Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Death of Press Freedom in Iraq

Iraq's Interior Ministry (you know that one with the death squads) has decided that it needs to get a tighter grip on media coverage in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's Interior Ministry said Thursday it had formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect.

Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the ministry, said the purpose of the special monitoring unit was to find “fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different.”

He said offenders would be notified and asked to “correct these false reports on their main news programs. But if they do not change those lying, false stories, then we will seek legal action against them.”

This has all happened because of the AP/right-wing (CSI: Bloggerville)/CENTCOM dispute over the story of 6 burned men in the Hurriya district of Baghdad last Friday that CENTCOM, which cannot confirm or deny the incident, has accused the AP of falsifying - cheered on by right-wing bloggers who (despite having any actual evidence beyond what CENTCOM has fed them) have pushed this story to a state of typical hysteria against media agencies they choose to label as 'the enemy'. Of course, when those agencies like the AP, Reuters or the New York Times actually report on something that suits their agenda, they have absolutely no qualms about believing it.

If the Interior Ministry had this new media monitoring unit in place earlier in November, they would have come darn close to having to fine themselves:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition and Iraqi troops in southeastern Iraq continued their hunt Friday night for five Western security contractors abducted the day before.

The five included four Americans and an Austrian, all employees of Crescent Security Corp. operating over the southeastern border in Kuwait.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said earlier Friday that police had rescued two Americans from a house but later retracted the statement.

Anyone who wants to read about how the Interior Ministry and the US military already control the media in Iraq should read this article by Dahr Jamail. And that's just a glimpse of a very short period of time in early 2006. We're certainly all aware of how the Pentagon tried to convince everyone that Pat Tillman's death was caused by enemy fire and how they pumped up the Jessica Lynch rescue story to turn her into the conquering empire's poster girl.

I've had two visits from CENTCOM and one from the Pentagon at my blog in the past year when their public affairs department decided they had to comment on the stories I wrote about to add their spin. As I've written before, the fact that they would waste their time, money and effort to run around debunking the bad PR they get on little-visited blogs like mine shows exactly what kind of control freaks they are, so it's no surprise that they've prodded Iraq's Interior Ministry into threatening the media now. They're bullies and propagandists. That's what they do.

Earlier this week, the Iraqi government barred the media from its parliament with president Talabani claiming that reporting about the tension between the politicians was actually 'inciting' more violence.

The Iraqi Journalists Union declined comment on the issue – a senior union official indicated he was afraid to speak out. Dozens of journalists have been killed since the U.S. invasion of 2003, with the number of killings rising sharply of late.

The government has also not hesitated to censure media organisations. It ordered two Sunni-run television channels off the air for several days this month, apparently over their coverage of the death sentence passed on Saddam.

Al Jazeera has been banned from Iraq for the past two years. The Baghdad bureau of its rival pan-Arab channel Al Arabiya was shut down for a month in September because of its coverage.

Politicians from the Shi'ite majority have accused channels run from Sunni-ruled Arab states of being biased against them.

Former US House speaker Newt Gingrich had a few words to say about tightening up on the first amendment to the American constitution this week which led MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to make Gingrich's repressive views the topic of his special comment on Thursday evening (text & video).

“We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find,” Mr. Gingrich continued about terrorists, formerly communists, formerly hippies, formerly Fifth Columnists, formerly anarchists, formerly Redcoats, “to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech.”

Mr. Gingrich, the British “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1770s.

The pro-slavery leaders “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1850s.

The FBI and CIA “broke up our capacity to use free speech” in the 1960s.

It is in those groups where you would have found your kindred spirits, Mr. Gingrich.

For all of the blustering that the neocons do about exporting 'freedom' to Iraq, their actions regarding the proliferation of free speech there are anything but. Following the Rumsfeldian model, they believe that the suppression of freedom of the press and the telling of the Good News ™ will actually convince non-believers that the civil war in Iraq really isn't all that bad, despite all of those tortured bodies that keep showing up there every day and the uncontrollable violence in the midst of a place that still doesn't have adequate electricty, sewage, running water, hospitals or humanitarian services - along with a growing revolt within Iraq's government. At least word of those two Sunni politicians joining al-Sadr in criticizing al-Maliki's leadership was allowed to get out of the new media shackles of the Interior Ministry.

There are so few journalists reporting from Iraq that aren't either embedded (which has become far too dangerous) and/or fed the official line from the Pentagon that those who are able to get out on their own (such as Dahr Jamail and Patrick Cockburn) must be encouraged to continue to tell us what's really happening there. Every single person who is concerned about the truth deserves to know it and if CENTCOM or the Interior Ministry intend to stifle those voices, they need to back up their allegations with facts, not unsubstantiated allegations as they've attempted to do in the case of the Associated Press.

Video: Drunken Danny DeVito Mocks Bush on The View

You can view the video here.

It's not like Bush hasn't been called 'numb nuts' before. Bush supporters, as expected, are all up in arms. But really, who cares? They're always up in arms.

The Toronto Star Endorses Rae

In an editorial titled, 'Rae our choice for Liberals', the editors of the Toronto Star embrace Bob Rae as the next choice to lead the Liberal party based on who offers the best chance to beat Harper's anti-progressive agenda during the next election:

When Canadians go to the polls to elect a new federal government — and that may be as early as March or April — they will face a stark choice between two competing views of this country's future.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decentralist Conservatives want to curb Ottawa's influence on the national scene and let provinces find their own way. They would use Ottawa's $7 billion surplus chiefly to cut taxes and reduce debt, rather than reinvest it in more productive areas.

Yet many Canadians would rather see Ottawa embrace an active nation-building strategy, with the surplus being used to ease poverty, improve social programs, bolster medicare, repair city infrastructure, promote a healthier environment and boost economic productivity and create jobs.

That is why it is critical that delegates to the Liberal party convention this week select a leader who can rise to the Tory challenge and who can defend the healthier belief that government has a positive role to play in fostering national unity, bettering our lives and securing the future.


As CuriosityCat noted in the comments here earlier today, it seems that according to a new Decima poll Rae actualy has more Canada-wide support than I had previously thought:

MONTREAL (CP) - A new national poll suggests Canadians of every federalist party persuasion believe that Bob Rae is a more electable option as Liberal leader than top rival Michael Ignatieff.

The Nov. 24-26 Decima Research survey found that Rae's perceived winnability topped Ignatieff's by a significant margin in every region of the country except Quebec. More than 1,000 respondents were asked by Decima to picture themselves as delegates to this weekend's leadership convention in Montreal

In a final-ballot showdown between front-runner Ignatieff and Rae, they were asked who they felt had the best chance to win for the Liberals in the next election.

Under this scenario, 37 per cent chose Rae and 25 per cent picked Ignatieff.

The results of the poll, which was distributed to The Canadian Press, are considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Decima CEO Bruce Anderson says the poll suggests Rae's winnability factor is perceived to be higher among all age groups, men and women, urban and rural voters, and everywhere but Quebec - where Ignatieff would get 36 per cent support and Rae 25 per cent.

Ignatieff also led in the poll among self-identified Bloc Quebecois voters.

I find that last discovery very disturbing and it ought to be seriously reflected upon by anyone who supports Ignatieff's candidacy.

I'm rooting for either Rae or Dion, both of which have the experience, temperament, and left-leaning policies that I would like to see the Liberal party stand for again.

See also: 'Why I should lead [the] Liberal party' by Bob Rae and a similar plea by Gerard Kennedy in the Star.

Note: I am not a Liberal party member.

The Delicate Politics of the Iraq War

When Baker's Iraq Study Group releases its final report on December 6, sparks are sure to be flying in DC. It seems that the group has the hard task of trying to be all things to all people, most particularly:

Committee members struggled with ways, short of a deadline, to signal to the Iraqis that Washington would not prop up the government with military forces endlessly, and that if sectarian warfare continued the pressure to withdraw American forces would become overwhelming. What they ended up with appears to be a classic Washington compromise: a report that sets no explicit timetable but, between the lines, appears to have one built in.

As one senior American military officer involved in Iraq strategy said, “The question is whether it doesn’t look like a timeline to Bush, and does to Maliki.”

According to The New York Times, which has offered a brief preview of the ISG's recommendations, a proposal to call for a 'gradual pullback' of 15 combat brigades to US military bases in Iraq may paint Bush into an uncomfortable corner.

The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.
Mr. Bush has rejected such contacts [with Iran and Syria] until now, and he has also rejected withdrawal, declaring in Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday that while he will show flexibility, “there’s one thing I’m not going to do: I’m not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.”

Meanwhile, al-Maliki announced on Thursday that he believes the Iraqis can take full control of their forces by June, 2007.

"I cannot answer on behalf of the U.S. administration but I can tell you that from our side our forces will be ready by June 2007," Maliki told ABC television after meeting President Bush in Jordan.

Bush offered him strong backing in their talks and said Iraqi forces would be trained more quickly to take over but rejected suggestions he was seeking a "graceful exit" for U.S. troops.

Right. That's exactly what the ISG has been working on - a way to get out of Iraq so Bush can cover his ass without being totally humiliated by this massive failure. It's a bit too late for that, however.

Former Russian PM Poisoned

What the heck is going on? First we had Litvinenko who died from radiation poisoning, leading to the discovery of traces of Polonium 210 in several places in London, not to mention the possibility that some 33,000 airline passengers are now on alert after the same radioactive element was found on 3 767s. Now, it's being reported that former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar has allegedly been poisoned as well, although the source is not yet known:

Mr Gaidar became violently ill during a visit to Ireland last week, and his daughter Maria told the BBC that doctors believe he was poisoned.

An aide to Mr Gaidar said his condition was improving.

Mr Gaidar, 50, fell ill a day after Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning in London.

Mr Gaidar briefly served as prime minister in 1992 under Russian President Vladimir Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

He now heads a Moscow-based think-tank which has criticised President Putin's economic policies, but he is a marginal political figure who is not regarded as a prominent political opponent of the Russian leader.

It looks like it's an extremely dangerous time for Putin's critics...

The Laughing Iraqi Cameraman

Following Bush and al-Maliki's press conference in Jordan on Thursday, CNN's Arwa Damon reported, in part:

...The same theme we heard, that we have heard in the past, that Iraqi security forces need to be trained up, this is the right government for the job, that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is the right man for the job but, for many Iraqis when you ask them if their prime minister - if their current government is going to bring them security, they will just tell you 'No, he's not the man for the job'. And in fact, just to give you one example, one of our Iraqi cameramen was watching this press conference and he was laughing, hearing what the prime minister Maliki was saying, what president Bush was saying. These are things Iraqis have heard before: there is no plan that is going to reassure them that moving forward their country will have stability.

Bush's secret service detail then tracked down the cameraman and shipped him to Gitmo.


The Ignatieff Follies

"It's like one delegate said to me today, `We'll vote for him if he doesn't give us another reason not to,'" an Ignatieff strategist told the Star yesterday.

"That's our message and our goal for the convention."

No more mistakes. It's hardly an inspiring message for the star candidate who has been front-runner since entering the race officially last spring.

Still, if Ignatieff can remain gaffe-free at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal, his team feels the results should play out according to the numbers.


So much for the 'gaffe-free' performance:

And does it get any more Bush-like for Ignatieff than this?

Ignatieff urges delegates to stay the course

Ignatieff, who has recruited more delegates than any other leadership hopeful, urged his supporters to stay the course and not spoil their first ballot.


He didn't really say that. Did he??

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video: Howard Dean's Liberal Convention Speech

Screamin' Howard was the keynote speaker at the Liberals' convention on Wednesday evening (despite grumbling from Liberals like Ken Dryden) and described how his successful 50 state strategy can work in Canada.

In case you missed the broadcast (like I was nap time with the cats) you can read the full text here (.pdf file) or watch it at CTV's site (scroll's on the right side).

"When my party was wandering in the wilderness, there were those who said we should become more like the Republicans," said Dean. [ed. Just call him Moses].

"When you say something like that, you're saying that our basic principles can be modified. You're also saying that those principles can be wrong. But they are not wrong."

Dean also argued for the importance of maintaining close ties between his country and Canada.

"We are connected by shared values. We share our ideals," said Dean. "Chief among those ideals is our belief in democracy."

He also took the opportunity to speak in French during his address, joking: "Won't Fox News hate this."


FYI, here are the latest results of my unscientific Liberal leadership poll:

no idea3.2%7
Hall Findlay1.8%4
total votes: 219

Voting is still open.

Preach it, Al!

Al Gore: ...dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

Can I get an amen?

What’s the nicest thing you can say about George Bush?
He made a terrific appointment of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ok, Is there a second best thing?
I can’t think of another one, actually.


Link to full GQ interview...

Update on the Satanic Peace Wreath

(Well, that title wins for most bizarre blog post headline here so far...)

Victory for the peace wreath!

The New York Times reports:

DENVER, Nov. 28 — Peace is fighting back in Pagosa Springs.

Last week, a couple were threatened with fines of $25 a day by their homeowners’ association unless they removed a four-foot wreath shaped like a peace symbol from the front of their house.

The fines have been dropped, and the three-member board of the association has resigned, according to an e-mail message sent to residents on Monday.

Two board members have disconnected their telephones, apparently to escape the waves of callers asking what the board could have been thinking, residents said. The third board member, with a working phone, did not return a call for comment.

In its original letter to the couple, Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco, the association said some neighbors had found the peace symbol politically “divisive.”

A board member later told a newspaper that he thought the familiar circle with angled lines was also, perhaps, a sign of the devil.
In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.

On Tuesday morning, 20 people marched through the center carrying peace signs and then stomped a giant peace sign in the snow perhaps 300 feet across on a soccer field, where it could be easily seen.

Town Manager Mark Garcia said Pagosa Springs was building its own peace wreath, too. Mr. Garcia said it would be finished by late Tuesday and installed on a bell tower in the center of town.

It's a revolution!

Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.
- Buddha

Peace is the only battle worth waging.
- Albert Camus

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.
- The XIVth Dalai Lama

The Bigotry Just Never Ends...

Right-wing talking head Dennis Prager over at Townhall is outraged that America's first Muslim congressperson refuses to be sworn into office with a bible:

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

Can Prager get more hysterical than that?


First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Wrong. The American constitution is the decider, Mr Prager:

The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Prager doesn't stop at that point, of course:

...these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

I'm sorry, but what planet do bigots like Prager live on? One guy wants be sworn in using the Koran, which he is legally entitled to do because of that pesky 'religious freedom' thing (and it would be blasphemous for him to substitute the Bible), but blowhards like that see that as an Islamic takeover of America? People like Prager, and there are far too many of them, (just check out the American right-wing bloggers who agree with him) are so absolutely flipping paranoid that one symbolic gesture such as this makes them scream at the top of their lungs that America is doomed! Doomed, I tell ya!. Do they have so little faith in their own nation that they think such a small thing could actually cause a revolution? Are they so small-minded that they actually believe that Christians are the only true patriots? Are they so offended by their own constitution, which they love when it comes to defending other issues like gun rights, that they think only parts of it are applicable to all Americans? Are they so weak that they fear the decision of one man (and there have been 4 presidents in US history who were not sworn in with a Bible either) that they actually think this is the beginning of the end of America? Just how insecure do you have to be to feel that this is a threat?

Prager owes Muslims, and in particular this elected congressperson, an apology.

See also: Taylor Marsh's commentary at The Huffington Post.

Write Your Own Caption

Bush and Germany's Merkel at the NATO summit...

Merkel: 'Grope me again you bastard and I'll have you arrested.'

US Policy Towards Kim Jong Il: Let's just annoy him

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration wants North Korea's attention, so like a scolding parent it's trying to make it tougher for that country's eccentric leader to buy iPods, plasma televisions and Segway electric scooters. The U.S. government's first-ever effort to use trade sanctions to personally aggravate a foreign president expressly targets items believed to be favored by Kim Jong Il or presented by him as gifts to the roughly 600 loyalist families who run the communist government.

Kim, who engineered a secret nuclear weapons program, has other options for obtaining the high-end consumer electronics and other items he wants.

But the list of proposed luxury sanctions, obtained by The Associated Press, aims to make Kim's swanky life harder: No more cognac, Rolex watches, cigarettes, artwork, expensive cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles or even personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis.

The new ban would extend even to musical instruments and sports equipment. The 5-foot-3 Kim is an enthusiastic basketball fan; then-Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright presented him with a ball signed by Michael Jordan during a rare diplomatic trip in 2000. Kim's former secretary, widely believed to be his new wife, studied piano at the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance.


Shorter White House: if Albright hadn't given Kim Jong-Il that basketball, he wouldn't have nukes now.

Who says Bush doesn't have a foreign policy?

Sadr's Bloc Boycotts Iraqi Government; Iraq/Iran Reach an Agreement

As he warned last week, Moqtada al-Sadr and his bloc of politicians have staged a boycott of the Iraqi government in a protest against al-Maliki's meeting in Jordan with Bush.

"We announce the suspension of our participation in government and parliament," said Nasar al-Rubaie, the leader of Sadr's parliamentary bloc. "We gave a promise last Friday that we will suspend our participation if the Prime Minister met with Bush and today [Wednesday] we are doing it as a Sadrist bloc."

In an earlier statement, the 30 lawmakers and five cabinet ministers loyal to Sadr said their action was necessary because the Amman summit constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights."

But Rubaie cautioned that their action did not mean the officials were pulling out of the government, which would all but guarantee the collapse of Iraq's unity government.

"The suspension does not mean our withdrawal from the political process," said Rubaie. He added the Sadr bloc would meet in coming days to discuss how long members would remain out of the government.

Meanwhile, Stephen Hadley is trying to backpeddle after his secret memo in which he expressed doubts about al-Maliki was published by the New York Times:

Contrary to the doubts expressed in his memo, however, Hadley emphasized to reporters that he was not criticizing Maliki, adding that he disagreed with the view in Iraq that Maliki is ineffectual.

"We think that this unity government is doing pretty well in a very difficult situation," he said. "Maliki has been impatient and has said that his government has not produced the results they seek. And he's got some ideas about how to enhance their capabilities to do so."

Who's been the impatient one, Hadley? How about pointing the finger right back at the White House. As for Hadley's revisionist history where he now claims he wasn't criticizing the PM, here's what he wrote about him on Nov 8th:

"His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change,” the memo said of the Iraqi leader. “But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.”
“Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.”

That sure looks like criticism to me. Why is it impossible to get the truth out of these Bush administration hacks? Even when their own words are placed right in front of their faces, they deny reality without even blinking.

Meanwhile, it looks like Dick Cheney had what I'm sure he'll consider to be fruitful talks with the Saudi royalty, convincing them to 'intervene' in Iraq if US troops withdraw. Considering the hate-on bin Laden has for his homeland, you have to wonder which neocon genius came up with that idea. Saudi Arabia's involvement would also threaten world oil prices:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Using money, weapons or its oil power, Saudi Arabia will intervene to prevent Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from massacring Iraqi Sunni Muslims once the United States begins pulling out of Iraq, a security adviser to the Saudi government said on Wednesday.

Diplomats and analysts say Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors, led by heavyweight Saudi Arabia, fear that the sectarian violence could spill into large-scale civil war between Shi'ites and Sunnis and set off a political earthquake far beyond Iraq.

Nawaf Obaid, writing in The Washington Post, said the Saudi leadership was preparing to revise its Iraq policy to deal with the aftermath of a possible U.S. pullout, and is considering options including flooding the oil market to crash prices and thus limit Iran's ability to finance Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

"To be sure, Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks -- it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse," Obaid said.

Wanna bet?

A Western diplomat based in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia was already funding Sunni tribes in Iraq.

"I don't doubt for a second that they do pump money to the tribes, that's the Saudi way of doing things. But if they sent in troops it would be a bloodbath," he said.

The sidebar to this, of course, is the Iranian threat and the refusal of the Bush administration to engage that country's president in negotiations, along with Talibani's recent cozying up to Ahmadinejad who has penned a new letter to Bush. (That news prompted CNN's biased Kyra Phillips to ask UN correspondent Richard Roth this morning, 'Who's going to print that?' in a very condescending tone to which Roth responded (looking rather surprised) that he doesn't know because he's in the broadcasting business.)

Saudi Arabia is worried about a new Iran imposing its political agenda on the region. We don't want Iran and its allies to have a free hand and free control," he said.

"Iran knows that it is vulnerable and that Saudi Arabia has the upper hand and maintains real weight and power."

What a mess.

Today, Iraq's president announced that an agreement has been reached with Iran:

Presidents Jalal Talabani of Iraq and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran held talks Wednesday hours before U.S. President George W. Bush was due to meet with the Iraqi prime minister in Jordan in talks aimed at finding a solution to Iraq's spiraling bloodshed.

Talabani gave no details on the security agreement with Iran, and Ahmadinejad made no mention of any deal at a joint press conference in Tehran.

"We discussed in the fields of security, economy, oil and industry. Our agreement was complete," Talabani told reporters. "This visit was 100 percent successful. Its result will appear soon."

It was not clear if Talabani's comments reflected an agreement by Tehran to try to rein in Shiite militias.
Talabani and Ahmadinejad attended a ceremony for the signing of two memorandums of understanding for cooperation in education and industry.

Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran "will stand by its Iraqi brothers," saying "no one can divide nations of Iran and Iraq."

That sounds ominous.

Bush is repeating his favourite talking points that he won't pull troops out of Iraq until the mission is finished (whatever 'the mission' is supposed to be now). It's time for him to get out of the way to allow the regional parties involved to come up with their own solutions. The more he, Dick, Rummy, Hadley and Condi try to micromanage this situation, the more divisive their ideas become and the less likely it is that there will be any satisfactory political outcome.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NYT Publishes Secret Hadley/Iraq Memo

The New York Times has obtained the text of a memo written on November 8th by Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in which he raises doubts about Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki:

Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.

Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.

While there does seem to be an aggressive push to consolidate Shia power and influence, it is less clear whether Maliki is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

Well. This should certainly have some impact on Bush's upcoming meeting with al-Maliki in Jordan. Does that section I highlighted remind you of anyone?

Hadley then goes on to identify 'Steps Miliki Could Take' and 'What We Could do to Help Maliki' including:

¶Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);

What Hadley doesn't seem to get is that the vast majority of Iraqis no longer want US troops in their country and that al-Maliki's push back against America is actually expressing that will, but he's not being a good sockpuppet so the Bush administration wants to rein him in.

And, even though Bush has consistently said that the US will not talk to the Iranian government unless it stops enriching uranium, Hadley suggests:

Continue to pressure Iran and Syria to end their interference in Iraq, in part by hitting back at Iranian proxies in Iraq and by Secretary Rice holding an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December;

That would obviously include Iran.

And this is why Cheney visited Saudi Arabia:

¶Step up our efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq by using its influence to move Sunni populations in Iraq out of violence into politics, to cut off any public or private funding provided to the insurgents or death squads from the region and to lean on Syria to terminate its support for Baathists and insurgent leaders.

Hadley acknowledges that expecting al-Maliki to exert more power is troublesome and adds:

We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule. Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole.

They sure don't have much faith in him and the influence they'd hoped to exert obviously hasn't panned out.

Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.

So much for troops withdrawals any time soon...

The rest of his memo involves some nice pipe dreams when it comes to shifting the political reality in Iraq to one that is 'non-sectarian' and no matter how much the US government tries to spend its way into making that reality change by following Hadley's recommendation that it fund moderate groups, it all seem much too little much, much too late. They knew al-Maliki was in trouble as soon as he was elected and that sectarian factions in the country have been at cross purposes for decades. It seems they're trying to fix the situation the same way they deal with US elections - offering goodies for the base while trying to appease the rest of the fence sitters with lofty promises.

Right-wing bloggers will no doubt claim 'treason' against the NYT for making this memo public on the eve of Bush's meeting with al-Maliki, however:

An administration official made a copy of the document available to a New York Times reporter seeking information on the administration’s policy review. The Times read and transcribed the memo.

A senior administration official discussed the memorandum in general terms after being told The New York Times was preparing an article on the subject. The official described the document as “essentially a trip report” and not a result of the administration’s review of its Iraq policy, which is still under way.

It was reported earlier this month that Bush had set up his own little Iraq policy group that is to report to him despite the fact that the official Iraq Study Group (Daddy Bush's men) is set to make recommendations about the future of Iraq soon. That way he can just cherry-pick what he likes without actually listening to reason. Anyone who expects otherwise is just fooling themselves.

US Soldiers Make an Iraqi Kid Run For Water

Sick, twisted, heartless bastards...

Via the BBC, March, 2006:

Things had been bad in Iraq throughout the period of UN sanctions: water shortages, power-cuts, inadequate hospitals, a collapsing transport system.

But it hasn't happened like that. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran the country under Paul Bremer, was almost ludicrously incompetent, wasting or misusing tens of millions of dollars.

Unknown amounts were stolen. In 2004 the CPA could not account for $9bn in Iraqi oil revenue.

Despite the investment that has undoubtedly taken place, virtually all basic services are in a worse state now than they were before the invasion.

There is less clean water, less sewage control, less gas, less petrol, less power. Baghdad now has an average of only 5.8 hours of electricity a day. At present Iraq is producing 1.8 million barrels of oil a day; just before the invasion the figure was 2.5 million barrels a day.

Much of this isn't the fault of the coalition: power, water and oil are particular targets for the insurgents. But the failure of the coalition to protect these supplies makes people angry.

And yet, these soldiers make this child run for a bottle of clean water while they sit back, laugh and videotape the humiliation ...

EU Countries Knew About Torture Flights

According to a BBC report, an investigation by the European parliament shows that 'many' EU countries knew that they were being used by the US to further the transport of so-called suspected terrorists via 'extraordinary rendition' ie. torture flights.

The report follows months of investigation by a special committee of MEPs led by an Italian, Claudio Fava.

"Many governments co-operated passively or actively (with the CIA)," said Mr Fava, quoted by AFP news agency.

He accused top EU officials including foreign policy chief Javier Solana of failing to give full details to MEPs.

The report echoed allegations made in June by the Council of Europe - Europe's leading human rights watchdog - that European states were complicit in illegal CIA operations as part of the US-led "war on terror".
The report says the US government had first informed EU member states in 2005 that it was using their territory to transfer terror suspects.

Over the course of three meetings with EU officials, "the Americans spoke in an explicit manner about the transfer system as a method in the fight against terrorism", Mr Fava told AFP.

The report speaks of at least 18 suspected CIA "extraordinary renditions" of terror suspects - the term used for transfers to third countries for interrogation.

They included the cases of a German, Khaled el-Masri - allegedly abducted in Macedonia and then detained in Afghanistan - and Egyptian former imam Abu Omar, allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan.

On Tuesday, a US court began to hear an appeal from Mr Masri after he lost an earlier lawsuit demanding damages and an apology from the US government.

Just like Maher Arar's lawsuit against the US government, Masri's will no doubt be dismissed over so-called 'national security concerns' which really means that the US government may never be held legally responsible, although Arar's lawyers are appealing the decision in his case.

That European countries willfully and knowingly participated in this monumental abuse of human rights shows just how far the callousness of Bush's policies extends. They should all be held to account.

Right-Wing Bloggers vs. the Associated Press

CSI:Bloggerville, the self-ordained forensics unit of the right-wing blogosphere, has been trying furiously to debunk the Associated Press' reporting of the story of 6 men who were horribly burned to death in Baghdad last week. And now that effort has made it to the pages of USA Today with the US military jumping in:

The Associated Press is standing by its report that six Sunni men were burned to death in Baghdad Friday by Shiites, even though U.S. military officials have accused the wire service of relying on a source who "is not who he claimed he was," an Iraqi police captain.

Military officials also say they cannot confirm that the incident took place and have asked AP to retract or correct the story, which was repeated by media around the world and cited as a grim example of Shiites taking revenge for a deadly bombing that killed more than 200 people a day before.

"The attempt to question the existence of the known police officer who spoke to the AP is frankly ludicrous and hints at a certain level of desperation to dispute or suppress the facts of the incident in question," AP International Editor John Daniszewski said in a statement e-mailed to On Deadline this afternoon.

He added that "we have conducted a thorough review of the sourcing and reporting involved and plan to move a more detailed report about the entire incident soon, with greater detail provided by multiple eye witnesses."

"The police captain cited in our story has long been known to the AP reporters," Daniszewski wrote.

"The AP stands by its story."

But a U.S. military spokesman has told the AP in a letter that "neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident ... and could find no one to corroborate the story."

"Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum," Navy Lt. Michael Dean, the spokesman, wrote to the AP on Monday.
Questions raised by the U.S. military spokesmen have sparked considerable discussion in the blogosphere, particularly among conservative commentators. Michelle Malkin is among those who have raised questions about whether AP was led astray by an Iraqi correspondent. Curt at Flopping Aces has been among the most active in chronicling the accusations.

Malkin's little poll asking which news agency 'is the biggest terrorist propaganda tool' was indirectly responded to in the AP's updated story about the burning deaths (in which they quote more witnesses):

The AP reported on Sept. 26 that a Washington-based firm, the Lincoln Group, had won a two-year contract to monitor reporting on the Iraq conflict in English-language and Arabic media outlets.

That contract succeeded one held by another Washington firm, The Rendon Group. Controversy had arisen around the Lincoln Group in 2005 when it was disclosed that it was part of a U.S. military operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories about U.S. military activities.

Ouch. So who's really spreading propaganda, Malkin?

The fact that the US military says it cannot confirm (or deny) that the incident happened does not mean that it didn't - unless you're a member of CSI: Bloggerville with a special hate-on for media agencies that report what you don't like.

Update: You'll find more about this insanity at The Huffington Post.

Bush at the NATO Summit: Pot. Kettle. Black.

US President George W Bush has berated Nato members reluctant to send troops to Afghan hotspots, demanding they must accept "difficult assignments".

Speaking just before a Nato meeting in Latvia, Mr Bush said members must provide the forces the alliance needs.


He's got some damn nerve. After pulling US troops out of Afghanistan to have them participate in the illegal, manufactured Iraq war (where, of course, he and Rumsfeld vastly misunderestimated the number of troops required resulting in this current clusterf*ck), the US military committment of troops in Afghanistan now totals a measly 11,600 and as of September, 2006, while US military spending in Iraq exceeded $379 billion, it had by contrast spent only $97 billion in Afghanistan during the past 5 years.

If Bush wants to lecture other countries about their military involvement, he should be taken out to the woodshed first so someone can give him a little lesson in reality and responsibility.

Quote du Jour

Liberal MP John MacKay responding to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's explanation of 'net debt' during question period:

'This is more fiscal fairie dust from the tinkerbell of the neocons.'

So Much For That Open Democracy Thing...

Via Reuters:

BAGHDAD, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament will bar the media from future sessions and began on Monday by refusing access to reporters and then cutting off television coverage as a debate on mounting sectarian violence became heated.

Spokesmen for the government and parliament said it was part of efforts, newly agreed by Iraq's National Security Council, to stop political leaders contradicting each other in public and prevent media coverage that was deemed to inflame conflicts.

"If there is any tension in the state, then the media should be kept out because it may increase tension," speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani told lawmakers in a televised session after dozens of journalists were barred from the building by security guards.

When one lawmaker rose to object, Mashhadani, from the Sunni minority, ordered the cameras turned off, effectively shutting off public access to a legislature whose election was held up by the United States as a beacon for democracy in the Middle East.

No transcript is published and journalists and members of the public have always been barred from the chamber itself.

I'm pretty sure that Iraqis know there's tension already considering that they're dying in record numbers.

Canadians will find that this rings some bells:

An official in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's media office said: "This is one of the decisions of the National Security Council to make sure people speak with one voice to the media."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shorter Right-Wing Blogger: 'Watch me as I grasp at pixels'

CSI: Bloggerville has completely lost its mind.

He should have titled that post 'Right-wing Kool-aid is bad'. It obviously makes you go blind.

Raw Story has a screen capture from the Drudge Report which, of course, joined in this nutbar conspiracy theory. In all of this, just as was the case during the Israel/Lebanon war, nothing is said about the context of the picture on the right-wing blogger's site linked to above. Never mind that these women were standing over a coffin. Just like they never mentioned the dead people, including children, who appeared in photos they were so busy trying to prove as fakes during the summer, all they're capable of focusing on is hints of fauxtography. And that's the most disturbing thing about this crusade they've been on.

On the Ground In Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is one of the few western reporters who is determined to travel around Iraq to get the real story out, despite the security concerns. In his latest article for The Independent, 'It is strange how in Iraq slaughter soon seems to be part of normal life', he takes his readers to Mosul, Tal Afar and other areas of the country and provides a broader picture of the realities on the ground than most North American reporters are capable of compiling. He describes how sectarian divisions have become so personal that Shias married to Sunnis are now encouraged to seek divorces rather than cavorting with 'the enemy'.

He also describes the relationship between the Bush administration and the grip it has on the Iraqi government while it publicly claims to be applying more pressure om al-Maliki to take over control:

Of course Messrs Bush and Blair argue there is no occupation. In June 2004, sovereignty was supposedly handed back to Iraq. "Let Freedom Reign," wrote Mr Bush. But the reality of power remained firmly with the US and Britain. The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said this month that he could not move a company of soldiers without seeking permission of the Coalition (the US and Britain). Officials in Mosul confirmed to me that they could not carry out a military operation without the agreement of US forces.

So, how can the Iraqis control what's going on if the US government won't let them? This flies in the face of previous proclamations that Iraq's democratically-elected government is anywhere near being independent and the fact that Buscho is building its largest embassy in the world in Iraq along with permanent US military bases shows they are far from willing to let any Iraq government actually run the country. If that isn't the definition of an occupation, I don't know what is.

Getting Bush and his neocons out of Iraq will be a monumental task, obviously.

Quebecois as a Nation Motion Passes

As expected, the motion to recognize Quebecers as a nation within a united Canada has passed:

Yeas 266
Nays 16

Liberal party leadership candidates who voted against the motion included Volpe and Dryden which led the CBC pundits to declare that this issue will still be a topic for lively discussion during the Liberals' convention this weekend.

On Israel & Iraq

Following on the heels of the new cease-fire in Gaza, which does not include the West Bank but should have, Israel's Olmert gave a speech on Monday that's receiving a lot of attention but which really has nothing new to offer:

The prime minister is offering the Palestinians a bevy of enticements, from the release of "important" prisoners to the opening of the border crossings and the establishment of industrial parks. But he is demanding a pricey down payment: meeting the conditions set by the Quartet (recognizing Israel, relinquishing violence and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian accords), implementing the road map peace plan (i.e., disbanding terrorist organizations), and releasing abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. To date, the Palestinian leadership has rejected these demands, and it is doubtful whether they will accept them now only in return for the promises made at Sde Boker. But the proverbial "ball" of responsibility for the diplomatic impasse, and for translating the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip into a diplomatic initiative, has been boldly tossed into the Palestinian court.

The White House, of course, is thrilled because Olmert is parroting its talking points and is taking the focus off of the fact that the US administration has just let the conflict slide, despite all of its bluster about wanting peace in the region. The timing of this ceasefire and so-called attempt at reconciliation though coincides with what Baker's Iraq Study Group will most likely recognize as a major stumbling block to ending the war in Iraq. It's long been known that the grief suffered by Palestinians is one of the main complaints by people like bin Laden and his followers, yet the Bush administration has just preferred to try to kill all of the terrorists instead of examining its policy issues in the Middle East and how they contribute to fueling the violence.

Bush and Iraq's al-Maliki are scheduled to meet in an upcoming summit and there is now speculation that Palestinian leader Abbas may meet with Bush as well but it looks like Olmert will not meet with Abbas at that time while Condi Rice will play conduit between the two. You'd think the two leaders would actually sit down and talk to each other and that Olmert would realize that the conditions he laid out in his speech have already mainly been rejected by the Palestinians, thus creating another long, uphill battle to reaching a point of agreement for both sides.

Meanwhile, as Iraq's president met with Iran's on Monday, news of upcoming troop withdrawals from Iraq came from Britain, Poland and Italy:

As the summit approached, Britain said on Monday it expected to withdraw thousands of its 7,000 military personnel from Iraq by the end of next year, and Poland and Italy announced the impending pullout of their remaining troops.

Baker's Study Group may be seen as a way to win the day all the way around by some but it certainly won't provide anything near what is needed at this time to deal with the diplomatic and military crises in the Middle East. If the Bush administration had actually taken a serious long-term look a few years ago at how the Iraq war and its shelving of the road map would affect the instability in the region, we wouldn't be at this crossroad now. The first step to digging its way out of the current situation now that its been backed into a corner (as the GOP was by the election results) is to finally admit that it has made some incredibly disastrous mistakes based on ideology rather than reality.

Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley had this to say about the WH's lack of strategy today:

"We're clearly in a new phase, characterized by this increasing sectarian violence that requires us obviously to adapt to that new phase and these two leaders need to be talking about how to do that,"

Hadley described the Jordan meeting as one where the leaders would share ideas but not finalize any plans for a new strategy.

"We're not at the point where the president is going to be able to lay out a comprehensive plan," he said.

That's as close to an admission of absolute failure as we're going to get and it's only a 'new phase' to the WH because they've had their collective heads in the sand for far too long denying the reality on the ground.

The lives lost in the meantime can never be recovered and while the WH is still in charge, it's up to the Democrats to do the right thing and push hard for a plan that will work as soon as possible.

Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Chong Has Resigned

CBC TV reports that Tory Michael Chong (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Minister for Sport) has resigned over his government's stance on the Quebec nation question.

As soon as I can find a news story to link to confirming this, I'll post it.

Update: Via CTV

Conservative cabinet minister appears set to resign his post over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stand on Quebec.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Michael Chong (he also holds the sport portfolio) will reportedly announce his resignation at a news conference later today.

Chong opposes the motion, set to be voted on in Parliament this evening, that the Quebecois constitute a nation within a united conference.

Independent MP Garth Turner and other sources told The Canadian Press about Chong's impending move, saying he tendered his resignation today.

Other Tory MPs are upset about the motion, Turner said.

The Globe & Mail reports:

OTTAWA — Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Michael Chong quit the Conservative cabinet Monday to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper's resolution recognizing Quebeckers as a nation, MP Garth Turner said.

Mr. Turner, who was forced out of the Conservative caucus earlier this year, asked Mr. Harper in the House if Mr. Chong was quitting.

The Prime Minister did not respond directly, but said the government will watch the result of the vote on the controversial nation resolution.

Update: Chong held a press conference in which he explained that he believes in civic nationalism as opposed to ethnic nationalism. Further, he said he's resigning his cabinet post so that he can abstain from the vote this evening while sitting in the back benches as an MP.

CTV has more on Chong's press conference.

I Want to Be a Nation Too

A couple of years ago I decided that I wanted to be a think tank. I think. My brain contains various opinions. Ergo, I am a 'think tank'. Now, I'm not a widely recognized think tank and I'm not funded by anyone but that's beside the point. I still fit the definition.

So, with all of this 'nation' talk in Canada lately, I've decided I'd like to be a part of a nation too. I'm not sure if I qualify for the 'Quebecers' nation because, although my parents and all but one of my siblings are Quebecois, I was born in Saskatchewan. But, I was raised with that Quebecois culture too. Not only do we need a definition of 'nation' - which everybody and his chien is now busy trying to decipher - we also need to know who would be a part of this 'Quebecers' nation: People who live in Quebec? People who live in Quebec and are French? People who were born in Quebec and are French but live across the country? People like me? I'm confused.

BC premier Gordon Campbell said today that First Nations people should also be declared a 'nation'. Makes sense. They were the first nationers in Canada, obviously. I've probably got some First Nations blood in my ancestry along the way, but I don't think I'd qualify for First Nations nationhood status. Who knows though? Maybe I could be a member of the Quebecers nation and the First Nations nation.

I live in Alberta where some people would like to see this province recognized as a nation too. But, as I said, even though I've been here for over 20 years, I'm originally from Saskatchewan. So would I be a part of the Alberta nation just because I live here or does the Alberta nation idea only include born and bred Albertans? Who knows?

Therefore, considering the fact that no one seems to be able to agree on exactly what this 'nation' status idea means and because it's obvious that it's merely a debate in semantics without any real benefits anyway, I think I'll declare myself a nation and be done with it. If Stephen Colbert can have his own nation, I can too.

Welcome to catnip's nation.

A Peace Sign is a Symbol of Satan?

Since when?

A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan. Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said. "Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing." Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000, and doubts they will be able to make her pay. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas. "Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus."


You would think, logically, that those who have children serving in Iraq would understand that peace is the ultimate goal there and would welcome that expression of hope. That a peace sign would be seen as subversive or, ridiculously, as a 'symbol of Satan' shows that some people have completely lost their marbles what the holiday season is supposed to signify: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'.

Update: AP has a photo of the Satanic wreath:

Don't stare at it too long or we'll have to call an exorcist and that pea soup vomit is a bitch to clean up.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Great minds think alike...

From the 'Hey! Didn't I write something just like that?' department:

Saturday's Globe and Mail endorsed Stephane Dion for the next Liberal leader while ripping apart Michael Ignatieff (which I've turned into a hobby) and concludes:

The problem is not that there is an absence of impressive people interested in the job. It's just that not one of them is perfect for it. Each of the contenders boasts attributes of leadership, and each reveals areas of weakness and vulnerability. If you could mix and match the characteristics of those four candidates, the result would be sure prime-ministerial material. But when they vote on Dec. 2, Liberals will have to settle for something less.

And that echoes what I wrote here earlier in November:

Now, if we could somehow morph them all together (minus Joe) into one super-type candidate, the Liberals might actually have something going for them. I'm not a betting gal but, if I was, I'd put my money on Dion or Rae after the first ballot.

I haven't officially endorsed anyone but I do like Dion. I think he'd make a very vibrant leader and, according to my informal poll which also has him in the lead, a lot of people seem to agree. On the other hand, Bob Rae does have nice hair...

But I do agree (obviously) with the Globe and Mail when they say that no one is the perfect choice but if they all end up working together, despite their differences during the race, there's a good chance the Liberal party could reinvent itself in a way that's once again palatable in the eyes of the majority of Canadians - not that I agree with all of their centrist policies since I'm a small 'l' liberal, but they're the only so-called left-wingish party that has a chance of booting Harper and his cronies out of power. The sooner that happens, the better.

Hail to the Thief

There's been a lot of discussion lately on Democratic blogs like Daily Kos about whether or not Bush should be impeached now that the Democratic party is finally in a position to initiate investigations.

kos weighed in last week with this commentary which was immediately met by a firestorm of debate:

I agree with Reid.

[Reid:] The degree to which the new Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill despises Vice President Dick Cheney is a big plus for President Bush. Consider why incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scrapped an idea to impeach Bush: "Two words: Dick Cheney," he says, joking that it would vault the veep into the Oval Office.
It's a point which is so obvious, I wonder why the "impeach now!" people don't get it. "President Cheney" is fucking scary. I'd rather focus on solidifying our gains in Congress and taking state legislatures and governorships and the White House in 2008 than waste another second of our time over the Worst President Ever.
As far as I'm concerned, if Bush has committed impeachable offenses - and there certainly is evidence that he has - it's the duty of congress to impeach him. It shouldn't be optional or based on fears of a 'scary' President Cheney ending up in charge. Let's face it. He's already the president.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe details Cheney's political history and his continual push to advance the unitary executive theory which in effect means 'the will of congress be damned'.

A close look at key moments in Cheney's career -- from his political apprenticeship in the Nixon and Ford administrations to his decade in Congress and his tenure as secretary of defense under the first President Bush -- suggests that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor, predicted that Cheney's long career of consistently pushing against restrictions on presidential power is likely to culminate in a series of uncompromising battles with Congress.

"Cheney has made this a matter of principle," Shane said. "For that reason, you are likely to hear the words 'executive privilege' over and over again during the next two years."

That comes as no surprise and I say that if the Oval Office faux monarchy wants a fight, bring it on. Cheney and his imperial-minded sidekicks have been stealing democracy from the American people for decades and their rubber-stamping Republican congress have been letting them get away with it. The results of the latest election were not just a protest against the handling of the Iraq war, they were also a strong rebuke to the way this government has handled its power. If the Republican party even thinks Americans would elect another president in '08 from within such a corrupt establishment, they have another thing coming. And if the WH wants to make the next 2 years a battle of wills, they'll hurt their party even more.

So, let Cheney have his very public tantrums as he continues to attempt to subvert democracy. He may be the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats as he keeps obstructing their search for the truth.

Sunday Food for Thought - Teach Your Children Well

Video: Crosby Stills and Nash - Teach Your Children

I love my daughter. She and I travelled down a very long and tough road as we struggled with my drug addiction until she was 9 years old and I finally got clean and sober - some 20 years ago now. I was so lost and so defeated when I thought I had damaged her permanently. It took a lot of healing over the years - a lot of pain and sorrow, a lot of anger and much life packed into a very short time.

Somewhere in there though, I had managed to teach her my core values: charity, compassion, tolerance, justice, equality and love. Those things were never lost to me. They were covered by the mask of addiction and as we made our way back together, we had a foundation that transcended the fog and eventually overcame the distractions of any given day.

When I called her yesterday, she told me she'd been in a car accident. She'd slid out of control on an icy patch of highway and ended up lodged in some pine trees with my baby grandson. My heart skipped a few beats.

They're both all right and she found help quickly. (Tears fill my eyes as I write this).

No matter what, she will always be my little girl - that adventurous, free-spirited, challenging, fiery, curious, and stubborn little girl - who has become such a fine woman today in spite of all of the odds stacked against her early in her life.

There are times when I think I could have taught her so much more but I do know this: I taught her what I was able to and her passion for life is so much more than I ever could have imagined.

She was telling me yesterday, after recently returning from Mexico and since being in the Dominican Republic a few years ago, that she's going to look into ways for her family to help out the poor in other countries by joining a group to build homes or to provide some other charitable form of work in order to help lift someone out of the world of poverty. That's a challenge with an 11 year old and a baby who's almost 1 year old, but that's the kind of person she is and her mate lives on the same wavelength. They care.

So, despite everything that went so horribly wrong way back when, I know now that her spirit shines so bright that I must have taught her something right. And that is very humbling indeed.

I couldn't be more proud of her and although I'm still certainly nowhere near being mother of the year, I sure can say that in my eyes - she is.

I love you, sweetie. You'll never know just how much you've taught me.

Please drive carefully...

Ship Ignatieff to Britain

Apparently, they love him there although they don't seem to understand what being a 'perfect' Canadian is all about:

Ignatieff is almost the perfect Canadian, even if he has spent most of his adult life abroad: Russian forebears in a country that has no hang-ups about immigrants; a father who was a star Canadian diplomat; an elite education. And, like Max Aitken or Conrad Black, the compulsive need to prove himself in England because Canada was too small. This he did with a remarkable series of interventions, books, broadcasts and lengthy articles trying to make sense of public policy ethics and morality.

Although a star of London left-liberal elites, he sided with Margaret Thatcher over the miners' strike and with George W Bush over Iraq from his perch as director of Harvard's Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy.

Yes, every 'perfect' Canadian longs to follow in the footsteps of snooty Conrad Black. 'Canada is too small' after all for egos like Black's and Ignatieff's that need a larger audience.

We don't need Michael 'Philosopher King' Ignatieff to lead Canadians out of Plato's cave. We've already seen the light while he was busy being adored in Britain and the US.

Another Video Flashback

The Beatles - Revolution

Sorry! This video disappeared from YouTube's site.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Who's Telling the Truth About the Burned Iraqi Mosques?

The so-called 'official' version from the US Army at Camp Victory in Iraq is that only one mosque was set on fire in the Hurriya district of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD — Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood...
An alleged attack on a fourth mosque remains unconfirmed. The patrol was also unable to confirm media reports that six Sunni civilians were allegedly dragged out of Friday prayers and burned to death. Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident.

While they try to blame this on 'media reporting', they forget to mention that Iraqi government sources originally made the claims:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen bent on revenge burned mosques and homes in a Sunni enclave of Baghdad on Friday as Iraq's leaders pleaded for calm, a day after the worst bomb attack since the U.S. invasion.

Some 30 people were killed, police said, as suspected Shi'ite militiamen rampaged for hours, untroubled by a curfew enforced in the capital by U.S. and Iraqi forces after bombs killed 202 people in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City.

Four mosques and several houses were burned in a small Sunni part of the mainly Shi'ite Hurriya area in northwest Baghdad, Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Salem al-Zobaie told Reuters.

Remember the US military claiming that Pat Tillman was hit by enemy fire and that Jessica Lynch's rescue was a stunning feat which turned out to be a complete myth?

Right-wing bloggers are once again playing the CSI:Bloggerville game and are falling all over themselves to push this military press release as the final truth. When it comes to investigating military claims though for their worthiness, they've learned absolutely nothing, it seems. Anyone who believes that the US military always reports about what's really happening in Iraq just needs to go back over the archives since this war began to see how many times they've corrected their own pronouncements and covered up what's gone on.

In the absence of verifiable evidence like pictures from anyone who purports to know whether or not 4 mosques were actually burned, the best course is skepticism and that definitely includes being skeptical of so-called official reports from the US military.

Things That Make You Go Duh...

Via CTV:

Power outage in west Calgary

POSTED AT 1:49 PM Saturday, November 25

It was a cold morning and even colder for thousands of people on the west side of the city.

Just after nine o'clock Saturday morning the power went out for about 3,000 Enmax customers in Westgate, Westbrook, and Strathcona Park.

The problem was found to be an underground cable and Enmax officials say it was not related to the cold weather.

Power was restored about an hour and a half later.

Enmax says that even in this cold most modern homes can hold their heat for up to four hours.

The power company reminds people not to try to heat your home with a barbeque no matter how cold it gets.

If you believe you have a real emergency call 911.

Oh...and don't stick lit candles up your butts either.

Alberta PC Leadership Race Results

Will be updated as more results come in...

The race is on to see who will replace King Ralph. Early first ballot results have Jim Dinning in the lead with Ted 'Firewall' Morton in second place. (According to local CTV television coverage, the latest margin between the two at this time is about 150+ votes with over 6000 counted so far in total at 9:25 pm/11:25 pm ET). Ed Stelmach is coming in third but it's not exactly a squeaker as far as he's concerned.

CTV is just giving very quick clips of the results that you miss if you blink, but the numbers are in this range right now:

Dinning 27oo+
Morton 2580+
Stelmach 1800+

I don't like any of these guys but Morton is one of the worst (too far right) of the bunch, afaic. Let's hope he loses.

Update: Via CHQR

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - Alberta Tory Leadership Results As Of 9:45 p.m.

Jim Dinning - 5,545
Ted Morton - 4,706
Ed Stelmach - 3,192
Lyle Oberg - 2,801

19 constituencies reporting/83 in the province

Update: Via CHQR

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - Alberta Tory Leadership Results (10:30 p.m.)

Jim Dinning 26,115
Ted Morton 21,507
Ed Stelmach 12,019

130/179 polls reporting

Update: The race isn't over. Because neither Dinning or Morton got over 50% of the votes, there will be a second ballot next weekend with only the top three contenders.

Numbers via CFCN:

Here is a list of the final overall provincial results as of 11:45 pm (mountain time) Saturday night:

Jim Dinning 29470
Victor Doerksen 873
Dave Hancock 7595
Gary McPherson 744
Ted Morton 25648
Mark Norris 6789
Lyle Oberg 11638
Ed Stelmach 14967

Update: Dec 2, 2006 Looking for today's second ballot results? Click here.

Gaza Cease-fire Agreement Reached

It was reported earlier this week that the Palestinians had offered Israel a truce in order to stop the increasing violence in the Gaza strip. On Saturday, it was announced that the Palestinians and Israelis have reached an agreement.

"Abbas asked in response that Israel stop all military operations in the
Gaza Strip and withdraw all the forces," she said. "The prime minister ... told Abbas that Israel would respond favourably, as Israel was operating in the Gaza Strip in response to the violence. With the end of violence, Israel would be happy to withdraw its troops."

Earlier in the week, Israel threatened to step up the military offensive it began in Gaza in June after militants who tunneled across the border abducted an Israeli soldier, who is still being held.
More than 400 Palestinians, about half of them militants, have been killed in Israeli strikes over the six months, Palestinian hospital officials say. Three Israelis also have been killed.

"(Olmert) expressed his hope that the end of violence would bring stability to both sides," Eisin said.

It's going to take a lot more than a cease-fire to address all of the concerns in the region but at least if they stop killing each other, that's a good first step.

The head of Hamas' political wing says he'll give negotiations six months to see if any progress can be made.

"We give six months to open real political horizons ... we agreed on the national accord to establish a Palestinian state, with the June 4, 1967 borders," he said, during talks in Cairo. "They have to seize this opportunity."

Meshal warned that if an agreement is not reached within that time, "Hamas will become stronger and the resistance will resume ... and will go on with a third uprising."


The deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Musa Abu Marzuk, said over the weekend that Israel had agreed to an exchange of prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Abu Marzuk, based in Damascus, also said that based on talks Hamas political head Khaled Meshal had held in Cairo, it appeared Israel had agreed to release prisoners simultaneously with the release of Shalit, which it had opposed in the past. "This is definitely encouraging," he said.

The cease-fire goes into effect Sunday morning at 6 am.

CNN Anchor: 'Why not take him [al-Sadr] out?'

And she didn't mean take him out to dinner...

Via Saturday's CNN transcript:


COSTELLO: Let's talk about the step that the U.S. government is taking to try to quell this violence. President Bush is supposed to meet with the Iraqi prime minister in Jordan next week. If that happens, Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric, I guess, chiefly responsible for this sectarian violence, has vowed to pull out of the Iraqi government and that could crash the Iraqi government. So, let's say the worst happened, where would that leave the U.S. military if the Iraqi government just dissolved?

SHEPPERD: It'd be one more tragic step in a very tragic war, Carol, it would leave the United States in a country without a government to support, in other words, responsible for everything that's gone on there, instead of just some of the things that have gone on. This is as desperate a situation as it gets.

And there's two phrases the U.S. and the U.S. military doesn't want to hear, "spinning out of control," which clearly things are doing in Baghdad, and "civil war," which has become a symbol of failure if it evolves into a civil war. Clearly there is some sort of civil war going on. So, it's as desperate and depressing as it gets.

COSTELLO: So we can say definitively now there is a civil war going on in Iraq.

SHEPPERD: No, you can't say there's a definitive war as we know civil wars, but definitely this sectarian violence is some type of civil war, and it seems to be escalating, not getting less, so it's a very, very tough situation.

COSTELLO: So, if Muqtada al-Sadr is making life miserable for the U.S. military, why not take him out?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's easier said than done. He is visible, but we don't know where he is all the time. And also, you are there to support Nouri al Maliki, the prime minister of the sitting government, if he does not want Muqtada al-Sadr taken out and of course Muqtada al-Sadr is part of his -- one of the major parts of his support, if that would cause him more problems, then you produce more problems for the government that wants to support. So it's a circle of -- it's a very difficult circle to tread.

I almost expected Shepperd to say, 'Jane, you ignorant slut'.

Then again, Shepperd's 'it's not a civil war, yes it is, no it isn't' battle that he was having with himself probably kept his mind a bit distracted.

Write Your Own Caption

Cheney visits Saudi Arabia...

Cheney: 'Remember when we snuck your nationals out of the US right after 9/11? What a hoot.'