Saturday, March 04, 2006


The Koufax Awards, hosted by Wampum, seek to recognize the best blogs on the left side of the political spectrum. Hundreds of blogs have been nominated in 15 categories. You can find many of them in my blogroll. The main purpose of the awards is to build up our community, to recognize and appreciate our diversity, the many different voices that make up our community, and, beyond that, to reward excellence.

I'm pleased to tell you that The Reaction been nominated in five categories:

I should also mention that The Moderate Voice, where I'm a co-blogger, has been nominated for Best Group Blog.

Should you care to vote for me (or to vote for someone else), click on these links individually and cast your vote in the Comments section of each individual category post at Wampum -- or click here, then to each category post.

And, hey, tell your friends to vote, too. All are welcome!

I appreciate your support, just I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to visit The Reaction. Some of my best friends in the blogosphere have been nominated, however, and I do encourage you to support them, too. Visit them through my blogroll. I hesitate to single any of them out, but consider The Carpetbagger Report, where I've been a guest contributor, for Best Blog (Non-Professional). I'm really hoping it gets the recognition it deserves this year.

Later today or tomorrow I'll post a list of other great blogs to consider voting for, blogs that, regardless, you ought to take the time to get to know (if you don't know them already). Obviously, I hope you vote for me in the above categories, but I'm being sincere when I say that winning is not what this is all about. The Koufax Awards have introduced me to many new blogs and the bloggers behind them, many of whom I've had a chance recently to get to know better, and I'm just happy to see the mutual respect and recognition, the friendship, that characterizes our community.

I hope you're all having a nice weekend.

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The opaqueness of Canada's Conservative government

Following the whole David Emerson debacle, current Parliamentary ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro will be looking into whether the ex-Grit Member of Parliament breached the ethics code. He intends to launch a preliminary investigation into the matter.

According to the Canadian Press: "Shapiro, who did not speak to reporters Friday, appears to be basing his investigation on elements of the parliamentary conflict-of-interest code that prohibit inducing an MP to change his or her vote for personal benefit."

This, coming after the outcry on the issue of Emerson's floor-crossing right into a Tory ministerial post, is not entirely unfair, especially when Prime Minister Stephen Harper had promised to bring in greater governmental transparency and ethics. However, instead of co-operating with the examination, the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) is resisting it entirely, so far as to say, in a recent, and strongly worded, press release, that Harper was "loath" to participate.

Further to the release, the PMO stated: "This Liberal appointee's actions have strengthened the Prime Minister's resolve to create a truly non-partisan ethics commissioner, who is accountable to Parliament."

It sounds like a very flimsy excuse. If Harper creates a new ethics commissioner, one would expect this person to be as non-partisan as the Liberal appointee. Unfortunately, Shapiro has encountered some harsh criticism for his work from all sides (including Ed Broadbent of the NDP); he has been accused of taking a partisan stance for not investigating a Liberal MP during the election, but he was not allowed to take action in between Parliament sittings. However, the new Conservative government will not sit in the House of Commons until April 3.

The credibility of Shapiro may be questioned, but it's really that of the Tories which is on the line. After coming into power on a commitment to clean up corruption, it appears more and more that Harper is more than reluctant to investigate any decay of ethics within his own party, and more than willing to engage in what he railed against during the campaign. At the very least, former Prime Minister Paul Martin immediately launched the Gomery inquiry upon taking office, so he could clear his name and government of scandal.

This turn of events is disappointing, to say the least, and may not bode well for the electorate during the course of Harper's leadership. Will we be able to trust him with future decisions for the country? Hard to say. At this time, we will have to wait until the House sits, to see how competent (or incompetent) he genuinely is. But in terms of transparency, ethics as promised by the Tories? It appears that it will all be as clear as mud from here on in.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Offending conservatives: Europe, Islam, and the pro-Denmark bandwagon

You know what's funny? American conservatives generally hate Europe. Especially France, of course, but the loathing is generally quite continental. Europe may have given birth to Western Civilization, but now it's a socialist secular wasteland that's rapidly sinking into oblivion and irrelevance, that is, in essence, becoming extinct, dying. At best, conservatives want Europe to be more American, hence their enthusiastic support of Italian conservative Silvio Berlusconi and German conservative Angela Markel. Indeed, it wasn't so long ago that they enthusiastically supported a French conservative by the name of Jacques Chirac.

In being more American, Europe should be, according to a June 2005 Weekly Standard editorial, "a vigorous partner for American foreign policy objectives". An un-American, let alone anti-American, Europe is simply unacceptable (much like an un-American Canada). A Europe that promotes alternative goals, alternative conceptions of the good and the just, simply won't do. Which is why Europe is seen not just as different, but weak by design. Conservatives despise the European Union and find that their best European friend is Poland -- aside from Britain, of course, which conservatives like to believe isn't really European at all.

So how funny it is, in an odd sort of way, to see conservatives falling all over themselves in support of that great European power, Denmark, just because a Danish newspaper published a few provocatively offensive cartoons that belittled Islam (see here, here, and here). It's a case of free speech, conservatives argue, but the fact that speech is free, and ought to remain so, doesn't make it right. Are we witnessing a rush of conservative support to Holocaust-denier David Irving? Not so much. But conservatives are jumping gleefully aboard their self-made pro-Denmark bandwagon -- see here, here, and here.

Great, so a handful of them are courageously taking to the mean streets of New York and Washington in support of their new best friend. Are these rallies really "gatherings of individuals in support of individual freedom," as Andrew Sullivan has put it, or is there not something else, something far more pernicious, going on? Why else come to the defence of such ignorance and insensitivity?

I don't deny that these conservatives seem to love freedom, at least in theory, at least in speech, but they're obviously picking their fights selectively. When the other side is Islam, it must be so much easier for conservatives to reach out to Europe -- sick, weak, dying Europe.

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Re: Podcasted!

As some of you may know, I was a guest on this past Tuesday's Subject2Discussion podcast -- I first mentioned it here.

If you'd like to listen to the show -- whether to hear what I have to say on a broad range of topics or perhaps just to hear my voice -- you can find it here. Just click on "Play Episode" for 2-28-2006 and you'll be able to listen to it at your leisure on your computer's media player (you don't need an iPod to listen to a podcast).

I was on for half an hour and my segment starts about 16:30 into the show.

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The self-made mythology of Nancy Grace

There are many nasty things I could say about Nancy Grace, arguably one of the most reprehensible figures on television today. Day after day, she milks her personal history, the 1979 murder of her fiance, shamelessly using it to support her ill-founded bloviations on America's allegedly deficient criminal justice system.

(Her general view: The accused are guilty until proven innocent, but, even then, they're probably still guilty.)

Well, according to an excellent piece in The New York Observer by Rebecca Dana, it seems that Ms. Grace has manufactured much of that personal history to suit her crusade, or what Jason Zengerle at TNR's The Plank calls "her campaign to seemingly undo the presumption of innocence".

If CNN had any self-respect at all, it'd give her the boot -- not just for these lies but for being generally awful, an embarrassment to reasoned discourse and the legal profession itself.

But who am I kidding? Self-respect at CNN?

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Portgate: America vs. Bush

The numbers are in. Americans are overwhelmingly against the deal to allow a U.A.E.-owned company to assume control of some of America's largest ports. Ron Brownstein of the L.A. Times reports here.

The Times/Bloomberg poll puts Bush's approval rating at 38 percent, his disapproval rating at 58 percent. "And, in a trend that could affect turnout in the November midterm elections, Bush confronts what might be called an intensity gap: The percentage of Americans who said they strongly disapproved of his performance on a wide range of issues greatly exceeded the share who strongly approved."

I know that my own intensity has been increasing to record levels. It's good to see that the American people are reaching the same conclusions.

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Soviet Union behind assassination attempt on John Paul II

So it looks like the Soviet Union didn't much care for the great papal anti-Communist. From the BBC: "An Italian parliamentary commission has concluded that the former Soviet Union was behind the 1981 assassination attempt on the late Pope John Paul II. The head of the commission, Paolo Guzzanti, said it was sure beyond 'reasonable doubt' that Soviet leaders ordered the shooting."

Why would the Soviets do such a thing? "The commission said the Soviet Union felt the Pope was a danger because of his support for the democracy-linked Solidarity labour movement in Poland, his native country."

At least John Paul was around to see the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union and the obliteration of Communism as a political force in Eastern Europe, not to mention pretty much everywhere else except for Cuba and few other rogue states well behind history's curve.

On this, the great geopolitical struggle of the second half of the twentieth century, Pope John Paul II wasn't just on the right side of history, he was one of the towering figures who made sure that the right side won. That the Soviets went so far as to attempt to assassinate him only speaks to what kind of a man he truly was.

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Selective intelligence: The politicization of the case for war in Iraq

Each new day seems to bring a new problem for the White House, a new revelation of arrogance and incompetence, and we can thank the redoubtable Murray Waas for alerting us to yet another Iraq-related problem, specifically to what was really going on inside the administration even as the case for war was being confidently made in public by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest.

Two points:

First, the release of an October 2002 intelligence report indicates that Bush was aware of disagreements between the CIA on one side and the State and Energy Departments on the other regarding "Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes". While the CIA believed that the tubes "were intended for a nuclear bomb," State and Energy believed that they were intended for conventional weapons. Bush was presented with the report well before the start of the war, but he and other top officials used the CIA interpretation of the aluminum tubes as a central plank in their case for war. The State and Energy interpretation was conveniently ignored.

Here's how Waas puts it: "The disclosure that Bush was informed of the [Energy] and State dissents is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies."

In the end, State and Energy were right: "When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam's regime, they determined that Iraq's nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for artillery shells."

Second, a January 2003 intelligence report concluded that Saddam was not an threat to the United States. Waas: "The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if 'ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime' or if he intended to 'extract revenge' for such an assault, according to records and sources." More: "On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States."

But this stop Bush et al. from using the threat of an Iraqi attack on the United States as another central plank in their case for war? No: "[I]n the months leading up to the war, Bush, Cheney, and Cabinet members repeatedly asserted that Saddam was likely to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or to provide such weapons to Al Qaeda or another terrorist group. The Bush administration used the potential threat from Saddam as a major rationale in making the case to go to war."

And there's more. Make sure to read the whole piece.

As for me, I just wonder how anyone can think that Bush has any credibility left at all. What we have here is yet more proof of the arrogance, deception, and manipulation, of the lies, that have come to characterize this White House.

What more do we need?

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

The truth about Hurricane Katrina

Look, I've never been much of a fan of Michael "Brownie" Brown, but can we now, finally, hold President Bush accountable for the federal government's failure to respond properly and effectively to Hurricane Katrina? This is the smoking gun:

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

Indeed, the footage reveals both that the federal government badly botched its response to Katrina given what was anticipated before the storm hit and that Bush lied to the American people. It also reveals that Brown warned his superiors of the severity of the situation, both before and after the storm hit, implored them to take action, and concerned himself with the welfare of the people of New Orleans with the utmost gravity.

Yet Brown has been scapegoated and slandered while Bush has, as usual, denied responsibility and avoided accountability. It is time for that to change. Brown ought to be credited, however belatedly, for what he did to help the victims of Katrina, for the leadership, however flawed, he showed during a time of crisis. And Bush...

Bush ought to be ashamed of himself. The American people ought to be ashamed of him. And his gross negligence must finally be held against him.

Two days ago, I put it this way:

It's Katrina, stupid!

The message remains the same.


Crooks and Liars has the video here.

At Newsweek, Mark Hosenball has more on who knew what and when.

See also The Moderate Voice, Firedoglake, The Left Coaster, The Carpetbagger Report, Bob Geiger, and Pandagon.

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Portgate: Terrorism, what terrorism?

Oops. As if the news couldn't get any worse for the White House on the Dubai deal story, it has been revealed by a prominent Republican Congressman that there was in fact no investigation into whether Dubai Ports World, the U.A.E.-owned company at the center of Portgate, has or has had connections to terrorists. From CNN:

A review of a United Arab Emirates-owned company's plan to take over a portion of operations at key U.S. ports never looked into whether the company had ties to al Qaeda or other terrorists, a key Republican lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday.

Rep. Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said officials from the Homeland Security and Treasury departments told him weeks ago that their 30-day review of the deal did not look into the question of links between DP World and al Qaeda...

"There was no real investigation conducted during the 30-day period," King, who has been a vocal critic of the deal, told CNN. "I can't emphasize this enough."

King's comments appear to contradict testimony by administration officials before Congress this week that a through review of any terrorism ties had occurred during the initial review of the deal.

Indeed they do. And, as Joe Gandelman puts it succinctly: "Every day the administration is looking worse and worse." He has more here.

But let me ask you this: How safe do you feel with George W. Bush, self-proclaimed "war president," in the Oval Office? Do you sleep snugly at night thinking that he's doing what's right for America? Or are you not a little concerned that maybe, just maybe, he doesn't really know what he's doing?

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The Barbourous ones: Mississippi, abortion, and the rise of the anti-choice right

Just in case you weren't quite sure just how serious conservatives are about restricting a woman's right to an abortion to the point of an all-out ban, consider what's going on down in Mississippi, that Barbourous bastion of darkness:

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday that he likely would sign a bill to ban most abortions in Mississippi if it's approved by lawmakers.

The state already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. The bill that passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday would allow abortion only to save the pregnant woman's life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

First South Dakota, now Mississippi. This is why it matters that a hardened right-winger like Alito is on the Supreme Court in place of a pragmatic moderate like O'Connor.

Here's what I wrote back in January: "I still think that Democrats would benefit from the overturning of Roe insofar as the Republicans would finally be exposed for what many of them are, which is rabidly and unapologetically anti-choice -- but is that a risk worth taking? I suspect not. America -- and American women -- would hardly benefit from such bitter divisions."

Well, they're exposing themselves in Mississippi and it's likely that they'll continue to do so in statehouses and governor's mansions across the land.

Be prepared. Take action. Demand that abortion rights be protected from the clutches of the Barbourous ones.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When the going gets tough...

...little Georgie leaves the country. This time for Afghanistan, a "surprise" stop on his way to India, a photo-op with Karzai, a distraction from domestic troubles like Portgate and Katrina, a pretension of leadership.

Dubya, we can see right thru ya.

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Meet the mountain pine beetle, a beneficiary of climate change

Well, we've already met two victims of climate change (specifically, global warming), the polar bear and the harlequin frog. And we've already seen how that change is being felt up in Canada's North, in Tuktoyaktuk.

But one creature seems to be benefitting from all this warming, much to the detriment of Canada's forests. Dear readers, meet the mountain pine beetle:

Millions of acres of Canada's lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.

The mountain pine beetle has infested an area three times the size of Maryland, devastating swaths of lodgepole pines and reshaping the future of the forest and the communities in it.

Nothing against the little critter, which is just doing its thing, but can we not begin to take global warming a bit more seriously? For some, this will mean acknowledging the problem in the first place. For the rest of us, we who already live in reality, it means working on serious, long-term solutions to the problem, both scientifically and politically.

Or shall we just settle back into oblivion, our narcotized oblivion, waking up one morning to find our forests gone, our world that much more uninhabitable?

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Portgate: Profiling Dubai, profiling Israel

So all of us who oppose the Dubai deal are racist, xenophobic profilers? So says no less an "authority" than Richard Cohen in today's Post. But, then, what about this: "The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned."

Nice, huh?

Is it too much to ask that national security be national? Or is this like SNL's Coffee Talk skit? You know: National security is neither national nor secure. Discuss.

I mean it. Discuss. This Dubai deal just isn't the right thing to do.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


We've come a long way, haven't we? A few years ago, blogging was limited to a narrow technocratic elite. Now, Technorati is tracking almost 30 million blogs. And podcasting? What the hell is podcasting?

Well, I'll be podcasted this evening.

I've been invited to appear on a really good politics/culture podcast called Subject2Discussion. The show runs Tuesday evenings from 10 pm to midnight ET. I'll be on for the second half-hour, the show's political discussion segment, from 10:30 to 10:58 pm ET (or 7:30 to 7:58 pm PT) -- yes, I'll be discussing politics with the host.

And, no, you don't need an iPod. You can listen to the show live here. Or, thereafter and at your pleasure, you can listen to it in downloaded form here.

Enjoy -- hopefully it'll go well.


Update: Good times. It was a lot of fun and I thought it went really well. We covered most of the issues I've posted on here at The Reaction recently. The show should be up on their website soon (link above), and I'll do another post when it is.

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U.S. troops in Iraq want to come home

A new Zogby poll indicates that "[a]n overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately". In addition, 42% say that their mission in Iraq is "either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure".

Zogby himself discusses the poll at The Huffington Post.


Around the blogosphere:

Steve Soto: "Nearly 40% think that Americans favoring withdrawal are unpatriotic, yet these are the same troops who may believe they are there in the first place for reasons that have been proven false. Swell. Here’s my question: has the Pentagon ever told the troops that the reasons they were sent there were found to be based on lies?"

Chris Bowers: "The troops want to leave. The Iraqi public wants them to leave. The American public wants them to leave. The only people who don't want them to leave are elected Republican officials, their apologists, and a handful of loser Democrats in leadership roles (many of whom are running for President)."

More broadly, Steve Benen looks at the so-called "defeat-and-retreat caucus". It's growing... and getting more diverse all the time.

See also Sadly, No!, Booman Tribune, and Taylor Marsh.

Doesn't seem like too many of our fellow bloggers on the right are commenting on this. I wonder why.

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How bloody is Iraq?

From the Post:

Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.

Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday -- blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound -- and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

1,300 is just a number. But these are real human beings who are being slaughtered. Whatever our positions on the war, on whether it should have been waged in the first place, on what should be done now, let's not forget this human cost.

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The New Republic's bloodless transition of power

Franklin Foer is taking over the editorship of Reaction favourite (and daily read) The New Republic from Peter Beinart -- the Times reports here.

Congratulations, Mr. Foer. You wrote a great book, your work at TNR is consistently excellent, and it'll be good to have you as editor of one of the very best publications out there.

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Portgate: Yes, those gaping holes are intelligence gaps

It looks like the Coast Guard had some concerns about the Dubai deal. Even if those concerns were addressed, it would be nice, as Kevin Drum argues, to know what they were. After all, the Coast Guard's intelligence assessment includes this nugget: "The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities."

So are we confident the Bush Administration knows what it's doing? Does it deserve our trust? Congressional hearings are a start, but I wonder if they'll just go the way of other such hearings. Will Republicans dare ask the tough questions of the Great Leader and his minions?

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Dubya's decline (and what Democrats can do about it)

Well, the poll numbers are finally responding to the miserable presidency of George Dubya Bush. A new CBS poll -- reported here -- puts his approval rating at an all-time low, 34 percent.

On Katrina, Iraq, terrorism, the NSA scandal, and Portgate, the numbers are bleak -- at least from Bush's perspective. For the rest of us, it's just a matter of popularity, or lack thereof, mirroring reality.

Democrats need to hit hard on all these points, but, to me, this stands out: "In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September's poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall."

Get it?

It's Katrina, stupid!

Iraq is over there, somewhere. Americans are dying, but America seems largely disinterested and detached from what's actually happening on the ground. And terrorism is an often vague and nebulous threat. Besides, when it comes down to it, Americans have shown an inclination, an irrational one, to trust their president. I'm not saying that Democrats shouldn't address these and related issues, like Iran and North Korea, but voters respond most instinctively to threats or perceived threats to their own well-being, not to distant threats. This is why Portgate has some lasting resonance. Justifiably, Americans sense that something is amiss when their government allows a foreign state, one with connections to terrorism, to control their major ports. So, too, the NSA scandal. Justifiably, Americans sense that something is amiss when their government eavesdrops on them without a warrant.

And this is why Katrina, the government's response to Katrina, is an issue that Democrats need to tap. Americans -- and many of us who paid attention during those dismal days along the Gulf Coast -- watched as floodwaters tore through the levies and devastated one of America's great cities. They watched as rain and wind blew apart the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. They watched as desperate men, women, and children, fellow Americans, sat atop buildings pleading to be rescued, as thousands upon thousands found refuge in the stink and horror of the Superdome, as bodies floated down flooded streets, as an entire city was evacuated, refugees placed on buses for faraway locations.

Like 9/11, Katrina was above all a human story. It seems rather blasphemous to call on Democrats to take advantage of such a human story, to use it to their advantage, but such is the reality of politics. Republicans took advantage of 9/11 at a time when Americans were looking to be united, not divided, and have shamelessly used terrorism as a wedge issue to punish Democrats ever since. We all know how Karl Rove plays the game and we all know how successful he's been.

And is it the Democrats' fault that Bush botched Katrina? Sure, there's much blame to go around -- from Bush to Chertoff to Brownie to Blanco to Nagin -- but, more and more, the focus has been on what the federal government didn't do, its failures to anticipate and respond to Katrina. It's been easy enough to attach much of the blame to Brownie, but is it fair for Brownie to take the fall for his bosses' failures, too?

The American people can relate to Katrina, to the (televised and blogged) suffering of their fellow citizens, and they seem to be holding Bush accountable.

And so should Democrats.

(See also The Left Coaster, Booman Tribune, Talking Points Memo, Taylor Marsh, and MyDD.)

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Is Dick Cheney set to retire?

Right-wing rag Insight mag is reporting that beleaguered Vice President Dick Cheney may retire after this November's midterm elections.

Good news? Well, not so much. As it is, Cheney is an albatross around Bush's neck, much as Tom DeLay was an albatross around Congressional Republicans' necks before stepping down as House Majority Leader. It would certainly be better for Democrats to head into 2008 with Cheney still in office -- especially if, as expected, the Fitzgerald investigation looks more closely into his relationship with Libby regarding Plamegate. Plus, his retirement would allow Bush to promote someone like McCain or Rice to the position of heir apparent, potentially putting a Democratic challenger at a further disadvantage.

But that's probably the conventional wisdom. As it is, Cheney attracts attention away from Bush. Would Bush not be as exposed as ever without him? Plus, an heir apparent like Rice or McCain could be tainted by a promotion to the vice presidency. As it is, McCain can milk his reputation as a maverick in the Senate, siding with Bush and even articulating the case for the Iraq War better than Bush ever has while remaining "independent". And Rice can boost her stature on the world stage, the cautious but principled diplomat running the State Department without getting her hands dirty.

Or how about Giuliani? Or Frist? Or Allen? Or Romney? Or... Jeb? Hmmm.

Regardless, this may not happen -- and likely won't. Cheney's not one to give up so easily. And that includes his grip on power.


A couple of the better conservative bloggers are commenting on this story -- see Sister Toldjah and Professor Bainbridge.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Laying out the case for impeachment

Must-read of the day:

At Harper's, Lewis Lapham lays out "the case for impeachment" -- of George W. Bush, to be precise. This is just an excerpt of Lapham's piece published in the magazine's March 2006 issue. However, it should whet your appetite for more.

Otherwise, I have no comment. The case speaks for itself.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

No problem for Portia, Jamaica's new PM

Jamaica will soon have a new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, the first woman to hold that position in its history. The BBC has the story here.

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Iran, Russia, and uranium enrichment

There's news today of a possible breakthrough in efforts to contain a nuclear Iran:

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Sunday that his country had agreed in principle to set up a joint uranium enrichment project with Russia, a potentially significant breakthrough in efforts to prevent an international confrontation over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory, a proposal backed by the United States and the European Union, has been the basis of intense but previously fruitless negotiations between the two countries. If Iran does agree to shift enrichment to Russia, Iran would cede control of a key element in the nuclear fuel cycle and ease suspicions that it could secretly produce uranium suitable for nuclear weapons.

This might just work. Key word: might. We'll see.

(For some background, my last few posts on Iran are here, here, and here.)

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Alessandra Mussolini and Italian fascism

Turin, where the Olympics are wrapping up today, has long been a bastion of working-class left-wing politics in Italy. But right-wing politics -- post-fascism, neo-fascism, or just plain fascism, whatever you want to call it -- continues to be a force in Italy despite its obviously repellent past.

Alessandra Mussolini, Il Duce's granddaughter, currently an Italian member of the European Parliament, is running in Italy's upcoming parliamentary elections.

And here's where it all gets rather troubling: Ms. Mussolini heads a party called Social Alternative, a small right-wing party she founded three years ago after breaking from the "post-fascist National Alliance," as the AP puts it. The leader of the National Alliance -- a fascist party, keep in mind -- is none other than Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini. Apparently, the National Alliance wasn't quite fascist enough for Ms. Mussolini, hence the break. (Indeed, the break came after Fini had visited Israel, declared fascism to have been "the absolute evil," and apologized for Italy's treatment of the Jews under Mussolini.) Ms. Mussolini is running for parliament now that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has rejected two neo-fascist candidates, but, before this dispute, she and her Social Alternative were part of Berlusconi's coalition, the House of Freedoms (which includes Berlusconi's own party, Forza Italia). For those of you who read Italian, see here.

Let me repeat that: A Mussolini-led fascist party that found a post-fascist party too mainstream for its liking was included in the governing party's coalition.

And, what's more, the opposition coalition, Romano Prodi's The Union, includes communist parties and various other leftist groups.

Good times, Italian-style. Only Fellini could make sense of this.

(The election is scheduled for April 9-10 -- see here.)

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Reviewing the Maher Arar case

See this New York Times editorial on extraordinary rendition and the case of Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian who was detained by U.S. officials in 2002 and promptly shipped off to be tortured in Syria on the flimsy and wholly unsubstantiated suspicion that he was somehow connected to al Qaeda. Arar is suing the federal government, but a federal judge in Brooklyn has refused to hear his case. His treatment was simply "reprehensible," not to mention illegal under the Constitution. But this decision in Brooklyn shows once again just what Bush has been able to get away with:

With the Bush administration claiming imperial powers to detain, spy on and even torture people, and the Republican Congress stuck largely in enabling mode, the role of judges in checking executive branch excesses becomes all the more crucial. If the courts collapse when confronted with spurious government claims about the needs of national security, so will basic American liberties.

Back in August, Vivek K. wrote about the Arar case here.

Keep on top of this case. The Bush Administration no doubt wants it to go away, just as it wants no public discussion of anything it's doing in the war on terror, much of which is similarly reprehensible, both legally and morally untenable. But democratic citizens owe it to themselves -- and to fellow citizens like Maher Arar (American citizens should care about what their government did to a Canadian, no?) -- to hold their leaders accountable.

Bush has thus far avoided accountability and neglected his responsibilities as a democratic leader.

There is still time.

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