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Saturday, May 29, 2004
 
  • Politics and the movies. Care of the New York Times:
    At least for the moment, ''The Day After Tomorrow'' -- 20th Century Fox's new movie about catastrophic climate change -- has reawakened public anxiety over global warming and broken through the thick crust of American denial.

    Two questions: 1. Will the Democrats in the US and/or the pro-environment NDP and Green parties here be able to capitalize on the new global warming hype? 2. How did Fox allow the release of this movie in an election year, when it so obviously threatens Bush?

    UPDATE: Here's what an American Enterprise Scholar writing for a Texas-based newspaper has to say on the topic:
    The Day After Tomorrow is to serious environmental thinking about climate change what Hogan's Heroes was to serious representation of World War II prison camp experiences. The Day After Tomorrow transforms the worst-case scenarios of climate change into the apocalypse. First the polar ice sheets melt instantaneously, raising the sea level hundreds of feet and inundating coastal cities, including New York. Then an equally instantaneous ice age descends, flash freezing New York and other northern latitudes. All of this is blamed on a Dick Cheney look-alike who refused to stop exhaling carbon dioxide.

    This is beyond ludicrous. While the melting of ice sheets and the disruption of ocean currents leading to colder temperatures in the northern latitudes are plausible theories of possible climate futures, neither could possibly happen instantly or to the extent depicted in the movie. It wouldn't even happen fast enough for a miniseries. It probably won't happen at all.
     

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  • In general, I like to think that I'm not that big a fan of realist theories of international relations. But still, the father of modern realism, Kenneth Waltz, makes a lot of good points, such as this one from 2000 (emphasis added):
    With the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the United States no longer faces a major threat to its security. As General Colin Powell said when he was
    chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of enemies. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung." Constancy of threat produces constancy of policy; absence of threat permits policy to become capricious. When few if any vital interests are endangered, a country’s policy becomes sporadic and self-willed.
     

  • Thursday, May 27, 2004
     
  • I used to think that Bush's massive deficits were a simple matter of incompetence, greed, and putting politics above all else - spending way beyond your means so as to please everyone, while making it clear that policies were for sale so as to encourage larger donations to the Republican party, all while ostensibly lowering taxes to impress less-than-vigilant voters. But increasingly, I'm convinced that it is all of this, but without the incompetence. Increasingly, I'm convinced that the Bush administration's goal has been all along to destroy the government, forcing massive cutbacks in pretty well every department while, insofar as possible, looting the country's coffers and doling it out to their friends.
    The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security and others that the president backed in this campaign year.

    (Via Pandagon)

    It's a Heritage foundation policy goal. Here's Paul Krugman's analysis of the strategy, via the Yesmen.
     

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  • Prohibition is finally starting to lift in Singapore:
    Singapore chewing gum enthusiasts rejoiced on Wednesday after the city state lifted draconian laws prohibiting gum consumption and allowed controlled sales for medical purposes.

    Don't they realize the slippery slope they've started down? First chewing gum for 'medical purposes', then crack for a pick-me-up, straight to bestiality in the streets.
     

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  • Copycat Australian PM John Howard, struggling in the polls (could that be because he was so cuddly with Bush?) has opted to pursue Bush's divide and rulestrategy at home as well:
    Australia's conservative government introduced legislation to ban same-sex marriages and wants immigration rules to stop gays and lesbians from adopting foreign children. ... In the past, Mr. Howard has said he believes marriage is for procreation.

    Consfusingly, Howard's conservative party is called the Liberals.
     

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  • Always good to check in with Russia:
    Russia is evacuating its 239 employees of utility contractor Interenergoservis from Iraq - after 2 employees were killed and 6 wounded yesterday in an attack. Hopefully, they'll be treated well when they cross back into Russia because
    ...border guards will greet Russian citizens and foreigners passing through their checkpoints with a smile and a show of respect, according to an order issued by Colonel General Vladimir Pronichev, first deputy director of the Federal Security Service and director of the Federal Border Guard Service. The order was issued in response to complaints about the tactless treatment of people crossing the Russian state frontier by border guards, according to Interfax. Boorishness, rudeness, and callousness are also to be eliminated.
     

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  • Wow, via Atrios, here's the Republican response to Al Gore's speech. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the speech. It's an ad hominem argument, and not a very good one. I'm like: Did you wanna bother saying anything - anything at all - in your defence? He pretty much compared you to Stalin (not to mention Mao, Castro, and Saddam) and you've got nothing to respond with? Holy crap.
     

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  • Gore Wednesday:
    The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter". If he president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh - perhaps his strongest political supporter - who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."

    Bush Oct 2003:
    "Rush is a great American."
     

  • Wednesday, May 26, 2004
     
  • Transcript of remarks by Al Gore today. There doesn't seem to be a video link, at least not yet.
     

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  • Just in case...
    As part of my work, I have to read through a lot of different constitutions. Here's Section 11 of Fiji's constitution (ratified 1998):
    Section 11 Infant found abandoned in Fiji
    An infant found abandoned in Fiji is deemed to have been born in Fiji, in the absence of proof to the contrary.

    UPDATE: Fiji also uses the Alternative Vote system which I'm now advocating we should adopt here as well.
     

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  • From the transcript of the Ashcroft-Mueller press conference announced yesterday:
    QUESTION: You've been looking for these folks for some time. What makes you think that re-issuing these alerts will make a difference; and why the timing, today, in particular?

    ASHCROFT: Well, we believe that the public, like all of us, needs a reminder.

    Two of the seven people for whom they are re-issuing the 'be on the lookout', are Canadian citizens.
    QUESTION: But there are inevitably skeptics who say you're overdoing it or you're scaring people or you're just protecting your behind, or what have you. Do you worry about those?

    ASHCROFT: No.

    QUESTION: You can't overdo it, in other words.

    ASHCROFT: Well, no. I just don't think my job is to worry about what skeptics say.

    Well, at least they're not actually trying to incite mass panic:
    QUESTION: Would it not make sense for people in Boston and New York to get out of those cities during the conventions?

    ASHCROFT: We certainly don't come to that conclusion.

    Atrios likes the fact that Ashcroft wanted to emphasize that terrorists are Not Just Brown and Swarthy Anymore.
     

  • Tuesday, May 25, 2004
     
  • And Trent Lott is still Satan.
     

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  • Just a reminder...
    Despite CNN's scary new graphic that makes it look like the Eastern United States is under attack by an alien probe, the news is... just a reminder. Unnamed officials say there will be an announcement tomorrow that the FBI is looking for some people - but it's nothing to worry about. Also, there's increasing intelligence about a possible attack that might take place before the November presidential election in an attempt to affect the outcome. Hmm. Given that Reuters is reporting the same story with much, much less hand-wringing, I'm going to guess that this is an effort by some government operatives to remind us all that we should be very scared and vote Republican.
    story.terror.threat.jpg
     

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  • I'm assuming that this headline was only unintentionally funny:
    Harper boasts Maritime roots, gets Lord's endorsement
     

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  • Okay, I'm looking over the Green Party economic justice platform. Generally, their discussion of the social safety net looks fairly good, although this is not an issue with which I'm sufficiently familiar. Several of their policies on this page seem downright ridiculous, however - especially the reforms they wish to propose to the UN:
    The Green Party will:
    -Propose a reform of the UN Security Council to eliminate permanent memberships and vetoes. Instead, representation on the Security Council will be awarded to the five most populous nations, the five wealthiest nations (per capita) and five other nations elected from the general assembly.

    My biggest objection to this proposal is that the 'wealthiest per capita' criteria would give a seat on the security council to Bermuda, Luxembourg, Norway, Swizterland, and Liechtenstein - unless you adjust for purchasing power parity, in which case that list would be Luxembourg, Bermuda, Norway, the United States, and Liechtenstein. In other words, such a system would unduly reward itty bitty countries that specialize in banking and general tax haven-ness. Either way, I doubt this is really what they had in mind. I'm in favour of reforming the UN. I'm inclined to think India should be a permanent member of the security council, seeing as it has, what, like a sixth of the world's population and it's a nuclear power.

    But I was actually looking for information to follow up on greg's comments below re: Green Reaganomics vs. the NDP. More on that soon...
     

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  • The American Taliban want to establish a Rogue State ... and so do some Libertarians and a few Blacks. My other title for this post was "Welcome to Waco..." Via Pandagon, we discover ChristianExodus.org. First, the good news:
    More than fifty-three million people voted for pro-abortion, pro-gay candidates in the 2000 presidential election. That number will undoubtedly grow each year as Hollywood, MTv and universities turn out liberals faster than our churches can produce converts. Redemption of all 50 American States and their general government is totally impossible.

    In other words, they've given up on Bush and the Republicans. (By "redemption" they mean talibanization.) Now the ridiculous news: They have a new solution to institutionalize their bigotry.
    ChristianExodus.org has been established to coordinate the move of 50,000 or more Christians to a single conservative state in the U.S. for the express purpose of reestablishing constitutional governance. It is evident that our Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system.

    By 'constitution', these people apparently mean Leviticus. And by 'establishing consitutional governance', these people mean seceding from the constitutional order known as the United States.
    ChristianExodus.org is orchestrating the move of 50,000 or more Christians to one of three States for the express purpose of dissolving that State’s bond with the union. The three States under consideration are Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. The exact destination will be chosen by vote of our membership. Our move will commence when the federal government forces sodomite marriages on our local communities or once we reach the 50,000-member mark, whichever comes first.

    I'd like to see a government that tried to force sodomite marriages on people. Anyway, this idea is just too stupid for words. But as I've been searching the net looking for other American secessionist movements, I discovered that the Libertarian Free State Project:
    The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented people will move to New Hampshire, where they may work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government.

    The author(s) of this article at BlackState.com:
    ...are simply wondering what would happen if a majority of the 30 plus million African Americans decided to move to a single state so as to affect the political economic conditions to benefit the black community. ... [C]an you imagine one state where you can truly be yourself. You don’t have to worry about driving while black. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you will get admitted to college because the big state school have accepted enough black students this year. You don’t have to worry whether or not you are a token or whether your ideas are truly valued.

    Where? How about the New South.

    The authors mention several plausible candidates for black statehood. One prime candidate is Alabama - where the black population is both almost at 40% but you wouldn’t know it politically - and where you really wouldn't know it if the Christian Exodus chooses Alabama for its new homeland. What would happen if the Christian Exodus and the Black Staters chose the same state?

    UPDATE: That was post number 600.
     

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  • A propos of a conversation I've been having with Andy, I've decided that I support electoral reform in Canada. The system I'd like to see put in place is called Alternative Vote.
     

  • Monday, May 24, 2004
     
  • Happy Queen Victoria Day. In Quebec, it's called Fete de Dollard des Ormeaux. In Ontario, it's called the Two-Four. And from browsing the web, I've learned that it's sometimes called Firecracker Day.

    Victoria at age 66

    I'm afraid I can't find any photos of Dollard. But here's a picture of the province of Ontario as a glass of beer:

     

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  • From the Absolutely Absurd Party of Canada's policy platform:
    Eliminate all federal taxes and incorporate a policy of yearly corporate sponsorship [e.g. the Rocky Mountains will be known as the “Air Canada enjoy your flight Rocky Mountains”]
     

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  • More election news here, via Pretty Political.
     

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  • Election coverage by me.

    Well, there's going to be an election. Funny how that isn't news. Also, the liberals are doing well in the polls. Also no news there... I'm looking for news. One place to start is surely at the Canadian Election News site, which includes stats on the previous election, coverage of the current one, and links to all the parties. I'm pleased to report that we still have a both a Marxist-Lenninist party and a Communist party in this country.

    Martin's election platform is pretty clear cut (and I'll go out on a limb here and say it'll work for him):
    "You can have a country like Canada. You can have a country like the United States," said Martin, with his wife Sheila standing nearby.

    Harper has hit back, saying:
    "You know, in this country you can be Canadian without being a Liberal," Harper replied during a news conference.

    And arguing that his his proposed 25-per-cent tax cut for middle-income earners is affordable and will not damage social programs. ... The tax measure would cost $6 billion when fully implemented after four years, Harper said.
    The Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party (I'm willing to call them Conservatives, but I had to use the CRAP name at least once...):
    Here's the Conservative Issues page. There's very little noteworthy about it, other than the fact that there's so little information provided and the summary on each issue is just stupidly vague. Note that at this point at least there is nothing but the summary. I want information, not talking points. Anyway, these ones stand out to me:
    Lower Taxes
    The Conservative Party will fight for tax relief. We will work for lower and fairer taxes for hardworking Canadians and their families.

    Definition of Marriage
    The Conservative Party will fight to give a greater voice to Parliament. We will ensure that issues like marriage are decided by parliament, not the courts.

    Canada’s Place in the World
    The Conservative Party will fight for Canada’s national interest. We will stand with our allies and international bodies against terrorism and for the basic values of freedom and democracy.

    Cleaner Environment
    The Conservative Party will fight for a clean environment. We will propose workable solutions to make Canada a world leader in clean air, clean water and clean land.

    Canada – US Relations
    The Conservative Party will fight for our primary producers in trade disputes. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the US when we can so that we can sit eyeball to eyeball when we must.

    Here are some remarkably dull ads for Stephen Harper. In fact, I think these ads might be very effective. The two words I immediately think of on seeing them are 'simple and honest'. Not that Stephen Harper seems honest - though he might seem a little simple. But the ads themselves are remarkably simple and honest. Good strategy. Boring - that's the way we like it in Canada.

    So I'm bouncing around the Conservative website and I have yet to find an actual platform (aside from the little talking points excerpted from above). What I really want is some information on this $6 billion number and Harper's estimate that his tax cuts are affordable. Here's the campaign blog - though there's nothing on it yet.

    The Liberal Party of Canada
    The website just feels more mature than the Conservative website. They have a documents page which includes the government's most recent budget. It incldues a definition of the word Grit. The website also feels kind of crowded. The Conservative site was streamlined and focussed on one thing: getting elected. The Liberal site seems like it's as much for party members wanting to check in and see if there's an upcoming party luncheon as much as its for curious voters. If anything, the page is probably short on the point form coverage. Who wants to read all these long discussions? Is it the Liberals' intention to camoflage their actual policies in long-winded articles? We'll be coming back to review their actual positions on things. In the meantime, here's the new ad with the choose us or choose US message.

    The Green Party
    Let's be clear: I will vote for the Green party in the upcoming election. If I can get out of this chair, I may even volunteer to do some work for them. In my riding, the Greens finished second in the last election - but there's still no contest against the PQ. This means I don't really have to think about whether or not I would support a Green government or not (I probably would) - I can vote with my conscience and my conscience says, "Vote Green - it gets them money."

    The Green Party's website feels hokey. It's a shame, but it does. For one thing, it's green and yellow - like the grass and the sun. For another, the platform page has a quote from the Dalai Lama on it. I respect the Dalai Lama more than any Canadian politician, but it's hard not to look like you're about two steps removed from the Natural Law party when you're quoting him on the website. Plus, I've been having some trouble loading the page. The other parties do nationalism. The Greens have to learn to do it as well. Cosmopolitan nationalism is the hardest kind, so I understand the difficulty. One place to start would be throwing in some red and some Canadian flags. Another would be including quotes from Canadian thinkers rather than Tibetan ones.

    Despite my aesthetic objections (which are important), the platform page is remarkably good. Unfortunately, the website shut down as I was preparing this post. So that is something else we will have to come back to later.
     

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  • Some details on the US-Britain draft resolution for Iraq. I'd like to know if this is normal or not:
    The new measure calls on all U.N. member-states to take steps to ensure that no law suits are filed against Iraq or any of its state-owned enterprises for a period of 12 months.
     

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  • In war (or whatever this is), accidents happen. Usually, a lot of innocent people die and it should not be surprising. It's one of the main reasons we should all always oppose war except in the most extreme cases. Most of the people killed in wars are civilians caught in the crossfire, targetted by accident, targetted for looting, etc. etc. But when an accident happens, and a wedding party is bombed because it is mistaken for something sinister, a democratically controlled military should not try to lie about it. As Hesiod says, Just admit you fucked up. Admit it. Don't lie about it and bring shame to our entire country.
    "There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. “There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too.”

    ...But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

    Based on this article, the evidence seems pretty overwhemingly to confirm that it was a wedding party.
     

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  • Because it's just so damned embarrasing, I'm trying to give the Bushies the benefit of the doubt on this one... But I just can't see how.
    White House Spokesman Trent Duffy on why the 'president' fell:
    "It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose," Duffy said. "You know this president. He likes to go all-out. Suffice it to say he wasn't whistling show tunes."

    Follow the link above for the Crawford (actually nearby McGregor, Texas) weather reports from the last couple of weeks. Guess what weather phenomenon hasn't been much in evidence?
     

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  • Kevin Drum has a handy Chalabi timeline for those of us trying to catch up on who this man is (and why so many people hate him). I was surprised to learn of the University of Chicago connection. I also hadn't heard of the Bay of Goats before.
     

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  • We heard a while back that Saddam's Republican Palace had become, well, a Republican Palace... but, as Atrios says, holy crap.
     

  • Sunday, May 23, 2004
     
  • Highly recommended viewing: Supersize Me.
     

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  • Here is quite a good article on climate change from AP. Its focus in on local effects of rising temperatures and sea levels under the headline "Climate change rises on global agenda". Unfortunately, the headline is misleading, a well-intended pun on those rising sea levels. The article says very little about actual efforts to reduce global warming, other than mentioning that Kyoto is stalled because the US opposes it. That, plus the fact that the article itself is characterized as a Health/Science story rather than, say, World Politics or Brutally Urgent, tells me that, in fact, the world's agenda is still pretty much focussed on everything but climate change.
    Saufatu Sopoanga, as Tuvalu's prime minister, must look into the future, not the Bible. He is talking to New Zealand about a kind of 21st century Noah's ark - a standby plan for a mass migration there.
     

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  • If I tell you I heard that Coke tastes great and four or five of your other friends tell you they heard the same thing... Would you believe that Coke tasted great? What if it turned out that all of us had heard this line from the same sleazy salesman? Multiple independent sources can seem to corroborate a story... unless they're actually all just the same source. Something like this may have contributed to Iran's alleged duping of (some but not all!) American intelligence professionals.
    Because even friendly spy services rarely share the identities of their informants, or let outsiders meet or debrief their sources, it has become clear only in recent months that Chalabi's group sent defectors with inaccurate or misleading information to Denmark, England, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, as well as to the United States, the officials said.

    As a result the officials said, U.S. intelligence analysts in some cases used information from now-discredited "foreign intelligence sources" to corroborate assessments of Hussein's suspected weapons programs. Few of the CIA's prewar judgments have been proved accurate so far.

    "We had a lot of sources, but it was all coming from the same pot," said a former senior U.S. intelligence official. "They were all INC guys. And none of them panned out."

    This is from the LA Times via the Palm Beach Post. One extra point: although the story notes that the CIA has been consistently wrong, my understanding is that the CIA was largely ignored by the people in charge because its estimates of Hussein's capabilities were much lower than they (Wolfowitz, Cheney, etc.) believed/wanted to hear. The administration should not be allowed to make a scapegoat out of the CIA.
     

  • Saturday, May 22, 2004
     
  • It would probably be unfair to characterize the US invasion of Iraq as done at the behest of Iran... after all, I have no doubt that these guys had their own reasons for wanted to attack Iraq. It's just that the intelligence they were provided was nothing but Iranian lies designed to appeal to their desires and enable them to sell the operation to the larger US public. Now how can the conservatives get themselves out of this one? Were they not themselves the dupes, they would surely be labelling themselves traitors at this point. Hesiod suggests they'll blame it on Clinton. My guess is they'll make the following argument: (a) we were lied to by Iran; therefore (b) we need to attack Iran. This argument, if succesful would nicely distract everyone from failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, the United States, etc. while providing new rally-round-the-flag momentum, winning Bush massive public support and allowing the war hawks to conveniently forget that it was their stupid credulence which made (a) matter at all. Besides, doens't Iran have a nuclear weapons program?
     

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  • Doo-fuss:
    George Bush fell off his mountain bike on Saturday, grazing his chin, upper lip, nose, both knees, and his right hand, a White House spokesman said.

    Vote for him. He needs the secret service to protect him from himself!
     

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  • Reviews of the Pentagon's neo-con operation by former CENTCOM commanders courtesy of Political Animal. I think you'll agree that Tommy Franks's take on Doug Feith is the best.
     

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  • Good lord, can this Chalabi thing get any bigger? Josh Marshall is covering the details. Here's the latest Newsday piece:
    The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

    "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

    The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years. ... The Defense Department this week halted payment of $340,000 a month to Chalabi's program. Chalabi had long been the favorite of the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Intelligence sources say Chalabi himself has passed on sensitive U.S. intelligence to the Iranians.

    Just so we're clear: these bozos who've been perpetrating the war were paying millions of taxpayer dollars to this guy and his operation so that they could (a) give him state secrets to sell to Iran; and (b) get fed a lot of great lies about Saddam. Nice work, fellas.

    From the Newsday article:
    Indications that Iran, which fought a bloody war against Iraq during the 1980s, was trying to lure the U.S. into action against Saddam Hussein appeared many years before the Bush administration decided in 2001 that ousting Hussein was a national priority.

    Thus Josh Marshall is almost certainly right when he says:
    [W]hat we're seeing here is less the result of new revelations than the outward signs of deep tectonic shifts within the US government -- the discrediting of some factions and agencies, the attempts of others to reposition themselves in a moment of acute crisis and get ahead of the storm, and the freeing up of others to assert themselves for the first time in years.

    But for the average American voter, who didn't know the people running their country were acting as Iranian spies, I'd guess these revelations are pretty damn new.

    UPDATE: Atrios puts it well when he asks, "Who knew we attacked one member of the Axis of Evil at the behest of another?"
     

  • Friday, May 21, 2004
     
  • Now, what other illegal expenditures can we ask them to pay back?
    U.S. Senate and House Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation to require the Bush administration to repay the estimated $43,000 cost of "video news releases" that the General Accounting Office says violated a federal law against the use of government funds for "publicity or propaganda." But Administration officials insist that there was nothing inappropriate about the videos and they intend to take no action in light of the finding.

    "Republicans should not be robbing Medicare to pay for political ads," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

    Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who sought the original GAO investigation of the administration's public relations campaign about the Medicare law signed last December, on Thursday introduced a bill to require the President's reelection campaign to pay the money back. "These funds were meant to help our seniors, not the President's reelection campaign," said Lautenberg.

    'Political ads', however, is not the terminology we should be using. Propaganda is the word. They were fake news broadcasts.
     

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  • Asshole (there's just no nicer way to put it):
    BOSTON, May 20 - Gov. Mitt Romney began cracking down Thursday on same-sex marriages by out-of-state couples, taking steps to invalidate their marriage licenses and asking the attorney general to consider taking action against the cities that issued them.

    Earlier this week, as gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney's administration demanded copies of marriage license applications from four cities and towns that were defying the governor by issuing licenses to out-of-state couples.

    Talk about raining on someone's parade. Congratulations on your wedding, excuse me while I invalidate it.
     

  • Thursday, May 20, 2004
     
  • Andrew Bolt of Australia's Herald Sun says Australians who supported the war should feel proud while Autralian "peace" activists (he puts the quotes around the word every time) should feel ashamed because the Iraqi athletes at this year's Olympic games will be free participants whereas in previous years they faced possible torture at the hands of Uday Hussein for bad showings. Given the broad-based coalition of the, ahem, "willing" that have been involved in this effort, I feel I can respond to Mr. Bolt's comments, even though they are intended for an Australian audience.
    Al-Sammarai was a member of Iraq's basketball team and a general in Saddam's army before he defected in 1983.
    Last year, after we helped to topple Saddam, he was one of the nearly two million refugees who returned; and in February, he was elected head of Iraq's new National Olympic Committee. Yes, elected -- even that little step is a miracle, given Iraq's savage past.

    Mr. Bolt is pretty enamoured of the fact that Mr. Al-Sammarai was elected. [In] the new Iraq, Uday is dead and al-Sammarai is elected in his place. ... National officials would not be elected in free ballots, he says, were it not for this proud war of liberation and its supporters (but not its shameful detractors!). The way Mr. Bolt tells it, you'd think Sammarai's election was a great leap forward for democracy in Iraq. Let's hope, though, that Mr. Bolt's idea of a free ballot doesn't apply to other, more important positions of authority. From a few days before the "election":
    The election will be held Thursday, with 31 officials, including 22 chairmen of various sports federations casting ballots for a president, three deputies and 11 committee members.
    The only candidate running for the committee presidency is Ahmed al-Sammarai, chair of Iraq's interim sports committee.

    31 voters and only one candidate. Now, no doubt there is a world of difference for Iraq's atheletes (assuming they're not picked up and thrown in American prisons) with Sammarai rather than Uday in charge, but before I start feeling guilty for casting aspersions about an illegal war premissed on lies and obfuscations during which thousands of people have been killed, others tortured, which threatens to leave a legacy of civil war in its wake, which shook the foundations of international order, created new generations of America-hating Muslims, in all likelihood produced a bazaar of blackmarket sales of Iraqi military assets because its idiot planners didn't want to send in enough troops to actually secure anything and then dismissed the national army... What am I missing? Anyway, no I don't feel guilty just yet for thinking that, on balance, there were better ways to encourage the democratic reform of Iraq and that, on principle, I should oppose a war whose advocates and directors are so quick to lie outright, dismiss their allies, and mock the UN. Yes, its good that (assuming the country doesn't degrade into complete chaos by then) Iraqi athletes will be able to participate without fear of torture. Hooray for the war hawks and Mr. Bolt.

    Thanks to Kate for the tip.
     

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  • I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
    The U.S. command in Baghdad raided Ahmed Chalabi's home and headquarters in Baghdad at dawn today. U.S. soldiers put a gun to his head, according to his nephew Salem Chalabi, the Associated Press reports. Chalabi aides blame the CIA and Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
    Why did the Bush administration turn against its former favorite Iraqi? Almost certainly because it realized that Chalabi, maddened by the realization that he was being excluded from the post-June 30 hand-over arrangements, was putting together a sectarian Shiite faction to destabilize and destroy the new Iraqi government. 'This all started since [U.N. envoy Lakhdar] Brahimi announced that Chalabi would be kept out of the new arrangement,' says an Iraqi political observer who is not only long familiar with Chalabi himself but also in close touch with key actors, including U.S. officials at the CPA and Iraqi politicians.

    'Ahmed is gathering groups to bring this new government down even before July 1. He is in a very destructive phase, mobilizing forces to make sure the U.N. initiative -- due to be announced in 10 days -- fails.' Chalabi has reportedly been inflaming his recruits with reports that veteran Algerian diplomat Brahimi is part of a Sunni conspiracy bent on undermining the rights of Iraqi Shiites to hold power in Iraq.

    This is very good news. Chalabi is, by all accounts, thoroughly corrupt and if he could have got real power in Iraq he would probably have been just another Saddam Hussein. That the US has finally turned on him suggests that they are at least trying to avoid that particular outcome. This is probably not enough to bring ordinary Iraqis on side but Chalabi is well hated and it will certainly please a lot of people. On the other hand, revealing Chalabi to be nothing but a power-hungry crook pretty much gives the lie to the entire Iraq war, seeing as it was built around intelligence (lies) which he provided Washington for the low, low price of millions and millions of dollars.
     

  •  
  • Just say 'no' to Propaganda:
    The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Wednesday that the Bush administration had violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news segments that portray the new Medicare law as a boon to the elderly.
    ....The General Accounting Office said that a specific part of the videos, a made-for-television "story package," violated the prohibition on using taxpayer money for propaganda.

    You may recall the Karen Ryan reports. As Kevin Drum notes, it's regrettable that "Medicare officials are unlikely to face any penalties[.]" Story from the New York Times via Political Animal.
     

  •  
  • Israel is going apeshit, bulldozing houses and shooting protesters - the UN says they've created 1600 new homeless (and I'd wager angry) Palestinians. Do I know all the facts? No. But I can say this: asking for clarification, "urging" restraint and hesitantly allowing the UN to pass a resolution (i.e. "refusing to veto" even a watered-down version) is a far cry from what needs to be done. Either Israel can prove that its actions were and are justified or it should calm the hell down. Bush's tepid response validates this Israeli interpretation:
    Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman told reporters the U.S. stance had to be taken in a "wider context" in light of talks the Bush administration was having with Arab leaders. He appeared to be referring to Iraq.

    In other words: we can continue to kill or otherwise terrorize whomever we like because Bush is just, you know, trying to impress the Arabs.

    Methinks that strategy a bit flawed...

    Meantime, let me ask you this: what do you think of when you hear the phrase "innocent life"?

    If you said something along the lines of "unborn child" or "fetus", then you're like me and, judging by the google test, a lot of other people. Well, this is the phrase Bush is using to talk about
    Israel:
    "I continue to urge restraint. It is essential that people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace," Bush told reporters after meeting with members of his Cabinet.

    Am I just out to lunch, or have they chosen this phrase because they're trying to please someone other than Middle Eastern Arabs - like say, American anti-abortionists?
     

  • Wednesday, May 19, 2004
     
  • The end of the drama?
    Manmohan Singh, a 71-year-old former finance minister, was today named as India's next prime minister. He will become the first Sikh to lead the nation.
     

  •  
  • The problem with the genetically modified food debate - aside from the reams of misinformation involved - is that it is seen as one big issue. I don't know who is responsible for that. Obviously it is the result of us not really knowing too much about the processes of genetic modification or about how ecosystems work or, for that matter, about how the human body works. The trouble is that GM potatoes and GM wheat and GM tomatoes are all drastically different beasts. You can't say that because one is bad, the others are also bad, nor can you say that because one is good the others are also good. The testing (which should be extensive - and I don't believe it has been for any GM product yet) needs to be done very much on the basis of each product as a distinct entity. Today:
    The European Union lifted a five-year-old ban on genetically modified (GM) food on Wednesday as the EU's executive body, the European Commission, allowed the sale of tins of GM sweetcorn across the 25-member bloc.
    Any imports of the canned food made from the GM maize Bt-11 and marketed by Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta, must be clearly labeled as a GM product, the commission said.

    Here's the Canadian Press piece, which has some more detail - especially on some of the politics behind this decision. It's not clear to me, though, how this affects the EU's position on other GM products. My guess is it opens the door at least a little and biotech companies are going to push hard to open it wider. If nothing else, it seems to say that they will try to get the European Commission to make the decisions rather than having a democratic debate.
     

  • Tuesday, May 18, 2004
     
  • Generally, I'm a fan of Reuters. Just the facts, please. But man oh man, why in the hell would the news agency not report abuse of its own journalists by US soldiers in Iraq?
    Reuters said Tuesday three Iraqis working for the news agency were beaten, taunted and forced to put shoes in their mouths during their detention at a military camp near Fallujah in January.

    Emphasis added. To be fair, I gather they opted to let the military conduct an investigation and are now speaking out because the investigation turned up no evidence the Reuters staff had been tortured or abused. I don't know. It's not clear when the results of that report came out, but the article mentions that Reuters hasn't actually been able to read all the report's details.
     

  •  
  • Ontario budget coverage from the CBC, with more in depth discussion here. 13% of the budget goes to pay the interest on the province's debt:
    Where the money goes to
     

  •  
  • Good News:
    OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government proposed on Tuesday granting access without prescription to the "morning-after pill"[.]

    "Women facing an emergency need timely access to this type of therapy," Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew said in a statement. "Making the drug available in pharmacies without a prescription will help women to prevent unwanted pregnancies."
     

  •  
  • Via Eschaton and from the Village Voice:
    It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that 'the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level' - this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.
    ...The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and David's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

    The author concludes:
    The problem is not that George W. Bush is discussing policy with people who press right-wing solutions to achieve peace in the Middle East, or with devout Christians. It is that he is discussing policy with Christians who might not care about peace at all—at least until the rapture.
     

  •  
  • The drama of the Indian election is really fascinating. Now that Sonia Ghandi has declared she will not take the position of Prime Minister. At least two factors play into this: (1) she was born in Italy, which some people have objected to; and (2) the markets hate her. I wonder which factor is more important? Yesterday, the markets were freaking out that the socialist Congress Party was going to take over from the quasi-racist but economically liberal BJP. (I think it's still fair to call the BJP quasi-racist given its roots and institutional leanings. Having been constrained by moderates throughout its period of leadership, it actually proved to be suprisingly good with regards to India's sectarian tensions and the problem of Kashmir. The election process, I believe, exposed its nastier side in the form of anti-Muslim rhetoric.) Today, the markets are reassurred by the fact that Sonia will pass the party's leadership to someone else, perhaps former Finance Minister and friend to international investors, Manmohan Singh. But to form the government, Congress needs the support of the Communists, who now control 43 seats. Would the Communists still support Congress if it was led by Singh? I'd guess yes, given the alternative, but we will have to wait and see. Who will control India's nuclear arsenal? Who will lead its one billion citizens? It's a gripping drama. I'm kind of sorry that Sonia has bowed out, though. Now India won't be led by a Catholic Ghandi. That woud have been funny.
     

  •  
  • Via Poynter (as was my last post), more bad news about the news. Barbara Simpson, ex-news anchor for ABC and now the network's "news ambassador" trying to reach out to high school kids about the importance of being informed citizens, has this to say about the current state of affairs:
    "It isn't the ABC News it was when I started," she said. "We've moved away from stories about poor people, people who are powerless," she said. "The focus groups have indicated that the public wants medical and business news." ... "When I first got into TV, all you had to be was good. Now, it's a question of `Is it going to take a day to shoot this story or a day and a half?' We have to watch the bottom line." ... "This is the most frightened I've been in my 40 years in journalism," she says. "I'm finding that current events and geography are not being offered to kids. How can we have a society that sustains itself if young people aren't informed?"
     

  •  
  • The news (literally) is going to get worse:
    Growing violence is forcing Western correspondents to change their approach to reporting, restrict their travel and pass up stories that are now deemed too risky. ... Many journalists now spend much of their time inside the capital's "green zone," which is protected by the U.S. military.

    The article includes a number of quotes from prominent news organizations saying they can't cover the news because its too dangerous. They're cutting back on travel and they're returning to "embedded" reporting, which means we only see what the army wants us to see. But why don't the Western news agencies start hiring local reporters and crews?

    From the same WaPo article:
    Fox News is demanding a correction from the New York Times for an article describing it as "the conservative cable network."

    Un-freakin'-believable.
     

  • Monday, May 17, 2004
     
  • Too little, too late... but this is still freaky:
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said Monday an artillery shell exploded in Iraq had released a small amount of the nerve agent sarin.
     

  • Sunday, May 16, 2004
     
  • Via Hesiod, the transcript of Larry King's interview with US Soliders held for three weeks as POWs in Iraq:
    But what it comes down to, the saddest thing about it is, I was treated better by the enemy than my fellow soldiers did to our enemy....
     

  •  
  • Standing in Quicksand:
     

  •  
  • Clark:
    Former PC Party Leader Joe Clark is throwing his support behind Liberal MP Scott Brison, according to reports out of Brison's camp. ... Brison left the new Conservative Party to join the Liberal Party shortly after it was formed.

    (source)
     

  •  
  • Via Kevin Drum, this story from the Guardian:
    Encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex could prove the most effective way of curbing teenage pregnancy rates, a government study has found.

    Along similar - though satirical - lines, check out technicalvirgin.com, especially the TV commericals and teen testimonials.
     

  •  
  • In this somewhat bizarre story about the Ontario Liberals' efforts to get the provincial TV networks to give them free air time to discuss the upcoming budget, this line particularly stands out to me:
    Mr. Eves suggested the Grit plan to address budget matters on newscasts could be equated with the Tories' much-maligned decision to present last year's budget in the Magna auto parts plant.

    "I thought this was a government that preached a good line about democracy and that democracy should always be done in the legislature of Ontario first," the Conservative leader said.

    Sorry, Mr. Eves, but is that some kind of criticism? When the government addresses the people about pretty much any issue, it's a good thing for democracy, provided the government doesn't just use the opportunity to spin the facts or distract people from more important issues. What the Tories did was bypass the legislature by introducing their budget on a staged TV program with scripted questions asked by handpicked individuals there to look like members of the ordinary public. Mr. Eves broke with hundreds of years of parliamentary tradition and made Ontario look like a sham democracy. It's simply not comparable to Liberal efforts to put their spokespeople on the news without paying for it. What an idiot.

    Along the same lines, the story also observes that the broadcasters are particularly reluctant to give the Liberals free access because they got burned when they did that for the previous Tory government.
    [Global Television's Ontario news director Stephanie] Smyth said television executives are feeling particularly cautious about such requests after an experience last summer when former Conservative premier Ernie Eves asked for and was granted free air time during the power blackout that hit most of the province.

    "It [the address] turned out to be political in nature rather than emergency information," Ms. Smyth said.

    "We were sort of burned on that.... Everyone agreed that we shouldn't have done it."

    Dalton McGuinty's request for free airtime is a little unusual and he certainly had no reason to expect the stations to give him the time, since there is no public emergency to warrant it. It's kind of like you or me asking for free air time to talk about, you know, whatever. On the other hand, I see nothing fundamentally wrong with asking so long as the stations feel free to decline (which they did), and NDP leader Howard Hampton is wrong to suggest that the request is "quite a cynical move." On the other hand, he is probably right when he says:
    "But what it also indicates is that this is going to be a bad news budget, that there is going to be real pain here for the average Ontarian."

     

  •  
  • Until just now, I didn't know that Pamela Anderson was Canada'a "Centennial Baby" - the first baby born in Canada in 1967. Well, that baby is about to become an American, assuming she can pass the citizenship test.
     

  •  
  • Read this Newsweek article or at least Atrios's excerpts. A teaser:
    Toward the end of 2002, orders came down the political chain at DOD that the Geneva Conventions were to be reinterpreted to allow tougher methods of interrogation. 'There was almost a revolt' by the service judge advocates general, or JAGs, the top military lawyers.... In April 2003, new and tougher interrogation techniques were approved. Covertly, though, the JAGs made a final effort. They went to see Scott Horton, a specialist in international human-rights law and a major player in the New York City Bar Association's human-rights work. The JAGs told Horton they could only talk obliquely about practices that were classified. But they said the U.S. military's 50-year history of observing the demands of the Geneva Conventions was now being overturned. 'There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity' about how the conventions should be interpreted and applied, they told Horton. And the prime movers in this effort, they told him, were DOD Under Secretary for Policy Douglas Feith and DOD general counsel William Haynes. There was, they warned, 'a real risk of a disaster' for U.S. interests.

    This issue represents the core of why Bush must go: the effort to totally undo everything good about the post-war international order that has developed over the last fifty years. To my mind, Bush vs. Kerry = Anarchy vs. Order.

    UPDATE: Kevin Drum has an excellent run down on this story, including a compare and contrast of the Newsweek and Newyorker versions.
     

  •  
  • Catching up to Canada? On Friday, the US Supreme Court declined without comment to intervene in Massachusetts' progress towards establishing the rights of gays to marry. Following the state supreme court's November ruling, the state will start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples tomorrow. This is not exactly leadership on the part of the federal Supreme Court, but at least its not ass-backwards support for discrimination, either. Meanwhile, the positive benefits for Massachusets business are already in evidence.
     

  •  
  • Spain's former Prime Minister should go away shamefully into obscurity. Instead, he is causing trouble in the US.
    "It's important to realize that the terrorists will do all they can to disrupt the upcoming U.S. election," Aznar said. "They are going to do everything in their power to have the United States fail." ... "It's important to realize that the terrorists will do all they can to disrupt the upcoming U.S. election," Aznar said. "They are going to do everything in their power to have the United States fail."

    Yes, the election might have gone in his favour if he hadn't cynically manipulated the investigations into the attacks to try to protect himself and, no, such events have little or no relevance to the American context. This man's loyalty to George Bush is a product of his own failure - he would see himself redeemed in a Bush reelection. Yuck.
     

  • Saturday, May 15, 2004
     
  • Word of mouth reporting OR The market as the arbiter of everything is a stupid idea:

    From a friend who attended a Canadian Supreme Court hearing this past week. The case concerned a suit by workers in a maritime province against their government, which recently backed out of a pay equity agreement due to budget constraints. This concerns Section 15 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A number of groups intervened in the case, providing the court with their opinions on the matter. One individual who addressed the court argued that in fact everyone else's assumption that this was a Section 15 case was mistaken. Systemic discrimination, for which the pay equity agreement was meant to compensate, was not in fact a Section 15 issue. The man argued that since the government is a market actor like any other, it is justified in paying the market rate for labour - even if the market sets the going rate for women, say, as lower than that for men. The view received, by my friend's account, a rather icy reception from the highest judges in our land, who pointed out rather bluntly to him that to make his point convincingly he would have to rebut a long history of Supreme Court decisions to the contrary. To this, he had no response, and was left speechless for quite some time. Finally he came back with a, "Be that as it may..." which added nothing whatsoever to his argument. The man, whose identity was not known to my friend until well into his speech: the attorney general of Alberta. Apparently, you do not want to be a member of a systematically disadvantaged group in that province. Who knew?

    CORRECTION: Checked with my friend. It wasn't the Alberta AG in person at the court, it was a representative.
     

  •  
  • I don't think I've ever pointed you in the direction of General JC Christian and it's high time I did. He is a devoted patriotic Christian veteran who is working to defend his country and its fine Christian values.
     

  •  
  • Yes, that is a pentagram on Washington D.C. and, yes, the company is called terraserver - as in terra-ist and terra-ism and just plain terra. Click the zoom out button while you're there.
     

  •  
  • Montreal's fifth annual anarchist bookfair is on today.
     

  •  
  • Read all about it! The philosoraptor is (sort of) back in action and he's got a great new quiz. How do you score?
     

  • Friday, May 14, 2004
     
  • Via Andy's new blog, news that Montreal police arrested some people alledged to have firebombed a Jewish school here a few weeks ago - though it's "not over," says one of the cops, suggesting that there may be more arrests.
     

  •  
  • Got to hand it to Apple. They got this congressman to think differently about copyrights. Via Pandagon.
     

  •  
  • I said the other day that al-Qaeda, by beheading Nick Berg, was doing a good job of presenting itself as a the protectors of Iraqis. I just read this review of Mideast Media coverage in the Washington Post, which presents evidence to the contrary. To take one example, an Iranian radio commentator had this to say:
    This is the umpteenth time that in the wake of increasing global pressure and public opinion dissatisfaction with America's actions in the so-called fight against terrorism, the al-Qaeda group resorts to an act of terrorism. As a consequence, in line with the propaganda wave of the Western media, the world public opinion is misguided.

    The sentiment is shared by all the media outlets across the region which the WaPo discusses. I have no idea if it's a representative sample -- probably not, in fact, since I notice that al-Jazeera is not mentioned. The writer sums up the media's response thus: the deed is condemned as much for distracting world attention from the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison as for its brutality. This strikes me as apt. It's clear that the only problem people like Rumsfeld and Bush have with the coming-to-light of abuse at Abu Ghraib is that it came to light. Mass public opinion is all that counts and the primary lever of that opinion is the image. It stands to reason that there would be plenty of people on the other side of this affair who would feel exactly the same way. Many of them may agree that al-Qaeda or Zarqawi or whoever have the interests of Iraqis at heart, but see that in the battle for Western hearts and minds, brutality is a tactical blunder. In either case and whether its sincere or not, public condemnation of the acts is a step in the right direction.
     

  •  
  • Via Eschaton and worth looking through if you feel like getting good and angry, Maxspeak has an exciting contest on the go to find the "the most vicious thing posted by someone on the Instapundit blogroll." Shudder. Heave. The rightwing racism and bloodlust is overwhelming. How can we possibly continue to live on the same planet as these people?
     

  •  
  • Reuters gets it right when they note that John Kerry's criticism of Bush's "laxity of command control" was all the more pointed because he made it on Fox News.
    Kerry blamed Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for first casting doubt on the protections afforded prisoners by denying detainees from Afghanistan formal standing under the Geneva Conventions.

    "I would never have thrown out the door or window, the obligations of the Geneva Conventions. Why? Because I know as a former combatant, that had I been captured, I would have wanted our moral high ground, with respect to those Geneva Conventions, to be in place," Kerry said.

    "By being selective and saying they (the Geneva Conventions) apply here, then they don't apply here, and so forth, we invite others to be equally as selective and it puts American troops in greater danger."
     

  • Thursday, May 13, 2004
     
  • Medals for Mercs. No matter how good a man Todd Drobnick may have been, the idea that a private security contractor can receive a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for service to his country (even though his services were paid for by a translation tompany) makes me uncomfortable. Via Eschaton.
     

  •  
  • Finally:
    Sen. John F. Kerry, breaking momentarily from his cautious approach to turmoil in Iraq, blasted President Bush on Wednesday for running an "extraordinarily mismanaged and ineptly prosecuted war" and strongly suggested Bush is partly to blame for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.
     

  • Wednesday, May 12, 2004
     
  • Once in a while, I come across stuff that, though unrelated to any of our usual topics of discussion, I cannot help but post. Here is a case in point from 2002:
    It has emerged that the brains of three leading members of the urban guerrilla group, the Red Army Faction, including its leader, Andreas Baader, have disappeared after being preserved for scientific research. ... The group, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, began a campaign of political killings and kidnappings of senior business leaders in the 1970s aimed at overthrowing the state.

    For some reason, the brains of these German terrorists were preserved for scientific research and then stolen twenty-five years later. For the record, the Red Army Faction was still in existence, although much less active, up until 1998.
     

  • Tuesday, May 11, 2004
     
  • My stomach is still uneasy.
    A poor quality videotape on the site showed a man dressed in orange overalls sitting bound on a white plastic chair in a bare room, then on the floor with five masked men behind him.
    "My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael... I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah," said the bound man, adding he was from Philadelphia.
    After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed Berg to the floor and shouted "God is greatest" above his screams as one of them sawed his head off with a large knife then held it aloft for the camera.
    The Web site said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a top ally of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the man who cut off Berg's head. The statement read out before the killing was signed off with Zarqawi's name and dated May 11.
    ...President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both apologized and pledged to punish those responsible but both governments have come under pressure for senior ministers to be held responsible for the abuse.

    (source)

    Al-Qaeda is doing a very good job of taking on the role of protecting Iraqis from American oppressors. The network wasn't a big deal in Iraq before the war, but it's been given a pretty magnificent opportunity to stand out as their real defender now.
     

  •  
  • Eat easier:
    Environmentalists claimed a victory and the death knell for genetically modified crops on Tuesday as U.S. chemical giant Monsanto declared it was giving up on the GM wheat it had hoped would smash consumer resistance.
    'This is the end of GM. It is the final nail in the coffin. I am sure the companies will come back with more proposals in the future but basically the damage is done,' Tony Juniper, director of green lobby group Friends of the Earth said. "

    I think 'nail in the coffin' is an overly optimisitic assessment. A Greenpeace spokesman says, "Monsanto has said it is going to push on with its staple crops of soybeans, cotton, oilseed rape and maize. But if you look at these, 99 percent of them are grown in four countries -- Argentina, Canada, China and the USA."
    Hopefully we will see a lot more testing, more careful analysis of environmental impact, etc. My concern is that we will see the product shelved for a year or two, until the resistance has demobilized, and then it will be quietly snuck back into the fields and onto the market - without the additional testing. At any rate, this is still good news, probably the best the anti-GM crowd could hope for.
     

  • Monday, May 10, 2004
     
  • Via Pandagon and Kathryn Cramer: A week after a scandal broke involving photos of American troops torturing Iraqi prisoners, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root is pulling the plug on private electronic communications with the folks back home, apparently at the request of the Department of Defence.
     

  •  
  • The world under the thumb of a sociopath. Today Josh Marshall quotes a column by George Will from 1999:
    [Tucker] Carlson reports asking Bush whether he met with any persons who came to Texas to protest the execution of the murderer Karla Faye Tucker. Bush said no, adding: "I watched (Larry King's) interview with (Tucker), though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' " Carlson asked, "What was her answer?" and writes:
    " 'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.' "

    Hughes, who says Bush's decision not to commute Tucker's sentence was "very difficult and very emotional," says Carlson's report is "a total misread" of Bush. Carlson, who describes Bush as "smirking," says: "I took it down as he said it."

    Like a boot stamping on a human face. Or perhaps in this case a human neck. Via Eschaton and Reuters:
    The International Committee of the Red Cross also described British troops forcing Iraqi detainees to kneel and stomping on their necks in an incident in which one prisoner died.

    Here's a scanned image of an newspaper article, presumably the same one George Will refers to, apparently from Talk Magazine, which says that Karla Faye Tucker never actually pleaded for her life like that - Bush was just kidding. That's not a redeeming fact, of course.
     

  • Sunday, May 09, 2004
     
  • Chomsky on the relative ease of military occupations and post-war Iraq: It took real talent to fail.
     

  • Saturday, May 08, 2004
     
  • Drop whatever you're doing and read this post at Pretty Political, then follow the links.
     

  • Friday, May 07, 2004
     
  • Holy Christ:
    MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Police freed two young women who had been kept in an underground bunker as sex slaves for more than three years, during which time one of them gave birth twice and became pregnant a third time, Russian news reports said Thursday.

    The women, now 21 and 17, disappeared in September 2000 after going to a discotheque in Ryazan, 125 miles southeast of Moscow, the reports said. The search for them was called off after a few months and the young women, who were identified only as Lena and Katya, were presumed dead.
     

  •  
  • Josh:
    I doubt very much that all this mess we've gotten ourselves into is attributable to this one man. But at what point in this scandal does someone ask whether some of this might have some connection to the fact that the guy running military intelligence believes the war on terror is a literal holy war pitting Christian America against Satan and his Muslim minions?
     

  •  
  • While all this killing and dying and lying is going on, the Mars Rovers are still working away.
     

  • Thursday, May 06, 2004
     
  • I have to confess, until just now I had never heard of Dominica. If you hadn't either, then you may find this interesting:
    Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans, due chiefly to the fierce resistance of the native Caribs. France ceded possession to Great Britain in 1763, which made the island a colony in 1805. In 1980, two years after independence, Dominica's fortunes improved when a corrupt and tyrannical administration was replaced by that of Mary Eugenia CHARLES, the first female prime minister in the Caribbean, who remained in office for 15 years. Some 3,000 Carib Indians still living on Dominica are the only pre-Columbian population remaining in the eastern Caribbean.
     

  •  
  • Josh Marshall discussing the brutal treatment of prisoners in Iraq and the possible application by the military of Guantanamo Bay procedures (designed for very different and very special circumstances) to the Iraqi prison system:
    What are we looking at here but the fraudulent connection between Iraq and 9/11 suddenly become flesh, as we look into our own faces and see a paler shade of our enemies looking back at us?

    And via Josh's site, via MediaMatters and Wonkette, evidence that Rush Limbaugh's idea of a good time includes, as Wonkette so delicately puts it, "forcing other people into simulated ass-fucking." Limbaugh's desire to quash the Iraqi torture scandal leads Wonkette to ask, "hey, isn't it nice to see a leader in the conservative movement finally come out in favor of a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in the military?"
     

  •  
  • Wonkette looks like its the place for news about Gore TV. According to Wonkette's "GoreWatcher":
    Senator McCain: "McCain was there and offered this quip about the new network: 'If his programming is anything like his performance in the debates, I expect his primary audience to be insomniacs.'"
    Cable Execs:At an industry party last night that Gore attended, a group of cable operators stood together, slightly giddy now that Gore relies on them for carriage of his new network. There seems to be a lot of ill feeling towards Gore, having nothing to do with his party affiliation and much more to do with his past cable bashing.
    And from the SF Chronical:And those operators may not have any love for Gore. As a U.S. senator from Tennessee, Gore helped impose cable regulation in the Cable Act of 1992, according to John Higgins, deputy editor of Broadcasting and Cable magazine.

    "I can't imagine a guy on earth who's going to have a more difficult time securing carriage from these cable operators than Al Gore," Higgins said. "He cost these guys multiple billions of dollars back in the day."


     

  • Wednesday, May 05, 2004
     
  • From the Screw the Vote site:
    Quebec had the highest percentage of rejected ballots in the 2000 Federal Election with 2.7%.
    The riding with the highest percentage in Canada was Joliette, Quebec with 4.9%.

    From Greg Palast:
    Take Gadsden County. Of Florida's sixty-seven counties, Gadsden has the highest proportion of black residents: 58 percent. It also has the highest "spoilage" rate, that is, ballots tossed out on technicalities: one in eight votes cast but not counted. Next door to Gadsden is white-majority Leon County, where virtually every vote is counted (a spoilage rate of one in 500).

    One in 8 = 12.5% or more than 2.5 times more than Canada's worst rate of spoilage. Follow the link to Palast's commentary on the racist system in the US and what's coming this year.
     

  •  
  • A pretty great example of why Canada is cool: CBC's Screw the Vote Campaign. Jian Ghomeshi is my newest hero. Friday May 7 at 11:30pm on CBC-TV.
    Planning to vote in the upcoming election? Why bother?

    Thanks to Kate for pointing this out.
     

  •  
  • It looks like some GOP operators have put together a new Veterans-against-Kerry organization, Swift Veterans for Truth. Jesse from Pandagon comments:
    Kerry and Bush now have a very strong bond, even beyond Yale and Skull and Bones - their respective military service records are being criticized by people who didn't serve with them. It's just that in Bush's case, it makes the criticism more relevant.
     

  •  
  • Economics Professor Trent Schroyer of New Jersey, speaking about the intense police and FBI surveillance of his alternative economic forum:
    'I have no affiliation with any groups dangerous to the country in any way - unless rational discourse is a real threat.'
     

  •  
  • From the Washington Post:
    Gore now will likely have to strike new deals with many of the companies he once railed against. His yet-to-be-renamed network currently depends on [Rupert Murdoch's] DirecTV satellite service for the majority of its subscribers and has only limited distribution on cable.
    Gore said on Tuesday he and his fellow investors plan to keep their new channel an independent entity, 'because the trend towards consolidation is one that needs to be countered with independent voices.'
     

  •  
  • More from AP/WaPo on GNN, the Gore News Network:
    Hyatt said the programming will include traditional news formats like documentaries. But he used words like 'irreverent and bold' to describe the tone of the programming, which he said will include news comedies and other 'formats you haven't seen before.'
    He would give no specifics but added: 'Our goal is not to be the 251st cable network that looks like the others.'
    Gore said he and Hyatt had met a lot of young, creative people 'who need a venue to compete in a meritocracy of ideas.'
     

  •  
  • Click the picture for more info on weapons manufacturer Lockheed-Martin's involvement with the upcoming Census:


    The info is somewhat lacking in my opinion, but let's look into this.
     

  •  
  • Update: I've been poking around the Newsworld International website. Looks like I spoke too quick bringing up Peter Mansbridge earlier, since from the looks of things he's only involved peripherally. A minor detail, perhaps, but it certainly displays my ignorance. From Webgirl, I just learned that Newsworld International isn't available in this country. Like her, I'm jealous. Someone should write a letter to the CRTC. Two letters, actually, because we should also write to congratulate them on barring FOX News from Canada's airwaves. (For a contrary view on the CRTC vs. FOX story, read the Globe and Mail's opinion piece by Rod Love. And I just have to ask, can that seriously be his real name? Crikey.)

    Update on the parenthetical postscript to the update: Love, Rod is a former advisor to Stockwell Day. I actually think his position on the CRTC-FOX News question is perfectly legitimate. Though, judging from his political affiliations, he as a person probably is not.
     

  •  
  • Seeing Warren Kinsella, former Chretien aide, on CTV news just now reminded me that the man has a blog, which is well worth reading. Unfortunately, the blog lacks permalinks to individual posts. However, if you go there right now, you'll find such wonderful things as the Conservative Party's repsonse to the recent Liberal "attack" ads, a good bit of Kinsella's take on Martin's ineptitude, and Ben Mulroney's personal email address (that's from May 2, 2004, in case you want to search for it.)

    I don't know enough about Kinsella to make a firm judgement of him. I like his blog. I do find it disconcerting, however, that he lists Lenin among his heroes. And though I'm not sure I agree with everything he writes (particularly his views on Jean LaPierre), he makes an awfully good point regarding the difficulty (or near-impossibility might be a better term) which the Liberals will face if they try to paint Harper as an extremist:
    It's like judo: the marshalled evidence about Mr. Harper's "extremism," to date, can be easily thrown back at the governing Liberals with equal or greater force. Against gay marriage, or hate-crime laws to protect gays and lesbians? A third of the Liberal caucus voted that way, too. In favour of George W. Bush's war in Iraq? So, too, was the current Minister of Defence. Against the status quo in health care, and for privatization "experiments?" The federal Minister of Health this week gave the impression that he agrees. In favour of so-called provincial "firewalls?" The Prime Minister's Québec political lieutenant, must be, too: He actually founded the separatist Bloc Québécois and derided Mr. Chrétien's pro-federalist Clarity Act as "useless."
     

  • Tuesday, May 04, 2004
     
  • This story about the Ted Koppel's reading of the names of US troops killed in Iraq, and of the various reactions to it makes me sick. I admit, I'm not entirely sure why. I think it must be the bit about Fox's response.
     

  •  
  • Footage of that Moonie event in Washington we talked about in March...
     

  •  
  • This is intriguing:
    Former U.S. vice president Al Gore announced Tuesday that he and entrepreneur Joel Hyatt plan to launch their own cable television network by buying cable television channel NewsWorld International from Vivendi Universal for an undisclosed sum. ... Newsworld International is a 24-hour channel broadcasting international news produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC). It is distributed to about 17 million subscriber homes.

    The programming on NWI will continue to be provided by CBC.

    This from the CBC:
    At the U.S National Cable and Television Association convention in New Orleans, Gore said the channel will focus on issues for 18-to-34-year-old viewers.
    "We want to empower this dynamic generation with a network dedicated to them that has integrity and a commitment to excellence," Gore said in a statement.
    "This will not be a political network. These stories will be in a voice that young people recognize and from a point of view they identify as their own," he said.

    From AP:
    "This is not going to be a liberal network, a Democratic network or a political network," Gore said at a news conference.

    From the INdTV press release (that's the name of Gore and Hyatt's group):
    Explained Hyatt, "Having learned from both the successes and failures of other cable networks, we are confident this is a winning concept. As for its content, we aspire to what Orson Welles once said, 'Don't give them what you think they want -- give them what they never thought was possible.' We are building a truly independent media company which will share the power of the television platform, enabling young people to contribute in significant ways to the creation of the content they consume."

    According to the press release, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame will be on the company's advisory board, as will "Orville Schell, Dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism". The release also has this interesting bit of information on Al Gore's bio:
    Mr. Gore currently works as an entrepreneur, a senior advisor to Google, a director of Apple Computer, and as a visiting professor at three universities.

    So, I can't really see Mansbridge representing the voice of the 18-34 year old crowd, though he obviously does the "integrity and commitment to excellence" thing quite well. What role is the CBC going to play? The role for viewers to contribute their own content makes the new network sound like a hyped up 24-hour version of ZeD TV... Maybe Sook-Yin Lee (I can't stand the regular ZeD host) could fill Mansbridge's shoes at Newsworld? Yikes, this is weird. But I think I like it. Just so long as it doesn't suck....

    Okay, obviously I don't buy that this isn't in some sense a political network. What is the power of the 18-34 year old generation? I'm sure they're a fairly major economic sector, especially when you get above about, say, 24. 24-34-year olds probably have some money. But that 18-24 year-old range? All I can think of is that they (a) can vote, and (b) usually don't. Oh, and they usually do the legwork of the revolution.
     

  • Monday, May 03, 2004
     
  • Watch/Read/Listen to the news. Then read Media Matters and Spinspanity. Spinsanity is non-partisan look at spin in the media which catches errors from both sides of the US political "spectrum". Media Maters is a new place where liberals rebut the broadcast and published lies and misrepresentations of right-wingers. Today's Media Matters catches a Fox columnist (Linda Chavez) outright lying, claiming that she did not call Kerry a "communist apologist" for his anti-War activism during Vietnam. They also catch a US Army sergeant acting as an apologist for torture - suggesting that the recent mistreatment of Iraqi POWs by US Soldiers was not worse than frat hazing. It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that whether or not the threat is real, being told you'll be electrocuted if you fall off a box is a lot worse when (presumably armed) foreign military personnel say it to you than when your college buddies do.
     




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