Saturday, July 01, 2006

Anarchy in New Jersey

New Jersey has no government. It is without government.

Well, no. Not really.

Governor Corzine shut down the state government today and "[a]bout 45,000 state employees were immediately furloughed". Essential services remain operational.

This all has to do with the expiration of "a deadline to adopt a new balanced budget," specifically with Corzine's proposed sales tax increase (from six to seven percent). I'm sure the governor and the Assembly will work out some sort of deal in the very near future, but it amazes me that this sort of thing can happen. When politics shuts down government, you know something has to be wrong, seriously wrong, with politics.

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Bush's approval rating still weak

Time emphasizes all the "good" news -- the killing of Zarqawi, the non-indictment of Rove, and a growing economy -- yet still finds in a recent survey that this "spate of good news at home and abroad has so far failed to boost how Americans feel about President Bush's job performance".

I'm not sure what "spate" they're talking about. Indeed, "spate" doesn't seem like the right word at all. There's been some good news for Bush, I suppose, or at least some non-negative news that can be spun as positive news, but Time is just regurgitating the same old Bush-is-on-the-upswing media narrative that we've already debunked here at The Reaction -- see here, for example.

Regardless, these are the chilling numbers for Dubya:

Bush's approval rating slipped to 35% in a TIME poll taken this week, down from 37% in March (and 53% in early 2005). Only 33% of Americans in the survey said they approved of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, vs. 35% in March, and 47% in March 2005. His management of the U.S. economy lost supporters, too, as 36% approved, compared with 39% three months earlier. Bush's handling of the war on terror saw a slight gain in support, from 44% to 45%.

And despite all that "good" news:

[C]ontinued pessimism about the situation in Iraq and a broad sense of unease about America's direction may be undermining Bush's popularity. In the TIME survey, 66% said the country is on the wrong track, vs. 28% who said it's going in the right direction. Those numbers have worsened since March, when the poll recorded a 60% to 34% split. When asked whether the new Iraqi government will be able to build a stable and reasonably democratic society, 48% of those surveyed said no, while 39% remain optimistic.

In other words, despite the pro-Bush media narrative, Bush's approval rating and Americans' sense of where the country is headed are both bad. Think what those numbers would be without the media narrative, that is, with the media doing their job properly and reporting things as they are rather than as they are spun to be.

One-third of Americans approve of Bush's job performance. Two-thirds of Americans think the country's headed in the wrong direction. Remind me again how Bush won a second term. Or how anyone considers him to be anything other than a failure.

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Israel targets Palestinian PM

Breaking news from the BBC:

Israeli aircraft have launched an attack on the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

More to follow as more is known.

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Canada Day 2006

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

We're 139 years old today.

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Under whose God?

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

What should I say,
Since faith is dead
And truth away from you is fled.

- Thomas Wyatt -

I’m one of the dwindling few who clearly remembers Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961. It had moments of honest eloquence not often reached by presidents arriving or departing -- or by their professional speechwriters. It has been mentioned often of late because of his dire warning about the growing power and influence of the “military industrial complex” which as he predicted, has gained enough power to perpetuate the need for armaments and policies that make not only war and talk of war a constant, but which supports bellicose and paranoid attitudes in the public and private arena. For opposing a fraudulent arms race, for recognizing the military’s needs as different from the needs of peace and stability, Eisenhower will be remembered and should be better heeded.

But there is another Eisenhower legacy, one which can be seen in that speech and heard in classrooms and read about on editorial pages today. He talked about faith, about spiritual blessings; he talked about nations under God as being the upholders of the good and identified non-believers with enemies of freedom. Had he really forgotten the faith and religious rhetoric of the enemies of freedom he helped defeat only 16 years earlier? Was he yet unaware of the scarcely countable centuries of religious persecution and tyranny and war by, in and between nations under God? In the words of his final address, it is the atheists who are the enemy and not because they are totalitarians, but atheists.

The notion that it was God who stopped Hitler from taking England seems to have some currency in that country, now that the huge sacrifices of her military and civilians are being forgotten. I’m sure many Americans feel that it was God-fearing America alone who won the war against the God-fearing fascists and not the atheists from Mother Russia. Mythology and false history, like entropy increase over time and Eisenhower was happy to play along with a faith-based interpretation of it, whether or not it offended the single most basic founding principle of our nation: that our government derived its legitimacy entirely from the consent of the governed and not from God.

I was 9 years old in 1954 when a teacher whose name I have forgotten told me I had to affirm that I lived in a nation under God because the President said so. I wouldn’t do it then and I will not today because I consider it an illegal intrusion into my private beliefs and an illegal establishment of religion and an illegal requirement to make a religious oath. Yet somehow it’s passed into the mythology and people support groups who insist that the Eisenhower clause was written by the pious founding fathers who dreamed of theocracy. Herein lies, I do fear, the end of America. The truth is what they say it always has been and not what it was and so it shall ever be.

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Fiat lux: Unveiling the Vatican's secrets

Interesting news from the Holy See:

Pope Benedict has decided to open all Vatican archives from 1922 to 1939, giving new insight into what the Catholic Church knew and did as Europe saw the rise of Nazism in Germany and the Spanish Civil War.

The Vatican said on Friday it would open its central files, known as the Secret Archives, and files of its Secretariat of State for the pontificate of Pope Pius XI on September 18.

I'm curious. Aren't you? It would be nice to know what the Vatican knew, and when, what it did and what it ignored, what it thought and how it acted in a time of extraordinary crisis not just throughout Europe but around the world.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Kuwaiti women head to the polls

WaPo has the story here:

Kuwaiti women voted and competed for office in parliamentary elections on Thursday for the first time in the Gulf Arab state...

Parliament passed a law in May 2005 giving women the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections for the 50-seat National Assembly of the oil-producing country.

Officials said some 250 candidates were standing, including 28 women determined to make headway against daunting odds and beat seasoned male opponents, many of whom are former parliamentarians seeking re-election...

Women can vote and stand for election in four of the six countries in the conservative, patriarchal Gulf Arab region. They are banned in Saudi Arabia, where women's rights are limited, and there are no political polls in the UAE.

Men and women voted at different polling stations, but turnout may be as high as 78 percent in some areas.

This is a huge advance for liberalism and women's rights in an especially illiberal part of the world, one that isn't particularly friendly to either women or their rights.

There is much left to be done in Kuwait. There are no official political parties, there is no real opposition other than "a loose alliance of pro-reform ex-MPs, Islamists and liberals," and there is ongoing hostility towards women's rights ("even some women were against them having the vote") and the reform movement generally. As well, "[t]he opposition accuses some members of government of trying to turn parliament into a rubber-stamp assembly through vote-buying".

Still, progress is progress. And Kuwait certainly seems to be heading in the right direction.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

In defence of net neutrality

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has put a "hold" on a telecommunications bill that, if passed, would allow Internet providers to discriminate with respect to the content they provide to consumers. Very well done, Senator. Do not back down.

Daily Kos's mcjoan has more here.

In the House, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts (my representative when I attended Tufts and of whom I am still a big supporter) has launched his own "Fight to Save the Internet". It's an admirable effort, and you can find out more about it here. His statement in response to the defeat of his "Net Neutrality Amendment" is here. Also very well done, Congressman. Do not back down either.

For more on the issue of "net neutrality" and the Bush Administration's attempts to destroy it, see this recent editorial in The New Republic.

In a nutshell, the issue is this: Under 1934 rules, "[t]elecom companies couldn't charge website proprietors to have their content sent to consumers more expeditiously". However, "last August, George W. Bush's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exempted telecoms that provide Internet connections from these restrictions". What this means is that "companies will be able to charge content providers a fee to deliver their content to consumers and, in particular, an additional surcharge to deliver their content to consumers more quickly -- that is, they will be able to create a faster toll lane on the information superhighway".

Would this be a problem? Not for profit-driven telecom companies, but certainly for both (most) content providers and the consumers of content. In other words, for all of us who don't run telecom companies. And, as the editors of TNR argue, for political discourse and even for democracy itself. With internet providers able to set up a two-lane system -- a fast lane for preferred content and a slow one for the rest -- consumers would be denied access to content equally:

Under the new FCC guidelines, those companies will be able to charge content providers a fee to deliver their content to consumers and, in particular, an additional surcharge to deliver their content to consumers more quickly -- that is, they will be able to create a faster toll lane on the information superhighway. If they want, the telecoms can favor their own services and penalize competitors -- for instance, voice over Internet protocol companies like Vonage -- by denying them faster service. They can even charge lucrative fees to companies for exclusive access to the fast lane at the expense of their competitors, giving, for example, L.L. Bean an advantage over Lands' End. And, by making the fast lane prohibitively expensive, they can force start-up ventures and noncommercial providers (like blogs) onto the bumpy dirt roads of the Internet.

This, presumably, is what the Bush Administration wants. A telecom-friendly Internet that maximizes profits for the telecoms by pitting market competitors against one another. In other words, an Internet that allows its providers to discriminate based on who pays them for access to the fast lane, or in favour of their own services and against the competition, or along political, ideological, or other subjective lines. And many content providers wouldn't even be able to pay the initial fee, let alone some kind of "surcharge".

This isn't the sexiest story in the news these days, but it's an important one with far-reaching ramifications for the Internet as we know it.

We as consumers will suffer. We as citizens will suffer.

Once again, the Bush Administration shows that it is, when it comes right down to it, and whatever its high-falutin' rhetoric, no friend of the free market, no friend of liberty, and no friend of democracy.

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We are a government of laws

By Creature

Guess what? The president of the United States, much to his surprise, is not above the law. And even better, not above the Geneva Conventions. Says who? The few remaining sane justices on the Supreme Court. Read on and give three cheers that, for now, our Constitution is still alive and well.

The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. [Read More]

This is bigger than just Guantanamo, this is about torture across the water board. Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog explains why:

Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva applies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administration has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

I'm guessing the president won't be using a signing statement to get around this ruling.

Think Progress takes things even further. Today's ruling may even impact the president's illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

Kevin Drum nicely sums up the significance of today's ruling:

Considering how deferential the court normally is to executive power in wartime, this is an extraordinary decision. The court pretty clearly feels that Bush has way overstepped his constitutional boundaries.

Now watch as the rubber-stamp Congress acts quickly to put the power, they so eagerly give away, back into the president's hands.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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In his own words

By Creature

"There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it and no excuse for any newspaper to print it." -President Bush 06/28/2006

Tom DeLay has more...

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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What the hell is Obama doing?

Well, he's criticizing his fellow Democrats for not being open to and respecting people of faith. Indeed, Democrats do not "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people".

First, this isn't true, as Steve Benen says. Yes, Democrats need to do a better job reaching out to, and making sure voters know they're open to and respect, people of faith. But Democrats aren't exactly hardcore secularists who oppose the very presence of religion in the public square. A few of them, perhaps, but at most a small minority of them and certainly not in the leadership.

Second, it's a stupid thing to say publicly. It's the Republican spin. On this, let me quote, in full, Atrios's open letter to Obama:

Dear Senator Obama,

If you think it's important to court evangelicals, then court them. If, on the other hand, you think it's important to confirm and embrace the false idea that Democrats are hostile to religion in order to set yourself apart, then continue doing what you're doing. It won't help the Democrats, and it probably won't even help you, but whatever makes you happy.

Love and kisses,


P.S. What Stoller says.

Sure, love and kisses from me, too. I like Obama a great deal. The thought of an '08 presidential ticket with the junior senator from Illinois in the Veep spot fills me with pleasure.

And, yes, what Matt Stoller says. And also what fellow MyDDer Chris Bowers says: "Obama's comments lend tri-partisan support (Democrats, Republicans and the media) to a narrative that Democrats are hostile toward people of faith. This tri-partisan support will result in a "closing of the triangle" against Democrats where it become conventional wisdom that Democrats are hostile to people of faith."

See also David Sirota, who says much the same thing (saying it very well, mind you); Firedoglake's Pachacutec, who doesn't much care for Obama; and AMERICAblog, where John Aravosis writes that Obama was "mostly" right (with crucial caveats).


Here's my own open letter:

Dear Senator,

Please stop. Now.

You can (and must) do better. Those of us with confidence in you, and in your future, continue to stand by you. But we're Democrats, just like you, and our party must break free of the lies and deceptions that constitute the Republican spin. You made some important points in your speech, points that Democrats ought to consider seriously, but you of all people, a great orator already, must know that words have lives beyond their immediate context. Did you not consider how your words would be taken? How they would be seen to reinforce the Republican spin?

And, furthermore, do you really believe that Democrats do not "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people"? If so, think again. I think you'll find that you're wrong. Perception aside (and Democrats need to work on perception, granted), Democrats are quite open to faith. That should be your message. The positive, not the negative -- at least in public.

Now go. The future awaits you.


Michael Stickings

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Gerrymandering unlimited: Partisanship, redistricting, and the corruption of American democracy

The Supreme Court yesterday "upheld almost all of Texas' Republican-friendly U.S. House election district map," according to the Houston Chronicle. More:

By a 5-4 vote, the court said the 23rd District in southwest Texas, represented by Republican Henry Bonilla, violated the Voting Rights Act because its design trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters. Reshaping the district, a task that apparently now is assigned to federal court in Texas, would force a change in at least one other neighboring district.

But the high court ruling preserved the other districts, in the Houston area and elsewhere, that were created by the Texas Legislature in 2003. This includes a Dallas-area district whose constitutionality was challenged by black voters.

The Supreme Court has essentially upheld what I will neologistically call partisanized democracy. These reconfigured Texas districts, after all, were dreamed up and drawn by no less a rabid partisan than Tom DeLay. And DeLay, as one would expect, drew them to benefit Republicans. As The New York Times put it, "the court rejected the larger premise," that is, "that Texas Republicans had unconstitutionally reorganized the political map to solidify their majority in Congress". But, as Adam B wrote at Daily Kos, this was nothing short of "politically-based gerrymandering". As BooMan argues, there ought to be "legislation that will formalize [i.e., de-partisanize] the redistricting process".

But what of racialized democracy? The Supreme Court ruled that Bonilla's district had been gerrymandered to such a degree that it "violated the Voting Rights Act" and "trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters" (in the Times's words). It may have let DeLay off the hook for politically gerrymandering certain districts, but it didn't excuse the anti-Hispanic gerrymandering of that one district. Does it not follow that DeLay himself "violated the Voting Rights Act" and "trampled the rights of some Hispanic voters"?

We may focus on the Supreme Court's free pass on political gerrymandering, on partisanizing democracy, but it seems to me that the Republicans' conduct with respect to Texas's 23rd District is just as serious a problem. The Supreme Court must agree. It didn't let them off the hook for that one. They -- and DeLay in particular -- may have been vindicated, at least in legal terms according to the decision of a partisanized court (the Times claims that "[t]he outcome was something of a vindication for Mr. DeLay"), but shouldn't they be held accountable for what even this Supreme Court ruled they did wrong?

For more, see Steve Benen's excellent take at The Carpetbagger Report: "This very well may turn out to be one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for moments for the Republican Party." Republicans "started this," after all, and: "Republicans have really left Dems with no other choice. Dems didn't want a re-redistricting war, but there's simply no way the party can just stand back and watch Republicans gain seats in 'red' states without considering the same tactic in 'blue' states."

All of which is bad for democracy. Democrats must indeed do what they have to do, but the ultimate victim of this escalating war of political gerrymandering will be the demos itself.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Targeting Khaled, Buzzing Bashir

Well, according to the AP, an 18-year old Israeli has been killed by "a Palestinian militant group," high-level Hamas leaders, including the Palestinian deputy prime minister, were detained by Israeli forces, perhaps to "be used to trade for [a] captured [Israeli] soldier," and the Israeli offensive in Gaza continues (rather peacefully).

But that's not all. According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel is targeting Hamas's Syria-based leader Khaled Mashaal for assassination. It was he, Israel contends, who "orchestrated the kidnapping" of that Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Indeed, four Israeli planes even "flew over [i.e., buzzed] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's palace in the city of Latakia in northwestern Syria early Wednesday morning," an "operation aimed at pressuring the Syrian leadership to expel... Mashaal from Damascus". Needless to say, Syrian forces "opened fire on the warplanes, forcing them to flee".

Pay attention to this developing story. There's potential here for some serious escalation.

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James Dobson is a dangerous idiot

So CNN -- so often ridiculed by the right for alleged (and unsubstantiated) liberal biases -- has given a high-profile platform to Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the bigoted proponent of oppression, repression, and suppression in the name of his own "traditional values".

In a piece at, Dobson attacks "the liberal press" for falsely identifying popular support for same-sex marriage; claims that the Senate's opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage "turned their backs on this most basic social institution" (i.e., marriage as defined narrowly by Dobson and his bigoted ilk); finds an overall "bias against the family" (i.e., as defined narrowly by Dobson and his bigoted ilk) everywhere he looks in "the mainstream televised news networks"; ridicules the states'-rights argument that has long been a key conservative cause, claiming that having 50 states making their own laws with respect to same-sex marriage would "would create utter chaos" (which it wouldn't -- states are already free to make their own laws with respect to many issues); suggests that "activist judges" on the left (he likely doesn't think there are any on the right) would not respect the will of the people (i.e., are anti-democratic, with democracy defined narrowly by Dobson and his bigoted ilk); and -- yes, believe it or not, you can read it for yourself -- compares the movement to ban same-sex marriage to the movement to abolish slavery (more precisely, the British abolitionist movement of the evangelical William Wilberforce).

And, lest I forget, there's this: "If the battle to protect marriage takes even five more years, liberal judges and activists will have destroyed this 5,000-year-old institution, which was designed by the Creator, Himself. Even now, they are close to achieving that coveted objective."

Where, oh where, to begin? Dobson's bigotry, supported by his own brand of Christianity, speaks for itself. This is a man who is blinded by hatred, both hatred of gays and lesbians as somehow sub-human and hatred of his political opponents. He hides behind something as noble as abolitionism, but, as Shakespeare's Sister puts it, "none too few Americans of any color would take exception to our horrendous history of slavery being invoked in such a manner, but perhaps fewer will balk at the British reference".

Why not American abolitionism, Jimmy D.? Why not a non-white abolitionist? (Shakes has some ideas. Make sure to read her post -- in particular, I must agree with her blunt characterization of Dobson as a "homobigot retrofuck". You won't find that in the mainstream press, but it's as accurate a characterization as you're likely to find anywhere.)

Consider, too, what my fellow TMVer David Schraub has to say at The Debate Link:

Am I reading Dobson right that gay marriage poses a greater moral threat than slavery? That's simply stunning. Folks like Dobson use and abuse the civil rights movement for their own agendas, but seem to have very little awareness of the gravity of the wrong itself.

Hmm...maybe the way Black people could properly remember their tragedy would be to support equal rights and citizenship for their gay compatriots. The most logical descendant of Loving v. Virginia, after all, is Goodridge v. Department of Health.

Yes, that's my reading of Dobson, too. Yet I don't find it stunning. Not from someone like Dobson.

Anyway, I've had enough. Why give a dangerous idiot like Dobson even more space here at The Reaction? All I need to add is that he's a mover and shaker in the Republican Party, a leader of its all-important base.

Well done, CNN. I didn't have much respect for you before you put this outpouring of hate on your website. It's not that you're liberal or conservative or anything of the kind. It's just that you're so clearly an institution of cowardice. How else to explain your decision to give a bigot like Dobson such a high-profile platform?

Have I mentioned that he's a bigot?

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Senate rejects amendment on flag burning

The Senate has voted down a proposed constitutional amendment outlawing flag burning. So, you think, sanity rules in the Senate? No. The vote was 66 to 34, one short of passage. If you're counting, that's an insanity ratio of almost two to one. One wonders what Madison would think now of his great repository of deliberative democracy. I suspect he might just disown it altogether.

Senator Lautenberg of my former home state of New Jersey: "This is politics at its worst." Yes, just about. As Senator Feingold put it, such an amendment would "cut back the Bill of Rights for the first time". Much like President Bush's beloved amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage.

These are your Republicans at work. In desperation, which is where they are now, looking ahead to November, they play the patriotism card, the politics of scoundrels.

How predictable.

On a more serious note, though, if you let them get away with it, they'll take your rights away.

(See also Shakespeare's Sister, Echidne, Steve Benen, Norbizness, Ann Althouse, Christy Hardin Smith, Jill, Kathy Kattenburg, and DownWithTyranny.)

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Israel launches Gaza offensive

From the BBC:

The Israeli army has begun a ground offensive in southern Gaza to try to gain the release of an Israeli soldier.

The incursion comes hours after Israeli aircraft struck at bridges and a power plant in the Gaza Strip.

Cpl Gilad Shalit was abducted by Palestinian militants during a raid on an Israeli post near Gaza on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls this a "limited offensive" that targets the "terrorist infrastructure". Nonetheless, one wonders how this situation could escalate over the coming days.

My sentiments are with the Israelis, although the scope of the offensive concerns me. I hope they know what they're doing.

For more, see Counterterrorism Blog, which suggests that "[t]his operation will be extensive and could mean the complete end of the Hamas government". My friend Sister Toldjah agrees that Israel will likely "[step] it up". Captain Ed suggests that "the Israelis have a very good idea where most of the terrorist assets in Gaza are located, and they may try to wipe out as much of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as possible during this exercise".

Haaretz has more. At The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick says that the Israeli leadership has "nothing useful to say" and won't "[make] Israel safer".

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A snake like Zelig

I love animals, but, like Indiana Jones, snakes aren't exactly my favourites of the animal kingdom. Still, the discovery of a "chameleon-like" snake in Borneo is, well, quite the discovery.

This creature, which "belongs to the Enhydris genus of rear-fanged water snakes," is "about 50cm (18 inches) long, and venomous". According to the WWF, it "may exist only in one river basin".

This is yet another reason for environmental conservation/preservation, it seems to me, particularly of the rain forests. "In the last 10 years, more than 350 new animal and plant species have been discovered on Borneo."

Think what we're losing, what this planet is losing, as a direct result of our failure to act responsibly.

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The attack on America's free press

Not too long ago, I wrote about what I consider to be the shame of America's free press, that is, the mainstream news media's gullibility with respect to the White House's preferred spin and their refusal, or inability, to do their jobs properly:

Forget the liberal press. The accurate adjective is gullible. It wants a story, any story, preferably a new story. Apparently, the story of Bush's demise and Republican collapse is old. Apparently, the White House got out the spin and the spin is preferable to the truth. Much easier to regurgitate "happy talk" than to do the hard journalistic work of investigation and analysis. Much easier to let yourself be manipulated by the powers-that-be than to do your job properly and effectively.

For more, see here (with a follow-up here).

But let me make one thing abundantly clear: The shame of America's free press has been eclipsed by, and is far less troubling than, the attack on that same free press by the White House, Republicans, and conservatives generally. These attackers of the free press don't want a free press at all. They want a loyal press, a press that regurgitates the latest right-wing talking points, a press that amounts to little more than a purveyor of propaganda. In short, they want, as I've said before, Pravda. Fox News, of course, is already America's Pravda, or, more specifically, the White House's Pravda, and the Republican Congress's Pravda. The conservative movement has a few Pravda-like organs, spreading the preferred spin around to such partisan, party-line-toeing outlets as Fox News, The Weekly Standard, and National Review.

As you may know, much of the White House's anti-press bile is currently being hurled at The New York Times. According to the Times itself:

President Bush on Monday condemned as "disgraceful" the disclosure last week by The New York Times and other newspapers of a secret program to investigate and track terrorists that relies on a vast international database that includes Americans' banking transactions.

It doesn't much matter, in this regard, that "Congress was briefed," as Bush put it. The Times reported on the story of secret financial tracking and should not be criticized for doing its job. Democratic leaders like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid have been briefed on the program, but, as Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) put it, "There are very serious constitutional and legal questions that have been raised, and they're being obscured by this almost ad hominem attack on The New York Times".

Republicans and conservatives aren't content to defend a program that may or may not be defensible. They want to attack the opposition, and this now gives them an opportunity to attack the free press, a press that freely reported on a story that puts the White House on the defensive. (The Bush White House's m.o., right from the start, has been to do things in secret, secret even from Congress and especially from Democrats, and then to go after anyone who unveils those secrets.) Along this line, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has "called on the attorney general to investigate whether The Times's decision to publish the article violated the Espionage Act" and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has, according to Editor & Publisher, singled out the Times for special criticism.

For more, see BooMan, Think Progress, and Greg Sargent at HuffPo.

And, for a must-read, see this exceptional post by Glenn Greenwald:

Any doubts about whether the Bush administration intends to imprison unfriendly journalists (defined as "journalists who fail to obey the Bush administration's orders about what to publish") were completely dispelled this weekend. As I have noted many times before, one of the most significant dangers our country faces is the all-out war now being waged on our nation's media -- and thereby on the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press -- by the Bush administration and its supporters, who are furious that the media continues to expose controversial government policies and thereby subject them to democratic debate. After the unlimited outpouring of venomous attacks on the Times this weekend, I believe these attacks on our free press have become the country's most pressing political issue.

Documenting the violent rhetoric and truly extremist calls for imprisonment against the Times is unnecessary for anyone paying even minimal attention the last few days. On every cable news show, pundits and even journalists talked openly about whether the editors and reporters of the Times were traitors deserving criminal punishment. The Weekly Standard, always a bellwether of Bush administration thinking, is now actively crusading for criminal prosecution against the Times. And dark insinuations that the Times ought to be physically attacked are no longer the exclusive province of best-selling right-wing author Ann Coulter, but -- as Hume's Ghost recently documented -- are now commonly expressed sentiments among all sorts of "mainstream" Bush supporters. Bush supporters are now engaged in all-out, unlimited warfare against journalists who are hostile to the administration and who fail to adhere to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief about what to print.

The clear rationale underlying the arguments of Bush supporters needs to be highlighted. They believe that the Bush administration ought to be allowed to act in complete secrecy, with no oversight of any kind. George Bush is Good and the administration wants nothing other than to stop The Terrorists from killing us. There is no need for oversight over what they are doing because we can trust our political officials to do good on their own. We don't need any courts or any Congress or any media serving as a "watchdog" over the Bush administration. There is no reason to distrust what they do. We should -- and must -- let them act in total secrecy for our own good, for our protection. And anyone who prevents them from acting in total secrecy is not merely an enemy of the Bush administration, but of the United States, i.e., is a traitor.

It has come to this. The First Amendment is under attack. The very concept of a free press is under attack. The press may not always do its job properly, but, above all, it must be free to do its job. The White House, the Republican Congress, and the conservative organs that support them simply do not want to live in such a free society, a society with a press that is free to criticize them. However much they may talk the talk of freedom and democracy, their vision for America includes, it seems, one-party rule, a press that acts as that party's mouthpiece, and an ignorant citizenry that doesn't know the difference between truth and spin.

Where's George Orwell when you need him?

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By Creature

There is a fierce debate raging in the Senate over the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban flag burning. It's crazy in the chamber, crazy I tell ya.
That's not to say the senators were feeling energetic as they took up the amendment. The day's session started at 2 p.m., but by 2:21, there was no senator on the floor to speak, and the chamber went into a quorum call -- its equivalent of a nap -- for the next hour.

If it wasn't obvious before, it certainly is now, our government is officially asleep at the wheel.

Since it's time for my quorum call, head on over to The Carpetbagger Report and Shakespeare's Sister for more on the Senate's flag burning fever.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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If I drank the Kool-Aid

By Creature

More lies from the United Nations in attempt to undercut this administration and their noble cause in Iraq...
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The number of displaced people in Iraq has swelled by 150,000 since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in February pushed the country to the brink of civil war, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) put the number of displaced since late February higher than the 130,386 estimate of registered internal refugees given by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration on Monday.

Anyone ever stop to consider that these people may just be visiting relatives now that the country has been liberated. Why does the U.N. hate America?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Like a bunch of two-year-olds

By Creature

Cry babies.
WASHINGTON - President Bush on Monday sharply condemned the disclosure of a program to secretly monitor the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful," he said.

No, Mr. President, you are disgraceful.

"For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America," Bush said, jabbing his finger for emphasis. He said the disclosure of the program "makes it harder to win this war on terror."

Wrong again, Mr. President, you do great harm to America. [Creature jabs finger for emphasis] And you make it harder to win this war on terror.

"The American people expect this government to protect our constitutional liberties and at the same time make sure we understand what the terrorists are trying to do," Bush said.

Hey, wait a minute, I agree with you there, Mr. President. But how is making a run around Congress and the courts protecting our constitutional liberties? Your overreach is doing more damage to our liberties than any terrorist could have hoped for.

You all need to get off your high horses, this includes you Mr. Vice President, and admit you are more upset that the NYT disobeyed a direct order and exposed your illegal expansion of power, than you are over the disclosure of this program. You and your surrogates sound like a bunch of two-year-olds.

UPDATE: Right on cue Crook & Liars has video of this infantile GOP behavior. This clip is must see.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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By Creature

Sen. Santorum and Rep. Hoekstra are still talking WMDs. You would think after all the ridicule they endured last week, following their desperate explosive announcement that WMDs had been found in Iraq, that they would lay off the topic. No, they're not that smart. In today's Wall Street Journal they opine for further declassification of the intelligence report that brought us last week's old breaking news. But here's the funny, they think the president would like to declassify the rest, but because of the liberal-left, alas, he cannot. Poor president, his hands are tied.

The president is the ultimate classifier and declassifier of information, but the entire matter has now been so politicized that, in practice, he is often paralyzed. If he were to order the declassification of a document pointing to the existence of WMDs in Iraq, he would be instantly accused of "cherry picking" and "politicizing intelligence." He may therefore not be inclined to act.

This is beyond delusional on the part of these two congressmen. If the real WMDs were found in Iraq, we would be seeing them paraded up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Let it go guys, especially you, little Ricky; let it go. Life after politics will be okay. Think of all the time you'll have to spend doing fun things with your family...

In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.

Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.

Ricky, it's no wonder that Pennsylvania has turned against you.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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What would Edmund Burke say?

Will Britain break with tradition and adopt its very own U.S.-style bill of rights? Perhaps -- if Conservative Leader David Cameron has his way (if, that is, the Tories win back power from Labour and Cameron becomes PM).

It's an interesting proposal, and not necessarily a bad one. (At this late hour, that's the extent of my reaction. I'm sure I'll have more to say if it goes anywhere.)

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Sunday, June 25, 2006


By Creature

Did the Iraq PM blink in the face of Bush administration pressure? First, here is today's news out of Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered an olive branch to insurgents who join in rebuilding Iraq and said Sunday that lawmakers should set a timeline for the Iraqi military and police to take control of security nationwide.

There was no mention of any timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in Iraq. [emphasis mine]

Now, just yesterday, this is how Newsweek (who obtained a draft of the prime minister's reconciliation plan) reported on the timetable debate:

The plan also calls for a withdrawal timetable for coalition forces from Iraq, but it doesn't specify an actual date—one of the Sunnis' key demands. It calls for "the necessity of agreeing on a timetable under conditions that take into account the formation of Iraqi armed forces so as to guarantee Iraq's security," [emphasis still mine]

So I ask you, did the sovereign government of Iraq fold under United States pressure and remove any direct timetable language from their reconciliation plane? Looks like it to me. And you know what's really sad? A timetable would help to lift some of the pressure off Prime Minister Maliki and his fledging government. A timetable would help Maliki in his dealing with the Sunni insurgents. A timetable would help him convince the country as a whole that there can be a face-saving end to the American occupation. The only group a timetable hurts, however, is the Bush administration and their rabid political base, who, for two weeks, used the concept of a timetable to beat the Democrats into the ground as cut-and-run cowards. Can't call for a timetable now. Why? Partisan politics and hubris.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a timetable really is a possibility. Says who? The Pentagon.

For more timetable and troop withdrawal talk, please follow these links to folks who are much more knowledgeable than I: Informed Comment, Needlenose, The Left Coaster (who took the words right out of my mouth as I was writing them, except much better), Greg Sargent, and the BooMan.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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