Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fascists and Republicans: Terrorism, 9/11, and the lies of the Bush propaganda machine

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

Islamofascism, Bush has come to call it, and that's not one of his malapropisms. It's a multi-level attempt to tie his quixotic mission to something real and historical and to distract from the growing awareness that his one-party government, so expert in manipulating the passions of the public with propaganda and so good at intimidating the public with secret investigations, bears a growing resemblance to the Fascisti of the 1930s and 40s. The Bush propaganda machine is so powerful not only because modern communications makes it easier, but because, as is the practice of Republicans and Fascists alike, the boundaries between government and private propaganda is blurred. If caught, if exposed, the private sector liars can be jettisoned without damage to the party, which can then go off on a new tack faster than anything that ever won the America's Cup.

The towers of the World Trade Center no longer dominate the Manhattan skyline, but the various myths, legends, gospels, hymns, and dirges that we have created to fill the void still dominate national discourse and, like Obi-wan, the Twin Towers are more powerful in death than in life. So important to the case for war is their destruction that the meaning of September 11th must be reformed, restated, and re-invented as the ineluctable causa belli with each emerging detail of Bush's bungling incompetence. And so well has this been done that no direct evidence of Bush's failure to prevent it even despite direct warning can stand against the onslaught of fable. Bush's private propagandists are quite up to the task.

The American Broadcasting Company, according to
Think Progress, plans to disgrace the day by airing a jaw-dropping, mind-twisting piece of putrescent "docudrama" to blame the attack on Bill Clinton. ABC, which along with the other networks drowned out that the former president’s efforts to attack Osama bin Laden with the incessant screech of "Monicamonicamonica," now would have it otherwise, just as the man who went on vacation when warned of an imminent attack would have it otherwise -- and so otherwise it shall be.

"The film really zeros in on the shortcomings of the Clinton administration in doing anything about militant Islamofascism or terrorism during its administration," says Rush Limbaugh. Can any amount of Oxycontin dull the conscience of this man? Can any amount of Docufiction disguise the degree to which Bush dismantled Clinton's anti-terrorism efforts? Can anyone forget the mockery Rush directed at Clinton for firing "Monica missiles" at Osama. We shall see.

I'm sure the outrage caused by advance announcement of this "docudrama" will be significant. The director of the film, David Cunningham, is already backtracking about its accuracy, saying "
this is not a documentary." Indeed, it's not. Posing as objective history, it's a drama, a pastiche of fact and fiction, a passion play used to prove a point that the facts themselves deny. It’s propaganda. It’s a lie.

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All hail Angela Merkel!

Who, according to Forbes, is the most powerful woman in the world?

It's not Condi Rice (#2). Nor is it Oprah (#14), Hillary (#18), or Melinda Gates (#12). Nor is it China's Wu Yi (#3), Chile's Michelle Bachelet (#17), or New Zealand's Helen Clark (#20). Nor is it, back in the U.S. again, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (#32), Laura Bush (#43), or Nancy Pelosi (#48). Nor is it Queen Elizabeth II (#46). Nor is it any of the women in the news business -- like Katie Couric (#54), Diane Sawyer (#60), and Christiane Amanpour (#79) -- or any of the women who run some of the world's leading companies and investment firms -- like PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi (#4), Morgan Stanley's Zoe Cruz (#10), and eBay's Margaret Whitman (#22).

No, the most powerful woman in the world -- and you can find the list of the top 100 here -- is Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who last year just narrowly squeaked into power. For more on Merkel, see a Time profile here. Last September and October, I wrote a six-post series on the German election. The last one, #6, is here.

(By the way, there are no Canadians on the list. Which is a little embarrassing.)

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Freedom Agenda Update

By Creature

Different day, same speech. Literally.

But Bush, repeating nearly word-for-word the message of a speech earlier this week in Salt Lake City, said, "The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq, so America will not leave until victory is achieved."

I guess today's weekly radio address was just a summer rerun as we await Tuesday's all new--yet somehow familiar--episode of In the Streets of Our Own Cities.*

The president plans to expand on [the coalition of the terror groups] description Tuesday before the Military Officers Association of America, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. Bush will describe how Islamic militants think, what they have said about their aims and why the world should take them seriously, Perino said.

The world takes terror seriously, it's the president of the United States that they dismiss.

*Programming Note: In the Streets of Our Own Cities will be replacing Over There Not Over Here this election season. Please adjust your DVRs.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Failure in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan

At The Left Coaster today, Steve Soto examines "failure of a grand scale overseas" -- specifically America's failure in or with respect to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Or, more precisely, Bush's failure.

Iraq: Civilian casualties have "spiraled upward" since Maliki assumed power. And, as expected, there continues to be widespread dissent among the Kurds, who are pushing for independence even as many Iraqis move north to "seek a new life and safety" in Kurdistan.

Iran: Nuclear development continues as disagreements among the major powers, specifically Russia's opposition to sanctions, threaten to derail any diplomatic solution. And, of course, "Bush squandered any chance to do something positive about Iran years ago".

Afghanistan: Opium production is "out of control" and there aren't nearly enough troops to "bring security to the country". Meanwhile, "our best friend in the war on terror Pervez Musharraf is busy cutting self-serving deals with Islamic separatists for truces which free up these forces to infiltrate back into Afghanistan to assist the Taliban and fight American and NATO forces".

Not good. Not good at all.

Check out Steve's link-filled post for more.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Panda blogging

Baby panda twins at a zoo in Chiba, Japan.

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Climate change is happening

The choice is clear. You can believe the lies (or otherwise succumb to ignorance) or you can choose to come to terms with the fact that our planet is on the verge of, or even already in the process of, massive and unpredictable climate change.

Harvard Professor John Holdren is the new president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Allow me to defer to his expertise: "We are not talking anymore about what climate models say might happen in the future. We are experiencing dangerous human disruption of the global climate and we're going to experience more."

Read the whole piece at the BBC.

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Revising Chairman Mao

According to the Times, new Chinese history textbooks have essentially purged Mao from the record: "The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization." Pre-1979 Communism has been reduced to a sentence, "the Marxist template that had dominated standard history texts since the 1950’s has been "shelved," and Mao is mentioned "only once -- in a chapter on etiquette".

(Was Mao renowned for his etiquette? Is there proper etiquette in the execution of a cultural revolution?)

The new, post-Marxist China may be more appealing in some ways than the old one. And it is likely for the best that Chinese students are learning about globalization rather than being indoctrinated in the dialectics of historical materialism. But China -- like, say, Germany -- needs to learn from its past and to incorporate the positive elements of its past into its rapid journey into a more globalized future. Mao may have done some horrible things while in power, and what he stood for may not be compatible with the aims of today's political leadership, but it seems to me that the Chinese people, and particularly their young people, the leaders of tomorrow, should keep that past firmly in mind as they look ahead to a more prosperous future. How else to avoid the repetitions of history?

Revisionism is the way of totalitarianism. The new totalitarianism may not be ideologically Maoist, and it may seek ties with the liberal democratic West even as it severs ties with its predecessors, but it seeks to brainwash nonetheless. The new propaganda serves a radically different end than the old propaganda, but, with or without Mao, the Chinese people still aren't free.

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Good news for the Dems

Sit down. Take a deep breath. And don't get too excited. There's some fairly good news for Dems going into the Labo(u)r Day weekend with respect to their mid-term electoral prospects.

According to USA Today (uh, yesterday), "[polls] in five key states show Democrats poised to gain Senate seats but facing an uphill battle to regain control". They also show that "Democrats seem more likely to carry the House in the Nov. 7 elections, which are being shaped by voters' unease over Iraq, jobs and health care and a sense that the nation is on the wrong track".

(Another deep breath.)

Here's are the details from five key battlegrounds (quoting USA Today):

• In Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum trailed Democrat Bob Casey by 18 percentage points among likely voters, by 14 points among registered voters.

• In Ohio, Sen. Mike DeWine was behind Democrat Sherrod Brown by 6 points among likely voters, by 2 points among registered voters.

• In Montana, three-term Sen. Conrad Burns, who has faced questions in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, was in a close race with Democrat Jon Tester. Tester led by 3 points among likely voters; Burns led by 2 points among registered voters.

• In Missouri, Sen. Jim Talent held a 6-point lead among likely voters over Democrat Claire McCaskill. The two were tied among registered voters.

• In Minnesota, where Republicans hope to pick up an open seat, Democrat Amy Klobuchar led Republican Mark Kennedy by 10 points among likely voters, by 7 points among registered voters.

Plus, the gubernatorial race in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty and Democratic challenger Mike Hatch is virtually even. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell leads Republican challenger Lynn Swann by 22 points (as a life-long Steelers fan, Swann will always be close to my heart, but I'm not on his side this time.) And in Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland leads Republican Ken Blackwell by 16 points (although, as I recently reported, Strickland may be up by as much as 25 points).

There's still a long way to go -- two months is a long time in politics, and it's never wise to count the Republicans out, not with Rove et al. looking as always to manipulate the narrative -- but these are nonetheless positive signs, indications of possible success, that Democrats could retake one or both houses of Congress in November.

(Yet another deep breath. It's too early to predict anything at this point. But still.)

For more, see Ezra Klein, who counsels caution but expresses optimism, and Joe Gandelman, who wonders if (and how) Democrats will "find a way to grab defeat out of the jaws of victory". Steve Benen looks at other positive poll results here (it seems "fewer and fewer people [want] to identify themselves as Republicans" -- can you blame them?).

And now let's get back to the hard work of getting Democrats elected. As mcjoan puts it at Kos, "[w]ith just nine weeks left of campaigning, we have a lot of ground to cover".

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The killers of Khartoum reject U.N. intervention in Darfur

From the BBC:

The Sudanese government has vehemently rejected a UN Security Council resolution that would send a UN force to Sudan's Darfur region.

"The Sudanese people will not consent to any resolution that will violate its sovereignty," the official Suna news agency quoted the government as saying.

The resolution requires the consent of Khartoum for the force to be deployed.

Well, of course Khartoum won't agree. Why would it? It may defend its sovereignty, but that sovereignty is also a cover for genocide in Darfur. The last thing the killers of Khartoum want is an international force to thwart their continuing genocidal aspirations. At some point the principle of sovereignty must give way to the principle of human life.

And, honestly, I don't much care what Khartoum thinks. Why does the Sudanese government deserve to be treated with anything resembling respect? I'd like to see a U.N. resolution with teeth. It may come far too late, but far too late is still preferable to not at all. International action could at least prevent further genocide.

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Terminating global warming

Once again, California is out front on the environment with an impressive effort to curb global warming. From the L.A. Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders agreed Wednesday on a plan to cut by 25% the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from California electric power plants, refineries and other sources by the year 2020.

A 25 percent reduction wouldn't be nearly enough. Some experts have argued that carbon emissions must be cut worldwide by as much as 70 percent over the next several decades for the trend towards global warming (and possibly massive and largely unpredictable climate change) to be reversed. (This in parallel with a rapid expansion of renewable, non-carbon energy supplies.)

President Bush clearly isn't serious about tackling the problem in any serious way, and nor is Prime Minister Harper here in Canada. For them, Kyoto, as inadequate (and obsolete) as is, seems to be a nuisance, a burden on their oil-friendly short-sightedness. Europe, however, is taking the lead. In Britain, for example, Prime Minister Blair, who recently linked up with California after getting nowhere with Bush, has committed to reduce emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Similar or even more progressive commitments have been made in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Still, the California plan is a significant step in the right direction. In the absence of federal leadership from Republicans in Congress and the White House, states will have to pursue emissions cuts on their own or in regional partnerships (as is the case in Northeast), and California's leadership may prompt others to take action. Ultimately, however, leadership must come from Washington, which is in a position to coordinate nation-wide action and to negotiate international agreements.

I applaud efforts in California and elsewhere to try to deal with global warming, but the urgency of the problem, a problem that could profoundly alter our world as we know it, demands even more far-reaching and aggressive initiatives. Our planet requires nothing less.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mirror Mirror

By Creature

The rhetoric is overwhelming. If they call me an appeasing, terrorist-hugging, cut-and-run coward one more time I may just start believing I really want to give terror a chance. I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't want Iraq to fall into the hands of al Qaeda? Who wouldn't want Iran to have the bomb? Besides, I'm kinda looking forward to an endless war against a faceless enemy who wants to take away my freedom. It'll be good for my blogging. Fuckin' assholes and their adapt-to-win talking points.

When Bush names the enemy fascists, I say, look in the mirror. When Bush says the terrorists desire the Iraqi's oil, I say, look in the mirror. When Rumsfeld says the majority of the American people are morally and intellectually confused, I say, look in the mirror.

Today the president will put his official stamp on all this indecent rhetoric with a speech before the American Legion. Today the president should use a mirror instead of a teleprompter when delivering his campaign speech--a speech he insists has nothing to do with politics--then maybe the truth of who he is would be reflected in the reality of his words.

UPDATE: The Washington Post sets the stage for today's defeatist speech.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Sign of the Apocalypse #36: The "new" Katie Couric

No, this isn't Katie's doing. At least it doesn't appear to be. So, no, she doesn't deserve the blame (just as she didn't necessarily deserve the blame the last time she was mixed up in a SOTA -- see here). In fact, she claims, she likes the original image, the real Katie, more than the touched-up one. Fair enough, but the fact is someone somewhere has inched us closer, a wee bit closer, to the Apocalypse. And that sucks.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, surely you've heard that "[t]he incoming 'CBS Evening News' anchor appears significantly thinner in a network promotional magazine photo thanks to digital airbrushing". Like, 20 pounds thinner.

Who cares, you ask? This goes on all the time, you say.

I'm sure it does. And, obviously, there are far, far more important things to care about. But the SOTA-worthy issue here isn't simply the appearance of a digitally thinner TV news anchor, it's the far more serious problem of the presentation of reality in the media and the willful transmission of media-generated reality to consumers who perceive that reality to be truth. In short, the Couric photo fiasco, as innocuous as it may seem, serves to remind us that the truth is not always as it appears to be, that in fact the truth is often, and far more often than we realize, only what it is manipulated to be.

In Plato's Republic, Socrates presents to his interlocutors the famous parable of the cave. The vast mass of humanity, which sits chained facing a wall, mistakes the shadows of objects flickering in front of them, objects controlled by those above them, to be the objects themselves. That is, they mistake the manipulation of reality for reality itself. They mistake the shadow of the truth for the truth itself.

The parable is a universal expression of a key facet of the human condition. Does it not also apply to us? Our media control us through the manipulation of reality. All the more reason for us to be educated media consumers, to know how to interpret the media-generated reality that threatens to overwhelm us. All the more reason for us to be angry at that someone somewhere who airbrushed Katie Couric.

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Ted Stevens is a dangerous idiot

Why? Do you even need to ask? Well, fine. Consider the latest piece of evidence:

CNN has confirmed that Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has placed a hold on a bill that would require the government to publish online a database of federal spending.

The identity of the so-called "secret senator" who has put the kibosh on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act has been a source of much speculation in the blogosphere of late.

No longer. Now we know. And it should come as no surprise.

If Stevens has his way, and he often does, there will be no accountability and no transparency. And certainly no good governance. There will be bridges to nowhere, but no bridge to the people, to the sort of open democracy Americans have fought for throughout their history. This is, after all, a senator who, in the words of Steve Benen (linking to Justin Rood), is "a notorious pork-lover". Consider, for more, the damning evidence at Wikipedia.

Ted Stevens is clearly an idiot and clearly dangerous.

(Keep following the story at TPM Muckraker.)

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quick Flick Pick

By Creature


[It's the end of the world as FOX knows it.]

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Terror in Iraq's hospitals

A terrifying picture, from WaPo, of a new arena of violence in Iraq:

In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials...

In most cases, family members and hospital workers said, the motive for the abductions appeared to be nothing more than religious affiliation. Because public hospitals here are controlled by Shiites, the killings have raised questions about whether hospital staff have allowed Shiite death squads into their facilities to slaughter Sunni Arabs.

But things are getting better, right? Right? (Please.)

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Still the other America: The rise of poverty in the United States 2

Last year, almost to the day, I wrote a post on the latest census numbers with respect to the state of poverty in the U.S. -- you can find it here.

I quoted John Edwards: "America should be showing true leadership on the great moral issues of our time -- like poverty -- instead of allowing these situations to get worse."

I quoted Michael Harrington: "This suffering is such an abomination in a society where it is needless that anything that can be done should be done... In any case, and from any point of view, the moral obligation is plain: there must be a crusade against this poverty in our midst... How long shall we ignore this underdeveloped nation in our midst? How long shall we look the other way while our fellow human beings suffer? How long?"

How long? Well, the situation seems to be getting worse. Over at The Carpetbagger Report, our friend Steve Benen has a must-read post on the new census numbers. They paint a disturbing picture:

  • In 2005, 46.6 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.3 million people in 2004;
  • The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005;
  • The median earnings of men declined 1.8 percent to $41,386. The median earnings of women declined 1.3 percent to $31,858; and
  • In 2005, 37.0 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2004.
37 million people, or 12.6 percent of the population, live in poverty. There is no crusade. There is no true leadership. There is only this appalling abomination as too many of us, too many of our leaders, continue to look the other way.

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Ahmadinejad claims Holocaust may have been made up

From Deutsche Welle:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Holocaust may have been invented by the victorious Allied powers in World War II to embarrass Germany.

Yes, Ahmadinejad, the Madman of Tehran, said it is "a reasonable possibility that some countries that had won the war made up this excuse to constantly embarrass the defeated people... to bar their progress".

Merkel was not amused. And rightly so.

Not that we need yet more proof of Ahmadinejad's disturbed state of mind, but is he really this crazy? Yes, quite possibly. He may have meant this strange letter more for domestic consumption than for Merkel herself, and one wonders if he truly believes what he has to say about the Holocaust, but this is the political leader of a major Middle Eastern power with a nuclear program that may soon produce weapons who questions the Holocaust and denies Israel's right to exist.

I wouldn't put anything by him, would you?

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Canadian Conservative Party ready for an election -- no one is surprised

By Grace

For most people who are following Canadian politics, the headline "Tories more ready than any other party for an election" comes as no surprise. It seems that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been election-ready since he won a minority government in January of this year.

In June, I mentioned that Harper was already dropping not-so-subtle hints about the e-word when his nominee for an accountability appointment was soundly rejected, saying: "We'll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future. That's obviously what we'll be taking to the people of Canada at the appropriate time,"

The latest of such blustering comes after a sort of break in the softwood lumber dispute -- a deal negotiated by the party-switching Member of Parliament, David Emerson (who, as you may recall, jumped the Liberal ship for a ministerial position in the new Conversative government). The Prime Minister proudly stated that a large number of timber companies were getting behind the deal, but refused to give actual numbers, merely stating, "it's a very strong majority."

However, some in the lumber industry were leery towards the new deal. Hank Ketcham, President of West Fraser Timber, said that his company "had serious reservations about both the substance of the (agreement) and the process by which it has been developed."

Why? According to The Vancouver Sun, "The agreement will return $4.3 billion to Canadian producers. The companies, in turn, would have to drop their largely successful legal challenges before panels established under the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization." In addition to this, the United States gets to keep $1 billion of the illegal tariffs it collected.

In other words, all those rulings that came in Canada's favour from NAFTA and the WTO in the softwood lumber dispute will be have to be forgotten, as if they counted for nothing (for a brief overview of the softwood lumber controversy, see here). And what's the point of having an international agreement when we agree not to adhere to the terms?

But I digress.

The main point of this matter is that on August 22 Harper announced that he would put this deal before the House of Commons in September as a bill -- adding that its failure to pass would lead to (surprise, surprise) an election.

Harper is placing a bill, practically as a confidence motion, before the House that the New Democrats, the Bloc Quebecois and most of the Liberals feel they cannot support (one NDP MP, Peter Julian, called the deal a "sellout"), with what is essentially an ultimatum: "Pass it or face an election."

Now, let's break this down:

The last election in Canada was held in January 2006. The election before that was in the summer of 2004. The very idea of three elections in the span of two years (and two in ONE year!) is exhausting, and the very exercise itself is costly and a cause for general crankiness among the Canadian electorate. Any party that triggers or is perceived to have triggered one now would likely be looking at a poor showing in the polls.

Add to that: The Liberals (the main and strongest opposition to Harper's Conservatives) are currently without a leader. The convention in which one will be chosen is set for December. A snap election called in September could catch them, not unawares (there are contingencies being put in place for such a political emergency), but in a very shaky position.

So what are the options? It's the lesser of two evils in this case: Vote for a bill most of the opposition parties view as being bad for the country, or get trounced by the public and see a reduction in seats and power in Parliament. The Bloc, the NDP, and the Grits have the most to lose, and Harper wins either way. In the first scenario, his bill gets passed. In the second, he may get that majority he's been salivating over for the past eight months, because he will shift the blame onto the opposition for toppling the government.

All in all, someone's playing a game of political brinksmanship with a trigger finger on the election button.

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Kemp to Konnecticut

According to the AP, Republican Jack Kemp -- former NFL star, Congressman, Cabinet secretary, and Veep candidate -- is heading to Connecticut to campaign with (and for) "Democrat" Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman leads in the polls but obviously needs all the help he can get. With Democrats flocking to Lamont, the winner of the Democratic primary, Lieberman's hopes in November rest largely on luring Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to his candidacy. And he can do that by campaigning with Republican stars.

And by being, for all intents and purposes, a Republican himself. Which, these days, isn't much of a stretch. Not much at all.

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After Katrina: President Bush's inadvertent admission of failure

There's something maddeningly nauseating (and funny in a really bad way) about President Bush's far-too-little-far-too-late proclamations in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Katrina. Here's how WaPo begins its account:

President Bush, marking the one-year anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, promised today a "better and more effective response" in the event of another hurricane, saying the catastrophic storm exposed government failure at "all levels."

This is like admitting that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. In ignorance -- in straying from the talking points or in sticking to ones with fissures, unintentional or not -- comes a kernel of truth. In promising a "better and more effective response," Bush is admitting, unwittingly or not, that the response to Katrina, a response that was ultimately his own responsibility, was neither good nor effective. How else to explain the fact that New Orleans remains a disaster zone a year after Katrina? Katrina may have "exposed government failure at 'all levels,'" but it exposed it most acutely in the Oval Office.

Bush said that "[w]e will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done".

A little late, no?

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Is Israel preparing to strike Iran?

Perhaps, says The Washington Times, which is reporting this:

Israel has appointed a top general to oversee a war against Iran, prompting speculation that it is preparing for possible military action against Tehran's nuclear program.

Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, Israel's air force chief, will be overall commander for the "Iran front," military sources told the London Sunday Telegraph.

This may* mean nothing more than prudent preparedness. But what's wrong with that? After all, we all know what Iranian President Ahmadinejad thinks of Israel and how Iran supports Hezbollah.


(* If Israel really is preparing for an imminent strike, well, my preliminary view is that any such strike ought to wait for serious diplomatic efforts to run their course -- successfully, one hopes.)

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Strickland widens lead over Blackwell in Ohio

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Democrat Ted Strickland leads Republican Ken Blackwell 57 percent to 32 percent in the Ohio gubernatorial race, a whopping and rather "intimidating" spread of 25 points. And the trend is looking good: Strickland was up by just 4 points in January, and the three-poll rolling average indicates that the spread has been widening consistently since late last year.

So much for the GOP's gay-card swift-boating.

Now we just need Sherrod Brown to pull ahead of Mike DeWine in the Senate race. How would that be for a Democratic one-two punch in one of America's most notorious swing states?

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Just another month in the life and death of Iraq II

Good news? Is it possible? Well, yes. And no.

Death seems to be in decline in Baghdad this month, according to the L.A. Times:

An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad's homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday -- even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.

Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.

I have no doubt that the Baghdad sweep is doing some good. And perhaps the numbers really have declined as much as the L.A. Times is reporting they have. Perhaps, to some degree, the U.S. military is right that "the capital's declining violence to a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence". I have far less confidence in Prime Minister Maliki's seemingly idiotic claim that there will never be a civil war in Iraq (define civil war) and that there is now "is an atmosphere of reconciliation" in Iraq (between whom exactly?).

And consider the probing questions posed by Juan Cole, who responds directly to the L.A. Times's seemingly misguided article:

This article says that killings are down substantially in Baghdad itself, what with thousands of US and Iraqi troops making security sweeps through the most dangerous neighborhoods. The first question is whether the decline in deaths in Baghdad (which is only relative) has been offset by violence in Mosul, Baqubah and elsewhere. The second question is whether the violence will remain lower when the sweeps end, as inevitably they will. Can the Iraqi troops take over at that point and continue to be effective against the guerrillas? My guess is, "no." In which case the US "Battle for Baghdad" is just a delaying tactic, putting off the day when the west of the capital falls altogether into the hands of the Sunni Arab guerrillas. If that happened, the Green Zone might not be far behind.

I am eager to see the violence end. The point of our "Just another day" and "Just another month" series here at The Reaction is to highlight the underreported violence in Iraq, to emphasize in a non-partisan way the human cost of this ongoing war. But it is only with sadness that we do this. The violence under Saddam was deplorable. So is the violence in the post-Saddam era.

Yet it seems to me that this "good" news is dangerously misleading. The violence in Baghdad, and only in Baghdad, has been lessened by an American effort that, as Professor Cole stresses, will end. It has thus been artificially lessened. Once the American effort ends, or perhaps even before it does, the violence will likely return to its pre-sweep levels. The only way to end the violence, or at least to reduce it to manageable levels, is to build a sustainable peace, that is, a legitimately self-governing Iraq that can impose order and provide for a stable civil society. Iraq needs a Leviathan, but one that is both liberal and democratic. The American sweep in Baghdad may be saving lives, but it isn't anything more than a stop-gap measure that makes things look better than they really are.

This isn't good news. It's just temporary (and relative) not bad news. Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise.

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After Katrina: The failure to rebuild New Orleans

Over at Think Progress, one of our favourite blogs, Amanda provides a helpful, link-filled post on "the real state of New Orleans" one year after Katrina. Despite Bush's initial promises to get things done, it's pretty dismal, with garbage yet to be picked up, houses still without electricity, little public transportation, hospitals still closed, rents soaring, and suicides at an alarming rate.

Check out the post and click on the links.

And also check out John Edwards's piece on "Remembering Katrina's Victims" at the One America Committee (where I'm honoured to be a featured blogger). Here's how he describes the New Orleans of today:

Despite all the official promises about "doing what it takes" to get New Orleans back on its feet, much of the city still looks as if the hurricane hit yesterday. Thousands upon thousands of homes remain deserted, windowless and covered with flood grime in desolate neighborhoods. The water and sewer systems are still in terrible shape. Fewer than half of the city’s hospitals have reopened, and there are not nearly enough health clinics to adequately serve all the low-income families who need care. Vast areas are still littered with mangled cars and piles of debris.

Promises have been broken and a city, once a glorious city, still lies in ruins, much of it left to rot. That's the reality of New Orleans one year after Katrina.

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More image over substance

By Creature

They still don't get it.

Mr. Bush delivered his [Katrina] remarks at an intersection in a working-class Biloxi neighborhood against a carefully orchestrated backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. Just a few feet out of camera range stood gutted houses with wires dangling from interior ceilings. A tattered piece of crime scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet seat lay on its side in the grass.

Crime scene tape and a toilet seat. That about sums up Bush's entire presidency.

The NYT has more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Elections are so last century

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

Back in early June, the media was watching closely the results of the special election in San Diego to replace Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham after he plead guilty to bribery. The buzz was, if Francine Busby won, it would be a clear indication that the voters were tired of Republican corruption and were ready to hand Congress over to the Democrats. Opinion polls before Election Day had Busby ahead of her opponent Brian Bilbray, but in the end, Bilbray pulled it out and traditional media was all over the story. Well, they were all over part of the story, the part that cast a rosy glow over the GOP and their chances of holding onto control of Congress in the midterms, but the bigger story was the fact that the election was contested. That story never got off the ground though. As we know, traditional media doesn’t challenge, let alone investigate fishy elections. That’s not newsworthy in this day and age.

The election in San Diego was conducted on Diebold machines that were kept in the homes of poll workers for days before the election, this breach of protocol effectively decertified the machines, but they were used anyway and when the machines spit out a win for Republican Bilbray, he was quickly sworn in back in Washington D.C., even though there were votes still being counted and the results hadn’t been certified. I guess if the GOP can’t get their hand picked SoS to certify fraudulent results ala Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell, they can just bypass the SoS and swear in whomever they choose, I mean really, who’s going to challenge them, The Washington Post, CNN, Chris Matthews, Bob Woodward? Please.

The election was contested in late July after the California Registrar refused to conduct a hand recount (sound familiar?), and a brief was filed last week by the defendants in the case claiming that the California courts don’t have jurisdiction to decide the case and that the House of Representatives has the full authority to determine its members. In other words, the voters are merely giving a suggestion when they vote for their Congressperson, in the end, Congress can determine for itself who to swear in and accept as members. I guess we should all keep that in mind as we head to the polls in November. We’re not really deciding on representation, we’re only voicing our opinion, an opinion that can be ignored if we make the “wrong” choice. Good to know.

I still run into Democrats that are active in Party politics who refuse to acknowledge the ugly reality of how broken our election systems are. We watched as Al Gore tried to eek out enough votes to best George Bush instead of demanding that every vote in Florida be counted, we watched as John Kerry folded and refused to fight, we have watched Democrats in the House and Senate run as fast as they can away from any discussion involving fraudulent elections, manipulated results and hackable voting machines. There are a great many people diligently working through legal channels to secure free and fair elections (and BradBlog is doing an excellent job of covering these efforts), but the opposition has more money, more lawyers and more access.

Where are our Democratic leaders on this issue? How can they continue to provide cover for the GOP and even worse, a false sense of security to rank and file Democrats who honestly believe that if there was a real problem, surely prominent Democrats would be making more noise? For whatever reason (they’re feeding at the corporate trough?), that isn’t going to happen and voters need to recognize that we are on our own. If our election system is to be fixed, we must first acknowledge just how bad things are and then we must stop helping the enemy by demeaning the efforts of those working so hard to save our democracy. It’s time we worried less about their tin foil hats and more about our own steel blinders.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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So much for optimism

By Creature

A few posts down I made reference to the "optimistic president" and his "optimistic carpet." Both of these statements were based on a Washington Post puff piece from March where the president talked about his oval office rug and the optimism it instilled. The word optimism was used roughly six times to describe the man and his carpet. Ridiculous, to say the least. So today when I awoke to find this op-ed in the NY Times, I couldn't help but laugh. The irony is striking.

Part of Mr. Bush’s legacy may well be that he robbed America of its optimism — a force that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other presidents, like Ronald Reagan, used to rally the country when it was deeply challenged. The next generation of leaders will have to resell discouraged Americans on the very idea of optimism, and convince them again that their goal should not be to live with their ailments, but to cure them.

Sad, but true. The strained pessimistic psyche of America is only one small causality of the presidency that is forty-three.

Read more from the NYT.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Dick Cheney wants to rule the world

Or does he already? Robert Kuttner argued in the Globe on Saturday -- and it's an argument that many of us have made, but it deserves repeating -- that Cheney is "the man running the country," that "[t]he [Bush] administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney -- sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove" -- but always Cheney. Indeed, "for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England".

One hopes that future historians will do more than our present journalists and get the story right. The truth of the Bush presidency needs to be revealed, and learned from, so that its myriad blunders, failures, and injustices may never be repeated.

You've heard most of it before, but read the whole piece.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Back home again

I'm back from a wonderful vacation. I'll be back to my regular posting schedule soon -- I didn't blog while I was away, but I'm ready to pick up right where I left off and I'm eager to get going again -- but allow me to thank Creature for standing in for me this past week. He kept this blog alive and lively during my absence. He is, as many of you already know, a great blogger, and I'm honoured to have him here as one of our regular co-bloggers, as well as to have him as a friend. I'm sure he'll continue to provide us with regular doses of his wit and wisdom, but be sure to check out his home blog, too. As I've said before, I think The Reaction and State of the Day make a great pair. I hope you all keep reading us -- as well as our other contributors, all of whom do some truly excellent stuff at their own home blogs.

And now, back to the show.

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Truth in Comics

By Creature

If it's Sunday, it's Truth in Comics.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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