Friday, March 31, 2006

Rice on Iraq: Thousands of Tactical Errors

Via the Washington Post:

BLACKBURN, England, March 31 -- Greeted by antiwar protesters at almost every stop in a tour of a working-class region of England, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the Bush administration has probably made thousands of "tactical errors" in its handling of the Iraq war. But she defended the invasion as the right strategic decision.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "wasn't going anywhere without military intervention," Rice told a crowd of British foreign policy experts in the clubhouse of the local soccer stadium here. And, she said, "you were not going to have a different Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the center of it."
"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure," Rice said. "But when you look back in history, what will be judged is did you make the right strategic decisions."

I wonder what Rummy and his commanders will have to say about that comment since they're responsible for those thousands of errors.

What is more interesting though is the fact that Rice admits that the illegal invasion of Iraq was definitely about regime change. It was never about WMDs or spreading democracy. It was always about turfing Hussein. That's why they didn't have a sufficient follow up plan and thought they'd simply be greeted with flowers and candy during their cakewalk. And that, Ms Rice, was the wrong strategic decision that set off those thousands of tactical errors.

PM Margaret Thatcher's former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd had this reaction to her speech:

"It is quite possible to believe that" democracy is essential, Hurd said to the crowd after she spoke, but also to "believe that essentially the path must grow from the roots of its own society and that the killing of thousands of people, many of them innocent, is unacceptable whether committed by a domestic tyrant or for a good cause upon being invaded."


Mayes in the Running for Wanker of the Year

Joining the ranks of nominees in what will be a huge field this year for Canadian Conservative Wanker of the Year is MP Colin Mayes of the Okanagon-Shuswap riding. He's already on PM Stephen Harper's list of "those who should be spanked" as soon as Stephen gets back from Cancun. Mayes' offense? Read all about it:

Column by Conservative MP Colin Mayes

I was perturbed by media rhetoric regarding the relationship of Prime Minister Harper toward the media. What the Prime Minister has done is to inform the media that when he has something to say he will say it.

The media has blatantly painted a picture that our government is not open and transparent. We were elected just two months ago to run the affairs of the country for the people, not to accommodate the media.

May I remind the media that they are a vital part of democracy. Their role is to communicate to citizens and by doing so keep elected representatives accountable.

We are asking for more accountability from those that have the public trust and we are asking for ethical leadership.
Not all media, politicians and business executives are bad. Boy, would the public get accurate and true information if a few reporters were hauled away to jail!

Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens.

We know this will never happen because the media would cry `censorship', `authoritarian state', and all would be aghast, but the truth is we need ethical leadership from the media too!

Mayes has the audacity to pontificate about ethics?

It seems Harper's efforts at muzzling his members has already failed. We all knew why he imposed such tight restrictions on his Conservatives - one of them was just bound to say something wankerish that would embarrass him sooner or later. We sure didn't have to wait very long. Is that a sunburn, Stephen, or is your head ready to explode?

Via the CBC:
It's believed the MP was reacting to an editorial in the Vernon Daily Courier slamming Prime Minister Stephen Harper for ordering that all comments from federal cabinet ministers must be cleared by the Prime Minister's office.

The Vernon paper is one of several in the Okanagan which have refused to publish columns from local MPs since Harper issued that edict.

The nerve of the press! Exercising their freedom like that. What are those guys? Commies or something?

Mayes has now issued a clarification and apology. Too late! Your wankerishness has already been exposed in all its glory.

Friday Fun

- So...what do those dog treats, Beggin' Strips, really taste like? Find out here.

- Having a hard time understanding what all of those political ideologies are about? It's all quite simple, actually.

- Ordering Chinese food for supper? What does that menu really say?

- That ever annoying Microsoft Word paperclip...

- Moussaoui trial mishaps.


- From the WTF is that?? department.

- And, I'd be remiss if I didn't entertain you with some cat blogging.

Jonah Goldberg Has "a very bad vibe" About Jill Carroll

Over at the National Review, Jonah Goldberg has this to stay about Jill Carroll - the hostage who was released on Thursday after almost 3 months in captivity in Iraq:

MAYBE IT'S JUST ME [Jonah Goldberg]

But Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me. The details are still murky and it's hard to appreciate what she's been through. And maybe JPod's right about Stockholm syndrome. And maybe the media's selectively choosing what to show of her statements. But it would be nice to hear her say something remotely critical of her captors, particularly about the fact that they murdered her translator in cold blood. I'm very glad she's alive, but I'm getting a very bad vibe. More, no doubt, to come.

I can assure you, Jonah, that it's not just you. In fact, many of your friends in the right-wing blogosphere are experiencing those bad vibes too. They're just more vicious about it than you are.

You know what would really be nice to hear? That you and your right-wing playmates have backed off Carroll and have given her a chance to recoup to the point where she's able to tell her complete story without assuming that she's somehow an enemy of the United States because she hasn't said what you wanted her to. But, no, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

More from Goldberg:


I love this. The intrepid folks at Think Progress write:

"Apparently, Jonah Goldberg, who has spent the last 82 days in safety, knows what Jill Carroll should be saying better than Jill Carroll herself. And when she doesn'’t say it, it means something is very wrong with her."

Is it really so crazy to think that someone who hasn't spent the last 82 days in captivity by Islamic kidnappers might be thinking more clearly than someone who has? Is it so absurd to think that maybe someone who had their senses about them and their moral center in good order, would be less thankful about her treatment and more upset that the translator she asked to come with her was murdered while working for her? I understand that the logic of the left cannot escape the orbit of "you wouldn't understand" identity politics. But come on. Does anyone in their right mind think that Think Progress would be rallying to this woman's side if she emerged from her captivity saying George W. Bush was right and the people who kidnapped her were terrorist animals? Please. They'd be prattling on about how she lost her mind.

No, Jonah. We on the left actually know that the people who kidnapped her were terrorists while some of your buddies on the right are claiming that Jill Carroll is a terrorist.

left= reality-based
right= not so much

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Live Blogging Event: Senate Judiciary Hearing on Censure

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today about Senator Russ Feingold's (D-Wi) resolution to censure President Bush due to his actions which have allowed warrantless spying by the NSA on Americans suspected of having communications with terrorists.

The hearing, 'An Examination of the Call to Censure the President' begins at 9:30am ET and can be seen online at C-SPAN.

The following panel members are scheduled to testify:

Robert F. Turner
Associate Director
Center for National Security Law
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

Bruce Fein
Partner, Fein & Fein
Washington, D.C.

Lee Casey
Partner, Baker & Hostetler
Washington, D.C.

John Dean
White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon
Author, Worse than Watergate

John Schmidt
Partner, Mayer Brown Rowe Maw LLP
Chicago, Illinois

I will be transcribing the statements, questions and testimony. IANALS (I Am Not A Legal Secretary) nor have I even taken typing lessons, but I have hosted numerous live blogging events and you'll find that I am able to cover the gist of what happens while adding my own commentary - of course.

Please feel free to join in with your comments as well. It's always nice to know that I'm not enduring these things by myself.

Key to my transcriptions:
quotation marks= actual quotes
round brackets= my commentary
no quotation marks= paraphrasing

Related News: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would fast track lawsuits heard by the Supreme Court that challenge the legality of the NSA spying program.

UPDATE: C-SPAN TV will rerun the hearing Friday nite at 8:50pm ET. As always, C-SPAN will also provide the video of the hearing on their site so you can view it at your convenience.

Harper Hearts Bush

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gazes longingly at Bush's butt which he will repeatedly be kissing from now on:

(AFP/Getty Photos)

And what's with that outfit, Stephen? Call the fashion police - there's been a violation!

Condi Does Liverpool

The Independent's headline says it all: "Rice arrives in UK to a reception as cool as the weather". Here's what happened:

But Ms Rice's trip to north-west England reached the realms of fiasco yesterday when a mosque withdrew its invitation to her, a headteacher fielded complaints about her visit to his school and anti-war protesters geared up for hostilities.

In Liverpool, a local newspaper columnist likened the visit to one by the British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley in the 1930s, and the Philharmonic Hall scoured its C-list of possible compères for a gala evening in her honour, following refusals by the poet Roger McGough and the actress Cathy Tyson.


Live Blogging Hearings on Censure: Friday

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Friday at 9:30am ET to discuss Senator Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush and I will be live blogging the event here.

John Nichols of The Nation notes the irony of the political affiliations of two of the speakers who plan to testify in favour of the censure: John Dean and Bruce Fein, both Republicans, while so many Democrats have refused to support Feingold's efforts.

If you want to follow the hearings, tune into C-SPAN online in the morning and/or watch for my transcripts and commentary here as the hearing occurs. Bring cheesecake!

Health Minister Evans Can't Explain Third Way Reforms

Confused about the Alberta Conservative government's plans to change the health care system - the "Third Way"? You're not the only one. The minister in charge of the portfolio, Health Minister Iris Evans, is too:

"We are introducing more options for improving accessibility, improving sustainability. The bottom line is improving public health care but being innovative with other options."

Evans added it is difficult to explain exactly what that all means.

Yet, her government wants to push this legislation through before the spring session ends. How can the public or their MLAs actually make a fact-based analysis about something that even the minister responsible can't explain?

Others are similarly perplexed:

The government has spent this month explaining its plan, Thursday being the final day to do so.

But even those who met with Health Minister Iris Evans, such as Scott Hennig, the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, weren't clear about what they heard.

"I don't know if I can say for sure," he said. "Looking at the document they produced, it seems to be about opening up the dialogue more than anything."

Anyone familiar with the way Klein's government works knows that so-called public consultation sessions are nothing but PR road shows to push their agenda and that any input received ends up filed in boxes of the legislature's basement. This Third Way road trip, it appears, has created much more concern than support.

Tory MLAs will have a lot to answer for if they intend to stand behind Klein while he forces this down the throats of an unwilling public.

Take action: contact your MLA today and let them know that you demand immediate clarifications about these changes and that you intend to vehemently oppose any member of the legislature who panders to Klein's plans to recklessly expedite passage of such a poorly conceived plan. While you're at it, you can reach Iris Evans here.

Jill Carroll's Release: Right-Winger Reactions

It should come as no surprise that some members of the right-wing blogosphere just cannot accept good news without immediately condemning those involved. We witnessed the vile scorn heaped at the Christian Peacemakers Teams following the rescue of their hostages in Iraq last week - led by Michelle Malkin - and today's news about Jill Carroll's freedom after three months in captivity has already been met with skepticism, insults and just plain hatred.

Riehl World View
My first gut reaction was that she either was being threatened on condition of painting a positive picture, or this wasn't entirely what it appeared to be in the first place.

On the other hand, it could simply be Stockholm Syndrome which would lead her to be so seemingly positive.

Little Green Footballs
She says the terrorists treated her well.

Her interpreter, murdered during the kidnapping, was not available for comment.

Comment by "Earth to Satan" at Little Green Footballs
I've been watching this traitor bitch fawn all over her captors this morning. "Nice furniture, safe, nice clothes, they NEVER threatened me". I'm very glad you were so comforatble while working to undermine our efforts in Iraq. Now, wipe that muslim DNA from your face and confess to pre-planning this? Was your translators death an accident? Too bad he didn't get to enjoy the nice furniture.
It would be nice to see her sent to Gitmo with all the rest of that muslim shit.

Comment by WM at The Jawa Report
In a statement released to the Christian Science Monitor, her family thanked the Monitor and the Iraqi people for their efforts and support. No thanks to CNN for the media campaign they launched, no thanks to the American people for their prayers and support. The statement then requested that the media and public respect the privacy of the family so they could help Jill recover from her ordeal. Details of Jill's experience would be discussed at the appropriate time.

Waitaminute! Shouldn't JILL be the one to decide what is said and when? Guess her family wants to make sure she says what she should say. First she's manipulated by her captors, now it looks like she might be manipulated by her own family.

Rolling Barrage
Further, it is important to recall that many others were murdered. This is not a "kinder, gentler" Islamism, despite what Mrs. Carroll may say in the future.

Michelle Malkin just can't help but take this opportunity in her post about Carroll's release to attack the Christian Science Monitor
(Correction: a commenter noted that the post on Malkin's blog was written by ALLAHPUNDIT, not Malkin.)

Finally, on an otherwise wonderful day for the Christian Science Monitor, this will probably end up getting lost in the news shuffle.


What is it with some right-wingers' obsessive need to constantly berate the innocent? Are they simply incapable of joy or have they just been so programmed for so long to hate others who are not like them that they no longer have any control over their own reactions?

UPDATE: Speaking of vile scorn and hatred, check out this screeching and the comments at Debbie Schlussel's blog - if you can stomach it. Absolutely unbelievable.

US Supreme Court Justice Scalia Behaving Badly

When you're a member of the Supremes, you need to temper your public words and deeds. This past Sunday, Justice Antonin Scalia forgot that bit of etiquette in response to a question about his critics and now his reaction has been published in a photograph for all the world to see:

Image Hosted by

(Herald exclusive photo by Peter A. Smith)

Via The Boston Herald:

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese's weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

"The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,'" punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means "(expletive) you."

Although there's some dispute about what Scalia said, this photo lays to rest the controversy over what he actually did.

"How could your reporter leap to the conclusion (contrary to my explanation) that the gesture was obscene?" Scalia wrote.

Get real, Scalia. As a kid who used that gesture several times, I knew what it meant at age 9 and I'm not even Italian.

CBC Headline: "Edmonton reluctant to back troops"

The CBC is running a story with a rather disingenuous headline today: "Edmonton reluctant to back troops" and the so-called proof it cites is very questionable:

The death of another Edmonton-based soldier is raising questions about whether the Alberta capital is doing enough to support its troops in Afghanistan.

Pte. Robert Costall, who was killed late Tuesday in a firefight northwest of Kandahar, is the 11th soldier to die on the mission. Many of the soldiers in Afghanistan are based in Edmonton.

At the ABC Family Restaurant in north Edmonton, blocks away from the military base, military families are given a discount of 25 per cent. But manager Sylvia Jasmine said that isn't enough, given the sacrifice the soldiers are making in Afghanistan.

She would like to see greater support for the troops, and added she feels most people in Edmonton don't even realize Canadian soldiers are overseas. "There should be yellow ribbons, there should be bumper stickers, there should be signage," she said.

You don't measure support for the troops by how much of a discount they get at a restaurant, the belief of one woman that "most" Edmontonians aren't even aware of the troop involvement in the Afghan war or the lack of bumper stickers and signs.

Canadians are a quietly proud people who simply don't believe in expressing patriotism or public support for its soldiers via more American style methods such as massive displays of bumper stickers and signs. War is a serious business and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone, whether they support the Afghan mission or not, who would truly claim that they are opposed to the soldiers themselves. And, you'd probably have an even more difficult time finding such a person in Edmonton, which hosts those Canadian troops.

Why the CBC would even run such a story is beyond me but, as a news organization, they have an obligation to publish articles with much more proof than was provided in this one to justify such a blatantly false headline - especially on a day when Edmontonians and all Canadians mourn the loss of another one of its soldiers.

I have contacted the CBC to make them aware of my objections to this misleading headline.

Jill Carroll is Freed

Via the Canadian Press:

BAGHDAD -- American reporter Jill Carroll was set free Thursday, nearly three months after she was kidnapped in a bloody ambush that killed her translator. She said she had been treated well.

Carroll, 28, was dropped off near the Iraqi Islamic Party offices. She walked inside, and people there called American officials, Iraqi police said.

''I was treated well, but I don't know why I was kidnapped,'' Carroll said in a brief interview on Baghdad television.

The Christian Science Monitor has some pictures of Carroll speaking to the media following her release along with statements by their publisher and editor.

After three anxious months, her family, friends and colleagues must be extremely relieved. Kudos to all supporters everywhere who worked so hard to save her life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Democrats' New National Security Plan

Critics of the Democratic Party have been calling for clear statements of their policy agenda for quite some time now and, finally, the party has delivered.

Raw Story has a copy of the leaked document (.pdf file) prior to its official release later today.

"Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America
and Restore Our Leadership in the World" is a simple outline that addresses 5 key areas: the military, the war on terror, homeland security, Iraq and energy independence. The plan is ambitious and thorough but the criticism that always plagues the left - where the money to fund the suggestions will come from - is bound to be the first line of attack from the right, despite the fact that they are responsible for the current financial mess that the United States now finds itself in. This will be the greatest challenge the Democrats will face should they regain power after election 2006.

There is no doubt that the American public will warm to the ideas floated in the document: inspections of 100% of cargo, proper benefits for veterans, protective gear for all of the troops, eliminating Osama bin Laden, getting political interference out of the intel community and so on. And, the following statement is sure to bring many out of their seats with a "hell, ya!":

Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its
manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and
contracting abuses that have placed our troops at
greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.

But, the document would have been much more effective if a projected budget had also been attached to it. We'll have to wait until the official announcement to find out if these numbers have been worked out. In the meantime, however, the plan will give all Democrats a backdrop for proposed changes in order to present a more unified message to the public. That's a good first step.

UPDATE: Associated Press writer, Liz Sidoti, offers this perspective as if it is a fair critique of the Democrats' plan:

The platform also lacks specific details of how Democrats plan to capture bin Laden, the al-Qaida mastermind who has evaded U.S. forces in the more than four years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Ms Sidoti, as soon as the Republicans offer "specific details" about rounding up OBL, get back to me. What a stunningly foolish observation.

Bush on Card's Resignation: "That was a real shocker, wasn't it?"

Canadian journalist Tom Clark sat down for an interview with President Bush on Tuesday, snippets of which aired on CTV's national news broadcast the same evening.

Anchorman Lloyd Robertson asked Clark about his experience with Bush:

Robertson: So, your first time meeting George Bush. Tell us about the kind of personal experience that was in that room.

Clark: Well, it was a little bit extraordinary as you might imagine. It was a small room, the Map Room in the White House. George Bush was uncharacteristically late. This was is a man who loves to be punctual. We walked in and apologized saying, "I'm sorry, I'm late. Now, it's not often I have presidents apologizing to me. I said, "don't worry about it". What he wanted to talk to me about before the interview was the departure of his chief of staff and he looked at me and said, "that was a real shocker, wasn't it?"

A "real shocker"? White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that Card "approached Bush on March 8 to suggest that he resign, and the president decided to accept it on Saturday while at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland". After 20 days, it's still a "real shocker" to Bush?

Watch the video here.

The Neocons, Iran & Regime Change

The current tensions surrounding Iran's goals to acquire nuclear technology may have been averted three years ago if some neoconservatives, narrowly focused on regime change, had not blocked diplomatic attempts at talks with the country.

According to Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service:

The George W. Bush administration failed to enter into negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program in May 2003 because neoconservative zealots who advocated destabilization and regime change were able to block any serious diplomatic engagement with Tehran, according to former administration officials.

The same neoconservative veto power also prevented the administration from adopting any official policy statement on Iran, those same officials say.

Lawrence Wilkerson, then chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, says the failure to adopt a formal Iran policy in 2002-2003 was the result of obstruction by a "secret cabal" of neoconservatives in the administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran," Wilkerson wrote in an e-mail to IPS.
Opponents of the neoconservative policy line blame Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Adviser, for the failure of the administration to override the extremists in the administration. The statutory policymaker process on Iran, Wilkerson told IPS in e-mail, was "managed by a national security adviser incapable of standing up to the cabal."

And, who's currently leading the charge against Iran? Condaleezza Rice, who recently stated that Iran "may pose the greatest challenge" to the United States.

Apparently, that's exactly what she wanted Iran to be.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Myth Of Bush Listening to his Critics

Jim VandeHei's headline in Wednesday's Washington Post, "Card's Departure Seen as a Sign President Hears Words of Critics", left me scratching my head.

VandeHei justifies the headline by using the resignation of Bush's chief of staff, Andy Card, earlier today as proof. He writes:

A few weeks ago, President Bush's spokesman dismissed talk of an impending staff change as "inside Washington babble."

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's resignation yesterday suggests that Bush was listening.
Bush, his advisers say, has by no means changed his view of what he derisively calls the "chattering class." But the Card move is only the latest sign that -- with his presidency under the stress of low public approval ratings, an unpopular war and a stalled legislative agenda -- Bush is more often deferring to the expectations of Washington conventional wisdom.

More likely is that Bush is actually listening to Karl Rove, who is telling Bush that his tanking poll numbers will leave him set up as a lame duck president for the remainder of his term while being held responsible for destroying the Republican Party's chances of retaining total congressional dominance past the 2006 elections - jeopardizing his personal legacy. It is also further proof that Bush never strays from his personal agenda (and that of his neocon buddies) until his back if firmly against the wall and there is no other way out - witness the failed Harriet Miers nomination and the Dubai Ports Deal debacle.

The acceptance of Card's resignation ought not be seen as a newer, more open Bush. He's the same man he always has been: stubborn to the core and politically tone deaf. Don't let anyone fool you into believing that he actually listens to the voices of his critics, as VandeHei insists. The only voices he hears are those of the yes men closest to him in his inner circle and they are just as bound and determined as he is to never surrender to the will of so-called "Washington conventional wisdom" until the damage of their decisions has already doomed them into utter personal failure.

This isn't about doing what's best for America, As always, it's about doing what's best for Bush.

Defense Department to Release More Abu Ghraib Pictures and Videos

Rather than continuing to fight a FOIA appeal launched by the ACLU over the release of 74 pictures and 3 videos of the torture at Abu Ghraib, the Defense department has finally agreed to their release. Rumsfeld should have realized long ago that his department's opposition, based on the assertion that the viewing of more Abu Ghraib photos would incite violence, was a non-starter but his lawyers haven't ruled out using that argument in the future:

In court papers, the government noted that Web site published images depicting the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, recently posted 279 photographs and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib on its Web site.

The Defense Department will identify any of Darby's images already published on and release edited versions of any that may not have appeared on the Web site, it said in court documents. The pictures have been edited so the faces of the prisoners are not shown.

A U.S. defense official, who asked not to be named, said: "This stipulation only applies to the 74 photos and three videos that were part of the litigation. We reserve the right to repeat arguments and to appeal future orders to release other images."
"The withdrawal of the government's appeal only confirms there was no legal basis for withholding these images from the public in the first case," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said.

Scotty Screws Up Canadian Prime Minister's Name - 4 Times!

During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Scott McLellan got caught up in a time warp when it came to remembering the name of Canada's prime minister, who will soon be meeting with Bush and Mexico's President Vincente Fox in Cancun:

Q Can you talk a little bit more about Cancun and the other side of the talks, with Canada -- border, immigration? Are those high priorities?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this will be -- you're talking about Canada? I mean, the President had a -- first of all, had a good discussion with Prime Minister Martin {sic} yesterday. That was a call that Prime Minister Martin [sic] initiated, really to thank the President on behalf of the people of Canada for the efforts of our coalition forces, our American forces, part of the coalition, to rescue the hostages last week, including one Canadian.

But I think that when you're looking at this trip, first of all, it was last year in Waco when the three leaders -- Prime Minister Martin, at the time, President Fox and President Bush -- announced a new initiative, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, among the three nations.

He then did manage to correct himself but promptly screwed up again!

In terms of Canada, this will be the President's first meeting with Prime Minister Harper since he took office -- he had met with him briefly previously when he was the opposition leader. And each of these relationships -- the relationship with Mexico, the relationship with Canada -- is a unique relationship. We've had good relations with both countries. And the President looks forward to visiting with Prime Minister Martin [sic] and strengthening our relations. So he very much looks forward to this trip.

Yes, it certainly is a "unique relationship" when you don't even know the name of Canada's prime minister!

Is CNN Trying to Tell Us Something?

Have a look at the CNN transcripts page for its show Live From.


White House Chief of Staff Andy Card Resigns; Drinking on the Job?

Aired March 28, 2006 - 15:00 ET

No. It's not what you think it is. The title is actually meant to show which segments of the program are included in that particular transcript, beginning with the Andy Card story and ending with a totally different story about drinking on the job.

Still, I have to wonder aloud how long it will take for an alcoholic Andy Card rumour to hit the internets...

Dobbs on the Catholic Church's Supposed IIlegal Immigration Agenda

CNN's "Live From" was the scene of a heated debate today about illegal immigration between CNN reporter Lou Dobbs and Univision's Maria Elena Salinas.

What stood out amongst all of the bluster was Dobbs asserting that the Catholic church's "agenda" regarding illegal immigrants was simply to bring more converts into the United States, completely mischaracterizing the church's actual concerns that were dealt with by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday:

In another sharp departure from the House, the senators refused to criminalize illegal immigrants as well as clergy and charitable groups who give them aid.

Outraged by those provisions in the bill passed by the House in December, hundreds of thousands of protesters have marched in the streets of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities in recent weeks.

Hundreds of clergy members massed outside the Capitol on Monday in protest, many wearing handcuffs in protest.

Of note as well is the fact that religious protesters have represented a variety of faiths:

Dozens of Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian and other church leaders were among the million plus protesters who filled the streets from coast to coast in a Mar. 25 rally against the bill.
The proposed legislation, which has passed in the House and is up for a vote by the Senate, would make it a crime to help undocumented immigrants stay in the U.S. It would require churches and other social organisations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance.

Shame on Dobbs for misstating the facts and for refusing to address why the church is really opposed to the pending immigration reform legislation. His fearmongering has reached a new low.

And no, I am not a Catholic. I am, however, a member of the reality-based community.

(I will post the transcript once it's available).

UPDATE: Transcript

DOBBS: Well, Maria Elena knows that, Kyra. She's doing something that a lot of activists groups are doing. They're trying to confuse a lot of the issues. Let me be clear. I embrace immigrants, I am absolutely opposed to illegal immigration.

I am exposed to the exploitation of illegal labor by illegal employers. I am opposed to the -- if you want it talk about the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church has an agenda. It wants those people who happen to be Catholic in this country, and they really don't care much at all, if at all, what the cost is to taxpayers in this country, the cost to the government. And that's a shame.

Report: Britain's Complicity in Torture Flights

The human rights group Cage Prisoners has released a new report that details British government complicity in the practice of "extraordinary rendition" (torture flights) which resulted in detainee abuses and torture in other countries and at Gitmo.

The report includes details from many of the suspects (ie. kidnap victims) involved, their interrogations by British intelligence in countries including Egypt, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Gambia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan and Libya - all known for their torture practices - and the endorsement of those British intel agencies to subsequently hand them over to the US military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba without regard for their well-being.

According to former CIA agent Bob Baer, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt."

Via The Independent:

The report, Fabricating Terrorism - British Complicity in Renditions and Terror, is a scathing indictment of the British government's "systematic violations of international law" over its co-operation with the US authorities in the detention of British citizens and residents at the US-run facility in Cuba. The research, compiled by the human rights group Cage Prisoners, plots British involvement in the cases of 13 current or former Guantanamo detainees - either British citizens or residents.

All the detainees in the report consistently testified that UK authorities were aware of their plight and unwilling to intervene despite the knowledge that they were either at risk of torture or said they had been tortured.

There is no suggestion British authorities played any part in torturing the detainees but the report does argue consistent co-operation between the US and UK has led to an "international chain of abuse" that flies in the face of the British government projecting itself as a leader in the field of human rights.

British authorities admitted in February, 2006, that torture flights "have landed at commercial British airports and received help from UK air traffic control" and last year Jack Straw admitted that Britain's MI6 had interrogated at least one Gitmo detainee, Mr al-Habashi, in Pakistan prior to his "rendition".

Fabricating Terrorism: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture states plainly that rendition and extraordinary rendition are illegal and that the British Government's position purposely misinterprets the law to cloak its underhand[sic] practices. The only legal transfer recognised by international law, such as the United Nations conventions, is extradition. Rendition, however, is described as the transfer of individual(s) from one State to another without recourse to due process of either country involved, or under the regulatory influence of internationally recognised laws.[8]
[8] See Articles 5, 9, 12 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The UN against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment clearly prohibits torture flights:

Article 3 General comment on its implementation

1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

These renditions are clear violations of international law and the countries involved in the practice should be prosecuted. Whether there will be sufficient public will to do so remains to be seen.

Andrew Card Resigns

Bush's Chief of Staff, Andrew Card has resigned and is set to be replaced by Joshua Bolten.

The resignation comes at a time when rumours had been flying about a possible shake up at the WH. At his press conference last week, Bush had denied that such changes might be forthcoming:

Q Some say they are tired and even tone-deaf, even within your party who say that maybe you need some changes. Would you benefit from any changes to your staff?

THE PRESIDENT: I've got a staff of people that have, first of all, placed their country above their self-interests. These are good, hardworking, decent people. And we've dealt with a lot. We've dealt with a lot. We've dealt with war, we've dealt with recession, we've dealt with scandal, we've dealt with Katrina. I mean, they had a lot on their plate. And I appreciate their performance and their hard work and they've got my confidence.

And I understand -- Washington is a great town for advice. I get a lot of it -- sometimes in private, from my friends, and sometimes in public. There are those who like to stand up and say to the President, here's what you ought to be doing. And I understand that. This isn't the first time during these five-and-a-half years that people have felt comfortable about standing up, telling me what to do. And that's okay. I take it all in and appreciate the spirit in which it's delivered, most of the time. But -- no, look, I'm satisfied with the people I've surrounded myself with. We've been a remarkably stable administration. And I think that's good for the country.

Card said of Bush as he gave his farewell speech: "You're a good man, Mr President". That sounds familiar.

Democratic senator Chuck Schumer had this to say about Card's resignation:

"Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship."

And, changing horsemen in the midst of the apocalypse doesn't have much of an impact either.

Could it be that Card feels Fitzgerald's noose slowly tightening around his neck?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Iraq: Walter Cronkite Speaks Out

In a column appearing in the Miami Herald about the documentary "Why We Fight", Cronkite's thoughts are drawn back to the Vietnam war:

Not unlike the Vietnam quagmire on which I reported in 1968, we are today presented with the Iraq quagmire. The threat of world communism has been replaced by international terror as a pretext for another misbegotten and mismanaged war, but the falsehoods, broken promises and withering national faith are too familiar.

Now, as then, with each further escalation, we come closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. A recent poll revealed that three-fourths of U.S. troops serving in Iraq want full withdrawal, one-fourth immediately. Despite the executive's stubborn optimism, two-thirds of the public now favor withdrawal.

Yet in Congress, such voices are the minority.

In my February 1968 broadcast, I called the position of Vietnam a stalemate.

I'm not sure ''stalemate'' fits the U.S. military's loose footing in the sands of Iraq, but the need to cut losses does.
As I stated in relation to Vietnam, the only rational way out is to proceed not as victors but as an honorable people who tried to defend democracy the best they could.

That would presume that Bush may be an "honorable" man who can walk away without claiming complete victory. Reality shows us otherwise.

Bush in Iraq: The Last Throes?

The political tension between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government has increased dramatically recently and the attack by US troops on a Baghdad mosque that killed an unconfirmed number of people on Sunday has racheted up the rhetoric from both sides:

Via The Guardian:
Senior ministers from the three main Shia factions united yesterday to denounce an American raid on a Baghdad mosque complex in which at least 20 people died, opening the biggest rift between the US and Iraq's majority Shia community since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
Exactly what happened on Sunday night is in dispute, but in a political sense it no longer matters. Tension between the Americans and Shia leaders had been rising for weeks, since Washington started pushing for Mr Jabr's replacement as police minister and went on to oppose Mr Jaafari remaining as prime minister.

AP has more on the call to remove al-Jaafari:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. ambassador to Iraq has asked one of Iraq's most prominent Shiite politicians to seek the withdrawal of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's contentious nomination for a second term, two aides said Monday.
The aides to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, had asked their boss during a meeting Saturday to personally deliver the message to al-Jaafari.

Meanwhile, the US military is claiming that the mosque massacre was "faked":

BAGHDAD - U.S. commanders in Iraq on Monday accused powerful Shi‘ite groups of moving the corpses of gunmen killed in battle to encourage accusations that U.S.-led troops massacred unarmed worshippers in a mosque.

"After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There‘s been huge misinformation," Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said.

He rejected the accusations of a massacre that prompted the Shi‘ite-led government to demand U.S. forces cede control of security but declined to spell out which group he believed moved the bodies.

There is no doubt that the whole situation is now a complete political quagmire. Bush has said previously that its troops would leave Iraq when asked to by the Iraqi government and former Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same promise on May 15, 2004. It seems that time may soon be upon us.

69 people died in Iraq on Monday, 40 of whom were killed by a suicide bomber in the area that Bush had touted last week to be the model of Iraqi freedom and success: Tal Afar.

New Effort Funds Iranian Democracy Projects

Via WaPo:

The Bush administration says it is not pursuing "regime change" in Iran. But it is promoting democracy in the Islamic Republic. This is excerpted from the "Iran Democracy Program Announcement," as posted by the State Department, seeking applicants to help with the project.

"Funding Opportunity Description: The Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) announces an open competition for grant applications that support democratic governance and reform in Iran.

This represents a new MEPI funding initiative, and submissions must outline activities linked to reform and demonstrate how the proposed approach would achieve sustainable impact in Iran. . . ."

Reportedly, Vice President Dick Cheney was the first to apply for a grant for massive amounts of buckshot, writing, "Load me up. Anyone who doesn't comply will be shot in the face."

Rove, the Rat?

While many of us have long considered Karl Rove to be a porcine type figure, it appears he may actually be of the rodent variety.

Via Raw Story:

According to several Pentagon sources close to Rove and others familiar with the inquiry, Bush's senior adviser tipped off Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to information that led to the recent "discovery" of 250 pages of missing email from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to one source close to the case, Rove is providing information on deleted emails, erased hard drives and other types of obstruction by staff and other officials in the Vice President's office. Pentagon sources close to Rove confirmed this account.

Rove's lawyer denied that Rove might be attempting to save his own butt by working out a deal to avoid prosecution in Plamegate and stated that Rove has been freely cooperating with Fitz's office all along. And, there certainly is no love lost between Rove and Cheney. Now, if we could only find out quickly what was in those missing e-mails...

Perhaps Fitzmas, Pt 2 will arrive early this year.

10,000 Visits!!

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I created my humble blog just over one month ago - on February 16, 2006, and reached 10,000 visits today! Thanks to all who have supported me, especially Man Eegee who patiently answered my many questions and kept me well-fed with virtual cheesecake, and to all who've added to the discussions here. It's been great so far!

And, of course, there's cheesecake for everyone!

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

NYT: Memo Reveals Bush and Blair 's Unflinching Resolve to Invade Iraq

Monday's New York Times reveals previously unreleased details of a Jan 31, 2003 meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair which reporter Don Van Natta Jr describes after analyzing a confidential 5 page memo written at the time by David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy advisor.

The memo's contents make clear that Bush and Blair were both preparing for the illegal invasion of Iraq, whether or not Saddam was found to have WMDs and regardless of whether the UN was prepared to accept a second resolution.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

The timetable had already been chosen so that everything that happened after that point diplomatically just smoke and mirrors - as Powell's subsequent presentation to the UN turned out to be.

This, perhaps, is one of the most damning realizations to come out of that memo as it relates to what is currently going on in Iraq:

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

One surely is left wondering who, in their right mind, would not have been able to conceive of such a reality knowing the history of the country itself. Yet, there were the world's top two leaders - absolutely clueless about reality and, apparently, surrounded by learned advisors who did not dispute their simple-minded assessments.

The proposal for a second UN resolution was basically for window dressing and possible damage control:

The memo said Mr. Blair told Mr. Bush, "If anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning the oil wells, killing children or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq, a second resolution would give us international cover, especially with the Arabs."

Running Out of Time

Mr. Bush agreed that the two countries should attempt to get a second resolution, but he added that time was running out. "The U.S. would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would twist arms and even threaten," Mr. Bush was paraphrased in the memo as saying.

The document added, "But he had to say that if we ultimately failed, military action would follow anyway."

The fix was already in and Bush would use any means possible to get the UN Security Council to do his bidding. He failed.

Bush certainly looked at the planned invasion through rose-coloured glasses, so it's not surprising that his administration was so ill-prepared for the fallout. The memo notes that Condi Rice assured both leaders that the DoD was well-prepared for the aftermath but, obviously, it was severely short-sighted as "Bush said that a great deal of detailed planning had been done on supplying the Iraqi people with food and medicine" - tasks that have still not been sufficiently resolved.

This memo, along with the previous publication of the Downing Street Memos, clearly indicates that Bush and Blair were on a war footing that neither would have curtailed regardless of any facts presented to them or any international effort made to dissuade them from their goals.

What played out on the world stage was only an appearance of diplomacy while there was actually no willingness behind the scenes to abide by the UN Security Council's wishes. It was political theatre that has cost Iraq war victims and coalition troops thousands of lives. To what end? on Iran: Learn to Read!

There's a scary breaking news diary about Iran over at Ben Domenech's hangout,, about Iran going nuclear this year with this comment added by the author, Gordon Taylor:

This year, the Persian year, will be a test to our resolve. We must stand as a country, committed to protecting our friends and neighbors. My what a year this will be.

What Mr Taylor didn't tell you was that in between the quotes he pulled from the original news article, which he used to make it seem that Iran would actually have nuclear weapons this year (an estimation that no expert would even go near with a ten-foot pole), the president of Iran was talking about "peaceful nuclear technology".

This is why warmongering wingnuts are dangerous.

Saddam's Camels of Mass Destruction

Via The Telegraph:

"Saddam Hussein planned to use "camels of mass destruction" as weapons to defend Iraq, loading them with bombs and directing them towards invading forces.

The animals were part of a plan to arm and equip foreign insurgents drawn up by the dictator shortly before the American-led invasion three years ago, reveals a 37-page report, captured after the fall of Baghdad and just released by the Pentagon. It is part of a cache of thousands of documents that the United States Department of Defence says it does not have the resources to translate."

Damn good thing those camels weren't ready to go when Bush invaded Iraq since the Pentagon's retaliatory force of Fleas of Mass Destruction (FMDs) had yet to be trained.

RJR's Joe Camel could not be reached for comment, but his publicist said that the smoking camel was opposed to all extremist camels who only seek denigrate the reputations of moderate camels everywhere.

Random News Roundup

- While CNN's Blitzer was discussing the fate of Afghan Christian Adbul Rahman with Senators Pat Roberts (R) and Jack Reed (D) on Sunday's Late Edition, it was clear that no one had informed any of them (via the Associated Press) that Mr Rahman's case had already been dismissed due to "a lack of evidence". Interesting choice of words since they were going to kill him simply because he had converted to Christianity. What more evidence did they supposedly need? In reality, everybody and their dog knows that he was spared due to massive international pressure.

- Meanwhile, back in Iraq: "Writer jailed for defaming Kurdish leader in Iraq". Yes, freedom is on the march, right Bush?

- Blitzer also discussed the fact that the US military command in Doha had been infiltrated by a Russian spy who had given Saddam Hussein intel on US troop movements during the invasion of Iraq. Roberts didn't seem to be overly anxious about nailing the spy as soon as possible, simply stating that the Intelligence Committee would take a look at the evidence and move on from there. Some are taking this a bit more seriously:

The revelations, based on captured Iraqi intelligence documents, could jeopardize U.S.-Russian relations more than any single event since the end of the Cold War, analysts said. Although they cautioned that Moscow might have an explanation, the analysts said some of the details were so sensitive that they would be difficult for the government of President Vladimir V. Putin to justify.

- speaking of Putin, it seems he's a plagiarist too. This is turning into an epidemic. (For the record, I write all of my own, original stuff).

- Senator Roberts on Feingold's censure resolution: "This isn't a Bush issue. It's an issue for future presidents." Excuse me, but when the US president breaks the law, it definitely is a Bush issue. Is this the new Republican strategy? To foist everything onto the shoulders of the next president? That's exactly what Bush said about troops withdrawing from Iraq this past week: the next president will have to deal with that one. Republicans: the party of personal responsibility for everybody but themselves.

- Senator Arlen Specter (R) has announced that the Senate Judiciary Committe will hold a hearing about Feingold's censure resolution this Friday and he's already determined the outcome:

Specter said his intent was not to use the session as a political forum but to explore issues surrounding the proposed censure. He said he believed the proposal was baseless.

- This story in Sunday's New York Times is a must read: Bound, Blindfolded and Dead: The Face of Revenge in Baghdad.

In the last month, hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and executed in Baghdad. As Iraqi and American leaders struggle to avert a civil war, the bodies keep piling up. The city's homicide rate has tripled from 11 to 33 a day, military officials said. The period from March 7 to March 21 was typically brutal: at least 191 corpses, many mutilated, surfaced in garbage bins, drainage ditches, minibuses and pickup trucks.

- There are unconfirmed reports of the presence of 30 beheaded bodies north of Iraq. Iraqi troops, according to the article, have not been able to make their way into the area yet due to fears of possible insurgent violence.

Civil war? What civil war?

- Massive protests against new immigration laws to be debated this week in congress have been held all over the United States this past week. A staggering one-half million people marched peacefully in Los Angeles on Saturday.

The demonstrators oppose legislation passed by the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally. It also would impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, require churches to check the legal status of parishioners before helping them and erect fences along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border.

Ductape Fatwa offers his snarky advice on how to win the war against illegal immigration over at Man Eegee's place.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why The Ben Domenech Affair Matters

When you choose to make yourself a public figure, expect to be scrutinized. Following the announcement this past week that the Washington Post had hired a blogger from, a major right-wing blog, in order to provide "balance" to the Post's supposed liberal leanings, left-wing bloggers decided to take a look at the hire's previous opinions to find out who we would be dealing with. Once it was discovered that Ben Domenech had called Mrs Coretta Scott King a "communist", it did not take long to uncover the fact that he was also a plagiarist. What followed was a flood of such findings from his previous writings that promptly ended with Domenech's resignation on Friday.

Some of Domenech's supporters over at RedState were absolutely furious, one claiming the "the left has its blood". Domenech did not do himself any favours when he attempted to explain the plagiarism. His former alma mater's paper, Flat Hat, quickly rebutted his claim that perhaps his editors were the real culprits. And the National Review Online found even more instances of Domenech's plagiarism while author PJ O'Rourke staunchly claimed that he had never given young Ben permission to copy his work, as Domenech had stated in his so-called apology.

Now, here's why all of this matters, Ben. We, on the left, are sick and tired of being lied to by people who claim to stand on the moral high ground. As I've said before, if you stand on that ground watch the first step - it's a killer.

For years we've been lied to by your president, all of his neocon buddies, "journalists" like Judith Miller, Armstrong Williams and Robert Novak, right-wing media icons Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, people like Karl Rove whose only mission in life is to destroy those who would dare confront Republicans, politicians like Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and Duke Cunningham, and lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. The list goes on and on. And we are sick and tired of it.

This culture of lies has so sorely divided Americans and the world that it seems an almost impossible feat to ever heal the rift. And, the way you begin to do that is not by creating even more lies.

Domenech claimed he thought his new blog at the Washington Post could provide a vehicle for rational discussion of the issues that divide the left and right. He set himself up as a beacon of conservative thought. Then, after he resigned, he was quick to call his WaPo editors "fools" - going on to say this:

"I guess the thing that bothers me the most about this is that the Post didn't give this a chance to either blow over or work itself out," he said. "And I feel that if they had done that, the blog would have been a great addition to their site."

Blow over? Work itself out? Plagiarism isn't like a case of the flu that you take medication for - bouncing back after a few days of sickness. In Domenech's case, it is a pattern of behaviour that goes back for years. The Washington Post should have fired him before he had a chance to resign, thus setting himself as some sort of right-wing martyr. He's no martyr. He's a thief. Even rabid, right-wing blogger and author Michelle Malkin, for whom Domenech served as an editor at Regnery Press, recognizes that fact.

Here's the moral of this story: we lefties are "mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore"*. The right-wing has absolute control of the American congress and the media. Too many have made grave mistakes that have cost thousands of lives in an illegal war in the name of moral superiority and they continue to flaunt their power without regard for humanity or truth. In this long struggle against the right, it is no surprise that we on the left would feel a sense of catharsis when one of their own falls flat on his face due to their lack of integrity and intellectual honesty.

This civil war between the left and the right has had many casualties and it is far from being over. The right-wing has to expect that they will not come out of this unscathed and that they will not be greeted in the public square with flowers and candy in some warped, Cheneyesque fantasy of what was supposed to happen when America invaded Iraq. This expectation of the world bowing to Republican America's so-called greatness is a seriously delusional myth. We are sick and tired of being held hostage by people who refuse to acknowledge reality and who, when faced by facts, refuse to accept responsibility.

That is the disease of the right - the inability to coalesce even one iota when their world is crumbling down around them and that is what already has begun to cause their inevitable demise. They only have themselves to blame. That is the lesson young Ben and his party needs to learn.

Don't expect the left to back off any time soon. It's not going to happen. We will live to fight many more days and we will claim victory where we find it - real victory - not the type of illusion-filled, Orwellian-style victory that the right is so infamous for. And, when we claim victory, we do so with humility because we know that every battle won brings us one step closer to bringing authentic humanity and reality back to the public square. We are the true healers in all of this and we do not take on that task lightly.

* quote from the movie "Network".

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bush Circumvents the Law - Again

It seems George W is on his own personal mission to castrate congressional powers as we know them by quietly appending signing statements to bills sent to him for approval.

Via The Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Not to Bush:

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties.

Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

That Bush is drunk with power is without question. The fact the he continually seeks ways to strip away 4th amendment protections from the American people with the backing of his Republican supporters in congress is beyond the pale. Partisans who allow Bush to keep getting away with unchecked power by refusing to report to those he is accountable to don't deserve to serve. It's that simple.

Ben Domenech Resigns

As I predicted here yesterday, embattled new Republican Washington Post blogger, Ben Domenech, is toast. I lost the pool. I had predicted it would be official at 7:30 pm ET tonite.

Ben Domenech Resigns

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.

We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.

Jim Brady
Executive Editor,

Left-Wing Bloggers - 1; WaPo - 0

Thus ends March Blogging Madness.

(Hat tip to Atrios.)

Albright Offers Middle East Policy Advice to Bush

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, offers the Bush administration some simple and straightforward advice about dealing with Middle East issues in today's Los Angeles Times.

In an article titled, "Good versus evil isn't a strategy", (which millions of us have been saying since day one of this administration's tenure), Albright weaves together the politics, relationships and histories of Iran, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in a way that average readers can easily understand.

Albright rightly states, "It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction." This neoconservative view of the world, in which the US is the superhero against easily identifiable villains, has been an effective propaganda tool for the Bush administration. It was that strategy that led millions of Americans to support the illegal invasion of Iraq and that the same administration is now using as it threatens Iran on the world stage. But, things are not always as clear cut as they appear to be, as Albright reminds us:

For years, the president has acted as if Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's followers and Iran's mullahs were parts of the same problem. Yet, in the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq and Iran fought a brutal war. In the 1990s, Al Qaeda's allies murdered a group of Iranian diplomats. For years, Osama bin Laden ridiculed Hussein, who persecuted Sunni and Shiite religious leaders alike. When Al Qaeda struck the U.S. on 9/11, Iran condemned the attacks and later participated constructively in talks on Afghanistan. The top leaders in the new Iraq — chosen in elections that George W. Bush called "a magic moment in the history of liberty" — are friends of Iran. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bush may have thought he was striking a blow for good over evil, but the forces unleashed were considerably more complex.

Sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Other times they're just your enemy. The current situation in the Middle East has no place for superheroes and villains one can identify by the suits they wear. In reality, all sides actually wear suits cut from the same cloth.

Albright offers three suggestions:

1) "Iraq is increasingly a gang war that can be solved in one of two ways: by one side imposing its will or by all the legitimate players having a piece of the power. The U.S. is no longer able to control events in Iraq, but it can be useful as a referee."

The Bush administration is loath to admit that it has lost control because to do so, in their simplistic world view, would be tacit to saying that the terrorists have won. Albright is correct: events in Iraq have escalated far beyond what Bush can or should control. Diplomacy is the key.

2) "Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran -— not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism."

The situation in Iran is not the same as pre-war Iraq. The culture is different, the people are different and the political relationships are far more complex. Setting up Iran's president as the new Saddam Hussein and formulating a regime change policy on that basis may play to those who don't understand the realities in Iran, but those in the know must do a better job of explaining the real world ramifications of pursuing the same old neocon strategy of taking out the evil guy and putting in the new good guy. It just isn't that simple.

3) "Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker. Bush's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world,"

Bush's fantasy of spreading democracy that will, in turn, make everything automagically all right is far from the reality on the ground in the Middle East. Democracy is any country is a messy business and does not guarantee flowers and candy for everyone. See: War, Iraq

Albright sums it up:

In the long term, the future of the Middle East may well be determined by those in the region dedicated to the hard work of building democracy. I certainly hope so. But hope is not a policy. In the short term, we must recognize that the region will be shaped primarily by fairly ruthless power politics in which the clash between good and evil will be swamped by differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Arab and Kurd, Kurd and Turk, Hashemite and Saudi, secular and religious and, of course, Arab and Jew. This is the world, the president pledges in his National Security Strategy, that "America must continue to lead." Actually, it is the world he must begin to address - before it is too late.

Instead of attempting to "lead", the Bush administration must surrender to the fact that all it's really capable of doing is standing off to the side while offering support. Any other posture will be and has been seen as unnecessary and unwanted aggression by those affected. Unfortunately, for all involved, no one is really sure when and if Bush will understand that distinction.

Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of King Ralph

Alberta Government Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Lyle Oberg has been astroturfed from King Ralph's Court.

According to CTV News:
EDMONTON-— Alberta Tory leadership contender Lyle Oberg was suspended indefinitely from caucus and stripped of his cabinet post Thursday over remarks he made about Premier Ralph Klein.

Deputy premier Shirley McClellan made the announcement after an emergency meeting at the legislature that lasted well into the evening.

The furore arose after Oberg told his constituency association in Brooks he wouldn't ask members to support Klein during an upcoming leadership review.

He also said Klein's order that ministers wishing to succeed him leave cabinet by June 1 was "a bombshell" and could backfire.

"If I were the premier, I wouldn't want me as a backbencher," Oberg told the meeting, which was covered by the Brooks & County Chronicle newspaper. "I know where the skeletons are."

Oberg is quoted as telling the meeting that he was prepared to form an official opposition to the Klein government with the support of right-wing colleagues.

That's an interesting little tidbit. The Conservative party of Alberta is facing a possible split? That would certainly be a gift to the left.

Last week, when Klein announced that he will officially quit in October 2007, he stated that he expects cabinet ministers planning to vie for his post as Premier to resign their jobs by June 1, 2006. Earlier this week, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Ed Stelmach resigned. It's also expected that Advanced Education Minister David Hancock will quit Klein soon as well.

These resignations and Oberg's shunning will certainly affect the ability of Klein's cabinet to run smoothly as he'll be forced to do some major reshuffling once all of the resignations are in. Then again, it's not like those who already hold positions as cabinet ministers are completely competent anyway. Just witness Question Period any day of the week.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ben, We Hardly Knew Ye

It looks like the Washington Post had better stand up and pay attention to the Ben Domenech scandal now that Salon's Joe Conason is on their case in a piece titled, "A portrait of the blogger as a young plagiarist". It's all over but the firing or the standard "Ben resigned in order to spend more time with his family" excuse.

Stick a fork in Ben. He's done.

Joe writes:

March 24, 2006 | Does the Washington Post intend to maintain journalistic standards in the brave new blogosphere? Or are those standards incompatible with the Post company's ambitions for
Almost immediately the liberal blogosphere exploded with outrage over Domenech's hiring by the Post. But by Thursday bloggers had more than ideological reasons to oppose the Post's move, as Atrios, Daily Kos and other sites uncovered brazen examples of plagiarism by Domenech when he was writing for a student weekly at the College of William and Mary. Ironically, the young right-winger was apparently fond of Salon's arts criticism, at least, because he plagiarized film critic Stephanie Zacharek, and Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing about television.

Neither Domenech nor Post editors replied to requests for comment, and as of this writing, it's not clear whether those plagiarism revelations will be enough to end the right-wing blogger's MSM career. His defenders may say Domenech was only a college student when he made those mistakes. But there's at least one instance in his post-college career when the blogger was accused of another major ethical breach -- a charge that he fabricated a quote by "Meet The Press" host Tim Russert back in June 2002, in an attempt to get his hero, President Bush, out of a political jam...

Read the rest.

There's no way Domenech is going to survive this one and WaPo has a lot of explaining to do.

If he does resign, here's my guess about what his resignation letter will say:

I am not a crook.

President Jimmy Carter's Post at Daily Kos

You know your blog has hit the big time when, not only are senators and congresspeople writing diaries in your corner of cyberspace, but ex-presidents are joining in as well.

President Jimmy Carter's granddaughter, Sarah Carter, posted a diary at Daily Kos on his behalf and has informed the community that he will get back to some who leave questions for him.

My grandpa won't be responding to comments in this thread -- he's pretty new to the blogs (this is sort of a test run for him). But he'll pick out some of your questions and answer them in a later diary post.


Head on over there if you have something to say to him. He certainly has done outstanding work since he left office and deserves all praise received from those who admire his strength and fortitude. His greatness is matched by very few in the Democratic Party today and many could stand to heed his wisdom during these chaotic times.

The Ben Domenech Firestorm: Pt 2 "The End"

In what will probably go down in the history books as the shortest journalistic stint at the Washington Post ever caused by the Gannonization of Ben Domenech by the left-wing blogosphere, if you haven't caught this story yet it could be done before you finish reading this post.

Earlier this week, WaPo announced that it had hired RedState blogger and co-founder, Ben Domenech, to write for their new blog Red America. Since that time, the blogosphere has been on fire.

Many who were already familiar with Domenech's postings at RedState began revealing some of his past commentary - including one in which he called Coretta Scott King a "Communist". Over at Red America today, Domenech responded with this post:

Some people have taken issue with an old two-line comment of mine on where I referred to Coretta Scott King as a Communist on the day after her funeral. Coretta Scott King was many things, and her most significant contribution was the unflagging support of her husband in his own noble work to bring equality to all Americans.
Mrs. King participated in many different political causes, some of which involved associations with questionable people, but referring to her as a Communist was a mistake, hyperbole in the context of a larger debate about President Bush's political priorities. Mea Culpa.

First of all, you can't just say it was a "mistake" and expect people to believe you, Ben. Calling someone a communist is a "mistake"? The rest of his so-called apology shows exactly how shallow young Ben truly is.

"her most significant contribution was the unflagging support of her husband in his own noble work to bring equality to all Americans."?

That's like saying all she did was "stand by her man" and we all know how fond Republicans are of keeping women in the background. What utter BS. Her real "most significant contribution" is that she continued the work of her great husband for decades following his assassination. Young Ben has something to learn about the role of women - especially great women like Mrs King - in our society.

It Gets Worse: Ben Domenech, This Is Your Life

Left-wing bloggers via Daily Kos, Eschaton, Your Logo Here and other sites have found numerous examples of plagiarism by Domenech in his past columns. You can see the examples here, here, here and here. I'm sure there are more, but you get the drift.

Sheesh. And we thought the White House did a bad job of vetting. Apparently, that disease is contagious in DC.

Let's see you "mea culpa" your way out of those "mistakes", Ben.

Nice knowing you.

Malkin Attacks the Christian Peacemakers Teams

It didn't take long for right-wingers heads to collectively explode today following the news that the remaining Christian Peacemakers Teams hostages had found their freedom in Iraq.

The ever abrasive Michelle Malkin screams out with this bold headline: TALK ABOUT UNGRATEFUL. That is her reaction to the Christian Peacemakers Teams press release in response to the news that their colleagues were safe. Malkin has posted e-mails from some of her readers of letters they've fired off to CPT blasting the organization for not thanking the troops that rescued the hostages. Malkin writes:

Our troops teamed with British forces to rescue three left-wing, anti-war activists kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq. Those freed were Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74. The men, who were members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, were kidnapped on Nov. 26 along with their American colleague, Tom Fox, 54, whose body was found earlier this month.

Reader Jen M. took at look at the Christian Peacemaker Teams website for the group's statement on the rescue and she e-mailed me her observations:

"Not once do they thank or even reference the fact that a Special Forces team rescued these guys. In fact, the only reference to military at all is blaming them for the kidnapping in the first place. Nice!

Also on their home page is a long statement about how terribly treated terrorists are when detained by evil soldiers."

Now, let's put aside the fact that Malkin copied that AP article almost verbatim and that the AP article does not mention the involvement of Canadian troops as well. The fact that Malkin attempts to malign these hostages with the phrase "left-wing, anti-war activists" and then accuses their organization of being "ungrateful" is an absolutely pathetic attempt by her and those she quotes on her site to attack people who have just suffered through 4 months of captivity at the hands of the enemy and all of those who truly care about them.

The venom is just beyond the pale:

Many readers note that the CPT statement refers to the hostages' "release" instead of their rescue. Reader Matt L. writes to CPT:

Congratulations on the safe return of your activists. I'm sorry they did not all make it home safely. I read your press release relating the "release" of the activists; please note that they were not released, they were rescued. The term release implies that their captors let them go. You know that is not true, they were rescued by a team of American and British soldiers who risked their lives to free people whom apparently have no gratitude for their actions. It is one thing to be against war and the actions of our military (I'm not justifying that position, just acknowledging your right to it), but another to deny when they SAVED YOUR ASS!!!! Are you so insecure in your position that you think even acknowledging your people were rescued, not "released" would undermine your whole message that the military serves no useful purpose?
God bless you, and I hope you quit sending your hippies to WAR regions risking not only their lives but the lives of the soldiers who end up having to secure their "release" by RESCUING them.

THAT is how malicious right-wingers have attacked the Christian Peacemakers Teams on this, the day their colleagues have been freed as they still mourn the loss of the one who was murdered - Tom Fox. They'd rather go after semantics than join with the rest of the reality-based world in celebrating the fact that these ex-hostages will now be free to live their lives once again.

These are the same right-wingers who constantly berate the media for the supposed lack of Good News(TM) stories from Iraq. Then, when they finally get a major headline that plays to their bias, they still have to go after the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy(TM) for pissing in their Corn Flakes(TM).

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Canadian Hostages Freed in Iraq

The nightmare is over for Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden along with Briton Norman Kember, members of Christian Peacemakers Teams who were held hostage in Iraq for almost four months. Unfortunately, their colleague American Tom Fox was found murdered on March 10, 2006.

Christian Peacemakers Teams have issued a press release regarding today's news.

CBC has a timeline of events that have occurred since the kidnapping and reports that the RCMP was involved in the operation:
Straw said the military operation that led to the release of the hostages occurred after "weeks and weeks" of careful preparation and involved military and civilian personnel, including the RCMP.

"The operation included representatives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, other agencies from Canada - and they did a terrific job -– as well as the Americans and British staff and those from Iraq," said Straw.

The raid took place at 8 a.m. local time in a rural area near the town of Mishahda, about 30 kilometres north of Baghdad. It was based on information from a man who was captured Wednesday night.

"It was three hours between when we got the information and when we released the hostages," said Maj.-Gen Rick Lynch.
Canadian military personnel were involved in the operation, according to Pentagon sources, but it's not clear how many took part or what their role was. There have been reports that members of Canada's top secret commando unit, Joint Task Force 2, have been working in Iraq.

The Christian Science Monitor is tracking the news surrounding another hostage, journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped January 7, 2006. Today's hostage rescue may bring hope to those who are desperately waiting for her return as well.

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, will hold a press conference today at 2pm ET.