Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hadley's turn in the spotlight

The Times (of London) has this piece on Stephen Hadley's possible involvement in Plamegate. Was he or was he not Woodward's source?

Speaking of which, here's more from Kevin Drum: "Bob Woodward's signature journalistic method is to seek out interviews with dozens upon dozens of movers and shakers, grant them all anonymity, and then repeat their often self-serving words to his readers without providing any clue about who's saying what or why they're saying it. If the extensive and uncritical use of confidential sources is indeed objectionable, then Woodward is the high priest of objectionable."

Anonymous sources may often be useful and ought to be protected, but Woodward has shown us what can happen when that "method" is abused.

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The unbearable arrogance of Bob Woodward (revisited 2)

(For the previous two installments of this series on the Woodward revelation, see here and here.)

Kevin Drum deconstructs Woodward (and his possible motives) here. Digby responds here, Laura Rozen here.

And see this good piece by Viveca Novak at Time:

Woodward expressed some surprise that Fitzgerald hadn't contacted him earlier in the probe, but had high praise for the prosecutor whose investigation he has openly criticized on television. During his time with the prosecutor, Woodward said, he found Fitzgerald "incredibly sensitive to what we do. He didn't infringe on my other reporting, which frankly surprised me. He said 'This is what I need, I don't need any more.'"

Arianna Huffington is all over the story: "So Patrick Fitzgerald is going to impanel a new Plamegate grand jury. Meaning this thing is far from over. And that Bob Woodward, among others, is going to continue to have some more explaining to do."


(Elsewhere, the Post itself has an editorial on "Mr. Woodward's Sources" -- they refer to the whole thing as "the Woodward flap," which seems awfully dismissive to me. Check it out.)

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Political freedom in the Middle East

From the BBC: "The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) [a leading research firm] ranked 20 countries on 15 indicators of political and civil liberty."

The results:

Israel: 8.20
Lebanon: 6.55
Morocco: 5.20
Iraq: 5.05
Palestine: 5.05
Kuwait: 4.90
Tunisia: 4.60
Jordan: 4.45
Qatar: 4.45
Egypt: 4.30
Sudan: 4.30
Yemen: 4.30
Algeria: 4.15
Oman: 4.00
Bahrain: 3.85
Iran: 3.85
UAE: 3.70
Saudi Arabia: 2.80
Syria: 2.80
Libya: 2.05

Interesting, but hardly surprising.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Feeding Saddam: French corruption and the oil-for-food scandal

From the Telegraph:

One of France's most distinguished diplomats has confessed to an investigating judge that he accepted oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.

Jean-Bernard Mérimée is thought to be the first senior figure to admit his role in the oil-for-food scandal, a United Nations humanitarian aid scheme hijacked by Saddam to buy influence.

The Frenchman, who holds the title "ambassador for life", told authorities that he regretted taking payments amounting to $156,000 (then worth about £108,000) in 2002.

Regrets, regrets. But the illicit oil-for-food program fed Saddam's tyranny. How do you apologize for that?

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Reaction to Canada: Shania Twain and softwood lumber

Two stories:

1) Shania Twain has been awarded the Order of Canada, this country's highest civilian honour -- see here. In all, 43 Canadians received the honour today. Governor General Michaelle Jean, Queen Elizabeth's representative and our de facto head of state, described the recipients as "pioneers, trail blazers, builders, [and] visionaries". I'm not sure which one Shania is. Unless, of course, our GG credits the Timmins, Ontario native with pioneering crossover pop-country. Or unless she finds the sentiments of "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" and "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" somehow visionary. Or unless she award is actually for building a successful career out of good looks and minimal talent. (Sorry, Shania. Actually, I don't mind her shallow, bland songs, and (sigh) I actually own two of her albums. Here's her website.)

2) At the APEC meeting in Busan, South Korea, "Prime Minister Paul Martin warned George W. Bush yesterday that U.S. credibility in seeking trade deals with the rest of the world is in doubt because his country won't respect a NAFTA ruling on Canadian softwood lumber" -- see here. Said Martin: "You cannot have free trade where one partner to a free-trade agreement -- when a decision goes against them -- simply says we're going to ignore it. We're not going to have free trade of the Americas if that's the precedent that's been established. We're not going to have free-trade throughout the Asia-Pacific if that's what occurs." He's absolutely right.

Meanwhile, there may be an election up here soon.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

The French riots? Blame polygamy

Is polygamy one of the causes of the rioting in France? Well, that's the astonishing claim being made by some high-ranking French leaders and public figures. From the Times: "The head of President Jacques Chirac's UMP party in the national assembly, Bernard Accoyer, called polygamy 'certainly one of the causes, though not the only one' for France's worst urban unrest in four decades." And he's not alone: Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Permanent Secretary of the famed Academie Francaise Helene Carrere d'Encausse have said more or less the same thing.

"The remarks have sparked an uproar in France, and angry charges of racism." Oh really?


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Swift-boating Murtha, slandering Democrats

(I'd like to thank Andrew Sullivan, one of my favourite bloggers, for linking to this post and to welcome his readers to The Reaction. I hope you enjoy your stay here and I invite you to keep coming back for multiple daily posts on politics, culture, and various related topics. Thanks again, Andrew.)

An addendum to my post from earlier this evening:

At AMERICAblog, John Aravosis reveals that the Pentagon (White House?) is already swift-boating Murtha. Not that we could honestly have expected anything else. This is how they deal with their opponents, with those who dare to question them.

Digby responds.


Right-wing insanity alert:

Michelle Malkin stand-in Lorie Byrd: "This war has become the Democrats' best hope for 2006 and they are going to do whatever it takes to get the maximum advantage from it. The more American lives that are lost between now and then, the better they think it will be for them. That is the sad truth. Hopefully, not even the mainstream media will not be able to disguise that strategy."

Or: Democrats want American troops to die.

It's truly and utterly shameful that so many on the right hold this astonishingly partisan and ignorant view. But that's only because so many of them have lost their minds.

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The unbearable arrogance of Bob Woodward (revisited)

My original post on the Woodward revelation is here. (I'm still looking for suggestions as to who could play Woodward in The Plame Game movie. Redford is an option, but readers have offered some interesting picks of their own.)


And here's what's new:

Arianna Huffington has 15 questions for Bobby W. (Answers would be nice.) Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft adds a few more. And Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake adds one of her own.

At Slate, however, Jack Shafer asks the two most important questions of all: "What did Bob Woodward know, and when did he know it?"

I have a question, too: How does it feel to be on the other end of the questioning, Mr. Woodward?

At AMERICAblog, John Aravosis says that "Woodward's explanations as to why he didn't come clean with his executive editor just don't add up".

See also Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped.



The Anonymous Liberal finds "petty journalism" at the Times. (Not that the Times and the Post have ever liked each other or anything.)

According to Reuters, Amb. Joe Wilson (a.k.a., Mr. Valerie Plame) wants the Post to investigate Woodward. Yeah, good luck with that.

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Murtha speaks out on Iraq: Is it time to withdraw?

A big story from CNN (even if most people don't even know who Murtha is):

Warning that other global threats "cannot be ignored," Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, a leading adviser on defense issues, called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"U.S. and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq," the senior lawmaker said. "It's time for a change in direction."

Prominent Republicans like Speaker Dennis Hastert and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter came out swinging. Hastert: "They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans." Which, of course, misses the point and spins Murtha's intent beyond recognition, but that's the Congressional Republican leadership for you.

Murtha: "I resent the fact that on Veterans Day, they criticized Democrats for criticizing them. This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public knows it, and lashing out at critics doesn't help a bit. You've got to change the policy. That's what's going to help the American people. You need to change direction."

I may not agree entirely with Murtha -- I think that the situation in Iraq needs to stabilized to the point where sovereign self-government is feasible in the long-term -- but at least he had the courage to speak out.


As some of you may know, Vice President Cheney has recently rushed not only to the defence of torture but to the defence of the mess for which he himself is particularly responsible as one of its chief architects. Indeed, he has called the Democrats' suggestion of pre-war intelligence manipulation "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city". (How you do spell hyperbole? Methinks he doth protest too much.)

Well here's Murtha, "a decorated Korean War and Vietnam combat veteran" on Cheney et al. (from the AP): "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

As Roger Waters put it in his highly underrated album Amused to Death, a brilliant anti-war protest, people like Cheney possess "the bravery of being out of range".

There is still a need for debate and discussion on what to do in Iraq. But let's listen to people who have been there, to the McCains, the Hagels, the Murthas, not to those who have no clue, the Cheneys, the Rumsfelds, and, yes, the Bushes.

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Phosphorus in Fallujah

Last week, I reported on the story of the possible use of phosphorus as a weapon by U.S. forces in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah. Essentially, the story originated with a documentary broadcast by Italy's RAI TV network. It was then picked up by the BBC, The Independent, and The Christian Science Monitor.

That post elicited some excellent comments from readers and I invite you to check it out -- see here.

Phosphorus may or may not be classified as a chemical weapon, and it may or may not be a legitimate incendiary weapon, but what's interesting, as Steven Benen points at The Carpetbagger Report today, is that the Bush Administration has flip-flopped in its response to the story.

Initially, the Bush Administration called the story "disinformation". Now, however, the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to CNN, that "U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Falluja last November" -- but not, it stresses, against civilians.

Why deny it, then un-deny it? Again, phosphorus may not be a "chemical" weapon in the sense of a WMD (TNT is also a chemical, the argument goes -- indeed, everything is "chemical," strictly speaking, but that's just postmodern flattening), and there may (repeat: may) be good reasons for using it on the battlefield, but the Bush Administration must know that the use of phosphorus as a weapon doesn't look good. That is, phosphorus may not be a chemical weapon, but it could be perceived as one. And this revelation that the U.S., reputation already severely tarnished throughout much of the world, used it in Fallujah won't be received well by those whose "hearts and minds," as Steve reminds us, we are seeking to win over.

I think Bush should explain himself (and his Administration), don't you? A flip-flop is a serious matter, after all.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The unbearable arrogance of Bob Woodward

The latest developments, with links:

Bob Woodward has apologized to the Post's "executive editor for failing to tell him for more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as an investigation of those leaks mushroomed into a national scandal".

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. As a friend put it today, this Woodward is pretty much the exact opposite of the Woodward of Watergate. Redford played him then -- who would play him now? (I'll take your suggestions.)


Steve Clemons has another great post: "Woodward's celebrity-status has seriously blinded him and affected his judgment about quality journalism and his responsibilities to the public. He should never have been making such comments on television about the Plame case if he was, in fact, involved. He should have RECUSED himself in such discussion. Now, his revelations must become central to the Plame story -- and they threaten significantly the direction that Fitzgerald takes in the investigation. Woodward should tell what he knows -- and he should be responsible to what really occurred -- but he must be held ACCOUNTABLE for his irresponsibility in the Plame case."

And so does Digby: "It turns out that Bob Woodward, who worked hand in glove with the administration to create the hagiography of the codpiece, has known for years that the White House was engaged in a coordinated smear campaign against Joe Wilson. Indeed, he was right in the middle of it. In the beginning he may have thought that it was idle gossip, but by the time he was on Larry King defending it as such he knew damned well that it had been leaked by Rove, Libby and his own source all within a short period of time. He's been around Washington long enough to know a coordinated leak when he sees one."

John Aravosis: "It's... beginning to sound a lot like Bob Woodward is becoming our next Judith Miller. His repeated rants in defense of this administration, and against the special prosecutor, certainly take on a very interesting edge considering Mr. Woodward didn't bother disclosing that he was quite involved in this story, and was hardly the impartial observer his silence suggested he was."

Steve Soto agrees: "What do Bob Woodward and Judy Miller have in common? Both have been stooges for the administration. Both have been complicit in the administration’s disinformation campaign against the American people. Both are more concerned about being on the inside as Beltway Kool Kids than they are about being journalists."

I wonder if Woodward will write a bestseller about his time in the slammer...


Kevin Drum has a great "Plame Scorecard" to help us keep track: "Just a coincidental series of offhand remarks about the exact same information — all off the record — or a calculated campaign to leak Plame's status? You make the call."


This is the story of the day in the blogosphere:

See Atrios, Josh Marshall, the Carpetbagger, John Amato, Armando at Kos, Shakespeare's Sister, Firedoglake, Echidne, The Next Hurrah, The Mahablog, Pam Spaulding at Big Brass Blog, liberal Tim F. at conservative Balloon Juice, not to mention Arianna herself.

And Joe Gandelman's overview.

On the right, see Power Line and Tom Maguire (and here).

So much for whatever credibility Woodward had left.


Meanwhile, Bed Bradlee (Jason Robards) defends Woodward here.

The Times is reporting that "[l]awyers for I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former White House official indicted on perjury charges, plan to seek testimony from journalists beyond those cited in the indictment and will probably challenge government agreements limiting their grand jury testimony".


But who was Woodward's informer?

The Raw Story says it was National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

The Anonymous Liberal responds.

Steve Soto: "If Hadley was in fact the first administration official to talk to a member of the media about Plame’s identity, and knowingly revealing that she was a possible covert operative due to her assignment in the Directorate of Operations, how plausible is it that his boss at the time didn’t know about this either. You know, his boss, the current Secretary of State?"

What does this mean? Let's cut to the chase, as they say:

"This definitely pulls the whole thing inside the Oval Office, and 'high crimes and misdemeanors' is back in the lexicon."

The gloves are coming off.

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Yet more torture in Iraq

The Times reports on the discovery of Iraqis tortured by Iraqis (generally, Sunnis tortured by Shiites) in an Interior Ministry building near Baghdad.

Not good.

(See Andrew Sullivan.)

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Hagel on Bush, Iraq, and the patriotism of dissent

He's a good man and, here, he's absolutely right: "Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized yesterday the White House's new line of attack against critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them."

More: "To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic."

Who are the real patriots? I'm with Hagel.

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Dubya's state of mind (it ain't good)

At AMERICAblog, John Aravosis reports on President Bush's state of mind (via Republican outlets The Washington Times and Matt Drudge).

Here's Drudge: "The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions."

And John's take (in part): "So basically Bush is melting down... It honestly sounds like he's losing control. And he's in charge of our country."

Yes, he is.

(Serenity now.)


Kevin Drum: "Needless to say, all of these stories are sourced anonymously and there's no telling if there's any truth to any of them. But who are these sources? At the very least, there seem to be a fair number of people who can be plausibly labeled "insiders" and who are gleefully passing along rumors of serious presidential angst. What's going on?"

Hunter at Kos: "This is a president who even in the best of times is insular, out of touch, and completely unwilling to have alternative points of view brought to him. Now, according to administration sources he's kicked out everyone else in his Oval Treehouse except for his mom, and three people who remind him of his mom?"

See also Seeing the Forest, Wonkette, and No More Mister Nice Blog.

(Insanity later.)

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So Woodward knew about Plame?

Of course.

But who's this "senior administration official"?

(Why do I think we're in for yet another Woodward bestseller?)

Some links: Political Animal, War and Piece, Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, AMERICAblog, The Next Hurrah, Daily Kos, Needlenose, Firedoglake, and, yes, Captain's Quarters.

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The Senate stands up to the White House

From the Times:

The Senate signaled its growing unease with the war in Iraq [yesterday], voting overwhelmingly to demand regular reports from the White House on the course of the conflict and on the progress that Iraqi forces are making in securing their own country.

The vote, 79 to 19, came on an amendment to a spending bill that ultimately passed without opposition. The bipartisan support for the amendment sponsored by Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, reflected anxiety among Republicans as well as Democrats.

Sure, just before this vote the Senate rejected a proposal by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) "to demand that President Bush set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq," but this 79-19 vote was pretty clear in and of itself.

Get the message, Mr. President? The Senate... really, the American people want to know what's going on. They want to know the truth. Not more of your lies, not more of your spin, not more of your quoting out of context, not more of your tasteless, partisan attacks. The truth.

Is that too much to ask, too much to demand of their president?


As usual, Joe Gandelman strips it right down: "Cut away all the diplomatic language and it's clear that despite their differences members of Congress of both parties are not going to sit back and give the President a free pass anymore. He's going to have to start answering to them on some matters that he should have been answering for to Congress to all along. The reason: polls show Bush is weak, Democrats see an opening, and Republicans don't want to cement their careers to George W. Bush anymore."

See also The Carpetbagger Report, Firedoglake, Democracy Arsenal, The Mahablog, and Sirotablog.

On the libertarian right, see QandO.

And this, from Captain's Quarters: "It isn't unreasonable to have Congress call for some accounting from the White House on the status of Iraq, given the 150,000 troops currently deployed on a police mission there." I don't often agree with him, and I don't agree with much of the rest in this particular post, but Ed Morrissey is definitely one of the better, more thoughtful bloggers on the right, and we all need to be paying attention to what he writes. This one's no exception.

One more: The Glittering Eye, which I always enjoy, has an interesting take.

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The firing of Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is no longer an op-ed columnist for the L.A. Times. He was fired. Or let go. Or dumped. Or whatever you want to call it. Editorial Page Editor Andres Martinez explains here. Sort of. But not really.

Californian Kevin Drum: "I'm pretty easygoing about stuff like this, but even I find this vaguely insulting. We're given several reasons Scheer wasn't fired — Not too liberal! Not because of ideology! Not for opposing the war! Not because his prose was too passionate! — but never given a reason why he was fired. If they want to fire the guy, then fire away. If they want to keep quiet about the reasons, I guess that's fine too. But if you write a special box solely to tell your readers why he was let go, shouldn't you actually tell your readers why he was let go?"

Um... yeah. How 'bout that? I was on and off with Scheer, but it'd be nice to know why he was shuffled out of the rotation.

(See also Poynter Online, L.A. Observed, and Brendan Nyhan.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Abandoning Bush -- the ongoing saga

Are you following Timothy Noah's "Bush Abandonment Watch" over at Slate? You should be. So far we have:

  1. Margaret Thatcher and Ari Fleischer
  2. Lawrence Wilkerson
  3. John Sununu
  4. Silvio Berlusconi
  5. William F. Buckley
  6. J.D. Hayworth
  7. Rick Santorum
  8. Doug Forrester
  9. Daniel Pipes

With many more to come, no doubt.

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Lies, damned lies, and the White House (Part I)

Bush's revisionism. Bush's culture of irresponsibility.

An editorial in today's Times wades through all the spin, all the bullshit spewing forth from the Bush Administration and its talking-point regurgitators on the right, and gets it right:

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true...

The president and his top advisers may very well have sincerely believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But they did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why.

Mr. Bush said last Friday that he welcomed debate, even in a time of war, but that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." We agree, but it is Mr. Bush and his team who are rewriting history.

Read the whole thing to find out how.

At The Huffington Post, Eric Alterman goes after former Times columnist William Safire for his own lies.

Similarly, Shakespeare's Sister refuses to forgive the "Gray Lady": "The Bush-version of history began to be written when you decided not to question [Bush] or his decisions in the wake of 9/11. The rewriting of history to reflect the reality of that time has only just begun." Very well put.

On the right, with a response, is Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute.

More on this later tonight.

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Homosexuality and suicide

Here's "a startling statistic" from the great guys at Bill and Kent's Place, a new, non-political addition to my blogroll: In the United States, "a gay teen attempts suicide every 35 minutes. About every six hours, one succeeds."

It's not just about same-sex marriage and the extension of civil rights. It's about treating everyone with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation. Is that not a worthy goal?

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Did Bush mislead the country into war?


Did the Bush administration mislead the country during the runup to the Iraq war? It's true that they turned out to be wrong about a great many things, but that doesn't answer the question. It merely begs it. Were they sincerely wrong, or did they intentionally manipulate the intelligence they presented to the public in order to mask known weaknesses in their case?

Kevin provides "a list of five key dissents about administration claims, all of which were circulated before the war but kept under wraps until after the war".

His conclusion:

It would have been perfectly reasonable for the White House to present all the evidence pro and con and then use that evidence to make the strongest possible case for war. But that's not what they did. Instead, they suppressed any evidence that might have thrown doubt on their arguments, making it impossible for the public to evaluate what they were saying...

This is not the way to market a war. It's certainly not the way to market a war that requires long term support from citizens in a democracy. But that's how they marketed it anyway.

I provide a lot of links here at The Reaction, but this one's particularly important given Bush's 11/11 speech and the current discussion of "revisionism". Plus, scroll down through all the comments, currently numbering over 300. Feel free to agree or disagree with Kevin's thesis in the comments section to this post, or otherwise to add your own views on whether Bush misled the country into war. I'm interested to know what you all think.

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Sedative-spitting transvestites

Um... what the [bleep]?

Caveat emptor, I suppose.

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On Maureen Dowd, feminism, and sexism

At Majikthise, Lindsay has a good response to the allegedly sexist criticism of Dowd's new book, Are Men Necessary?: "Far from making the personal political, Dowd made the political personal in a particularly self-absorbed way. She chose to set up her experience as if it were universal and to bolster her prejudices with spurious data and cherry-picked quotes."

I previously wrote about Dowd upon her return from summer hiatus -- see here.

Which brings me to this question: TimesSelect or no, does anyone even like Dowd anymore?

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Spain to investigate U.S. rendition of prisoners

From the Times:

On the Spanish island of Majorca, the police quietly opened a criminal investigation in March after a local newspaper reported a series of visits to the island's international airport by planes known to regularly operate for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, it has emerged that an investigative judge in Palma has ordered the police inquiry to be sent to Spain's national court, to consider whether the C.I.A. was routing planes carrying terrorism suspects through Majorca as part of its so-called rendition program.

Under that system, the United States has bypassed normal extradition procedures to secretly transfer at least 100 suspects to third countries where, according to allegations by human rights groups and former detainees themselves, some of the suspects have been tortured.

The program is the focus of a number of European investigations. Spain is the third country in Europe to open a judicial inquiry into potential criminal offenses committed by C.I.A. operatives related to renditions. The other two are Germany and Italy, which on Friday formally requested the extradition of 22 people said to be C.I.A. operatives linked to the suspected kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003.

Apologists for America's torture regime, from Vice President Cheney on down through Bill O'Reilly and his "folks," will no doubt write this off as European anti-Americanism, Europeans gleefully sticking their noses into America's affairs in order to make America (and her wildly unpopular president) look bad (or worse).

The treatment (torture) of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and other U.S. detention facilities is, in my view, a national travesty. It's done more to tarnish America's image in the world than pretty much anything else, including the Iraq War itself. Something needs to be done about it -- John McCain and others are trying, but the Bush Administration is resisting.

But the rendition of prisoners involves other jurisdictions, and those jurisdictions -- Spain, Germany, Italy, and others -- have every right to investigate CIA activities on their own soil. It's a shame that these other jurisdictions may end up exposing what Americans should expose for themselves about their own government, but if that's what it takes, so be it.


See also this piece on detainees in the Post -- by a pro bono lawyer for Gitmo detainees, P. Sabin Willett. It's a powerful defence of habeas corpus (yes, the Bush Administration has made such defences of habeas corpus necessary).


On Bush denying torture, see here.

On Cheney as an enabler of torture, see here and here.

On Lynndie England and Abu Ghraib, see here and here.

On Durbin's courage in a time of cowardice, see here.

On Amnesty International's report on the U.S., see here and here.

For my demand for an apology from the enablers of torture, see here.


The Heretik has more links in a good post.

See also The Moderate Voice.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

God save the Queen (from al Qaeda)

The Globe and Mail, drawing on Britain's Sunday Times, is reporting that "Al-Qaeda has named Queen Elizabeth 'one of the severest enemies of Islam'" in "a video message obtained by Britain's security service":

In the video, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leading lieutenant of terror boss Osama bin Laden, says the Queen is responsible for what he terms Britain's "crusader laws" and calls her an enemy of Muslims, the paper said.

The video also labels the British monarch one of Islam's "severest enemies," and warns British Muslim leaders who "work for Elizabeth, the head of the Church of England."

Whatever our disagreements over the scope and conduct of the so-called war on terror, let's remember that this is what the enemy is all about. And it must be destroyed.

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The comeback of the news media

Check out today's discussion group topic at The Carpetbagger Report:

"Is the national media making a comeback? Are the days of passivity and stenography officially over? Or, conversely, is even the coverage we're now getting too timid?"

"Has the news media turned a corner? Will it last? What prompted the change?"


It seems to me that Katrina was the turning point. It's one thing to mismanage a foreign war or to engage in disastrous fiscal irresponsibility, quite another to botch recovery efforts in a major American city. Do you remember those first few days after Katrina hit? There were stirrings of change in how the media cover the Bush Administration well before those horrible images came out of New Orleans -- think back to the coverage of Abu Ghraib -- but Katrina was the event that finally woke the news media up from their long slumber.

(There are deeper reasons why the media were in that slumber in the first place. Read David Brock's The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy for more. Highly recommended.)

I think Steve is right on this: "Perceptions differ, but a reasonable argument could be made that the kind of fact-checking that was common in the wake of the Veterans' Day speech was sorely lacking throughout Bush's first term and the presidential campaign. Now, major dailies seem to have no qualms telling readers, point by point, when the president is selling a bill of goods."

And it's about time.

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France to receive aid from European Union

From the BBC:

France has been offered 50m euros ($59m; £34m) by the European Union to help recover from more than two weeks of rioting in poor city suburbs.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said up to 1bn euros could be made available eventually for job creation and to help social cohesion.

Why? This isn't a natural disaster like the Asian tsunami or Katrina, and it seems to me that the French need to take some responsibility and deal with their own social problems without relying on the rest of Europe. After all, where would that 1 billion Euros come from? From other member-states, obviously. Why should they pay to help fix France's problems -- problems of France's own making?

It's no wonder the E.U. is so widely unpopular throughout Europe.

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Censoring the riots: The willful ignorance of the French

An interesting piece from The Guardian:

One of France's leading TV news executives has admitted censoring his coverage of the riots in the country for fear of encouraging support for far-right politicians.

Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service LCI, said the prominence given to the rioters on international news networks had been "excessive" and could even be fanning the flames of the violence.

Mr Dassier said his own channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, recently decided not to show footage of burning cars.

"Politics in France is heading to the right and I don't want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television," Mr Dassier told an audience of broadcasters at the News Xchange conference in Amsterdam today.

"Having satellites trained on towns across France 24 hours a day showing the violence would have been wrong and totally disproportionate... Journalism is not simply a matter of switching on the cameras and letting them roll. You have to think about what you're broadcasting," he said.

Hmmm. Well, yes, journalists and media outlets do need to be responsible, and there may very well be certain things that shouldn't be shown unedited on television, and the resurgence of the right in French politics may be a bad thing (a very bad thing, I would say), but the French people should know what's going on. (As a parallel, think what it would have been like if Americans hadn't been able to see the images of New Orleans after Katrina?)

After all, the riots stem in part from the fact that the French haven't adequately integrated their immigrant communities into mainstream society. France is a diverse country that doesn't seem to deal effectively with its diversity, a country where certain communities live in veritable ghettos and remain largely invisible. To an extent, the rioters are rioting precisely against that invisibility. They want to be visible, they want to integrate into French society, they want to partake of all that France (and the West generally) has to offer.

Televising burning cars and decontextualized images of rioting should only be part of the coverage, of course, but censoring those images, that is, refusing even to show them, only fuels the willful ignorance that has propelled France into this situation. If France is to deal with the root causes of the rioting, it must at least acknowledge the full scope of the rioting. And that means uncensoring the coverage of the rioting in the media.

It means being responsible in a real way.

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Rioting in Lyon, a crackdown in Paris

The latest news from France, via the Post:

Dozens of youths threw trash cans at police and attacked sidewalk shops in a main square of Lyon on Saturday night in the first clash between rioters and police in a city center after more than two weeks of violence in France, according to news reports.

Youths stormed through the historic Place Bellecour in Lyon, France's third-largest city, located in the southeastern Rhone Valley region, even though the city had imposed a nighttime curfew on minors not accompanied by parents. Police fired tear gas to disperse the youths, and 10 people were arrested, officials said.


In Paris, an estimated 3,000 police swarmed across the city Saturday, reinforcing security at major tourist sites and suburban subway and train lines after a wave of Internet blogs and cell phone text messages urged the youths who have been torching cars and government buildings in the suburbs to take their grievances to the heart of the capital.

"This is not a rumor," National Police Chief Michel Gaudin told reporters, adding that two of Paris's most popular tourist sites -- the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees -- were among potential targets for violence. "I think one can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant."

No incidents of violence were reported inside Paris, though unrest continued Saturday in 163 cities and towns across France, according to police.

It still looks bad, but I stand by what I wrote about the riots this past week:

More later.

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