party that's going to be trusted to protect America."

That's what the GOP thinks of you, America. You are simply a bunch of thumb-sucking, teddy-bear needing, two-year-olds who live in such a state of fear that you are sure to vote for a big, strong, Republican daddy to protect you. Pretty condescending, isn't it?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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