Monday, March 31, 2008

Stop the US Election Coverage and Let Me Off

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.
-Mark Twain

I don't blog about the daily goings on in the US election race here although I do follow the coverage almost religiously - taking time out when my head feels like it's going to explode or when the spinning gets to the point that I envision Linda Blair's head in The Exorcist. Yes, it is that bad.

Ironically, the great promise of the mainstream "progressive" blogs was to act as a counter to the half-truths and outright lies perpetrated by the MSM. However, this year, with the Democratic race narrowed down to a fierce contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, those blogs (like Daily Kos and others) have shown that their so-called factual standards are no better than the mainstream journalists they've railed against for years. They have become exactly what they claimed to abhor.

It's tiring enough to have to chase down the veracity of MSM stories through trusted venues like FactCheck.org, SourceWatch, Judicial Watch, and CorpWatch. I think we're on the verge of needing a BlogWatch site for some sort of objective analysis of what's being peddled on those sites as truth when what we're really getting is Colbertesque "truthiness" instead.

Additionally, when it comes to judging what the traditional, corporatist American media is trying to sell us, there are handy sites like FAIR, Editor & Publisher, and the Columbia Journalism Review along with several other sites. But when it comes to sorting through what's being peddled about the election on the blogs, once again we're stuck with sorting out the often hyperventilated hyberole for ourselves.

Throw in the cable news opinion shows, and yes - that even applies to the darling of the progressives, Keith Olbermann, who now regularly posts his Obama-biased rants at Daily Kos because he knows where his bread is buttered (there's also a "watch" site dedicated to him and he does need to be watched considering that his "reporting" has become sloppy lately) and those of us who are a) interested in facts and b) have had more than our fill of the spin appear to live in some sort of No Man's land vacated by people whom we thought (at least I did at one time) sought to fight for rationality and common sense. That's been tossed overboard by people who are so incredibly emotionally-invested in their candidate of choice (even though both Dem candidates' platforms are nearly identical) that the "progressive" zone - full of racism, sexism and intolerance in general - has become nothing more than the equivalent of some of the worst right-wing blogs.

We know that the Democratic party will survive this election. The question is, with all of the inter and intra-blog fighting going on, will the so-called "progressive" community make it through this election to go on to focus on who the real enemy is: the right-wingers who may be poised to again run the US government? There are wounds out there in "netroots" land that I don't think will ever be healed.

When I step back from observing all of this though, I have to say that it's useful that these battles have exposed some extremely nasty things about some people who deem to call themselves "progressive". There's a horribly abusive underbelly in the Democratic party, witnessed through reading some of the posts and comments on the various blogs, that reveals just how hypocritical some Democrats who claim the moral high-ground really are. While some people claim to support their candidate's message of unity and all things noble about what the Democratic party supposedly stands for, they clearly show that their personal take is so incredibly far removed from ideals like equality, justice and human/civil rights for all that I don't even know if they are Democrats.

The bigger question in this reality is, however, whether the party itself even stands for those principles it proudly displays on its mantle. In many ways I don't think it does, which is why I'm under no illusions that a Democratic president will truly come through for the millions who are placing their hopes in a party that's promising major societal changes that will make a big difference in America's current cultural climate. This is, after all, a party that won't even attempt to prosecute Bush for his war crimes. For me, that says it all.

Instead, what we have now are daily pathetic displays of who said what where and when and what did they really mean? As if that ought to pass for an acceptable substitute for what really ails America. It's SpinTainment and there's no doubt that it's a huge industry, just as US elections, with donations to candidates in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are their own industry as well. While Democratic candidates talk about how much money has been stolen from US taxpayers in the name of the illegal occupation in Iraq - money they say could have gone towards education, infrastructure and so many other American needs - they're raking in huge amounts of money for what, exactly? To buy the presidency. A pursuit that goes on, not just for months, but for years. You cannot honestly rail against obscenity if you play a part in purveying it.

This race has shown just how undemocratic and vicious Democrats can be and it has also shown just how little truth is valued on the so-called "left" which, in many too instances is just centrism dressed up in liberal clothing anyway. I'm all for a long Democratic battle. Let the knives continue to come out. Maybe then, after all of the blood has been drawn and the negativity has exhausted Dem party supporters, there will be a long, hard look at exactly what the party has become. In the end, if they're truly willing to admit it, I think they'll find that their ideals have taken a back seat to exactly the kind of divisiveness they accuse the right-wingers of spreading. And they'll also find that their methods - excusing blatant spin as being prized above reality - are just as useless and damaging as those of their political opponents. That's if they're even willing to take that desperately needed long, hard look.

In the meantime, I'll stick to looking for my facts in places that have no axes to grind, no candidate to support and no piper to pay. One head-spinning Linda Blair was enough.
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Update: Afghanistan

While the MSM, cable news yapping heads and so-called "progressive" blogs are busy hyperventilating over the latest Clinton/Obama gotcha moments in the never-ending circus known as the "race for the White House", what those candidates will have to deal with when one of them actually gets there (if they even manage to actually make it without being perilously wounded by incoming crapnel between now and Jan 2009) - has fallen off the radar.

It was recently reported that the media only devotes a minimal amount of time reporting on what's happening in Iraq:

However, the Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that Iraq consumed 24 percent of the airtime on cable news last year, but just 1 percent this year. All told, TV, Internet and newspapers gave Iraq 23 percent of their news hole in the first 10 weeks of 2007, but just 3 percent in the early part of this year.

The latest news about what's currently going on in Basra and Baghdad only merits a headline after Clinton's Bosnia trip, McSurgey's non-speech about the housing problem and Obama's vacation in the US Virgin Islands.

Sensationalism tops war fatigue, I guess. And I have no idea what the figures are for coverage of the Afghanistan war. That one was abandoned by the US media a long time ago. The only time it seems to come up these days (and it is extremely rare) is when Obama talks about withdrawing troops from Iraq so he can send a couple of brigades to Afghanistan or when Hillary says that the war deserves more attention. zzzzz...

Meanwhile, (and since Obama seems to think that a few more soldiers might help out as does Canada's Conservative government while France just reluctantly announced it will send more troops as Australia's defence minister says he won't send any more), with military spending accounting for some 80% of the US contributions to that country, a new report reveals that aid money is being spent of huge salaries instead of actual help in that country - not that Americans seem to care all that much about where their money is going. Remember those pallets of cash that disappeared in Iraq? Yeah. Whatever happened to that investigation? I suppose when your government is spending obscene amounts of money in far off war zones, while you're watching presidential candidates similarly spending obscene amounts of money of their campaigns, your eyes just glaze over from the sight of all of those unfathomable zeros after a while and you'd rather just watch Dancing With the Stars to get away from it all.

Anyway, here's where that Afghanistan USAID money is going:

KABUL, Afghanistan - Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers' high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.

Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, the alliance said. Of that $15 billion, some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.

"A vast amount of aid is absorbed by high salaries, living, security, transport and accommodation costs for expatriates working for consulting firms or contractors," the report said. The costs are increasing with a recent deterioration in security, it said.

The cost of a full-time expatriate consultant working in Afghanistan is around $250,000, according to the group.

This is some 200 times the average annual salary of an Afghan civil servant, who is paid less than $1,000" per year, the report said.

You just know that some apologist had to come out and defend that reality. Right on cue:

Amy Frumin, an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations who spent a year in Afghanistan as an officer on a U.S. Agency for International Development reconstruction team, said blaming high expat salaries is unfair.

"You have to pay them good money to do that. They're still having trouble finding people to fill these positions. It's a dangerous place. Not many people are willing to risk their limbs," she said.

The question about why they're over there supposedly risking their limbs in yet another country that they're occupying didn't come up, it seems. Neither did the one about the Afghans rsiking their limbs either. And how about the actual soldiers? Why aren't they paid that much? (Oh - excuse me for asking that one!)

No wonder. It's a capitalist's wet dream for the usual suspects:

The report said that Afghanistan's biggest donor, USAID, the U.S. government's aid arm, allocates close to half of its funds to five large U.S. contractors and that "it is clear that substantial amounts of aid continue to be absorbed in corporate profits."

The five companies are KBR, the Louis Berger Group, Chemonics International, Bearing Point and Dyncorp International, the report said.

Donors, especially the United States, should ensure the primary objective of aid programs is poverty reduction and that they address genuine Afghan needs and build Afghan capacity, it said.

The report also said the United States has not delivered $5 billion worth of aid it pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and other donors have fallen short by about that same amount.

Jim Kunder, acting deputy administrator of USAID, said he recognized there are always concerns about the speed in which aid is delivered but he said the envisioned work is being done.

"The U.S. government is on track to provide the aid to Afghanistan that it pledged," Kunder said in a telephone interview from Washington.

How easily they lie.

In the two years following the U.S.-led invasion, Afghanistan received $57 per capita in aid, while Bosnia and East Timor received $679 and $233 per capita respectively, the ACBAR report said.

And then there's all of that aid money that continually goes to Israel.

And, in case you needed more of a reason to focus on Afghanistan, how about this one?

Iraq seen as more stable than Afghanistan: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq has emerged as a more stable country than Afghanistan, thanks to lower violence, the presence of a large U.S.-led international force and high oil prices, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The report by the British-based Jane's Information Group ranked Afghanistan as the world's third most-unstable country after the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and Somalia.

By contrast, Iraq was at No. 22 where it appeared among several African countries including Niger, Nigeria, Burundi and Equatorial Guinea.

The report, titled "Jane's Country Risk Ratings," was the first of its kind for the publisher and contained no comparison figures. But a June 2007 ranking of failed states by Foreign Policy magazine called Iraq the world's second-most unstable country with Afghanistan at No. 8.

Regardless of where it sits on that scale, the instability is absolutely palpable - but little reported.

And then there's Pakistan. There's always Pakistan.

Nobody talks about an "end" to the Afghanistan war. Maybe it's the lower casualty numbers. Maybe it's the ignorance about what's happening there day in and day out. Maybe it's the effectiveness of the war propaganda. Or maybe people just don't care anymore.

In general, in America, I think it's all of the above.
 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama, Ferraro, Race & the Democrats

Last week, Geraldine Ferraro chose to resign from the Clinton campaign after she made these remarks in an interview with the Daily Breeze:

"I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign - to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," she said. "For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

The outrage from the Obama campaign and his supporters was deafening, so Ferraro retreated.

Now, let's contrast that with what Obama has said about himself. From a 2005 Chicago Tribune article that appears on Obama's senate site:

Obama acknowledges, with no small irony, that he benefits from his race.

If he were white, he once bluntly noted, he would simply be one of nine freshmen senators, almost certainly without a multimillion-dollar book deal and a shred of celebrity. Or would he have been elected at all?

Compare and contrast.

Related:

Have a look at what Obama supporters John Kerry and Clair McCaskill have to say about Obama being a black candidate. Will they be thrown off the train next? Of course not.
(h/t marisacat)

The extreme hyperbole, hysteria and candidate protectionism in this Democratic nomination race has reached epic proportions on the left that I thought I'd only ever see from the right. I was wrong.

While the media have pondered whether America is ready for a black or female president, the real question they should be asking is whether Democrats are ready for either one of those possibilities. From the vile behaviour I've seen in the so-called "progressive" blog community (and the MSM), which too often consists of lies, distortions, personal attacks, and assumptions in order to prop up one candidate over another, my conclusion is that the answer to that question is "no".

It seems that "progressives", who have long been grumbling about the right's dirty tricks a la Karl Rove, have absolutely no qualms about adopting those same tactics against their own. The one reality they seem to miss is that the Republicans are light years ahead of them when it comes to unity based on discipline. Without question, we've all seen how the right has taken that belief to the extreme, but there's no denying that this strategy has worked for them. Meanwhile, Democrats are tearing their party apart - in the name of what, exactly? Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as the saying goes? That's what it looks like from here.

But, I'm not a Democrat (I'm a small "L", independent Canadian liberal) and I don't support any of the remaining candidates, so I'll just continue to bang my head against the wall as I cringe at the display of simple principles like truth and logic being thrown out the window by the so-called American left which is supporting two centrist candidates while they promise that everything will be better tomorrow, or next month or next year.

Whatever happened to MLK's "fierce urgency of now"?

Democrats have the "fierce" part down pat. What they're missing is the action required "now".

Democrats may win in spite of themselves but, what then?
 

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq: The US Politics

Via Think Progress:

This morning, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.

CHENEY: So?

RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

And the boy king speaks as well:

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around; it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," Bush said.

"We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast — the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage," Bush said.

(Was that an admission that the Iraq invasion was a mistake because it took troops out of Afghanistan?)

And, not to be outdone by Cheney, who again linked Iraq to 9/11 yesterday, Bush added this:

"Our enemies would see an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and a lack of resolve. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of Sept. 11 and make it more likely that America would suffer another attack like the one we experienced that day."

Now you might be thinking something along the lines of "Thank [insert deity here] these two clowns and the other neocon circus performers will be out of office in a just a few months. Then, if Americans can just elect a Democrat, everything will be much better".

Except that it won't.

Anyone paying attention to the positions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the illegal occupation of Iraq (which neither of them will actually call it), has to admit that the fate of the approximately 160,000 private contractors has been avoided by both of them.

Here's part of what Obama had to say in his speech on the 5th anniversary of the occupation:

In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy. What I propose is not – and never has been – a precipitous drawdown. It is instead a detailed and prudent plan that will end a war nearly seven years after it started.

Just how Obama plans to "end" Iraq's civil war, as he promises, remains to be seen. Redeploying troops (and it is a redeployment as he plans to send a contingency to Afghanistan) will not "end" the "war".

And note the absence, as I pointed out, of any mention of the paid mercenaries who are there under contract - contracts that were secured through the Pentagon and which could be threatened by endless, tangled litigation if Obama or Clinton plans to pull them out.

So, no, there will not be an end to this "war" for a very long time and Obama's quite committed to boosting force numbers by recruiting more troops to deal with the GWOT as he plans to "finish the fight against al Qaeda". "Finish" it? Good luck with that.

And while Clinton and Obama present their lofty policies for dealing with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan (while protecting Israel), there is one major force that has and will continue to frame the futures of those countries: government corruption - not only "over there", but in the United States. Spending billions more dollars overseas without dealing with that reality is a zero sum game. The US can try to threaten and bribe those governments to comply, as Obama stated when he said aid to Pakistani aid would come with conditions, but defying the culture of corruption is a massive undertaking in and of itself.

There is one stark reality that all of the remaining commander-in-chief contestants share: a belief in the American empire. You might get the kindler, gentler version from the Democrats, but it's there nonetheless cloaked in terms like "protecting America's interests" around the world which is just code for making sure America gains or retains supremacy over other countries' resources that America needs to survive. Hegemony.

And, with the US economy tanking, that search for power overseas will only broaden as the global economic shift favours Europe, Saudi Arabia, and China. Dealing with that reality will involve balancing on a diplomatic tightrope in a much more urgent fashion while the US has lost its moral authority to demand or expect much of anything from enemies or allies - no matter who leads the country in 2009.

It all makes for nice speeches though, doesn't it?

Three cheers for US power!
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quote du Jour: Cheney Links Iraq to 9/11 - Again

Dick Cheney is stubbornly consistent and still never lets actual facts get in his way. You have to give him that.

...Cheney, who spent the night at a sprawling U.S. base in the northern town of Balad, told soldiers they were defending future generations of Americans from a global terror threat.

"This long-term struggle became urgent on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 . That day we clearly saw that dangers can gather far from our own shores and find us right there at home," said Cheney, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne, and their daughter, Elizabeth.

"So the United States made a decision: to hunt down the evil of terrorism and kill it where it grows, to hold the supporters of terror to account and to confront regimes that harbor terrorists and threaten the peace," Cheney said. "Understanding all the dangers of this new era, we have no intention of abandoning our friends or allowing this country of 170,000 square miles to become a staging area for further attacks against Americans."

And with that, he toasted the troops with a cup of oil-flavoured Kool-Aid™ and went on his way.
 

Bonus quote du jour: would you trust this guy to run the Iraq war - or any war??


Of course the big news of the day is that Joe Lieberman apparently wants to be a ventriloquist. He hasn't quite mastered the art yet, obviously. McCain has the dummy part down pat though.
 

A Quick Video Summary of Obama's Speech

(Because I'm too tired to actually write anything about it tonite.)



Note: the audio on this clip seems to be extraordinarily loud for some reason. Just a warning.

Quote du Jour: The Grisly Stench of Success

Freed from his underground bunker located somewhere in Nebraska, Dick Cheney emerged from his hole, flew to Baghdad and promised many more years of neocon-like "success" in Iraq.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavor" during a visit to Baghdad, on the same day a woman suicide bomber killed 40 people.

"If you look back on those five years it has been a difficult, challenging but nonetheless successful endeavor ... and it has been well worth the effort," Cheney, an architect of the invasion, said after meeting Iraqi leaders.

[insert the Bush administration's high crimes and misdemeanors here]

[insert the names of the 3,990 dead US soldiers here]

[insert the names of the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis here]

[insert the number of newly created anti-American terrorists here]

[bang head on wall repeatedly here]
 

Monday, March 17, 2008

Video: Confused about the subprime mess?

You won't be after watching this:


 

The Delusion Revolution

“I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

-Barack Obama, 'The Audacity of Hope'

Following on the heels of Obama's Pastor Jeremiah Wright "problem", the junior senator has decided to give a speech about race issues on Tuesday while fending off questions from the media today about his views. Interesting, since he appeared on CNN, MSNBC and FOX on Friday nite to do some major damage control. Then again, who watches political talk shows on Friday nites except for political junkies like me? Apparently, he thought prior to that that writing an entry on the Huffington Post would be enough. Obviously, it wasn't and the latest Rasmussen poll exemplifies that reality.

Via HuffPo:

The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

And that might be sufficient to placate people who felt he had to take such a firm stand if he hadn't written these words in his Audacity of Hope book which show that he certainly did know about Wright's leanings and didn't dismiss them then:

“The painting depicts a harpist,” Reverend Wright explained, “a woman who at first glance appears to be sitting atop a great mountain. Until you take a closer look and see that the woman is bruised and bloodied, dressed in tattered rags, the harp reduced to a single frayed string. Your eye is then drawn down to the scene below, down to the valley below, where everywhere are the ravages of famine, the drumbeat of war, a world groaning under strife and deprivation.

“It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That’s the world! On which hope sits!”

And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House. As the sermon unfolded, though, the stories of strife became more prosaic, the pain more immediate. The reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountaintop, worrying about paying the light bill…

And while he (or anybody, for that matter) claims to follow the teachings of Jesus, I'd like to know why he's only opposed to "dumb wars", as he stated in his now infamous 2002 speech, instead of all wars. The audacity of that is that antiwar libertarian Justin Raimondo (who openly admits to being an Obama "cultist" and who was previously a Ron Paul supporter), now calls Obama the "antiwar candidate". No need to wonder why I call this the "delusion revolution". That's Obama's "blank screen" in full throttle.

Obama, as we've seen, seems to need to be prodded to not only denounce and reject controversial supporters and his run up to dealing with his pastor problem was no different. He knew that his 20 year relationship with Wright was potentially going to be an issue when he kicked off his presidential campaign and, as much as his supporters would like to believe that this exposé of Wright was Clinton-made, it actually gained media prominence in early 2007:

Obama's connection to Wright first drew attention in a February 2007 Rolling Stone article that described a speech in which Wright forcefully spoke about racism against blacks.[8] Citing the article, and fears that any further controversy would harm the church, Obama scrapped plans for having Wright introduce him at his presidential announcement speech in February 2007. Obama subsequently received criticism from some black supporters for disinviting Wright, with Al Sharpton stating that "the issue is standing by your own pastor".[9]

But he still decided to keep Wright on his African American Religious Leadership Committee - a position Wright was forced to resign from last week (which we can only assume because the Obama campaign won't say if he was fired or left voluntarily) when the Wright videos emerged in the MSM via FOX News, resulting in Obama's sense of judgment being questioned - the very quality he's been running on since day one.

And now, when the major issues of the day include the US economy being in tatters and the 5 year anniversary of the illegal occupation of Iraq, Obama has finally decided to talk about race - a subject he stayed away from by simply writing it off as being too "divisive" - when the fact is that he wanted to maintain his aura of being that "blank screen" on which voters could project whatever their concerns were on him as he speechified his way to the White House.

That "blank screen" has deluded some of his supporters into believing that he's some sort of "movement" leader. The reality is that the only movement he's leading is the one whereby voters move to the polls to vote for him. He's not calling for his supporters to affect any societal change when he cites MLK's "fierce urgency of now". Instead, he's promising hope and change if he gets into the WH in 2009. Just wait and he'll make things all better - the standard by which almost every presidential candidate runs on. And we all know how that turns out.

In fact, Democrats and Republicans are not dissimilar in how much weight they place on how much difference a president can make and both parties' supporters are just as fiercely dedicated to their version of who can be their hero. This year's Obama supporters are as starry-eyed and defensive as Bush's radical evangelical base has been.

If you take a trip around the big American "progressive" blogs, you'll see no shortage of Hillary Clinton being referred to repeatedly as a "bitch", a "racist", a "traitor" or as someone who is out to "destroy the Democratic party" because she refuses to pull out of the democratic process (such as it is) to hand the crown to Obama. Oh, and apparently the Clintons are the "worst narcissists our country [America] has ever seen" - in a post written by one the worst narcissists Daily Kos has ever seen and who seems to be unaware of George W Bush. Obama supporters claim that Hillary's not "progressive" enough, even though her policy stances and record are nearly identical to Obama's. And, because there's so little distinction to be made issue-wise between them, all that's left to talk about is their personalities. Somehow, that's what "democracy" is about in America - uncivil war. That and spending tens of millions of dollars to win your way to the White House. It's all one long obscenity from all sides.

And Obama is certainly right when he says that he's bound to disappoint not only some of his supporters, but all of them at one point or another. He's already done that by not dealing with issues forcefully and immediately. That doesn't bode well when you realize that his modus operandi for handling Republicans is based on consensus-building - a strategy that could cause a myriad of problems on major issues going forward when timely decisions are necessary. That road could be fraught with political land mines if he's unable or unwilling to make firm decisions based on his principles instead of trying to find lukewarm compromises. And, just as his Tuesday speech will no doubt be crafted to be all things to all people, in the end it may not serve anybody - including himself - well at all.

Meanwhile, he and his advisors have pledged a "full frontal assualt". On the economy? On the Iraq war? On the lack of health care? No. On the fact that Hillary has yet to publicly disclose all of her tax returns while, quite tellingly, Obama hasn't done so either.

Last week, Obama supporters were just giddy that their guy had released his list of earmarks (after major pressure from the Chicago newspapers). They willingly overlooked the fact that $1 million went to the hospital that employs his wife or that another $8 million went to a defence contractor, General Dynamics. No big deal, Obama has a New Way of doing politics, after all. Right? And, forget about the fact that he still hasn't released other information that the press has been after him to disclose. He's Obama. He's above contempt.

And, let me make this clear, as far as both of the leading Democrats go, they're both the same in my book: corporatist militarists. I have no use for either of them or John McCain. The only candidates who came close to espousing the political ideology I believe in as a small "L" liberal were Gravel and Kucinich (too threatening for prime time in today's America) and even they don't match my left-wing beliefs 100%. (You have to add disclaimers like that these days when you criticize Obama because, if you don't, you will immediately be attacked as being a shill for Hillary and I've had enough of that - thank you very much.)

Pundits have called this stretch of the campaigns the "silly season". Let's face it, the whole US election race is just one protracted "silly season", especially when candidates are attacking each other on trivialities, not issues. Add to that reality caucuses, primaries, primacaucuses, delegates, superdelegates, the electoral college and the lawyers and you have a recipe for disaster every single election. And let's not even get into Diebold and the Supreme Court and the role they play in deciding who will lead America.

I cringed when I saw some Iraqis interviewed this past weekend who were asked if they were following the US election. They were, they said, hoping to learn what "democracy" was all about. That's just scary. They'd do well to look elsewhere because the idea that what we're currently witnessing in America reflects anything like "democracy" is the biggest delusion of all.

Related:

The Clinton Rules and The Obama Rules

Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle
 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quote du Jour: 'War is Peace'

And so it comes full circle. We really are living in Orwell's 1984 (if there was ever any doubt).

Via CBS:

House and Senate lawmakers gathered today in the Capitol Rotunda to remember and pay tribute to U.S. Soldiers who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The half-hour ceremony was complete with the Presentation of Colors by the United States Armed Forces Color Guard and the National Anthem sung by a local Washington, D.C., high school student. The front row was reserved for service members who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader John Boehner, Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all did their best to put political differences aside to focus on the members of the military serving all over the world. The sharp words normally slung about a failed war in Iraq were avoided.

Reid urged members of the audience to not forget the men and women serving in Afghanistan saying they are in out hearts and in our prayers. McConnell acknowledged that the past five years have not been easy, but urged the audience to remember that "the purpose of war is peace." Pelosi spoke of creating a peaceful future worthy of members of the military and their sacrifice.

After a closing prayer by the House chaplain, the ceremony broke up with the U.S. Marine Band Brass Quintet playing God Bless America.

The purpose of war is war. Only a deluded fool would think otherwise.

You are not going to get peace with millions of armed men. The chariot of peace cannot advance over a road littered with cannon.
~David Lloyd George

h/t Madman in the Marketplace
 

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Khadr Case: Did the US military manufacture evidence?

Here's the latest in the long, dark saga of Omar Khadr:

A military commander "retroactively altered" a report of a gunbattle in Afghanistan in 2002 to redirect blame for a U.S. soldier's death to Omar Khadr, Khadr's defence lawyer alleged Thursday.

Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler made the allegation during a pretrial hearing Thursday for the 21-year-old Canadian citizen at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Kuebler alleged that in August 2002, one day after the gunbattle involving Khadr, a U.S. on-site commander identified only as "Colonel W" wrote a report on the attack.

In the report, the commander said a U.S. soldier killed a man identified as the suspect in the slaying of Speer, said Kuebler.

However, the report was revised months later, under the same date, to say a U.S. fighter had only "engaged" the assailant, according to Kuebler, who said the later version was presented to him by prosecutors as an "updated" document.

"What we have is, as I said at the outset, is this manufactured story about Omar's participation in the event, or this myth about Omar's participation in the event, which appears to have been manufactured at some point during his detention," Kuebler said.

"And then you have government records, official government records, being retroactively altered to be consistent with that manufactured story."

Prosecutors, who did not contest Kuebler's account in court, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Absolutely unconscionable.

And not only that:

U.S. NAVAL BASE GUANTANAMO, Cuba -- The likelihood the United States subjected Omar Khadr to harsh interrogations some would call torture increased Thursday after it emerged one of his early interrogators had been court-martialled for abusing prisoners and had also been involved in an interrogation of a detainee who died.

Legal arguments before the U.S. war crimes commission in Guantanamo Bay indicated Sgt. Joshua Claus of military intelligence participated in many, maybe all, of the interrogations of the Canadian terror suspect after U.S. forces delivered him to the Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan in July 2002.

A U.S. army investigation into the deaths of two other Bagram detainees in late 2002 describes a litany of coercive techniques he allegedly used to interrogate one of the men.
[...]
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said Sgt. Claus "didn't just participate in numerous interrogations of Omar, according to (prosecutor Major Jeffrey Groharing), he did virtually all of them.

Just how much more does Khadr have to endure before this Bush-sockpuppet Canadian government finally demands his release?

Related:

Yemeni describes CIA secret jails
 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quote du Jour: War is just so 'romantic'...

At least that's what Commander Codpiece thinks:

President Bush spoke of his dream to work on the frontline in Afghanistan during a video conference with US military and civilian personnel in the war-torn country.

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said.

"If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," President Bush said.

I wonder if "romance" was on the minds of the Conservatives and Liberals when they voted to send more Canadian soldiers to their deaths in Afghanistan on Thursday. And to think they actually applauded when that motion passed. Disgusting.

Meanwhile, this vote was held before NATO announced its 5 year plan for that country. Surely that has been in the works for a while and it would have been useful information to have when it came to considering how to vote on this 2 year extension. Instead, the 2 major war parties (one just tremendously afraid of sparking an election - who cares about the life and death issues involved?) decided to carry on the Canadian mission until 2011, regardless of the fact that they have no idea how much it will cost in terms of dollars or Canadian lives. Peter MacKay even went as far as to say the troops would be "delighted" when they heard what they'd just been committed to. Delighted? I guess that's about as close as MacKay can come to saying it's nothing short of "romantic" to know that you could be killed at any moment, as his buddy Bush did.

If war is so romantic and delightful, why aren't those two warmongering mouthpieces over there enjoying the war up close and personal - with guns - on the frontline?

Update: March 14, 2008 - Welcome cursor.org readers! Just a reminder that the new winter soldier hearings are happening right now. Those veterans and related speakers deserve your support. Check out the link to find out how you can listen live. Archives and a blog that's open for comments are also available at Pacifica's site.
 

The New Winter Soldier Hearings Start Today

Iraq Veterans Against the War, following in the footsteps of Vietnam veterans in 1971, are holding new winter soldier hearings about the Iraq & Afghanistan wars beginning today through March 16, 2008 in Washington. IVAW's membership includes veterans from the US & Canada.

Details on how to watch and listen to those hearings are listed here. If the site is down, as it was earlier today, you can also access the hearings at this site.

Via Salon:

Will American war crimes be revealed?

Like Vietnam vets did decades ago, a group of soldiers are poised to speak out about atrocities they say the U.S. committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It has often been remarked but seldom remembered that war itself is a crime. Yet a war crime is more and other than war ... It is an act beyond the pale of acceptable actions even in war. Deliberate killing or torturing of prisoners of war is a war crime. Deliberate destruction without military purpose of civilian communities is a war crime."
-- Former infantry platoon leader William Crandell opening the "Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit, Jan. 31, 1971

More than 100 veterans gathered in a Detroit hotel in early 1971 to talk about things they had seen and done in the Vietnam War. Called the Winter Soldier Investigation, the group spoke about a horrifying array of allegations: convoys driving over civilians; burning of villages; bodies thrown out of helicopters; torture, mutilation and infamous "free-fire zones," where anyone not wearing a U.S. uniform could be killed.

Thirty-seven years later, more than 100 veterans will gather over the next several days for "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan." The event is designed to be another purging of the horrors of war, and another effort to put American military policy on trial in the public eye. The gathering this time, at the National Labor College outside Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "Soldiers will certainly be testifying about their experience and observation of actions which are absolutely in violation of international law," says IVAW spokesperson Perry O"Brien, who served as an Army medic in Afghanistan in 2003.

In interviews with Salon, several veterans from the group described incidents in Iraq that they believed constituted wrongdoing by the U.S. military, including disproportionate use of air power resulting in civilian deaths. The soldiers were unable to provide Salon with any conclusive evidence of war crimes. But as the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaches, the allegations they and other Winter Soldier members will publicize in Washington this week add to a long-term set of questions about the damage and destruction wrought by U.S. military operations over years of war.

These veterans deserve to be heard and it's quite telling that the author of that article who, after using the quote that "war itself is a crime", asserts that "the soldiers were unable to provide Salon with any conclusive evidence of war crimes" especially in the face of proven allegations of torture, collective punishment and murder.

Will anyone in the MSM listen? That remains to be seen. It should be the duty of citizens in both of our countries to hear what they have to say about the conduct of both of these wars, especially to counter the unending militaristic war propaganda that we are fed daily to attempt to boost support for these missions.
 

Harper Sues the Liberals

During question period on Wednesday, an opposition MP mused that Stephen Harper lives in the "libel belt" - a reference to Harper's threats to sue the Liberals over statements they've published about him on their site about the Cadman scandal.

Today, Harper filed that lawsuit and contended in the house that the Liberals had been relying on an "edited and incomplete statement" - referring to the taped conversation that has been released to the media:

"The insurance policy for a million dollars, do you know anything about that?" Zytaruk asks.

"I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions," Harper replies on the tape. "This is not for publication?"

"This will be for the book, not for the newspaper," answers Zytaruk, who works for a Surrey newspaper.

Harper goes on to explain on the tape that the offer to Cadman was "only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election." He adds that the offer was carried out by people who were "legitimately representing the party."

He also tells Zytaruk that he knew there was little chance Cadman would agree.

"They wanted to do it, but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind," Harper said.

The Conservatives have alleged, as Harper did again today, that the tape was tampered with. How Harper plans to prove that accusation remains to be seen. At the same time, if the tape has been edited, it seems Harper would have to prove that the Liberals who spoke out knew that it had been - thus knowingly making false statements about him. Furthermore, Harper seems to undermine his own statements about the tape which he's said doesn't prove anything. He's obviously grasping at straws.

Meanwhile, Harper has not extended his suit to include Cadman's widow Dona, his daughter and son-in-law or the author of the book that spawned this controversy. Why not? Simple - this is a purely political attack against the Liberals.

At the same time, according to the G&M:

Wednesday a parliamentary committee collapsed into chaos as Conservatives thwarted a bid to launch an investigation into what Tory Party officials offered to Mr. Cadman.

It was the second time in less than a week that the work of a House of Commons committee has ground to a halt over testimony that could prove politically damaging to the minority government of Mr. Harper.

For the second straight day, Art Hanger, the chairman of the justice committee, walked out of a meeting rather than entertain a Liberal motion that his committee examine the issues surrounding allegations that offers were made to Mr. Cadman in exchange for his vote against a Liberal budget in the spring of 2005.

There are just four Conservative members on the justice committee, plus Mr. Hanger who cannot vote unless there is a tie. So, even though New Democrat MP Joe Comartin was prepared to side with the Conservatives, the four Liberal MPs and two Bloc Québécois MPs would have combined to win the vote.

The chaos at the justice committee comes a week after the Commons procedure and House affairs committee ceased to function after a seven-month filibuster by Conservatives.

On Thursday, Hanger said the Liberals "should be ashamed" for bringing the motion forward to the committee. Justice, it appears, is a shameful thing. Hanger has obviously read his party's manual on how to make parliamentary committees as dysfunctional as possible. If Harper had Medals of Freedom to hand out like his buddy Bush, Hanger would be next in line.

However this lawsuit shakes out in the end, one can't help but be reminded right now about another (former) PM suing for libel - Brian Mulroney. And that case, as we are now learning, appears to have been a colossal waste of taxpayer's money spent to appease one man's ego. I doubt this suit will turn out much differently.
 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's March Resignation Madness

And we haven't even hit the ides yet.

Gone so far:

Samantha Power

Admiral William Fallon

Gov Eliot Spitzer (D-NY)

Geraldine Ferraro

Louise Arbour

Tehran's police chief

The Serbian soccer federation chief

(I threw in those last two just to keep it interesting.)

Who knows who will be next?
 

Afghanistan: Canada Loses its 80th Soldier; 2 Others Wounded

CBC News reports that a Canadian soldier was found dead at a base on Tuesday:

A 22-year-old Canadian soldier was found dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but a top military commander said the death was not related to combat.

Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche told reporters that Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet was found at 2:15 p.m. local time in the sleeping quarters at Kandahar airfield, the main NATO military base in southern Afghanistan.

Laroche said the Canadian military is investigating the circumstances surrounding Ouellet's death. He said more details would be provided once the investigation is complete.

May he rest in peace.

And this just in via the AP:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–A suicide car bomber blew himself up next to a convoy of Canadian troops Wednesday in the southern Afghan city Kandahar, killing a civilian and wounding two soldiers.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said a Humvee vehicle from the convoy was burned and destroyed. NATO troops cordoned off the area, not allowing journalists or police near the vehicles.

A passing truck driver was killed in the attack and four people were wounded, including two Canadian troops, said police officer Nematullah Khan.

Meanwhile, a UK commander says "Winning hearts and minds" in Western-occupied nations like Iraq and Afghanistan is an impossible goal".

"There will of course be circumstances where we can earn the trust of local people, where we can prevail amongst the national leadership, establish a constructive dialogue with religious authorities, but I doubt we will (be) or maybe ever have been in a position to win their hearts and minds," Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb said.

"To suggest that good intentions will cross fundamental cultural, social and religious differences and win over a damaged population is at best dangerous and wishful thinking. The image of winning a heart or a mind is almost ridiculous," he told an international security conference in Stockholm.

Lamb, until last October the top British commander in Iraq, was speaking five years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

He said the best an occupying army could hope for was the consent of local people, and this required delivering tangible benefits like electricity, water, health, education and security.

Among the locals were "some who need us, albeit for a short time, others that will accommodate us, albeit for a short time, and others that will hate us simply for all time".

There's no doubt that redevelopment efforts have taken a back seat to lopsided hyper-military spending in both countries while civilians continue to suffer in stifling environments. Just how long are starving, poor and displaced expected to wait complacently for real help?
 

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CENTCOM's Commander Resigns

Statement by Admiral William Fallon:

Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the CENTCOM region,” Fallon said in a written statement.

“And although I don’t believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America’s interests there.” Fallon’s statement read. “I have therefore concluded that it would be best to step aside and allow the Secretary and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction… and focus on the achievement of our strategic objectives in the region. I have submitted my request to retire to the Secretary of Defense.”

The "recent press reports" Fallon is referring to have to do with this article that appeared in Esquire magazine.

Although that profile makes it seem as if Fallon was the only military man publicly disagreeing with the White House saber rattling about Iran, SecDef Robert Gates and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of staff have also advocated diplomacy and Fallon's quotes in Esquire don't appear to make him out to be a peacemonger either:

Fallon is in no hurry to call Iran's hand on the nuclear question. He is as patient as the White House is impatient, as methodical as President Bush is mercurial, and simply has, as one aide put it, "other bright ideas about the region." Fallon is even more direct: In a part of the world with "five or six pots boiling over, our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem."

And if it comes to war?

"Get serious," the admiral says. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them."

I think the bottom line is that Fallon was simply seen as being expendable and that he was pressured to resign. Surely, he could have just come out and clarified what appeared in the Esquire article while continuing in his role as CENTCOM commander, thus making this "distraction" yesterday's news.

When Gates was asked during today's press conference whether this resignation meant that war with Iran is on, he dismissed that assertion as being "ridiculous". We'll see, I suppose.
 

The Afghanistan War: When will the lies end?

Peter Van Loan in the house on Tuesday answering an NDP question about Afghanistan: "the security situation continues to improve".

That's what the Conservatives would like Canadians to believe, even when contradicted by a NATO commander and the facts on the ground:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Militant attacks in Afghanistan increased dramatically last year, with civilians accounting for nearly a fifth of people killed, the U.N. secretary-general said in a new report.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council made available on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there were an average of 566 "insurgent and terrorist" incidents per month last year compared with 425 per month in 2006.

"Of the over 8,000 conflict-related fatalities in 2007, over 1,500 were civilians," Ban said in the report, which was dated March 6.

And, while the Cons are boasting about the redevelopment work going on there:

Over 40 convoys delivering food aid for the U.N. World Food Program were attacked and looted in 2007, the report said.

"In over 130 attacks against humanitarian programs, 40 humanitarian workers were killed and 89 abducted, of whom seven were later killed by their captors," Ban said.
[...]
He said that 36 of 376 districts, including most districts in the east, southeast and south, remained virtually inaccessible to Afghan officials and aid workers.
[...]
This hinders the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, a situation exacerbated by the harsh weather conditions of the past few months," Ban said.

He added that poor governance and limited development efforts, especially at the local and provincial levels, was resulting in "political alienation that both directly and indirectly sustains anti-government elements."

When the vote on the motion to extend Canada's involvement in the war comes up on Thursday, despite the fact that the mission is failing on all fronts, Stephane Dion has pledged to support the Conservatives because as he puts it:

Canadians don't want an election between "a snowstorm and Easter."

When it comes to matters of life and death, one would think Dion would take this matter much more seriously rather than insulting Canadians in order to justify his party's acquiescence to Conservatives who continue to lie about what's really happening in Afghanistan.

We are reminded, once again, that war is a racket and that's the bottom line.

Related:

Afghanistan: UN Food Agency Races To Prevent Humanitarian Crisis

Afghanistan’s political transition faces serious challenges – UN report
 
 

Saturday, March 08, 2008

NAFTAgate: Harper Clears Clinton

Via the CBC:

Hillary Clinton's campaign team has never told any Canadian officials that their candidate's anti-NAFTA statements are just political posturing, the Prime Minister's Office said Friday.

In the midst of the so-called NAFTA-gate affair, the PMO clarified — two days after it was first asked a question about the matter — that Canadian officials never requested, nor received, a private briefing from Clinton's aides on her position on the continental trade treaty.

"The answer is no, they did not," Sandra Buckler, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Friday.

So, can we get past this assumption that's making the rounds on the American blogosphere now that Clinton's staff talked to them? The cognitive dissonance about this story has been unbelievable, especially over at sites like Daily Kos that favour Obama, where the truth (on many fronts) has taken a back seat to known facts. So much for the "reality-based" community.
 

Write Your Own Caption

Stealing a line from Bush, Harper was overheard saying, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

 
Related: Almost a third of Canadians think Harper is lying over Cadman affair: poll
 

Friday, March 07, 2008

Olbermann on NAFTAgate: Innuendo and Truth

On Thursday nite, Keith Olbermann had this to say about NAFTAgate:

Olbermann: For a week now, Senator Clinton has bashed Senator Obama and even possibly won votes based on the story that Obama had publicly railed against NAFTA while a memo by a Canadian diplomat claimed Obama's campaign secretly assured them his stand "should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans"

First of all, the memo Olbermann refers to was only brought to the public's attention on March 3, 2008 by the AP's Nedra Pickler - the day before Tuesday's primaries. Therefore, it isn't possible for Clinton to have been railing against Obama based on that memo before that time. (As an aside, Macleans' Luiza Ch. Savage published a copy of that memo on Thursday.)

Back to Olbermann:

Olbermann: In our fourth story in the countdown, Obama's adviser denied speaking those words and now we learn that a much higher source from Canada revealed late last month that the NAFTA promises came from a very different source, the Clinton campaign. According to an unnamed source speaking to that nation's equivalent of the Associated Press, the Canadian Press, it was Clinton's campaign that contacted the Canadian government to reassure them about Clinton's anti-NAFTA rhetoric. The Canadian Press reporting that the source heard the chief of staff to Canada's prime minister say in a room full of television journalists "someone from Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. . . someone called us and told us not to worry."

Olbermann then introduced his guest, Howard Fineman, and asked, "am I oversimplifying this or is this story now basically the opposite of what it seemed to be a week ago?" to which Fineman responds, "Yeah, it is 180 degrees different".

Except that it's not.

Take a look at the original CTV story:

Low-level sources also suggested the Clinton campaign may have given a similar warning to Ottawa, but a Clinton spokesperson flatly denied the claim.

That was in the same story that alleged that Obama's campaign "told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously".

That's not "180 degrees different". It's exactly the same.

Fineman then said he "think(s) it was the Clinton camp that started the conversation with the Canadians about don't worry about NAFTA".

Except that no one has proven anything like that, Fineman.

Even after Olbermann pointed out that there was, as he put it, an "obscure reference" to the Clinton side in this, Fineman stated that he thought the Obama campaign didn't know about it until Thursday. Fineman then said the Obama campaign hadn't issued a "flat denial saying the story wasn't true". That's not true. The Obama campaign definitely fumbled its reaction to this story but it has issued denials since the story broke. Here's just one of them from this week:

When Mr. Obama's campaign and the Canadian government denied the allegation, a leaked document was obtained by The Associated Press written by a Canadian diplomat. It chronicled a conversation between Obama economic adviser Austan Goulsbee and diplomats at Canada's Chicago consulate.

The Obama aide has challenged the wording of the memo and says it characterized the conversation unfairly.

Meanwhile, as soon as CTV news broke the story last Wednesday, their television reporter Tom Clark said the Clinton campaign was giving the Canadian government "blanket immunity" to release the name of anyone on her staff who may have been in touch with them. That's why the allegations against her were dropped so quickly. The Canadian sources haven't released anything to back up that claim. Apparently, someone must have thought the release of the memo later that week could be used against Obama and that's why the story, as it related to him, continued to have legs.

Fineman then went on to say that he thought the Obama campaign believed it "has the upper hand in the NAFTA debate" as an excuse for not responding more forcefully. In other words, never mind that a foreign government might be creating the impression that his NAFTA promises aren't true, they'll just ignore it and hope it goes away. Does Fineman really believe that's what happened or could it be that their economic adviser Goolsbee, who wasn't straight with the media as soon as his meeting with Canadian officials was revealed, has created a PR nightmare for the campaign?

Olbermann then cited the NAFTA story as another one of the Clinton campaign's recent screw ups. The fact is that there's no "there" there - not with this story. Olbermann and Fineman should have done more research before they went on the air with this in the fashion that they did. If you watch the video, you'll see a shocked and surprised Olbermann acting is if what he's reporting is proof that the Clinton campaign reassured the Canadian government on NAFTA despite the fact that his very words belie that incredulity.

Keith Olbermann has a lot of pull with Democratic and so-called "progressive" viewers, many of whom, at places like Daily Kos, (nicknamed Daily Obama because of the overwhelming support for that candidate there) now believe that he has nailed Clinton to the wall on NAFTAgate when no such thing has happened.

Olbermann is not responsible for how his viewers react to what he says, but he owes them the truth, not innuendo backed up with an overly-emotional response along with a guest who doesn't even know what he's talking about. For Olbermann to act as if he believed the unnamed source who fingered Ian Brodie (an allegation that has yet to be investigated) is either lazy journalism or biased reporting against Clinton.

I don't support either candidate and I'm no Clinton apologist. I just expect responsible journalism - not hyperbole that can be interpreted as facts. Sometimes actions speak louder than words and I believe they have in this case.

Watch the video:



Related:

Here's the latest news from Canada on this story - Government will probe 'entire' NAFTA leak: PM.

US ambassador Wilkins has since backed off from his claims of "interference" as reported in the CBC story linked to above.

"I do think the term 'interference' is a little strong. It implies some intentional act. And I've got no way of knowing whether it was unintentional or intentional, or anything of that nature. But my statement of interference was not meant to mean intentional interference by the Canadian government, and unfortunately that's the way it got played."

How lawyerly of him.
 

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Canadian News Roundup

A few news stories to catch up on:

- Canada to seek clemency for Montrealer facing beheading. The Conservatives - for the death penalty before they were against it. (See this post as well.)

- I have a hard time believing that Harper is serious about taking Dion to court over the Cadman affair when he and his minions continue to talk about it in the house. It seems to be they would instead be saying that "this matter is before the courts" if they intended to go ahead with the suit. On the other hand, if it does go to court, he and his operatives will be forced to testify under oath under the threat of perjury charges. Stock up on popcorn for that case. Lastly, insinuating that their Conservative candidate Dona Cadman (who is the source of this bribery allegation) is a liar does them absolutely no favours in that riding. How can the Conservative party support an alleged liar as their candidate? They've hung her and their party out to dry. This is a no-win situation for this government and they know it. Lather. Spin. Repeat.

- Even though Harper has denied that his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, was responsible for leaking the Obama/NAFTA story to CTV, he still refuses to name the person responsible. If the opposition (and concerned Democrats) can make a case that the leak amounted to political interference (a criminal offence), there may be a role for the RCMP to check into it.

Harper announced today that "an internal security team has been called into the Foreign Affairs Department to investigate one of the leaks". That's not enough.

Mr. Harper didn't address the original leak, but said the government will use “every legal and every investigative technique necessary” to find the source of a second leak — of a private Canadian diplomatic memo — to a U.S. media outlet.

Harper is only interested in finding out who leaked the memo, saying that may be "illegal" but the fact that his government may have planted that CTV story to interfere with the US election is just as serious and must be investigated as well.

Beyond that, as has been extensively reported, the optics involved in showing that Canada's government officials can't be trusted not to reveal private communications between representatives of our country and the US (or any other country) has damaged our international reputation.

There's also concern being expressed that the leak may have influenced the outcome of the Ohio primaries on Tuesday, where Clinton was victorious over Obama, but there's absolutely no way to quantify how that story may have affected Ohio voters.

It should also be noted that the Obama campaign completely mismanaged this story from the moment it broke with its economic adviser Goolsbee asserting that he just said "hello" to Canadian representatives - a claim he had to change after it was revealed that the meeting he had with them actually lasted 40 minutes and resulted in a 1,300 word memo that the AP released details of this past week.

This story is far from being over.

Update:

CBC News video on the Obama/NAFTA story-



Update #2:

The Globe & Mail has a new story up that (according to one unnamed source) points the finger at Ian Brodie as being the source. The G&M story needs more analysis so I'll get into that in a separate post on Thursday.
 

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bombshell: Did Cheney's Office Leak the Khadr Video?

That's what Omar Khadr's defence lawyers want to know.

According to the Globe & Mail:

Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler said he is trying to find out how a highly secret video showing Mr. Khadr in Afghanistan was leaked to the U.S. news program 60 Minutes. The video appears to show Mr. Khadr building a bomb.

The news program aired the footage last November.

Lt.-Cmdr Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's top U.S. military lawyer, said he met with Colonel Morris Davis, the previous top prosecutor of military commissions – the body that is expected to try Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo Bay later this year – last week.

At the meeting, Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler asked the Colonel where he thought the leak may have come from. In response, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler said, Col. Davis offered the opinion that the Vice-President's office may have been involved.

Col. Davis resigned as chief prosecutor in October of last year, saying political pressure was interfering with his job.

Khadr's lawyers claim that if the leak did come from Cheney's office, it is evidence that Khadr is being held as a political prisoner.

Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said the prosecution had wanted to play the tape in court – in view of the media – late last year, but the request was denied by a judge. A few weeks later, 60 Minutes had the report.

So, who gave it to 60 Minutes and why?

Colonel Morris Davis is certainly no friend of Omar Khadr's. And in 2006, he had this to say about Khadr's lawyers as the chief prosecutor:

In a rare appearance before the international media, Air Force Colonel Morris Davis called sympathetic portrayals of Khadr by defence lawyers "nauseating" and suggested the 19-year-old has fabricated claims of torture at the hands of his American interrogators.

"We'll see evidence when we get into the courtroom of the smiling face of Omar Khadr as he builds bombs to kill Americans," Col. Davis said on the eve of a planned pre-trial hearing here for Khadr before a special U.S. military commission.

"It isn't a great leap to figure out why we are holding him accountable."

In December, 2007 however, he wrote this op-ed in the LA Times in which he outlined his reasons for his resignation - a litany of all things wrong with the so-called military tribunals process including the use of evidence obtained by torture.

It's highly doubtful that someone of his rank would throw out a flagrant allegation of the possible involvement of someone in Cheney's office without some inkling that it might be true. We'll have to wait to see if he debunks Kuebler's account of what was said at their meeting first. If not, where there's smoke, there may be fire once again in the vice president's cocoon.

Related:

60 Minutes - "Omar Khadr: The Youngest Terrorist?"
 

Monday, March 03, 2008

Alberta Election Results: A Predicted PC Majority Government

That prediction was made by Global News at 8:21 pm and not 10 minutes later, Stelmach made his victory thank you speech from his campaign headquarters. There is something fundamentally wrong with an electorate that absolutely refuses to attempt to change the political situation in this province, where we've been held hostage by these Conservatives for what seems like (and practically is) forever.

Now it's just a matter of watching for the gains and losses. I'll post the final numbers when they're up.

Local coverage:

CTV Calgary
CBC Calgary
QR 77 Radio
Global Calgary
Calgary Herald
Calgary Sun

Update:

Wow. Political scientist Keith Brownsey just had an angry fit on CFCN asking what CTV was thinking predicting a majority Conservative government when only a few votes were in from a handful of ridings. (We're talking single-digit vote counts here.) Quite the display of outrage! The anchors tried to rationalize their methodology but part of it is based on pre-election predictions. Hardly measurable in any solid way. Of course, everybody and their dog figured that the Cons would win, but Brownsey had a point ie. how about waiting until some actual real numbers are in?

Unofficial Results: (10:50 pm)

PC 73
LIB 8
NDP 2
WAP 0
Green 0
Other 0

2004 numbers by comparison:

PC 61
LIB 17
NDP 4
AAP 1
Others 0

Voter turnout was pathetic.

Urban ~43%
Rural ~39%

The leaders of the PC, Liberal and NDP parties all retained their seats. The WAP leader lost to the PC candidate by 39 votes.
 

Alberta Votes

It's election day here and I'll be posting the results (in a separate thread) as they come in this evening. I haven't made it out to vote yet. Just got home from the dentist's office (where she did a fabulous job!) and I'm waiting for the freezing to wear off. (If you need a referral to a good dentist in north Calgary, let me know by e-mail.)

Anyway, polls say there are ~45% undecided voters here and many Cons are not all that impressed by Fast Eddie Stelmach, so this could be interesting. Disgruntled Cons will likely just stay home instead of switching parties and our turnout is so low to begin with that there could be a shift in Alberta's political scene as a result. It may not be enough to take the majority from the Conservatives, but any gains made by the left-leaning parties is a net positive. There are also thousands of new Alberta voters who've moved here from other provinces to take advantage of the boom. That phenomenon didn't affect Conservative support during the last boom but that's no predictor of how things might turn out this time.

If you're an Albertan, get out there and vote. (Election info/polling locations here.)

We've lived under the thumb of these Cons for decades and it's long past time that that changed. Enough is enough!

Update:

The election results thread is here.
 

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Quote du Jour: Memo to Obama - Canadian Soldiers are Fighting and Dying in Afghanistan

Barack Obama via the Times Online:

“You can’t have a situation where the United States and Britain are called on to do the dirty work and nobody else wants to engage in actual fire-fights with the Taliban.”

Apparently, Canadian soldiers don't count for anything.

The fact that 79 of our soldiers have died in that useless war - the latest one just this weekend - means absolutely nothing to Senator Obama. They are invisible.

This, coming from a politician who didn't even attend all of the Foreign Relations committee hearings on Afghanistan.

...since joining Foreign Relations, Obama has missed three meetings on a "new strategy" in Afghanistan, a country he has never visited.

Obama was absent from a January 31 meeting this year, and also was not present for a hearing on Sept. 21, 2006. He did attend a March 8, 2007 hearing on a new Afghanistan strategy.

On Feb. 15, 2007, Obama also missed a committee hearing on U.S. ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet, he has the audacity to be lecturing other countries on what needs to be done while ignoring Canada's role?

And how does his campaign answer that? It changes the subject:

Obama spokesman Bill Burton, who acknowledged Obama has never been to Afghanistan, said Obama's missed meetings and the lack of a visit. [sic] to Afghanistan does not change the fact that Obama was right on Iraq.

How insulting.

Update:

More from Joe Wilson at HuffPo...

"Well, first of all," Obama was forced to confess in the Democratic debate in Ohio on February 26, "I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan." To date, his subcommittee has held no policy hearings at all -- none.
[...]
As a consequence of Obama's dereliction of duty on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a feckless administration has had absolutely no oversight as it careens from disaster to disaster in Afghanistan, including the central governments loss of control over 70 percent of the country and yet another bumper crop of opium to fuel the efforts of the Taliban and their terrorist allies. Of course, if you don't hold hearings, conduct oversight, make recommendations or sponsor legislation, then you have no record to explain or defend and you are free to take whatever position is convenient when attacking those who actually did address issues. Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Obama holds forth on Afghanistan, chiding the administration and our allies as though he's a profile in courage and not someone who has abandoned his post in establishing accountability.

The TO Star identifies the most recent Canadian casualty as 25 year-old Michael Yuki Hayakaze. May he rest in peace.

h/t marisacat
 

Pat Martin: Let the RCMP Investigate the Cadman Scandal First

Using the terms "treason" and "high crimes and misdemeanors", NDP MP Pat Martin told Craig Oliver on Sunday's Question Period that he will not introduce a motion to the ethics committee this week, as he had previously promised, to investigate the alleged $1 million bribe to now-deceased MP Chuck Cadman. Instead, Martin said that he thinks the RCMP should handle the file because any Conservatives involved in the affair who would testify before the committee would be protected by parliamentary privilege (ie. their testimony could not be used against them in a criminal prosecution). Martin left open the possibility of having the ethics committee hold hearings at a later date, following the results of the RCMP probe.

On Saturday, Peter Mackay denied any knowledge of the alleged bribe.

"I think it's sad, quite frankly, that this seems to have come up. It's very unfortunate.''

You bet it's "unfortunate" and that's just the least of it for your party, MacKay.

Related:

Liberals float theory on Cadman compensation