Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Fun

'Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?'
- George W Bush

- Now, in case you're worried that your kids will slip into some form of laissez-faire Bohemian liberalism this summer since school is out, you will not be forced to ask 'Is our children learning' if you send them to this site. (That cannon thing might poke their eyes out - or yours. Not recommended for young children or the current POTUS.)

- Here's a handy trick to turn your kids into little Schwarzenggers.

- Courtesy of the Ponoka, Alberta police blotter this week (best police blotter ever!):

This week a woman discovered that if you mix certain non prescription pharmaceuticals with a single malt scotch you can talk to the devil. The upside is that you can do a Flip Wilson and blame your resulting bad acts on “the ol’ Prince of Darkness”. The downside is that you may find yourself in distasteful predicaments while trying to prove your “state of possession”. For instance, when she was deposited in one of our drunk tanks she allegedly found herself being directed, by the Tempter, to drown herself in the nearest available body of water ... which in this case is the toilet bowl.
read on...

- Boo was late for a date, apparently. And ants have pedometers. Who knew? And, frankly, who even thought about it enough to investigate it? I need a job like that (minus the evil leg amputation part).

- I wonder if Barbara Walters ever throws stuff at the teevee.

- It's a long weekend. According to the teevee, you have three activity choices:
1) stay home (and maybe burn a flag or two or, at least, a steak that's in the shape of a flag)
2) go camping, only to endure the absolutely ridiculous traffic to then find you can't get a damn campsite because you were too stupid to reserve a spot.
3) buy furniture (See: a veritable plethora of annoying commercials telling you that you don't have to pay anything until 2025) Who doesn't love spending holidays in furniture stores with annoying salespeople?

- There's a University of the Incarnate Word? Who knew. Not only that, I guess they think the New York Times word is definitely not incarnate.

Breaking: Alarm Goes Off at TSX

Just a few minutes ago, while the CBC's business reporter was being interviewed from the Toronto Stock Exchange, an alarm suddenly went off in the background. She kept right on talking, giving her report about the tax changes coming into effect on July 1, when she finally told the CBC host that she had to evacuate the building. they say...

Update: CBC just announced that it was false alarm.


The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are at war over the publishing of the terrorist financing tracking story that both papers (along with the LA Times) published last week. Editor & Publisher has the story, but what struck me wasn't the details of the clash between the two major newspapers, it was this excerpt that E&P published from the WSJ's editorial:

Some argue that the Journal should have still declined to run the antiterror story. However, at no point did Treasury officials tell us not to publish the information. And while Journal editors knew the Times was about to publish the story, Treasury officials did not tell our editors they had urged the Times not to publish. What Journal editors did know is that they had senior government officials providing news they didn't mind seeing in print. If this was a "leak," it was entirely authorized...

In other words, the WSJ is saying that this story was Bush-approved propaganda and they went right along with printing it. In light of the reactions, does that make any sense?

Furthermore, if Bushco is serious about going after the leakers, their search has now been narrowed to Treasury Department officials.

This, of course, begs a few questions:

1) If this was an 'authorized' leak, why are Bush and the Republicans treating the NYT like traitors? They certainly haven't gone after the WSJ in the same manner.

2) Did the administration (Rove) set up the NYT as an act of revenge for its exposure of the illegal wiretapping program last year?

3) Why would the NYT's editor lie about what he said was government pressure not to print the story?

4) Is the WSJ to be trusted, considering it is the conservative/Republican paper of record? Or is the WSJ also being used by Bushco to attack the NYT?

Just look at this quote from the WSJ's editorial:

The problem with the Times is that millions of Americans no longer believe that its editors would make those calculations in anything close to good faith. We certainly don't. On issue after issue, it has become clear that the Times believes the U.S. is not really at war, and in any case the Bush Administration lacks the legitimacy to wage it.

Now, I could see that kind of tripe emanating from some small town Bush-supporting paper or any Republican party shill, but this is the Wall Street Journal talking. That's an extremely vicious condemnation of the old gray lady and it certainly is not deserved. Perhaps the WSJ's editors have forgotten that the NYT's pieces by Judith Miller about Iraq's faux WMDs were part of a very public campaign to take the US into war with Iraq.

And then the WSJ makes it personal. (I'm seriously starting to believe that Rove actually did write this editorial):

Perhaps Mr. Keller has been listening to his boss, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who in a recent commencement address apologized to the graduates because his generation "had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.

"Our children, we vowed, would never know that. So, well, sorry. It wasn't supposed to be this way," the publisher continued. "You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights," and so on.

Forgive us if we conclude that a newspaper led by someone who speaks this way to college seniors has as a major goal not winning the war on terror but obstructing it.

That is pure wingnut logic. There's no doubt about it. Sulzberger speaks of the awful realities of war and the WSJ completely misinterprets empathy and sorrow for scorn. Then again, everybody knows that 'compassionate conservatism' is one of the biggest oxymorons out there.

Let the newspaper wars continue. Round 1 definitely goes to the New York Times.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Defence Minister O'Connor: "We're not at war"

When asked by CBC's Peter Mansbridge on Thursday whether Canada is at war with Afghanistan, Defence Minister O'Connor replied as he has before: "No we're not at war. We are in an armed conflict with the Taliban."

On May 31, 2006, O'Connor also said:

"To me, war would be — well, I can start going into what war would be, I just don't consider this to be war."

Well then what the hell was this Afghanistan war resolution all about?

Breaking: New Osama bin Laden Tape Surfaces

According to CNN's Anderson Cooper, a new 19 minute tape by OBL has appeared on a web site in which OBL apparently mourns the death of Zarqawi. Cooper added that CNN is currently working on the specifics. they say...

The SITE Institute offers a partial translation according to its sources.

Sidebar: An FBI spokesman reportedly said earlier this month that they have 'no hard evidence connecting Osama bin Laden to 9/11'.

UN Council Bans Forced Disappearances

Via Reuters:

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday unanimously approved an international treaty that would ban states from abducting perceived enemies and hiding them in secret prisons or killing them.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance would require states to keep registers of detainees and tell their families the truth about their disappearance, as well as paying compensation.

It still has to be adopted in the U.N. General Assembly, and then individual governments would need to approve it.

Rights experts say the United States, in the spotlight over allegations it has been transferring terrorism suspects to secret jails in other countries, is not expected to ratify the pact.
The United States, which has only observer status at the forum, wanted the treaty to provide "a defense of obedience to superior orders" in a criminal prosecution.

That's the 'I was only following orders' defense. Snubbing this treaty is just an extension of Bush's 2002 refusal to sign on to the International Criminal Court. He simply refuses to be held to account on the world stage.

The practice of extraordinary rendtion reportedly began in the mid-1990s under Bill Clinton, however:

Initially, the procedure was applied primarily to individuals for whom there were outstanding arrest warrants. After the 9/11 attacks the program appears to have been expanded and some believe it now encompasses individuals for whom there are but vague suspicions. Critics charge that the program has "spun out of control", and has been used against large numbers of individuals. In a lengthy investigative report published by The New Yorker in February 2005, journalist Jane Mayer cited Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, as estimating that 150 people have been rendered since 2001.

The procedure of keeping ghost detainees, who are prisoners kept hidden from international watchdog groups like the Red Cross, has also drastically increased under the Bush administration according to human rights groups.

There simply is no way to know how many people have been 'disappeared' by the US government and others who have enabled such practices. The fact that the US would refuse to ratify this new treaty will once again place the country in the company of those who practice the most loathesome human rights abuses worldwide.

Will Congress Mute the Press?

The House is set to discuss a resolution today that serves to 1) provide legal justifications for the administration's terrorist financing investigation methods 2) rebuke the New York Times and other newspapers for reporting the bank records (SWIFT) story and 2) legally mute the media from publishing any classified information.

Via the NYT:

The resolution says Congress "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs." Democrats are proposing a variant that expresses support for the treasury program but omits the language about the news media.

It seems to me (IANAL) that such a move would violate the first amendment which guarantees freedom of the press and that passage of such a bill would open up the strong possibility of a legal challenge. Surely no media enterprise, not even FOX, could support such a serious gag law.

(see update below which asserts that the resolution is not legally binding)

The wording of the actual bill extensively lays out legal justifications for the administration's use of its methods for tracking terrorist financing. One has to wonder why the House would even consider such a bill as being necessary if it so firmly believes in the legality of the program. It's just another rubber stamp effort by the congress to assert the authority of the president.

The fact that there are anti-espionage laws on the books as well would also seem to preclude the need for such a bill. Thus, the main motive for this resolution is to attack the press. Have congresspeople considered that the Bush administration itself leaks favourable classified information to the press whenever it wants to pump up its war propaganda efforts? Would the media also be blocked from printing those stories? Apparently so.

This is nothing but an attempt by Republicans to bring the hammer down on a media machine that has finally found its spine and has begun doing its job - informing the public of all aspects of the administration's conduct.

To blight that voice now would be seen as a huge threat to freedom and civil liberties to anyone who actually cares about those quaint aspects of American life anymore and if the American people collectively have any self-respect left, they ought to oppose efforts like this at every turn.

You can watch the debate online this afternoon on C-SPAN's site.

UPDATE: According to CNN, this resolution will not have any legal force. In other words, it is a purely political move. Haven't these guys got anything better to do with their time? Wankers.

UPDATE: The resolution has passed.

Kyl & Graham: Civilian Court Trials 'Inappropriate' For Terrorists

Via FOX:
In a joint statement, Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham, the latter being an Air Force Reserve attorney, called it inappropriate to try terrorists in civilian courts and said they would look for legislative solutions to try detainees in military commissions.

Many 'terrorists' have been tried in civilian courts, including these well known individuals:

Zacarias Moussaoui (the so-called "20th 9/11 hijacker")
Richard Reid (the shoe bomber)
Ahmed Ressam (the millenium bomber)
Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber)
Terry Nichols (McVeigh's co-conspirator)
John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban)

The list goes on.

Do Kyl and Graham think those trials were 'inappropriate'?

US Supreme Court Rules Against Military Tribunals

In what many consider to be a surprise decision, the US Supreme Court decided against the Bush administration in the case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld. By a vote of 5-3, the court ruled that the tribunals at Gitmo are illegal.

The case raised core constitutional principles of separation of powers as well as fundamental issues of individual rights. Specifically, the questions concerned:

The power of Congress and the executive to strip the federal courts and the Supreme Court of jurisdiction.

The authority of the executive to lock up individuals under claims of wartime power, without benefit of traditional protections such as a jury trial, the right to cross-examine one's accusers and the right to judicial appeal.

The applicability of international treaties -- specifically the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war -- to the government's treatment of those it deems "enemy combatants."

During a press conference today Bush said that, although he hasn't totally reviewed the decision, he believes that congress may be able to find a way to hold the military tribunals ie. suggesting that congress could pass a law that would overrride the court's decision. (This would be yet another example of congress covering Bush's butt for his illegal actions).

Update: Amnesty International has released its statement in response to this decision.

Amnesty International to the Bush Administration:
Game Over Due to Supreme Court Ruling on Military Commissions

"Today's ruling is a triumph for the rule of law and sends a clear message to President Bush that he cannot act unilaterally to create a system of law from thin air. With this decision, it's game over -- the Bush administration has been shut out. It's time to return to U.S. founding principles of due process and fundamental rights.

The Court's decision reflects many of the criticisms that Amnesty International, based on firsthand observations, has made of the commissions. A return to due process and fair trials standards is not just a victory for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, but a victory for justice and human rights. The Court has clearly stated that the president cannot invoke wartime powers to circumvent U.S. laws and international treaties that the United States has ratified."

Update #2: Think Progress has more details about the votes and opinions of the Supreme Court's justices. The usual conservative suspects - Scalia, Thomas and Alito - voted to back the administration.

Update #3: Lawyer Glenn Greenwald offers his perspective and notes that the court's decision has broader implications on the expansion of the president's authority, which has definitely gone beyond existing legal precedents.

Tory Money Scandal Alert!

Well, stop the presses! What is this I see? Conservatives allegedly collected illegal donations during the last election run?

No way.

They're the squeaky clean 'accountability' party. Have they really jumped the corruption shark?

OTTAWA (CP) - The Conservative party may have illegally accepted millions in unreported donations last year because it didn't understand political financing laws.


That's the startling conclusion drawn from testimony given to a Senate committee by the Harper administration's point man on cleaning up government. Treasury Board President John Baird told the committee late Tuesday that his party did not consider fees paid to attend the party's March 2005 policy convention to be political contributions.

However, Elections Canada spokeswoman Valerie Hache says the law stipulates that convention fees do constitute a donation "to the extent that the person paying the fee is not receiving a good or service that has any commercial value beyond its political value."

A real live Tory scandal. And here I thought we were moving into the political slow season. Looks like the pace just picked up again.

You know what they say in politics: if something has even the appearance of being scandalous, it is.

What shall we call this one? DonationGate? We'reJustSoConfusedGate? Don'tBlameUsWe'reToriesGate? Or how about ThereGoesOurMajorityGate?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Gandhi-like Protest

Via Michael Moore's web site:

Dear Friends,

GSFP and Code Pink are sponsoring a hunger strike for peace which begins July 04, called Troops Home Fast Some of us like Dick Gregory and Diane Wilson will be fasting until the troops come home from Iraq, and some, like me, will be fasting for a specified time. My fast will begin on 7/04 and end on the last day of Camp Casey: 09/02.

We are announcing the fast from Washington, DC on 07/04 and having our last supper on 07/03 in Lafayette Park.

If you can join us in DC on the 3rd and 4th, or fast in solidarity with us on that day, or any other time, please let me know.

Also, Jodie Evans is throwing me a birthday party at Bus Boys and poets on the 3rd of July from 9pm to 11pm....our last food will be before midnight that day....please come to my party, if you can!!!

Love and peace soon,
Cindy (Sheehan)

Visit Troops Home Fast for more information.

I'm unable to fast because of my health problems, but I'd ask my Canadian friends to show their solidarity by fasting (even for a short time) if you're able to and to let Code Pink know that you've supported their fasting.

Gandhi would be proud.

"It's Hard out There for a Pimp"

So, let's see if I have this right: same sex marriage is such a threat to the very fabric of American society that a constitutional amendment is needed to ban it.

On the other hand, if you're a pimp who abuses your prostitutes by taking their money and treating them like absolute shit, that's okay with the Bush administration as long as you pay your taxes?

What's wrong with this picture?

Kurtz: Many Liberal Blogs Ignored NYT Controversy

In his Wednesday column, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post claims that liberal blogs have basically ignored the current firestorm over the NYT publishing information about the Bush administration's use of the SWIFT system to track bank transactions.

Kurtz writes:

Most Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, lay low. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sidestepped a question yesterday about whether the Times should be prosecuted. Similarly, while the conservative blogosphere was on fire over the Times, many liberal Web sites ignored the controversy.


A quick walk through the liberal blogosphere shows several posts addressing this issue as memeorandum and Technorati clearly indicate.

Kurtz offers no support for his assertion. One is left wondering what he relied on to make such a judgment.

Update: Here's a copy of the e-mail I sent to Kurtz and the Washington Post's ombudsman:

Mr Kurtz,

You wrote this in your column on Wednesday:

"Similarly, while the conservative blogosphere was on fire over the Times, many liberal Web sites ignored the controversy."

How can you possibly think that liberal blogs would ignore this story considering the huge implications it has on the future of the freedom of the press?

Your conclusion is just plain wrong. If you searched memeorandum or Technorati, you'd know that. In fact, Washington Post's site lists bloggers who are covering its stories. Did you even check those listings before you came up with this false assertion?

It seems to me that if you are going to make such a claim, you ought to have the data to back it.


Update: I received an automated e-mail from Deborah Howell's office (the Washington Post's ombudsman) to inform me that she is on vacation until July 5. I'll have to wait until after that date to see if she has a response to my inquiry. In the meantime, Kurtz made no mention of his faux pas in his column today, 'Bloggers on the Payroll', although he actually pulls quotes from liberal blogs about the NYT controversy. Was that his way of saying mea culpa?

Those Scary Gay People

According to kate at small dead animals, 'Michael Ignatieff is So Gay'.

Hmm..I don't recall seeing the headline 'Joe Clark is So Gay' when he was Grand Marshall of Calgary's 2001 Pride Parade. (Note to anti-gays: clicking on that link will not turn you gay, contrary to popular bigoted opinion.)

By the way, if same sex marriage has destroyed your marriage, drop me a line and I'll post your story.

Can Congress Sue Bush?

Now there's an idea.

And, it's actually being given serious consideration by a Republican senator, Arlen Specter (R-PA), who chairs the senate judiciary committee.

Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, made his comments after a Judiciary Committee hearing on signing statements, which are official documents that Bush has used to challenge the constitutionality of more than 750 laws when signing legislation .

Bush has issued more signing statements than all previous presidents combined. But he has never vetoed a bill, depriving Congress of any chance to override his judgment. If Congress had the power to sue Bush, Specter said, the Supreme Court could determine whether the president's objections are valid under the Constitution.

``There is a sense that the president has taken the signing statements far beyond the customary purviews," Specter said at the hearing. He added that ``there's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes, excluding the provisions he doesn't like. . . . The president has the option under the Constitution to veto or not."

So, if congress passes a law declaring it can sue Bush, will Bush then create another signing statement saying it can't?

Pass the popcorn.

Maliki: No Amnesty for Iraqis Who've Killed Americans

Well, I'm glad he cleared that up. When PM Maliki released his reconciliation plan on Sunday, many were left wondering if he would go ahead with amnesty for those who killed US soldiers.

"There will be no amnesty for those who have killed Americans," Mr. Maliki said during the briefing, which lasted almost an hour and was held in a conference room in his office. "I think this would bring a very negative reaction among Iraqis who are related to those who were killed and among Americans who are related to these people."

A loud public debate about the amnesty has followed Mr. Maliki's announcement on Sunday, as Iraqi political leaders Sunni, Shiite and Kurd try to understand whom it covers. The wording was left purposely vague, said one Iraqi government official, in order to satisfy all Iraq's fractious groups.

"Everybody needs to be ambiguous here," the official said.

Sometimes ambiguity is extremely unhelpful.

One is left to wonder now if Iraqis convicted of killing coalition soldiers from countries other than the US will be granted amnesty.

Gonzales, the Dummy

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post writes:

It is the sheerest luck, I know, that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looks (to me) a bit like Jerry Mahoney, because he fulfills the same function for the Bush administration that the dummy did for the ventriloquist Paul Winchell. At risk to his reputation and the mocking he must get when he comes home at night, Gonzales will call virtually anyone an al-Qaeda-type terrorist. He did that last week in announcing the arrest of seven inferred (it's the strongest word I can use) terrorists. I thought I saw Dick Cheney moving his lips.

Now that the Bush administration has declared its War on the Press (WOP), let's hope they never surrender again.

Sidebar: Cohen can be an absolute wanker at times, but he got his current column right, at least.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gitmo Doctor Blames Red Cross for Suicides

Via The Independent, a doctor who works at Gitmo and spoke anonymously to reporters at the newspaper blames Red Cross protocols for not allowing the prompt discovery of the recent suicide victims at the facility:

He said medical personnel examined the detainees some 10 minutes after they were found and "did everything we could" to revive them. He suggested that American guards might have noticed the detainees sooner had the prison not been following International Red Cross recommendations, including how dark their cells should be at night. "If we did everything the Red Cross wanted, there would be very little that we could do to keep detainees alive short of putting them in a strait-jacket," he said.

"Every time we give them something to make their lives easier, they use it against us by trying to harm themselves." Since the deaths, the military is guarding against future suicides by only giving out bed sheets and blankets during sleeping hours and monitoring detainees in their cells every three minutes.

Despite the obvious need to change the guards' monitoring techniques, the same doctor also said that he agreed with Admiral Harry Harris's assertion that the suicides were politically motivated - an act of 'asymmetrical warfare' - because the doctor says he has determined that the detainees were not depressed prior to the incidents.

The doctor suggested the examinations, performed one to two weeks before the suicides on 10 June, supported assertions by military officials that the prisoners killed themselves as a political act - not because they were despondent about their prolonged detention.

A lot can change in 'one to two weeks', especially in an environment like Gitmo where detainees are held indefinitely and have no idea what the future holds for them.

The doctor said there have been no suicide attempts since the deaths on 10 June, but there have been several incidents of detainees harming themselves, such as cutting themselves with paint chips or beating their heads against walls.

One can only conclude, according to the doctor's logic, that those detainees were also just making political statements.

The Flag Amendment is Toast

The Bush administration's flag protection amendment has failed by one vote.

According to the SF Gate:

The proposed amendment, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, read: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

It represented Congress' response to Supreme Court rulings in 1989 and 1990 that burning and other desecrations of the flag are protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

That pesky First Amendment. Oh how Republicans hate it.

Tell Scott Brison to Get Stuffed

MP and Liberal party leadership candidate Scott Brison needs to answer one question: is he really a Liberal or is he still a Conservative?

Brison gives opponents flak for not backing presence in Afghanistan: Says Liberals initiated mission and should stand behind Tory resolution to extend it

While calling the vote an irresponsible ploy to divide the House, Mr. Brison told The Globe and Mail's editorial board yesterday that his party colleagues should have risen above the politicking to address a higher issue.

"Two wrongs did not make a right. Those Liberal politicians who voted against [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper simply because he did something wrong [by calling the vote] are just as culpable," Mr. Brison said.

"I don't think Liberals ought to be seeking to differentiate themselves on a mission that we actually started. We initiated the Afghan mission. We did it for the right reasons. Those reasons have not changed.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What the Conservatives did was absolutely despicable. They forced a vote on a motion that contained absolutely no specifics on the future of NATO's role in Afghanistan and then expected everybody to fall in line with their 'stay the course' bullshit.

I'd write a long rant about this whole affair - but since I already have, I'll just tell Brison (and Ignatieff) to stick to kissing Harper's butt. Just don't expect to drag the rest of the Liberal party down with you into those ugly nether regions.

Brison and Ignatieff: Canada's versions of Joe Lieberman.

Did Gomery Witnesses Really Have Memory Lapses?

The Ottawa Citizen reports that Justice Gomery has serious doubts about some witnesses who testified during his investigation of the sponsorship scandal - equating their loss of memory with lying.

The headline screams: 'Gomery: Witnesses lied to me'
Judge says he wasn't taken in by convenient lapses of memory

Justice John Gomery says witnesses who forgot key information while testifying during hearings on the sponsorship scandal had "deliberate memory blanks" that are tantamount to lying under oath.

In an exclusive interview with CPAC that airs tonight, Judge Gomery says everyone has memory lapses, especially about unimportant events, but it is another matter when the "forgotten" event is one that has "marked" the person.

"If it is a determining factor in someone's career ... and the witness has absolutely no recollections of this event, we can say 'it is not a memory blank, it is a deliberate memory blank.' It isn't a memory blank. It is a lie to say I do not remember," Judge Gomery says.
During the inquiry, Jacques Corriveau, a close associate of former prime minister Jean Chretien, said he had a medical condition that affected his memory, and he continually responded "I don't remember," much to the frustration of the inquiry lawyers.

Stepping back from the partisanship of the matter and noting that Gomery has no actual proof that such memory lapses were, in fact, equivalent to 'lying under oath', without knowing what Corriveau's medical condition is one has to ask if Gomery's personal impressions are true.

I have two medical conditions that seriously affect my memory and there are major events in my life that I struggle to remember the details of. You have no idea how difficult it is for me to write simple posts at times which I have to fact check because I'm unable to recall the facts of a situation.

So, can medical conditions affect memory? Absolutely.

Is it fair then for Justice Gomery to assert that witnesses may have lied under oath? Not without supporting evidence, as far as I'm concerned. That's quite a reckless comment for a justice to make.

You can watch an interview with Gomery about these matters this evening:

The 40-minute interview is scheduled to air on CPAC on both its French and English channels between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. tonight.

Why the WSJ Got a Free Pass on the Bank Records Story

In a revealing interview with Editor & Publisher in which White House press secretary singles out the New York Times for criticism from the administration for running with the bank records story, Snow tells E&P that he doesn't hold the Wall Street Journal to account for printing the story as well.

When asked why the administration had not asked the Wall Street Journal to hold off publication as it had with the other two papers, Snow said he did not know, referring such inquiries to Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tony Fratto. "I don't think they did because the Journal was so late to the story," Snow said. "But I don't know."

Fratto could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Although both Executive Editor Bill Keller of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet have written explanations to readers about why they published the stories, the Journal's editors have remained silent on the subject.

Journal managing editor Paul Steiger has not been reachable for comment since Monday, but Journal spokesman Robert Christie said he knew of no effort by the administration to halt his paper's story prior to publication.

The paper's Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot declined to comment when asked if he planned to editorialize on the Journal's decision to publish the story, saying in an e-mail message through Christie that he does not discuss pending editorial subjects. Whatever he produces will be interesting, given the paper's conservative and pro-Bush editorial line.

Why is the WSJ being given a free pass?

In the words of Rep Pete King (R-NY), the NYT deserves the harshest criticism because of its 'left-wing elitist agenda'.

Make no mistake. This isn't about national security. This is purely politcial.

LA Times: "We are not out to get the president"

It's truly a sad state of affairs in a democratic country when a major newspaper has to make an assertion like that, but that's exactly what the editor of the LA Times, Dean Baquet, wrote in an editorial today in response to reader and government pressure against its reporting of the bank records story last week.

In his piece, 'Why We Ran the Bank Story", Baquet offers the public his reasoning for publishing the facts about the Bush administration's tracking of bank records using the SWIFT program - a measure that is now being investigated by Belgian government.

Baquet writes:
We sometimes withhold information when we believe that reporting it would threaten a life. In this case, we believed, based on our talks with many people in the government and on our own reporting, that the information on the Treasury Department's program did not pose that threat. Nor did the government give us any strong evidence that the information would thwart true terrorism inquiries. In fact, a close read of the article shows that some in the government believe that the program is ineffective in fighting terrorism.

In the end, we felt that the legitimate public interest in this program outweighed the potential cost to counterterrorism efforts.

The aspect of 'legitimate public interest' has been outweighed in the US by an administration that values secrecy above all and too many people are willing to forego their civil rights in order to comply with a government that only has its own interests in mind.

It's astonishing that, in the year 2006, a newspaper must explain to the public the role of a free press:

...we also have an obligation to cover the government, with its tremendous power, and to offer information about its activities so citizens can make their own decisions. That's the role of the press in our democracy.

The founders of the nation actually gave us that role, and instructed us to follow it, no matter the cost or how much we are criticized. Thomas Jefferson said, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." That's the edict we followed.

That edict has been crushed by constant government efforts to keep a country of almost 300 million people living in a constant state of fear.

If the freedom of the press is lost, along with a congress that has already surrendered its obligation to act as a check on the president, it is the fault of the people who would allow such an atmosphere to take hold in what ought to be an open democracy.

And, for a people so in love with the wisdom of their forefathers, the words of Ben Franklin must be heeded:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Random News & Views Roundup

- A federal judge in Missouri has ordered a halt to executions in the state over concerns that the method used may be cruel and unusual. Also on Monday, the US Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in Kansas.

- Kudos to Warren Buffet. He could have bought a small country. Instead he donated his billions to charity. That is the measure of a man who chooses not to worship money. (By the way, Nora Ephron, whatever happened to just saying 'thank you'?)

- Bushco needs to stop making excuses for not shutting down Gitmo.

- Ralph Nader on Binary Politics.

- the situation in Israel is heating up rapidly since some Hamas members allegedly kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Condi Rice threw in her two cents worth and urged diplomacy. Funny, she wasn't for diplomacy before the Iraq war...

- BBC News launched a new blog on Monday called The Editors. Welcome to the blogosphere.

Limbaugh Detained at Airport - with Viagra


According to WaPo, Rush Limbaugh was held for 3 hours on Monday at the Palm Beach airport because security officers found a prescription bottle in his possession containing Viagra that didn't have his name on it.

A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was "labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.

That may not be a good enough explanation (and is a lame excuse as far as I'm concerned).

Investigators confiscated the drugs, which treats erectile dysfunction, and Limbaugh was released without being charged.

The sheriff's office plans to file a report with the state attorney's office. Miller said it could be a second-degree misdemeanor violation.

It appears this may not be a violation of his plea agreement.

Late nite comics were heard giving a collective "thank you, God" when the story hit the wires.

TalkLeft has an update on the possible consequences for Limbaugh and his doctors.

June 26: International Day to Support the Victims of Torture

Today is the UN's International Day to Support the Victims of Torture and the month of June is designated as Torture Awareness Month.

The date was selected in 1998 and was announced at the time by Kofi Annan:

June 26 is not a date chosen at random. It was the day, 11 years ago, that the Convention against Torture came into force. It was also the day, 53 years ago, that the United Nations Charter was signed -- the first international instrument to embody obligations for Member States to promote and encourage respect for human rights.

Following a call for all countries to end torture, the European Union also took a subtle swipe at the US: 'The EU also said it condemned any attempt by states or public officials to legalise or acquiesce in such treatment "under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security."

At the time of this writing, I was unable to find anything on the White House web site even noting the significance of this day.

You can read the text of the UN Convention Against Torture here.

Amnesty International has more.

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Light a candle for a victim of torture today.

Belgium Probing Bush's Use of SWIFT Records

Via Reuters, the Belgian government has decided to open an investigation into the propriety of the use of the SWIFT program to mine bank records in Bush's war on terrorism.

Belgian Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx learned of the searches from the media and asked Belgium's national security services and counter-fraud office to produce reports into the matter before the end of the week, a ministry spokeswoman said.

"She wants to know if these actions taken by the U.S. and SWIFT are okay under Belgian law," Annaik De Voghel said, adding security officials would discuss the issue later this week.
European Parliament lawmakers demanded more information and said the reports, in the wake of allegations of secret U.S. "renditions" of terrorism suspects in Europe, again suggested Washington was going too far in its security policies.

"This could be another case of citizens' privacy being invaded. We are already familiar with the illegal role of the CIA in so-called rendition flights," said Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice-president of the parliament's Socialist group.

"It appears that President (George W.) Bush has crossed the red line, abusing his executive powers as president," said Jean-Marie Cavada, a Liberal member of the parliament who is chairman of the civil liberties committee.

Earlier on Monday, Bush harshly criticized the press for revealing details of his government's use of the SWIFT records, while the Counterrorism blog noted this weekend that the program was actually publicly revealed in 2002 and is still mentioned on the UN's web site.

Those New Ships: Will Quebec Get the Contract?

Canadian Defence minister O'Connor announced in Nova Scotia today that the Conservative government will spend $2.9 billion on three new military ships - the first of an estimated $15 billion in defence spending expected to be announced this week.

During the press conference, the minister of Public Works was asked if regional considerations would be a factor in making the final decision about which company might win the contract. The question was carefully avoided by claims that the choice will simply be based on which company can provide exactly what's needed.

But, governments rarely make business decisions without considering the political implications.

These are the finalists:

The four consortia bidding on the project definition phase are led by:

Irving Shipbuilding

BAE Systems (Project) Limited (BAE Systems Naval Ships)

ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG

SNC-Lavalin Profac Inc.

Irving is based in Nova Scotia while SNC-Lavalin has its home in Quebec. The other two companies have their head offices in France and Germany.

Will the Conservatives be able to resist the opportunity to score political points by granting the contract to a Quebec company at a time when it needs more support from the people of that province? I doubt it.

It's "Alberta Week" in Washington

But nobody asked me to go.

The trip, which will see Klein and his buddies schmoozing with select Washington insiders, will cost Alberta taxpayers $147,600. Not only that: 'Alberta is paying nearly $4 million to stage about 12 days of exhibits and activities at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 30 to July 11.'

What kind of exhibits cost $4 million? Gold-plated cows?

As the critics say:

Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald dubbed the trip the 'no Tory left behind tour.'

"This has to be the biggest single taxpayer-funded travel delegation in the history of the province."
Scott Hennig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it's hard to see how such extravagance will benefit the average Albertan.

"That's a long way to go for a cabinet meeting."

He said Alberta taxpayers expect their money to be spent on health care, education and roads -- not on parties in Washington.

"This sort of stuff wouldn't even have been on the radar in 1993 to 1995," he said.

"It's only because government spending has more than doubled in the last decade that they can get away with this."

Meanwhile, homelessness and child poverty are still major issues in this province. But, I doubt Klein will breath a word of that as he cozies up with Bush's minions in DC.

Rep Pete King is the New McCarthy

Rep Pete King (R-NY) is on a crusade against those he considers treasonous: members of the press. What's worse is that he is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and he has the power to act on his maniacal paranoia and misguided, overblown rhetoric.

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee urged the Bush administration on Sunday to seek criminal charges against newspapers that reported on a secret financial-monitoring program used to trace terrorists.

Rep. Peter King cited The New York Times in particular for publishing a story last week that the Treasury Department was working with the CIA to examine messages within a massive international database of money-transfer records.

King, R-N.Y., said he would write Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging that the nation's chief law enforcer "begin an investigation and prosecution of The New York Times - the reporters, the editors and the publisher."

"We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," King told The Associated Press.

Now think about that for a moment.

One would think, logically, that if King is concerned about revelations involving state secrets, he would be attempting to have Gonzales investigate the leaker - not the messenger. But, as we witnessed in the Plame case, the Republicans just aim their so-called arrows and don't really care where they land.

This is what's really driving King's rage:

He charged that the paper was "more concerned about a left-wing elitist agenda than it is about the security of the American people."

So, that 'left-wing elitist agenda' violates the constitution's right to a free press and freedom of speech? I thought the consitution was a document expressing freedoms and rights for all political parties and views. Apparently not.

It seems the only parts of the constitution Republicans are interested in protecting are those they assume allow their leader to act illegaly since they've completely surrendered their role as providing checks and balances on behalf of their real constituents - the American people. No, suddenly, all congressional Republicans believe their role is to act at the pleasure of the president - no matter what he does. It's one of the most blatant subversions of democracy the public has witnessed in a very long time. And Republicans make absolutely no apologies for that.

So, what's the press to do?

It's bad enough that they slept through the run up to the Iraq war by publishing all of the propaganda fed to them by the White House. But now that they've decided to actually do their civic duty to report the truth, they're suddenly 'left-wing elitists'. Perhaps King didn't get the memo that no one buys that old argument anymore. Facts do not have a political bias. Only propaganda does and the Republicans know they are desperately losing the message war that they've controlled for so long in an attempt to fend off another Watergate. The problem is that this administration practically begs to be leaked on considering its cone of silence.

The White House lies. The Pentagon lies. Politicians lie. That's business as usual in DC. The responsibility of the press is to get past the lies and distortions to the actual truth of matters of great concern to the public. But now, when they do so and it is not to the right-wing's liking, they are being 'treasonous' - only when the Republicans find stories that may damage them though. As far as they're concerned, any stories that might bring to light the misadventures of the left are fair game. They're just too used to living in Rove Land.

The NYT would do well to never publish another positive word about King. But, that's not their job. They're don't have some hidden agenda that's set to destroy the administration. King would know that if he actually read the many articles favourable to Republicans and their president over the years. And he would also realize then that the NYT is far from having a 'left-wing elitist agenda'. It's only his disordered mind that makes it so.

And if Alberto Gonzales goes along with King's request to prosecute the NYT on the basis of treason, to borrow a phrase from Bush: 'Bring 'em on'. Maybe, while he's at it, he'll prosecute the Chicago Sun-Times and Robert Novak for outing CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Don't hold your breath on that one. Novak is, after all, a useful Republican tool.

Update: Bush also damned the press on Monday for making the bank records monitoring story public but, according to the Counterterrorism blog, the fact that the US government has been using SWIFT has actually been public knowledge for years - as is noted on the UN's site.
h/t The Raw Story

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What's Wrong With This Headline?

Via Reuters: 'Bush may allow wiretapping review: Specter'

It's up to Bush to decide whether the courts can review his illegal wiretapping programs?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House appears to be leaning toward allowing a secret federal court to look at its controversial warrantless wiretaps, a reversal of previous policy, a top Republican senator said on Sunday.

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been pressing the Bush administration to seek clearance from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, court.

The act requires warrants from the court for intelligence-related eavesdropping inside the United States.

"I think there is an inclination (in the White House) to have it submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, and that would be a big step forward for protection of constitutional rights and liberties," Specter, who had harshly criticized the program, told "Fox News Sunday."

What would be an even bigger step forward would be if Bush actually respected the seperation of powers and stopped acting like a bloody dictator.

Sunday Food for Thought

One of the most devastating kinds of poverty is poverty of the spirit.

US Soldier Charged With Manslaughter

Absorb this:

The announcement came after a week in which 12 Americans were charged with murdering Iraqis and on the day on which Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised that the occupying troops would respect Iraqis' human rights.

Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty but the optics are horrible.

The new charge, announced on Sunday, accuses one US soldier of shooting an unarmed Iraqi while one other was charged with conspiracy and another with attempting to cover up the alleged crime. Previous charges against US soldiers also involve cover up allegations. The article also reminds us that charges have yet to be filed in the case of those killed in Haditha.

Reuters reports: US troops kill fewer Iraqis after new guidelines:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops have reduced the number of Iraqi civilians they kill after orders to improve checkpoint procedures following the shootings of some 350 Iraqis in such incidents last year, the military said on Sunday.
U.S. officers had previously insisted in response to queries that no such statistics were compiled, although Martin-Hing said commanders began tracking such incidents in July last year.

How mant times do we need to be reminded that Rumsfeld's Pentagon refuses to tell the public the truth about what's really happening in Iraq?

al-Maliki's Iraq Plan

BBC News has the list of Prime Minister al-Maliki's reconciliation plan's points announced earlier today:

Amnesty for detainees not involved in terrorist acts, war crimes or crimes against humanity, as long as they condemn violence and pledge to respect the law.

Negotiations with the US-led coalition to prevent the violation of human and civil rights in military operations.

Compensation for those harmed by terrorism, military operations and violence.

Preventing human rights violations, reforming prisons and punishing those responsible for acts of torture.

Ensuring that Iraq's justice system is solely responsible for punishing members of the Saddam regime, terrorists and gangs guilty of killings and kidnappings.

Ensuring that military operations take place in accordance with judicial orders and do not breach human rights.

Compensation for civilian government employees who lost their jobs after the fall of the Saddam regime.

Measures to improve public services.

Measures to strengthen Iraq's armed forces so they are ready to take over responsibility for national security from the multinational forces.

Review of the armed forces to ensure they run on "professional and patriotic" principles.

Ensuring the political neutrality of Iraq's armed forces and tackling Iraq's militia groups.

Insistence that Iraq's elected bodies, including the government and parliament, are solely responsible for decisions on Iraq's sovereignty and the presence of multinational troops.

Insistence that all political groups involved in government must reject terrorism and the former Saddam regime.

Return of displaced people to their homes and compensation for any losses they have suffered.

Improved compensation for victims of the Saddam regime and deprived people throughout the country.

Formation of a National Council for the Reconciliation and National Dialogue Plan, including representatives of the government and parliament as well as religious authorities and tribes.

Creation of National Council subcommittees at regional level

Creation of "field committees" to follow up on the progress of the reconciliation process.

A series of conferences of tribal leaders, religious scholars, political groups and other members of civil society will be held to back the reconciliation process. The conference of religious scholars is expected to issue fatwas supporting the policy.

Talks with other Arab and Islamic governments, especially those that support the terrorists, to inform them about what is happening in Iraq.

Adoption of a "rational" discourse by the government and political parties to restore mutual trust and ensure the media are neutral.

National dialogue including all the opinions of those involved in the political process.

Adoption of constitutional and legal legitimacy in resolving the country's problems, including extrajudicial killings.

Review of the de-Baathification committee to ensure it respects the law.

Co-operation with the United Nations and the Arab League to pursue the work of the Cairo Conference for National Reconciliation.

Making it easier for Iraqi citizens or groups to work on rebuilding the country, as long as they have not committed any crimes or been banned from the political process.

Taking a united stand regarding the terrorists and other hostile elements.

Starting work on a large-scale development campaign for the whole country, which will also tackle the problem of unemployment.

PM al-Maliki Announces Reconciliation Plan and the Press Sleeps Through It

At 4am ET, PM al-Maliki addressed the Iraqi parliament and outlined his reconciliation plan. It reportedly includes 28 points, a few of which have already been revealed by the press.

For some odd reason, CNN decided to break away from the live coverage to regularly-scheduled rerun programming shortly after al-Maliki began speaking. One would think that such a momentous occasion would merit complete coverage. Apparently, only shock and awe makes the grade. The Pentagon Channel didn't carry it either. It is obviously assumed that when America sleeps, the rest of the world does too and that commercials for motorized wheelchairs are more important than actual important fucking breaking news from Iraq that could change the course of events from here on in.

An optimistic and cautious Reuters refers to it as a 'peace plan'. One would think that might suggest an event of some major significance, no?

Alas, following over half an hour of searching the usual online news sources for some mention of this breaking story, MSNBC seems to have come out the winner but it had to intersperse news about Japan's troop withdrawals from Iraq with fragments of what has already been made public about the reconciliation plan because it obviously has yet to obtain a copy of Maliki's proposal.

I, for one, am seriously disappointed in the media's lack of willingness to treat this story as something worthy of timely reporting. When Bush takes the stage, every damn channel has his face plastered all over the screen and the transcripts of his ever-so-new and wise words are quickly made available online for all to see.

But when Iraq annouces a 'peace plan'? Hey. No big deal. We've got wheelchairs to sell.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Honouring the F-word

It's not exactly something you'd expect to read about in the Sunday edition of a major US newspaper, nevertheless, the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach takes up some newsprint to remind everybody about the scaredness of the 'F-bomb' and delves into the history of the much loved and loathed word.

It's quite poetic.

From hip-hop artists to bloggers to the vice president of the United States, everyone's dropping the F-bomb. Young people in particular may not grasp how special this word has been in the past. They may not realize how, like an old sourdough starter, the word has been lovingly preserved over the centuries and passed from generation to generation. For the good of human communication we must come together, as a people, to protect this word, and ensure that, years from now, it remains obscene.
I'd even argue that it has therapeutic properties. Ponder, if you will, how critically important this word can be when you stub a toe. It serves as an instant palliative. It's like verbal morphine. You can't hop around the dining room, holding your foot, shouting "Drat!" or "Dagnabbit!" or "Heavens to Betsy!" Those words don't work.

So true. Or right f-ing on, depending on your view.

Iraq v Washington DC

The Iraq war may soon be fought on a new front: the White House. According to Newsweek, which claims to have insider information of Prime Minister al-Maliki's reconciliation plan, the demands made on the Bush administration by the Iraqi government may face a tough fight in Washington.

The most controversial part of the plan, which is set to be released on Sunday, calls for amnesty for Iraqi insurgents who have killed American soldiers. This has already received mixed reaction in the United States. Yet, al-Maliki's proposal seeks to find a compromise with the forces that oppose the direction of the new Iraqi nationalism.

Newsweek goes to great pains to attempt to clarify that such an amnesty would not apply to 'terrorists', but the difference between 'insurgents' and 'terrorists' may be the hardest challenge for both governments, since these groups' purposes and methods often overlap.

This plan follows a series of secret negotiations over the past two months between seven insurgent groups, President Jalal Talabani and officials of the U.S. embassy. The insurgent groups involved are Sunnis but do not include foreign jihadis like al Qaeda and other terrorist factions who deliberately target civilians; those groups have always denounced any negotiations.

As has been reported, the foreign 'jihadis' comprise a very small percentage of the resistance but they are often the main focus of the Bush administration since they are mainly 'al-Quaeda' related. The insurgent groups are not quite as easy to pigeon hole and it's become well known that the Interior ministry was running death squads under its watch - complicating the situation. So, an agreement between the US and Iraqi governments on this issue may be difficult to come by.

Further, al-Maliki's government is seeking a timetable for coalition troop withdrawal. Yes, the 'T' word that so many US politicians love to hate and equate with 'cutting and running'. If Bush and the Republicans were wise, they'd accept a proposed timetable, but that would mean an embarassing surrender to the Democrats like Levin and Kerry who have been leading the charge to secure one. Bushco can wrangle its way out of this predicament only by stating that, ultimately, this decision was made by the Iraqis, but the public will know that if they coalesce they have been given a political slap in the face and the Dems would be wise to claim victory.

The fact that, according to Newsweek, the Iraqi government would also seek backing from the UN Security Council on its timetable plan will surely make John Bolton's head explode (not that that would be a bad thing).

The true question the Bush administration must face in all of this is how much freedom it will allow the new Iraqi government to have. Will it continue to hold the Iraqis by the throat, demanding that their democratically elected government do their bidding, or will they show the world that they are capable of letting go? That is the fragile tightrope the administration finds itself on and, while the world is watching, any missteps that indicate a further power grab will surely further diminish the US's standing in the world.

Update: Well, it seems that the Pentagon already had a plan for troop withdrawals.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007.

Under the plan, the first reductions would involve two combat brigades that would rotate out of Iraq in September without being replaced. Military officials do not typically characterize reductions by total troop numbers, but rather by brigades. Combat brigades, which generally have about 3,500 troops, do not make up the bulk of the 127,000-member American force in Iraq, and other kinds of units would not be pulled out as quickly.

This, after they've spent how long criticizing the Democrats for wanting a timetable? Hypocrites.

Richard Perle Has His Panties in a Bunch Over Iran

To a warmongering neocon whose only real concern is the fate of Israel, 'diplomacy' is a dirty word. And, you know there's something seriously wrong with someone who pits Rick Santorum (Look! WMD in Iraq!) against Condi Rice and declares Santorum as the victor (as much as I lack respect for Rice).

That someone is Richard Perle, who is now seiously pissed off at Bush for actually allowing diplomacy to take place to deal with Iran.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) tried two weeks ago to pass the Iran Freedom Support Act, which would have increased the administration's too-little-too-late support for democracy and human rights in Iran. But the State Department opposed it, arguing that it "runs counter to our efforts . . . it would limit our diplomatic flexibility."

Back in 2003, , Perle stunned almost everyone when he declared that the Iraq war was 'illegal', but he was also quick to blame international law as the obstacle and his disdain for the UN knows no bounds. He sees it as a barrier to US domination and aggression. Obviously, anybody who would suggest using diplomacy, thus blocking the neocon agenda for democracy by force in the Middle East, is a threat to Mr Perle.

Yet, oddly enough, he hails back to the Reagan days as some sort of sentimental time even though not one shot was fired to end the Cold War. But Perle would never admit that a policy which included diplomacy worked in that case.

Twenty years ago, I watched U.S. diplomats conspire with their diffident European counterparts to discourage President Ronald Reagan from a political, economic and moral assault on the Soviet Union aimed at, well, regime change. Well-meaning diplomats pleaded for flexibility at the negotiating table, hoping to steer U.S. policy back toward d?tente[sic]. But Reagan knew a slippery slope when he saw one. At the defining moments, he refused the advice of the State Department and intelligence community and earned his place in history.

That's a rather facile impression of what was a long and complicated process.

Yes, the State Department and the intel community are the real enemies of any president according to Perle. If he had his way, it seems, they and the UN would be abolished and the president, under the doctrine of the infamous unitary executive, would have unilateral power to decide the fate of the United States.

We've already seen how that's working out, haven't we Mr Perle?

Following the path of lies that Bush led the international community down prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush's power in the world has been reduced. So, simply attacking diplomacy as the root of all evil in incredibly narrow-minded. No, Mr Perle, the world is no longer buying what your president is selling and you, as one the instigators of the war with Iraq, are as much to blame for that lack of credibility as Bush is now.

C'est La Fête de la St-Jean

Image Hosted by Ou 'Fete Nationale'.

Je suis francaise. (Oui, c'est vrai!)

I would like to wish all of my francophone relatives all over the country a happy day. And don't let PM Stephen 'semantics' Harper rain on your parade!

Update: (via Bourque) 200 000 personnes ont assisté au spectacle des Plaines d'Abraham

Gore Vidal on "Little Bush"

I just started reading Gore Vidal's 1967 novel Washington D.C. a couple of days ago. I read slowly and, most often, while soaking in the tub. So it takes me a while to get through a book. And, of course, when you're reading something by Gore Vidal, you want to ensure that you catch every turn of phrase, every nuance in order to honour a man of such great talent. I enjoy living with a story for a time, so it ought to be something brilliant.

Anyway, Mr Vidal has a few things to say about the state of his home country and he shares those thoughts with a reporter from The Independent, tucked in between his memories of his second home, Italy.

"We have been deprived of our franchise," he says. "The election was stolen in both 2000 and 2004, because of electronic voting machinery which can be easily fixed. We've had two illegitimate elections in a row ...

"Little Bush says we are at war, but we are not at war because to be at war Congress has to vote for it. He says we are at war on terror, but that is a metaphor, though I doubt if he knows what that means. It's like having a war on dandruff, it's endless and pointless. We are in a dictatorship that has been totally militarised, everyone is spied on by the government itself. All three arms of the government are in the hands of this junta.

"Whatever you are," he goes on, "they say you are the reverse. The men behind the war in Iraq are cowards who did not fight in Vietnam - but they spent millions of dollars proving that John Kerry, who was a genuine war hero whatever you think of his politics, was a coward.

"This is what happens when you have control of the media, and I have never known the media more vicious, stupid and corrupt than they are now."

No nuance there and certainly none is needed. And he definitely didn't pull any punches back in 2002 when he wrote these stinging words about the neocons' plans.

We still have much to learn about the times we are living in as events occur much faster than we seem capable of absorbing. And we have a duty to search for the truth because, as Vidal identifies the current status of the popular media and as the Bush administration fights attempts made to expose its secrets at every turn, all we know is that we actually know very little.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Random News & Views Roundup

- It's been almost 5 years since 9/11 but the Bush administration obviously still has a lot to learn about Islam and Muslims.

- Walter Mondale thinks Bushco should launch a pre-emptive strike against N Korea. So does William Perry, Clinton's defense secretary. Yeah. There's a good idea. Wankers.

- Cheney's on the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times defending the bank records spying program. Interesting that he's the front man to the press on this one. Oh, I forgot, he is the real president, after all.

- Whoops, again.

- Read Odyssey to America. It's quite the tale and maybe you can help.

- Which Side Are We on in the Struggle for Women's Freedom? Indeed.

- Baghdad is in a state of emergency, and "the Iraqi government will present a 28-point national reconciliation plan to parliament Sunday that would grant some insurgents amnesty and ask for approval of a series of steps for Iraqis to take over security from U.S. troops." What? They want a timetable? Obviously they must be traitors to America.

Join the "Eh?-list"

In response to Atrios' post about A-list bloggers, I made a comment about 'Eh?-list' bloggers getting no respect (a la Rodney Dangerfield). Well, it's time to stop being so Canadian and to start getting the clout and recognition we so deserve.

If you're not familiar with the Eh?-list, don't worry about it. All you need to know is that, as far as you know, it didn't exist until now.

Yes, you are invited to join this secret cabal of Canadian bloggy conspiracy that works behind the scenes (in the 'back bacon rooms') to pursue absolute control over everything written by lefty Canadian blogger types. If you don't sign up now, you can't complain later when you discover that we've manipulated your brainwaves into believing exactly what we do. Don't say you weren't warned.

Here are the membership qualifications:

1) You must be Canadian or at least be a commie sympathizer.
2) You must agree to absolute mind control techniques covertly tested on conservative rats in a super-duper secret laboratory located at 123 5th St in Red Deer, Alberta.
3) The third rule of the Eh?-list is that you don't talk about the Eh?-list.
4) Anyone caught disclosing the genius of the conversations on the Eh?-list will be banished to Crawford, Texas - permanently.
5) You must blog about what we tell you to blog about because we know what to blog about and you, obviously, don't.
6) Never give out the secret tourtiere recipe. That is the ultimate violation and will not be tolerated.
7) The seventh rule of the Eh?-list is that you don't talk about the Eh?-list.
8) 'You can check out any time, but you can never leave' (unless you break rules 4 or 6).
9) You will hail me as your leader, because I deserve to be hailed, damnit. (I will provide instructions on the appropriate hailing methods).

Okay. There you have it. You have until Sunday to sign up. Hockey is over for the season. No excuses not to sign up right now.

Just say Eh?!

About Those Bank Records

On Friday, the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration has been sifting through Americans' banking records as part of its GWOT.

The reaction?


Now, first of all, I don't know why this story should come as a shock to anyone. Bush has stated repeatedly that his administration was going after terrorist funding. Secondly, should anyone be surprised that Bushco used its power to spy on Americans by any means possible - again? Does anybody out there, besides the rabid right-wingers who accuse the NYT of treason (again), actually think the so-called terrorists weren't aware that their funding was being tracked?

So, what we have here is right-wingers defending Bush again while giving him a blank cheque (pardon the pun) to do whatever he wants to. They don't care. They're not 'terrorists' after all. And the people who actually care about pesky things like civil liberties? Well, we should just really shut up because everybody ought to know that there's a price to be paid for freedom (code words for endorsing a dictatorial regime).

Yes. We are evil because we happen to like privacy.

Sue us. Hang us from the rafters. Call us traitors. In the meantime, be thankful that someone actually cares about what people with ultimate power do when they're too corrupt to govern. Because, when they come for you, we will stand up. And then you'll wonder who your friends really were in the first place.

How Jon Stewart Singlehandedly Killed Democracy

Richard Morin of the Washington Post begins his article with 'this is not funny'. Wrong. It is.

Morin says Stewart's Daily Show 'may be poisoning democracy' because a study shows that his audience 'expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media'.

Well, stop the presses! Of course that's all Stewart's fault. And, from now on, Bush should ban all fake news shows because it's obvious that they are treasonous and will no doubt kill America as we know it!

It's not like the actual government or the so-called media have any effect on the perception of people. No. It's all Jon Stewart's doing.

'Are you now or have you ever been a member of Jon Stewart's audience?'

Don't click on this Daily Show link. You may never vote again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Captain's Quarters Jumps the Shark

This is just too bizarre. Ed at Captain's Quarters reacts to the news that 7 people have been arrested in Miami on domestic terrorism charges:

Domestic terrorism means that the threat involves American citizens. This could be militias, or perhaps enviromental or animal-rights nutcases. It could also have something to do with the Cuban community, but that sounds a bit far-fetched. However, one possibility is the Puerto Rican separatists.

Excuse me?

Would those groups have been your first guess?

No. I didn't think so.

Americans React to a Possible N Korean Missile Strike

Choice quotes:

"A better question is when's the next earthquake," Ernie De Matteis said as he flipped through a newspaper in San Francisco.
For Sandy Brickner, a systems security officer in Seattle, worrying about bombs is somebody else's problem.

"That's what our government is supposed to do, not me," she said. "I have no control over it."
Back in Honolulu, office manager Alohalani Hose couldn't be bothered with it all.

"Why worry about that when I got my life to worry about?" she said. "If you worry, it causes stress, anxiety and you deteriorate and die. So why worry?"
Bruce Klein, executive director of the Nome Community Center, acknowledged his neighbors can be somewhat insulated - and that's not always a bad thing.

"If we were thinking about all this stuff and everything that's out there, and of course the situation with the missiles in North Korea, I think we would all be on Prozac."

Time to Wall the Border

Okay. That's it. It's time to build a wall along the US/Canada border to keep Americans from getting into Canada.

It's obvious that America is a terrorist haven and a threat to Canada's national security.

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Seven people were in custody Thursday night after FBI agents and state and local officials carried out anti-terrorism raids in Miami, law enforcement sources told CNN

The arrests were made in connection with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and the FBI building in Miami, sources told CNN.

Obviously, the yanks have absolutely no control of their security situation, so it's also time to implant RFID chips in every last one of them and they should all have to get passports before they are let into Canada.


Canada's Economy "Best in 50 Years"

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Conservatives, and don't you dare try to take credit for it.

Canadian economic conditions are the best the country has seen in half a century, a move that could push the loonie close to parity by the end of next year, an economist predicted Thursday.

Harper: Kyoto Protocol Ignores Issues of Pollution and Smog

We finally know why Stephen Harper is opposed to the Kyoto Protocol. He hasn't actually read it.

Yes, ignorance is surely bliss.

In an interview today, Harper told CBC's Politics that the Kyoto Protocol 'completely ignores' the issues of pollution and smog.

What does he think the protocol is about? Sushi?

Dalai Lama Granted Honourary Canadian Citizenship

When I first started this blog, I was handing out honourary Canadian citizenships every weekend. Well, is seems the government does that too. Who knew??

Today, our government granted that honour to one of my favourite people, the Dalai Lama. I'm not sure if Rob Anders was in the house at the time, but the motion passed unanimously.

The Dalai Lama - what's not to love?

(Full disclosure: I am a buddhist. It seems you can't be a blogger these days without disclosing all of your laundry - even when it's clean. See: Daily Kos, Armando)

Quote du jour

CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The dumb ones watch FOX.


Santorum's WMD Claims Officially Debunked

On Thursday, Sen Rick Santorum and Rep Pete Hoekstra set the right-wing blogosphere on fire when they claimed that WMD had been found in Iraq. Many grabbed onto to the news to decry that the left could no longer say 'Bush lied. People died' and, in their quest for proofiness (apologies to Stephen Colbert), they believed that Santorum and Hoekstra had handed them the Holy Grail.

As it turns out, it was just a dollar store mug.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The chemical weapons that have been recovered by US forces in Iraq were all made before the 1991 Gulf War and were too degraded for their intended use, US intelligence officials said.
...the intelligence officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the weapons were too degraded to have posed a threat to US forces in March 2003.

They said all chemical weapons found since 2003 were produced before the 1991 Gulf War and they had no evidence Saddam was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons after that.

"Generally they are in poor condition," one official said.

"We assess that they are not in condition to be used as designed. And detailed analysis of the toxic agents shows they are degraded and represent a much lower hazard," he said.

The munitions have been tested and computer simulation models created to determine what effect they might have under a variety of scenarios, the officials said.

Although not suitable for their intended purposed, the officials said such weapons remain a potential hazard if obtained by insurgents and modified in ways they would not discuss.

The officials, however, said they had no evidence that any element of the Iraqi insurgency has possession of chemical weapons.

"I would simply say we have seen a degree of improvisation on the part of the insurgency with regard to conventional munitions," said an official.
The weapons were found "in small numbers over time" since 2003, an official said. They were recovered in one, two or three at a time -- not in large caches, the officials said.

The quest for the grail continues.

Good luck getting reelected, Santorum. You're going to need it.

Karzai Criticizes Coalition Military Tactics

Afghanistan's president Karzai has some serious words for the coalition of the willing regarding their anti-terrorism tactics in his country:

A clearly frustrated Karzai complained that the coalition’s hunt for Taliban militants was killing hundreds of Afghans, saying that “is not acceptable.” More than 600 people, mostly militants, have been killed in recent weeks as insurgents have launched their deadliest campaign of violence in years.

“I strongly believe ... that we must engage strategically in disarming terrorism by stopping their sources of supply of money, training, equipment and motivation,” Karzai said at a news conference.

“It is not acceptable for us that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying. In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed. (Even) if they are Taliban, they are sons of this land,” he added.

While that last statement may be a shocker, Karzai is reflecting the reality that has already been acknowledged in Iraq: these wars will not be won militarily. They will be won by political means.

The bloodshed can certainly go on indefinitely with thousands more lives lost but, unless all parties involved can actually work issues out diplomatically and through more peaceful methods, the cause will be lost.

Canada needs to pay attention to the words of the Afghan president. If he is signaling that our troops under NATO are adding to his country's problems, it's time to seriously reevaluate our commitment. We must never forget that it is their country and that we must have respect for the wishes of its leader who was democratically elected to speak on behalf of his people.

An editorial in today's Toronto Star, that aims to pump up support for keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan, is short-sighted:

Canadians must remember that our 2,300 troops and $800 million in aid are in Afghanistan at Karzai's express request, under a United Nations mandate and with 37 countries, including our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. The legitimacy of this mission is beyond criticism. Ignatieff and Brison deserve credit, not censure, for their defence of it.

Some Liberals worry that Canada's balanced "Three D" approach, which marries diplomacy, defence and development, has become a single D, defence, under U.S. direction. And indeed Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier may have muddied the waters with his eagerness to "take down" the Taliban "murderers and scumbags." But NATO's growing command role should ease any concern. And Canada's diplomats are very present, making sure our aid helps ordinary people rebuild their shattered lives.

There's no guarantee that NATO's takeover of the mission will change any of the tactics that Karzai decries. NATO's prime mission in Afghanistan is that of providing security ie. 'fighting'. Painting a rosy picture that NATO troops will just be there to get aid flowing ignores the very grim reality on the ground: strong offensive measures to rid the country of the Taliban by any means necessary.

How many deaths will Karzai put up with before he asks troops to leave?

He's learned the same lessons that the Iraqi government is dealing with. Neither country's leaders are in control of the fate of these wars, despite assurances from the US that if they were asked to leave, they would. That, in the end, is the price of occupation.

Santorum Claims WMD Found in Iraq

The right-wing blogosphere is all abuzz with a chorus of 'I told you so' since they heard Rick Santorum and Pete Hoekstra announce on Wednesday that WMD had been found in Iraq.

But wait a minute...

Here's what WaPo reported - on page A10:

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered.

The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.

The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

And to add insult to injury, Santorum was called out on FOX News, of all places.


Now there's infighting in the right-wing ranks. Oh well. Let them sort it out. They seem to have a lot of 'weapons experts' over there suddenly. But, just as some of them still believe Osama and Saddam were buddies and were both involved in 9/11 (despite their dear leader telling them otherwise - just like in this case) I suspect we'll be hearing these WMD claims for years to come.

It must suck to be that desperate.