Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not to keep bashing the Democrats, but...

By Heraclitus

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the torture bill that was passed, and heard the various reactions to it. I agree with most of the criticisms of it, and most of the expressions of angst and depression that I've read. I do think it's important to note the difference between suspending habeus corpus for non-citizens and doing so for citizens, but I don't think the former is permissable. Above all, of course, the bill gives the president the power to torture legally, and this is simply unacceptable. As I've mentioned before, the bill legalizes all of the sexual humiliation/sadism practiced at Abu Ghraib, and thus shows how baldly Bush was lying when he pretended to abhor and claim no responsibility for what happened there. I also think this quotation from Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet political prisoner, needs to be repeated.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID [cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment -- but nothing that would cause, say, organ failure], has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering.

But maybe we're no longer in the business of promoting democracy. Wolfowitz and the other hard-core neocons are out, Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose obsessions are secrecy, authoritarianism, and scare-mongering for political gain, are in.

Among other things, this bill makes it almost impossible to criticize Bush's handling of the "war on terror." We simply will not know now what is happening, what prisoners are where, what they are telling us, what techniques are working, whether this or that interrogation technique actually yields true information, etc. One of the Democrats' most abysmal failures in all this, it seems to me, is their complete failure to make this into a debate about Bush's competency, and about his desire to further shield himself from scrutiny and criticism. (Of course, it's hard to do this when you don't debate the bill at all.) Even if one wants to take a principle-be-damned line, the strategically smart thing to do would have been to force Bush to defend his own handling of the war on terror, explain why we should think he knows what he's doing in this arena when he's so clearly incompetent in every other, and so on. But the Democrats are just too cowardly, too afraid of the shadow of every poll, to do any such thing.

And so, a word on McCain: I've seen a lot of snark directed his way for his "compromise" (which I've discussed before here). I'm certainly not defending the compromise, but if it's alright for Sherrod Brown and other Dems to vote for the torture bill, and if it's alright for Senators Clinton, Boxer and Feinstein to vote for a giant, multi-billion dollar wall along the Mexican border that will accomplish nothing and simply stand as a symbol of stupidity and racism, then why isn't it okay for McCain to compromise on this? He was trying to pass legislation to outlaw torture long before the present "stand-off." Again, that doesn't change the fact that he folded (although I think it's pretty obvious why he did so), but if you're looking for Congressional opposition to Bush's torture agenda, McCain is the only game in town.

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Show me the money

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At MyDD, Jonathan Singer shows how the Virginia Senate race between Allen and Webb is "turning into a real problem for Republicans". It's all about the money, and what it may take to make up for Allen's implosion -- if that's even possible now.

Kos has more.

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Curfew in Baghdad (update)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Iraq the Model's Omar has an update on the curfew in Baghdad (which we previously reported on here): "Saturday has been so quiet so far, never a single explosion happened as far as I know and there was hardly any sound of gunfire in or around our district in Baghdad. What can be noticed about this particular curfew is that it's being strictly enforced by Iraqi and US forces in Baghdad."

Okay, but is this how "peace" will be achieved in Baghdad? What about the rest of Iraq? Is it possible to enforce "peace" in this way? Is it even "peace" at all? It would seem that this is but a temporary period of "quiet" achieved through a short-term clampdown.

The violence will resume. A lasting peace is a long way off.

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Good fences

By Heraclitus

The U.S. Senate has voted in favor of building a 700-foot wall along the border with Mexico.
Lincoln Chafee, who at present is probably the most respectable member of the Senate, voted against it. 26 Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, voted in favor. The Washington Post has more:

The measure was pushed hard by House Republican leaders, who badly wanted to pass a piece of legislation that would make good on their promises to get tough on illegal immigrants, despite warnings from critics that a multibillion-dollar fence would do little to address the underlying economic, social and law enforcement problems, or to prevent others from slipping across the border.

[See also Rox Populi. -- MJWS]

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By Heraclitus

India has announced that they believe the Pakistani intelligence agency was behind the terrorist bombing of commuters trains in Mumbai (aka "Bombay") on 11 July. Pakistan, of course, has denied involvement, but this is obviously not an encouraging development.

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Segolene Royal

By Heraclitus

Segolene Royal, a female Socialist politician, looks set to run for the Socialist nomination for President of France. She is well ahead of her rivals for the nomination, and appears, at this point, to be a good candidate for the national election. This seems interesting to me not only because she would be France's first woman president, but because her election would run counter to the general drift to the right in European politics -- by which I mean not just the rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant parties but the success of parties on the economic right across the continent. She's already faced sexist sniping from within her own party (which only served to make her more popular), and tacky comments in the French press about whether or not she should have worn high heels on a recent trip to a slum in Chile. The BBC profile (the first link above) suggests that being a woman will be a serious obstacle for her to overcome in French politics, but her candidacy seems interesting and worth watching.

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Sherrod's pragmatism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to MSNBC, Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown, who is running to unseat Republican Senator Mike DeWine in Ohio, voted for Bush's torture bill in the House.


Was it a case of politics over principle? Quite likely. Is that a problem? Does Brown deserve our criticism? Maybe, maybe not.

To me, the passage of the torture bill marks one of the lowest points in American history. It was Bush's legislation worked out with three so-called "maverick" Republican senators and supported overwhelmingly by the Republicans. There was no doubt it was going to pass easily through the Republican-controlled Congress. Which means that Democrats running in close races, such as Brown, were not actually put in the difficult and morally revealing position of having to choose between politics and principle. They could simply do the political thing and vote for a bill that was going to pass anyway.

"Brown’s vote for the detainee bill made sense. In one move, Brown snatched away an issue that the Republicans might have used to tar him." With his vote for the torture bill, Brown may have effectively neutralized DeWine on this key issue. Whether he actually supports the legislation or not, whether he actually supports torture and the suspension of habeus corpus or not, he appears with this one vote to be both tough on terrorism and independent enough to break ranks with his own party, even to support the president when necessary.

Ohio native Heraclitus knows more about this than I do, but I suspect this will play well in Ohio. Unless Republicans can portray him as an opportunist, a charge he could easily refute with more tough words on terrorism and non-partisanship, Brown should be able now to use this issue to his advantage. Or at least to prevent it from playing to his disadvantage.

I should also note that Brown was not alone: "All but one of the House Democrats whom the Cook Political Report rates as being in close races (the 'Lean Democrat' category) voted for the bill." I suspect the Democratic leadership allowed them to. They knew what they were doing, and they may just pull out wins on November 7.

So what do I think now of Sherrod Brown? I recoiled when I first read that he had voted for the bill, but it is necessary in politics to be pragmatic, to do what it takes to win. This vote is something of a stain on his record, but I suspect that a Senator Sherrod Brown would work quickly to erase it. After all, it's easy to say that Democrats should do this or should have done that. What matters is that they retake control of Congress. If that requires temporarily siding with the torturers when opposition would accomplish nothing, so be it. Politics is a dirty game.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Curfew in Baghdad

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The BBC has the latest:

The Iraqi government has declared an immediate curfew in the capital, Baghdad, to run until Sunday morning.

The move affects both vehicles and pedestrians, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister said.

The spokesman did not reveal why a curfew was being put in place, but sectarian violence and blasts have been increasing in recent days.

I wonder if Bush -- who repeatedly denies that things are that bad in Iraq, or that the decision to go to war was wrong, or that the war has actually strengthened jihadism, increasing the threat to America's national security -- has any clue what's going on. No, I don't. He mustn't have a clue at all. How can things be going well if even with a significant U.S. military presence Baghdad must be put under such a blanket curfew?

Omar of Iraq the Model has more. He reports that "[t]he curfew apparently came in response to an acute deterioration in the capital that was noticed from the early hours of Friday morning especially in districts in the east and north east of Baghdad".

An acute deterioration. There you have it.

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Shameless thievery

By Heraclitus

I hope you've all had a chance to read Michael's eloquent and impassioned response to the passage of the new torture bill (here's the link, but at the time I write this, Blogger doesn't have the page up [it works now -- MJWS]). I'm about the bury it under this wordy post and my little piece of pictorial smart-assery just below this one.

I could blog about insomnia, or about how I hate the cawing of crows, or about dead squirrels or Dead Kennedys. Instead I'm just going to steal an idea from the blog of
Michael Bérubé (aka "le blog Bérubé"). A few weeks ago he asked readers to weigh in on the question of the best, or "most effective," opening and closing statements in the canon of popular music. Bérubé notes that it's probably best to exclude certain figures who had an obvious but still uncanny grasp of this dynamic, like Elvis Costello. You only need to look at how he ended his first four albums to see what he means: "Watching the Detectives," "Radio, Radio," "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," and "Riot Act." (Incidentally, if I had to rank the four opening songs on those albums, I'd say "Accidents Will Happen," "Love for Tender," "No Action," and "Welcome to the Working Week.") Pink Floyd should probably also be included in this group -- although, for Michael's sake, we can still ask which of their albums has the best opening/closing dyad (I personally think it has to come down to either Animals or Dark Side of the Moon).

This is an interactive exercise, so please, nominate whoever you think is most deserving in the comments section. I'll get the ball rolling -- several commenters on
Bérubé's site mention "Like a Rolling Stone," the first song on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. It is indeed a fine intro, the snare, Al Kooper's organ (which I think is maybe the highlight of the song, and one of the highlights of the album), the fact that it's such an amazing song, etc. It is indeed hard to imagine a better introduction to an album than that. But, so far as I saw, no one mentioned the closing song, "Desolation Row" (by the way, you don't need to read the comments over there to participate here). Besides being an amazing song that brings the album as a whole to a perfect close, with a gently melancholic mixture of apocalypse and straightforward surrealism, it's musically wonderful. In particular, the sequence of Dylan's first harmonica solo, coupled with splendid guitar playing, the final verse, and then Dylan's final harmonica solo with perhaps even more superb guitar work, is possibly the most perfect ending to an album I've ever heard.

Also noteworthy, of course, is Dylan's previous album, Bringing It All Back Home, which opens with "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and closes with "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Yes, please. It's hard to praise these songs too highly. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" opens with Dylan strumming his guitar, then, about two seconds in, we get a bluesy note from an electric guitar; it was the first time Dylan had used an electric instrument on any recording. The song itself is, of course, amazing (I'm just going to keep repeating my superlatives, because I'm too exhausted to think of variations), and you probably can't overstate how novel it was in pop music (of course, you can always make it sound pat and boring by saying something like, "It was a synthesis of folk blues and beatnik poetry"). And then the end? "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"? Okay, so I have a well-developed death drive, but this, too, was unlike anything that had come before (I say, although I'm only 31). Okay, so it's unlike anything I've ever heard, recorded earlier or later.

But, the point here isn't to write fulsome, off-the-cuff, amateurish appreciations of these songs/albums, but simply to mention them. So, my final entry is Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. The opening piece, "Teenage Riot," speaks for itself. As for the closing number...well. I know it's part of the supposed "post-structuralism" of the album to dump an almost unlistenable little turd like "Eliminator Jr." on top of the indescribable sublimity of "Hyperstation," but, I for one, will never forgive them for it.

And, of course, these are three of the finest albums in existence, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Anyways, please add your own favorites. Again, I aim for an interactive blogging experience for us all.

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By Heraclitus

In the words of the immortal Roger Miller (though in a different context), "That's the Way I Feel."

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The day America died

Yesterday was a terrible, terrible day in American history. It was a day that may live on in infamy, a day that America, or at least an important part of her, died.

President Bush, as I have argued many times before (and most recently here) is an enabler of torturer. And now both the House and the Senate have voted to enact Bush's torture legislation. The vote in the House was 253 to 168. The vote in the Senate was 65 to 34. Twelve Democrats supported the legislation. They should be ashamed of themselves. One Republican, Lincoln Chafee, opposed it. He should be a Democrat.

In the Senate, Arlen Specter sought to include an amendment "to allow foreigners designated as enemy combatants to challenge their captivity by filing habeas corpus appeals with the federal courts," but that effort failed 51 to 48. The Republicans have no interest in habeus corpus. Aside from Specter, only three Republicans -- Chafee, Gordon Smith, and John Sununu -- voted for the amendment. One Democrats -- Ben Nelson -- voted against it.

What's in the legislation? Pretty much everything Bush wanted -- a lot of leeway that empowers the president to make the key decisions regarding the application of the Geneva Conventions and habeus corpus with respect to enemy combatants as defined by the president.

Here's how The Washington Post explained it: "By writing into law for the first time the definition of an 'unlawful enemy combatant,' the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have 'purposefully and materially' supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death."

Here's how the editors of The New Republic explained it: "For starters, the bill strips federal courts of the ability to hear challenges to the military commissions until after the trials are completed--which could result in years of legal uncertainty. It also repeals the writ of habeas corpus for suspected enemy combatants held at Guantánamo Bay who are never formally charged with a crime, making it impossible for them to challenge the lawfulness of their detentions. It denies suspected terrorists the right to see exculpatory evidence held by the government, to confront their interrogators in court, or even to see the original transcripts (rather than the translated summaries) of their statements to interrogators."

And here's how Dahlia Lithwick expressed it at Slate: "Now we are affirmatively asking to be left in the dark. Instead of torture we were unaware of, we are sanctioning torture we'll never hear about. Instead of detainees we didn't care about, we are authorizing detentions we'll never know about. Instead of being misled by the president, we will be blind and powerless by our own choice. And that is a shame on us all."

Yes, the shame of it all. America is a fundamentally different country today. David Corn shows just how different it is. All this may have been going on secretly under Bush's guidance, but now America is legally a nation of torture. It is a nation that in this respect now resembles the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge.

America has lost her way. Or, rather, she has been distorted into something profoundly un-American by her president and his supporters. It is time to take her back again, before it is truly too late.

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Partisans, a love story (revisited): George W. Bush and the passion of the disgraced lobbyist

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Remember how the White House was trying to distance itself (and Bush himself) from Abramoff and his disgrace? Remember how we learned that the relationship between Bush and Abramoff was much closer than we were being led to believe it was? I wrote about the affair here and here.

Well, it now seems that "close" doesn't quite describe it. Here's Roll Call:

A House committee has documented hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates, as well as tens of thousands of dollars worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts that were offered to these officials during a three-year period starting in early 2001.

Hundreds of contacts? 485, to be precise, including 82 "in Rove's office".

Thousands of dollars? "$25,000 for meals and drinks with White House officials" between January 2001 and March 2004.

And there may be more to the story: "Democrats suggested that the documents obtained by the committee “raised serious questions about the legality and ethics of the actions of multiple White House officials." Indeed: "The Government Reform Committee report singled out two of President Bush’s top lieutenants, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, as having been offered expensive meals and exclusive tickets to premier sporting events and concerts by Abramoff and his associates."

A dirty White House? Corruption at the top? Sure, it's the Bush presidency. What else is new?

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The offensive Lieberman offensive

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Republicrat Joe Lieberman may hold a 10-point lead over Democratic challenger Ned Lamont in their Connecticut Senate race, at least according to a new poll, but, more and more, the word "scumbag" comes to mind.

What else to call him, after all, for going on the offensive on a conservative website, Pajamas Media, and criticizing Democrats Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, and Chris Dodd for supporting the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont? He still claims to be something of a Democrat, does he not? And yet he lost the Democratic primary even though quite a few prominent Democrats supported him over Lamont (the Clintons, for example).

Let me repeat that: Lieberman lost. He is not the Democratic nominee. And he's upset that these loyal Democrats, including his senior running mate in 2000, are supporting the Democratic nominee?

Matt Stoller of MyDD may be right that "this is not a smart political move by Lieberman," but it's also downright offensive. And it's just another reason why all Democrats in Connecticut should go with Lamont.

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Reaction to the blogs: Habeus corpus, Virginia, and a plan for Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's been awhile since I last did a "Reaction to the blogs" post, but let's get right back into it. Here are some good posts for your reading pleasure:

Echidne has written a letter to no less a worthy recipient than habeus corpus itself. "Things have changed," she writes. Since 9/11, that is. Now we have "tribality and violence," and habeus just isn't enough of a "barbarian". "So farewell, my love. I am sure that one day you will find another lover who will truly value you." I'm with you all the way, Echidne. Perhaps post-Bush America will welcome habeus back with open arms. Perhaps.

Our sometime guest blogger Edward Copeland, whose daily news round-ups are invaluable, looks at Iraq, Afghanistan, the detainee/torture legislation, Rudy Giuliani on Bill Clinton, John Danforth, the Governator's greenhouse gas legislation, and Darfur.

The Blue State's Todd Haskins reports on "a major polling shift taking place right now in the Virginia Senate race". Things are looking up for Democrat James Webb. Indeed, Todd says the race is now "a dead heat". With Democrats facing an uphill battle to take back the Senate, this is one of the most important races this year, and it would be wonderful if Webb could pull off a win over George "Buffoon-Jackass" Allen.

Lance Mannion wrote a passionate post yesterday on torture: "Torturers are cowards and sadists." "Americans are not cowards and sadists." "Torture is against all our principles." "We are not sheep. We are not cowards. We are not a nation of unprincipled thugs and sadists." But I wonder about this: "Torture, rendition, secret military tribunals, great big holes poked in the Constitution, whimsical suspensions of haebeus corpus -- these are not things Americans do." Unfortunately, some of you do. I love America and I love Americans, but until you vote out the assholes who are destroying your country's credibility and sense of moral purpose, much of the rest of the world, and many of you yourselves, will not be able to divorce America from her leaders.

Earlier today, Heraclitus reported on the police academy disaster in Baghdad. At Thought Theater, Daniel DiRito, one of our frequent commenters, puts it in the larger context of "the failure to restore services to the Iraqi people".

The Armchair Generalist presents some very sensible "strategies" for dealing with Iraq. They constitute "an ideal outline" that isn't really "practical," but "this plan could work if Congress would place the military's immediate needs over its reelection plans and partisan bickering".

At Simply Left Behind, Carl examines the demise of New York Republican Jeanine Pirro. Her latest problem? An allegation she plotted to bug her husband (and by bug I mean spy on). She seems to have revealed her plan to her friend Bernard Kerik, the scandal-ridden former New York City police commissioner.

At Kiko's House, Shaun Mullen tackles "Crime & Punishment" in "A Tale of Two Cities" -- that is, the differences between New York and Philadelphia with respect to violent crime. While New York is now one of America's safer cities, according to the FBI, with a murder rate well below what it once was, Philadelphia remains a city in which "citizens continue to kill each other at an appalling rate".

Jeff Alworth, proprietor of Low on the Hog, picks apart "King George's Writ of Torture": "King George lives in a future of his own making, where laws can be subverted by executive might and legislative collusion, obviating legal debates." It is indeed "a dark day in America today".

A dark, dark day.

These are just a few of the great posts you can find at the blogs included in our blogroll. Stay tuned for more reactions to the blogs.

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More disaster in Iraq

By Heraclitus

I assume by now no one thinks it can't get any worse in Iraq, but there are still some things that are simply shocking, like this story from The Washington Post.

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."


Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.

The report serves as the latest indictment of Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant that was awarded about $1 billion for a variety of reconstruction projects across Iraq. After chronicling previous Parsons failures to properly build health clinics, prisons and hospitals, Bowen ["Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress"] said he now plans to conduct an audit of every Parsons project.

There's obviously a great deal to be said about this, but I think John Cole has already canvassed the major points:

This story highlights what is so frustrating about having to live with this decision- the construction of a viable Iraqi police force, not based on sectarian rivalries and long-festering hatreds and with a motivation that goes beyond settling Hussein-era scores is one of the most important things that needs to be done in the reconstruction. I know that, you know that, and the administration knows it. You would think we would approach the situation with a degree of seriousness and with a fully committed desire to succeed. You would think, at the very least, the Police Acadamy would have a solid PHYSICAL foundation.

But, like everything else with this administration, we blew it. We did things piecemeal, didn’t provide the oversight, and things are deemed to be going ok just so long as they are not damaging the domestic political considerations and just so long as they don’t interfere with the mantra to ‘stay the course.’ Throw in a few chants about the media being biased, and we will get through this ‘rough patch.’ Really- everything is going peachy in Iraq- we just aren’t hearing enough media stories about our valorous troops.

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Supine Democrats

By Heraclitus

By the way, where the hell is Howard Dean?
Isn't he the sort of principled firebrand who might oppose the Republicans on little things like torture? Or have the other Dems given him a drugged hamburger, like the members of the A-Team gave to B.A. when they had to fly somewhere? Are they keeping him hidden? "Shhh! We don't have any retarded people to execute this time around, but we can sign up on torture, and maybe that'll do the trick!" Have they exhumed Terry McAuliffe for this election?

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Gross story

By Heraclitus

Consider yourself warned by the title. I've noticed, walking down one of the roads to the campus where I teach (there's no sidewalk, so I walk in the road itself), that there have been a few dead animals (a chipmunk and a snake) that seem to have been run over by a vehicle. Accident, or sadistic motorist? Today as I was walking along, I saw a deer in the yard beside the road, probably not thirty feet from me.

By the way, I see deer quite frequently here, in my front yard and along this road. I suppose it helps make up for the fact that central Ohio apparently gets more rainfall than the Amazon River basin. I've tried to go out and feed or even pet some of these deer. I know that's not the way that deer "work"--to use the technologistic metaphor that suggests the natural world is just there to be manipulated by human beings, and shows how deeply sunk in the nihilism of the modern world I am--but since on some days I see more deer than people, you never know.

Anyways, I was walking along, looking at this deer, when suddenly I felt my foot slide along the road beneath me. This was the first time in my life I found myself thinking, "I really hope I just stepped in dog shit." But, alas, it was not dog shit. It was a squished furry thing, and I had parts of its stringy insides dangling off the bottom of my shoe. I think that settles the question of whether these are accidents. Anyways, I wiped off what I could, and hastened to campus, and am now writing this. The plus side--I got to wipe some squirrel viscera on the floor of the bookstore that marks up its office supplies 400%. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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You may not be interested in illegal detentions...

By Heraclitus

...but illegal detentions are interested in you. The recently declassified NIE report has a passage warning of the dangers of left-wing groups using the Internet to promote domestic terrorism. Glenn Greenwald explains:

That this claim about "leftist" terrorist groups made it into the NIE summary is particularly significant in light of the torture and detention bill that is likely soon to be enacted into law. That bill defines "enemy combatant" very broadly (and the definition may be even broader by the time it is enacted) and could easily encompass domestic groups perceived by the administration to be supporting a "terrorist agenda."

Echidne of the Snakes adds, "Combine this with the disappearance of habeas corpus and you would have the beginnings of a police state."

Oh, but the good news is that the Democrats have no intention of opposing the bill that will give the president the legal right to torture "enemy combatants." (I have previously lamented their cowardice here.) As Jack Balkin puts it, "The reason why the Democrats have not been doing very well on these issues [of national security], however, is that the public does not believe that they stand for anything other than echoing what the Republicans have been doing with a bit less conviction." As I said earlier today, the Democrats have become just a half-assed, watered-down version of the Republican Party.

What has happened to this country, that this slogan again begins to appear revolutionary:

A government of laws, not of men.

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By Heraclitus

I hate to just repeat what other bloggers are saying, especially when Blogger's being such a pain in the arse, but this cannot go unremarked. Amanda at Pandagon notes that the new torture law -- the one our noble Democrats are lining up to vote for -- allows for all forms of sexual abuse so long as there is not "physical contact." In other words, all of the sexual humiliation practiced at Abu Ghraib would now be legal (but I thought that was just a group of bad apples, and Bush never wanted to allow anything like that?).

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Get happy

By Heraclitus

It's become legendary, perhaps the defining moment of our generation. If you missed it, experience it for the first time. If you've seen it before, relive the glory.

"The internet is not a truck. It's a series of tubes."

The whole clip is brilliant.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Who's Angie Paccione?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

She's the Democratic candidate for Colorado's 4th Congressional district, running against incumbent Republican (and extremist) Marilyn Musgrave. She's also the latest featured candidate in Firedoglake's "Blue America" series. Howie Klein interviewed her on Sunday, and she appeared today to answer questions from readers in the comments section to this post.

Show your support. Vote for Angie Paccione on November 7.

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George Allen is a jackass

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Note: Allen is also a buffoon.)

It's just getting worse and worse for Senator George Allen, isn't it? On Monday, Ryan Lizza reported at The New Republic that, according to multiple sources, Allen "repeatedly used the word 'nigger' as a college student at the University of Virginia in the 1970s". And now The New York Times is reporting that yet another "acquaintance" has come forward with a similar accusation.

Allen, his ex-wife, his campaign manager, and "former teammates" rounded up by the campaign deny that Allen ever used the term, but the evidence is mounting. And some of that evidence, like Allen's notorious "macaca" slur, is on video, well beyond the reach of his denials.

No one is to blame for any of this but Allen himself.

Buffoon. Jackass. Goon. Thug. Idiot. Call him what you want, but the evidence is clear: George Allen is a racist.

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The Democrats' moment on Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our must-read of the day today (because it provokes a reaction, if nothing else) comes from Post columnist David Ignatius, who challenges Democrats not merely to celebrate the findings of the recently declassified NIE -- as I did here -- but to come up with a viable plan for dealing with Iraq. Make sure to read the whole piece, but here are a couple of key passages:

This should be the Democrats' moment, if they can translate the national anger over Iraq into a coherent strategy for that country. But with a few notable exceptions, the Democrats are mostly ducking the hard question of what to do next...

America needs to reckon with the message of the National Intelligence Estimate. Iraq has compounded Muslim rage and created a dangerous crisis for the United States. The Democrats understandably want to treat Iraq as George Bush's war and wash their hands of it. But the damage of Iraq can be mitigated only if it again becomes the nation's war -- with the whole country invested in finding a way out of the morass that doesn't leave us permanently in greater peril. If the Democrats could lead that kind of debate about security, they would become the nation's governing party. But what you hear from most Democrats these days is: Gotcha.

Yes, and I said "Gotcha" myself, more or less -- just as I have many times before. But that isn't enough. The point is not just to bring down Bush and the Republicans but to provide alternative Democratic leadership. What if Democrats take back either the House or the Senate (or both)? What if they take back the White House in '08? What then? Winning is one thing. Governing is quite another. Americans need to know that Democrats provide more than just change. They need to know that Democrats are fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Yes, that means dealing with Iraq, a war that Bush started and the Republicans have supported, but it also means finding a way out of Iraq and re-focusing attention on the real threats to national security.

I have confidence in the Democrats, far more than Ignatius, who blames them for not having enough of a plan when the blame ought to be levelled at Bush and Bush alone. Besides, there are Democratic plans out there already, and not just from Joe Biden.

This is indeed the Democrats' moment. But they'll need to win first. It's awfully hard to govern when the Republicans control both Congress and the White House. Isn't that right, Mr. Ignatius?


A good response to Ignatius comes from Kevin Drum:

I agree that allowing Iraq to spiral into civil war would be a disaster, but it's telling that Ignatius doesn't propose any solutions himself aside from a vague allusion to the possibility of federalism and partitioning — an idea that's been floating around liberal foreign policy circles for the past couple of years but has gone nowhere because it has no traction either among Republicans or among Iraqis themselves...

[T]o blame Democrats now for not being aggressive enough in trying to trisect this angle is like blaming Gerald Ford for losing Vietnam. George Bush fought this war precisely the way he wanted, with precisely the troops he wanted, and with every single penny he asked for. He has kept Don Rumsfeld in charge despite abundant evidence that he doesn't know how to win a war like this. He has mocked liberals and the media at every turn when they suggested we might need a different approach. The result has been a disaster with no evident solution left.

It may be the Democrats' moment -- if they win, that is -- but there may be no obvious way to clean up Bush's mess short of a lesser-of-the-evils approach. The Democrats may not have the answer, the plan, but, if they win, don't blame them when things don't go right. Remember who started the whole goddamned mess in the first place.

(See also Taylor Marsh, Tristero, and Matt Yglesias.)

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My two cents on gay marriage

By Heraclitus

Following on Michael's post yesterday: Separation of Church and State is a nice slogan, but as long as the government is pronouncing on what constitutes marriage, we don't have it. The solution seems to me to be to have a complete separation between marriage, which should be completely private, and civil unions, which should be the public, government-sanctioned contract that carries with it all the rights and such that marriage currently does in most places. The civil unions, of course, should be available to all, gay and straight (though, I at least would say, not polygamists), while each church or other group can decide what constitutes marriage in its own community (although, again, you might want to outlaw polygamy, child marriage, etc.).

This would defuse most of the right's arguments against gay marriage, and also force them to start arguing in favor of greater government control of people's lives (which may even become a wedge issue breaking up part of the current GOP voting bloc). I know they're already arguing for that, but the ambiguity of our current legal concept of "marriage" helps hide the fact, and make them look they're trying to preserve something rather than expand the reach of the government (and, again, they're really not--the government is already someplace it shouldn't be). It would also answer whatever genuine fears some religious people may have about the government dictating the nature of marriage to them, as religions (e.g., forcing the Catholic Church to perform gay Catholic marriages). I think it would also appeal to the moderates in the country, who don't want to offend the sensibilities of religious conservatives, but who also don't want to see the state used to demean or restrict the choices of other people.

But, of course, for this to work, the Democrats would have to be something more than a half-assed, watered-down version of the Republican Party.

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British Politics: The rise or demise of Gordon Brown?

By James Stickings

There is an interesting article at The Guardian on a new opinion poll in Britain by GFK/NOP: 56% of those polled said they wanted an election within at least six months of Gordon Brown taking over as Prime Minister.

For those of you unfamiliar with the British political system, a new leader of the governing party automatically becomes the new prime minister, and he or she is not required to call a general election of Parliament until the statutory five-year time period since the last election is up. So John Major became Prime Minister in 1990 after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party after the resignation of Margaret Thatcher. He didn’t call an election until two years later.

It’s no surprise that the public seem to question this constitutional provision. For all that Major held his position legitimately and constitutionally, he led the government for two years without the explicit consent of the people given by victory at a general election. While it is true that he was effectively governing under the mandate given to Thatcher and the Conservatives at the 1987 election, the potential power of the modern prime minister – no longer merely primus inter pares of collective cabinet government but more and more a “presidential” figure – means that this situation fitted uncomfortably into an ostensibly democratic system until he went on to win the 1992 election in his own right.

So voters are right to demand that Gordon Brown, should he ever become prime minister, ought to seek a fresh mandate. The problem for Brown is that calling a general election so soon could mean defeat against a Conservative Party under David Cameron that is looking more and more like the alternative government that their current title “Her Majesty’s Official Opposition” implies. A
Guardian/ICM poll earlier in the week put Cameron ahead of Brown on a number of key questions, including who has more potential as prime minister (35% to 32%). One thing is for sure: Brown will not want his premiership to be merely a minor footnote between the Blair and Cameron years. The question for him, assuming he takes over from Blair (something which is by no means certain), will probably be how to balance this ambition with the British people’s desire for a say in the matter.

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Fucking Mother Earth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm sorry, but there's just no other title suitable for a post on the denial of the very real threat of climate change. Not when a story like this comes out:

The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

Where to begin? What to say? It's so fucking stupid and so fucking arrogant and so fucking crazy and it may already be too fucking late to do anything about it anyway. These climate change deniers, and that means Bush at the head of a whole array of deniers in and out of public life, are like Holocaust deniers. It's that fucking serious. Instead of denying the past, however, they deny the present and the future. They think it's a hoax, or they just don't give a shit, or all they care about is fucking the whole world for their own self-interest, or all of that together.

And soon we may all be fucked, along with our planet, because these fucking idiots refuse to do anything about, refuse even to acknowledge, the enormous crisis that looms all around us and that, from all we know, has already begun to overwhelm us, to destroy us.

No, there are no apologies here. I've had it with them all. If they don't give a fuck about us and our planet, why should we give a fuck about them? They're fucking insane.

(On a calmer note, see my previous post on Katrina, Rita, and climate change here.)

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Bye Bye Bolton

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It looked like the Bolton era was finally coming to an inglorious end, then it looked like the White House was determined to find a way to keep him at the U.N.

And now? Now it looks like the whole wretched saga is finally over. For good.

Go get the details, and some closing remarks, from Steve Clemons.

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The denial of a president

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And so, there's this:

The war in Iraq has become a “cause célèbre” for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush’s contention of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush’s orders, the nation’s most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration’s glass-half-full declarations.

Bush's response? Predictable. It was all denial. Even against the assertion by Pakistani President (and yesterday's Daily Show guest) Pervez Musharraf that the Iraq War has "made the world a more dangerous place," Bush continues to deny what many have been arguing for a long time, that is, that the war has not only become a quagmire, with Iraq teetering on the brink of all-out chaos, that it has not only drawn attention and resources away from the real war on jihadist terrorism being fought elsewhere, and particularly in Afghanistan, but that it has in fact made the situation much worse that it would otherwise have been.

The Iraq War -- Bush's war -- has weakened America and strengthened her enemies. To be more direct, Bush has weakened America and strengthened her enemies. Bush, the architects of the war, and their allies and apologists, including the rubber-stamping Republicans in Congress, have in their zeal to wage war in Iraq harmed America. Bush and the Republicans would have us (and you voters) believe that they are far more trustworthy with respect to national security, to America's interests at home and abroad, than the Democrats. That's what Bush said in '04 and it's what the Republicans are saying now heading into November.

But do you believe them? This NIE report -- which may or may not just be a matter of "selective declassification," as Senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin allege -- exposes these charlatans for what they are. They cannot -- they must not -- be entrusted with America's national security any longer. It is simply too dangerous to let them remain in power. The ongoing debacle in Iraq proves just how truly incompetent -- and truly what a threat to their own country -- they really are.

If jihadist terrorism and its threat to America's national security is a concern to you, vote Democratic. The alternative has been an unmitigated disaster.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Negative ads and the GOP

By Heraclitus

The Republicans are focusing their efforts on negative campaigning, in an effort to steer attention away from the actual issues in this election. They know they can't win a debate about Iraq, the national debt, and so on, so they're hoping the voters will forget about those things if they make the Democrats seem scary enough. It has, of course, worked before. I'd actually like to post more on this in the future, and in particular on the effects of negative ads on women. I've heard that negative ads are much more likely to dissuade women from voting. I haven't done much research yet; does anyone know where to look? Thanks.

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Rogue America

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Other countries, of course, practice torture in violation of international law. As has now been clear for a while, we have been in their company for some years. The latest twist, however, is that we now won't show any shame about it. Rather than simply violating the laws to which we have agreed to adhere, we're repudiating them, simply denying that the standard by which civilized nations operate apply to us...

Consequently, the United States now presents itself as what amounts to the globe's largest and most powerful rogue state -- a nuclear-armed superpower capable of projecting military force to the furthest corners of the earth, acting utterly without legal or moral constraint whenever the president proclaims it necessary.

Read the whole piece.

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Who's the liar?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Condi Rice, it seems, not Bill Clinton. And if not quite a liar, she's at the very least a misleader.

In response to Clinton's now-famous FOX interview with Chris Wallace, the one during which he passionately defended his record against right-wing charges that he didn't do enough to combat al Qaeda, Condi Rice claims that the White House was "not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda". "Big pieces were missing," she says, "like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren't going to get Afghanistan".

Oh, really? The Raw Story is reporting that "just five days after President George W. Bush was sworn into office, a memo from counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to Rice included the 2000 document, 'Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects.' This document devotes over 2 of its 13 pages of material to specifically addressing strategies for securing Pakistan's cooperation in airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Count on Clarke to tell it like it was. Bill Clinton was by no means a perfect president, and perhaps he could have done more, much more, to combat the rising tide of jihadist terrorism against the U.S. But he's right about this: He tried to do something long before terrorism was a priority. Bush, by contrast, did nothing during the months leading up to 9/11. Indeed, he did nothing until his hand was forced by 9/11. And then he quickly turned away from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the pursuit of al Qaeda to launch, as we all know by now, an ill-conceived war in Iraq that has since become a disaster.

Who's the liar? Not Clinton. Who's tough on terrorism? Not Bush and not the Republicans. The warnings were there along with the analysis and advice from experts like Clarke. Rice and her boss, the ostrich president, chose not to listen and chose not to care. And we all know what happened next.


For more, see Think Progress, The Carpetbagger Report, The Mahablog, The Agonist, Taylor Marsh, Angry Bear, NewsHog, Majikthise, Liberal Values, AMERICAblog, and Crooks and Liars.

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German opera cancelled for fear of religious reprisals

By Heraclitus

A Berlin opera company has cancelled a production of the Mozart opera Idomeneo, which would include a scene displaying the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha:
"'We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures,' the opera company said in a statement." But they're not talking about boycotts of German products.

The director, Kirsten Harms, said security officials had now warned of possible problems if the production went ahead, and that it was in the best interests of performers and opera-goers to cancel it.

I think this can only be read as a reference to violent attacks on the opera house, including the audience, if the opera were staged.

Berlin's mayor is critical of the decision to cancel the opera. The leader of Germany's Islamic Council supports it, but regrets the atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

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Against Israel, against anti-Semitism

By Heraclitus

Hmmm... I was going to post a quick comment on Israel's use of collective punishment against the Lebanese, and note that this just continues its policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians, but after reading a few of the comments responding to
Michael's bigotry post, maybe I need to deliver a bit of a preamble.

Some of the comments are less than ideally coherent, so I may be misreading them, but the Bush administration is not composed of "rabbinical warpigs." The names Bush, Cheney, and Rice come to mind as prominent gentile hawks working in the White House. Paul Wolfowitz is, of course, the most famous Jewish proponent of the Iraq war, but let's not forget that he was booed in the spring of 2002 at a pro-Israel rally in Washington for the crime of mentioning that Palestinians were suffering and dying in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The booing prompted protests not only from
Frank Rich, who went so far as to express hope in President Bush, but also Edgar Bronfman, the President of the World Jewish Congress. In other words, the American Jewish community, like all groups or "communities," is itself riven with various disagreements, contradictions, and differences, and it is stupid to believe otherwise. Just to make sure we're clear: Using the word "rabbinical" as an insult is vile and ignorant.

By the way, I'm not Jewish, and have more than once been accused of anti-Semitism for daring to criticize Israel, a state which bases its immigration policy entirely on race and has been engaged in a forty-year military occupation of a civilian population that currently numbers over three million (for more on the Israeli treatment of Palestinians living under their occupation, see the work of
Amira Hass). It also practises collective punishment, both against this civilian population and against the civilian population of Lebanon. I'm not only talking about the 1,000+ Lebanese civilians that were murdered during Israel's recent invasion of Lebanon to recover two kidnapped soldiers (who are still there), but its use of cluster bombs, which have left over a million "bomblets" unexploded in southern Lebanon. Here are the highlights from the BBC's story:

Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon, the UN has said.

The UN's mine disposal agency says about 40% of the cluster bombs fired or dropped by Israel failed to detonate - three times the UN's previous estimate.

It says the problem could delay the return home of about 200,000 displaced people by up to two years.

The devices have killed 14 people in south Lebanon since the August truce.

The manager of the UN's mine removal centre in south Lebanon, Chris Clark, said Israel had failed to provide useful information of its cluster bomb strikes, which could help with the clearance operation.

Last month, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in the conflict.

Israel says all its weapons and munitions, as well as their use, comply with international law.

Mr Clark said information Israel had provided to help with the bomblets' clearance had been "useless".

"We have asked for grid references for [cluster bomb] strikes," he said.

"We have not received them so far."

From an earlier story:

The UN's humanitarian chief has accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

UN clearance experts had so far found 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 separate sites, Jan Egeland said.

Mr Egeland described the fresh statistics as "shocking new information".

"What's shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

"Every day, people are maimed, wounded and killed by these weapons. It shouldn't have happened."

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The bigotry vote

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Look out. Just when you thought apathy in the wake of arrogance had finally gotten the better of it, the religious right is looking to make a comeback just in time for the midterms. The NYT:

Openly anxious about grass-roots disaffection from the Republican Party, conservative Christian organizers are reaching for ways to turn out voters this November, including arguing that recognizing same-sex marriage could also limit religious freedom.

James Dobson may find "disillusionment out there with Republicans," Paul Weyrich may claim that "the enthusiasm is not there," and Tony Perkins may lament that "success brings complacency," but these theocrats are pragmatists as well as moralists. Better the Republicans than the Democrats, after all. (So goes the pragmatism.) At least the former, "the lesser of two evils," will keep up the fight against abortion and same-sex marriage.

But how to turn out the apathetic and complacent? Well, hit the gay button. Arouse the bigotry. It may lie dormant politically, but it can be awakened with the right spin.

And that spin, the one with the stink of desperation? Same-sex marriage threatens "religious liberty," as Perkins puts its.

How, you ask? Better not to try to make sense of the spin, for it makes no sense at all. These are moralists who oppose religious liberty except then their own absolutism is threatened. Besides, just try to define so-called "religious liberty"? What does it mean? That practitioners of religion -- believers, people of faith, whatever you want to call them -- are free to worship as they see fit? Okay. But what if, hypothetically speaking, the ban on same-sex marriage threatens my religious liberty? What if I cannot be free, religiously speaking, so long as same-sex marriage is disallowed?

Take that logic further, reductio ad absurdum. If "religious liberty" is the standard, can anything be disallowed? If one religion claims that something violates its liberty, then that something must be disallowed. But then if another religion claims that a ban on that same something violates its liberty, then that something must be allowed. See? It makes no sense. The only solution is not to mix religion and politics, that is, to allow religions and their practitioners to worship freely in the private sphere while the public sphere avoids such entanglements altogether. The religious right seems to fail to understand that the "religious liberty" spin is the thin end of a wedge that will open a door it doesn't want opened. Regardless, that door has already been opened. Modern liberalism, the liberalism of the United States, already welcomes religious pluralism, the liberty of multiple religions in the private sphere. The religious right, illiberal and un-American, only wants and recognizes liberty for itself. The religious right is self-interested bigotry.

But bigotry still has its adherents. Many of them. Enough to turn a close election. A high turnout of the bigoted, or of those inspired by bigotry to vote according to the bigots, could be just what the Republicans ordered come November. Democrats need to recognize this threat and act accordingly.

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Back from the pilgrimage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Pittsburgh. Heinz Field. The Steelers. The Post-Gazette Pavilion. Roger Waters. Isabela on Grandview. Mineo's Pizza.

Wow. I'm so exhausted after two awesome days in Pittsburgh over the weekend that I can verbalize little more than that right now. Suffice it to say that my first live Steelers game was an incredible experience. The Steelers may have lost (making way too many mistakes against a good Bengals team), but it was so exciting to feel the energy that raged throughout the city leading up to the game, then to go to the game by foot along with so many thousands of others and to be a part of Steelers Nation, terrible towel and all.

Just as incredible was my first live Rogers Waters concert -- I've seen the Gilmour-Wright-Mason Floyd, as well as Gilmour and Wright on the former's recent tour, but never Waters. It was a fantastic show.

And Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. It clearly has its problems, like any big city, but it truly has one of the most awesome settings and skylines of any city I've ever been to. And that was particularly evident from up on Mt. Washington, with a view at night of the three rivers, the golden triangle, the soaring skyscrapers, and Heinz Field lit up in advance of the game, as well as from the drive in from the north and then coming across Ft. Pitt Bridge from the concert.

Great city. Great people. Great time.


I'd like to thank Creature and Heraclitus for filling in for me during my absence. Heraclitus seems to have gotten the hang of it pretty quickly, eh?

I'll be back with new posts later today -- and not just on how much I love the Steelers -- but keep checking back throughout the day for new posts from all of us here at The Reaction.

My aim going forward is to provide even more content on an even more diverse range of topics, with new posts up throughout the day and night, with more for you to read and, should you feel so inclined, react to in comments. The co-bloggers, the guest bloggers, and I will do our best to maintain a high level of blogging worthy of your continued readership.

And now, on with the show...

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Great work, Newsweek

By Heraclitus

Noam Chomsky couldn't make this up if he tried.

(Hat tip: Echidne of the Snakes.)

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Ha'aretz blogging

By Heraclitus

Whatever other criticisms one wants to make of Israel, their press remains one of the freest and most diverse in the world. Here are selections from two important columns.

First, Danny Rubinstein asks, Why should Hamas recognize Israel?

Most of the Palestinian public is not demanding that Hamas recognize Israel. This, at least, is what a reliable survey conducted in the territories indicates. The explanation for this is expressed by Hamas spokesmen in every corner, from Rafah to Jenin, and is very accepted in the territories: Look, Yasser Arafat and the PLO recognized the State of Israel in the Oslo agreement and what did they gain from that? Only suffering and misfortune.

The economic siege on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the targeted killings, the raids and checkpoints can be explained as an Israeli defense against terror attacks. But how can one explain the doubling of the number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the Madrid conference and Oslo agreement? Since the 1996 elections in Israel, and almost through the end of Ehud Barak's government, there was quite a long period of quiet on the security front. There were almost no terror attacks. During that period, as before, the great momentum of settlement continued. The population of settlers grew from 100,000 to over 200,000 during the 1990s.

When the Israelis build large new neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (Har Homa and Reches Shlomo), expand the neighborhoods and settlements in the Muslim part of the Old City, in Silwan, Ras al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah, expel Arabs from the city and surround them with tens of thousands of Jewish settlers in a tight belt from Upper Beitar in the south, via Ma'ale Adumim in the east and Givat Ze'ev in the north - this conveys a clear message: There is no chance that the capital of the Palestinian state will be established anywhere in Jerusalem. If you add to this the growth of settlements in Samaria, Ariel, the suburbs of Ramallah, in an expanded Gush Etzion and Mount Hebron, the Israeli message becomes unequivocal: You Palestinians have no chance. You recognized Israel and what you received in return was the liquidation of your national hopes. So why should Hamas repeat the same recognition whose results we have already seen?

And Akiva Eldar argues for a UN force in the Occupied Territories:

This is the vicious cycle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; so long as negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state are frozen, the Palestinians will not cease the violent resistance to the occupation. So long as the violent resistance continues, Israel will refuse to resume negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state. So long as there is no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the international community will not dispatch a peace-keeping force to the area. Bitter experience teaches that without the help of a third party, the sides cannot end the violence or reach an accord.

Breaking this cycle is the key to ending the conflict. The international community has to decide that negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, the effort to suspend the violence and the deployment of a multinational force must take place at one and the same time. The recipe resides in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. You have to replace the word "Lebanon" with "the occupied Palestinian territories," "Hezbollah" with "Hamas" and the "Blue Line" with "Green Line."

Here is the result: "The Security Council calls for the immediate cessation by Hamas of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations, and the deployment of Palestinian forces and UN forces in Gaza and the West Bank ... The Council calls on the sides to support a permanent cease-fire and comprehensive solution to the conflict, based on full respect of the Green Line; security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons and the disarmament of all armed groups in the territories ... The Council authorizes the deployment of an international force of 15,000 troops in the territories, to monitor the cessation of hostilities, coordinate its activities with both governments and assist the Palestinian security services. The Council reiterates the importance of full respect for the Green Line and requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to delineate the international border."

For criticism of Ha'aretz, and especially its online, English version, see Ran HaCohen's comments here.

Sorry for the minimal contribution from myself, but after blogging my little heart out all weekend, I'm tired, and must prepare for class.

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(Some) Democrats and abortion

By Heraclitus

To paraphrase the lead character at the end of Trainspotting, the truth is, I'm a bad blogger. My last two posts came directly from Jill at Feministe, and I'm going to do the same here (here's Jill's post). Here's the news item:

Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who opposes abortion rights, on Wednesday is scheduled to announce he is introducing a bill that would aim to reduce the number of abortions by establishing health care- and child care-related programs to support pregnant women, Roll Call reports. The measure -- called the Pregnant Women Support Act -- is modeled after Democrats for Life of America's "95-10 Initiative," which aims to reduce the U.S. abortion rate by 95% over the next 10 years. According to Roll Call, another bill (HR 6067) -- which was introduced last week by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who opposes abortion rights, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who supports abortion rights -- also is modeled in part on the 95-10 Initiative (Yanchin, Roll Call, 9/20). Ryan and DeLauro's bill would require states to cover contraceptives for women with incomes of up to 200% of the federal poverty level, establish grants for sex education programs and require programs with a focus on abstinence to include thorough instruction on contraceptives. The measure, which includes 20 initiatives, also would increase funding for health care for low-income women with children, provide no-cost visits from nurses to teens and women who have given birth for the first time, expand a tax credit for adoption and fund child care services for parents in college (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/15).

That's right, an attempt to lower the number of abortions by giving better health and child care to pregnant women who couldn't otherwise afford it (as do those "godless Europeans," which is why their abortion rate is only a fraction of ours), and require even abstinence-based sex-ed programs to give instructions on birth control. In short, it's an attempt to drastically reduce the number of abortions without outlawing abortion (and, as Jill notes, it also gives women more choices).

Of course, this reminds one of Bill Clinton's dictum that "abortion should be legal, and as safe and as rare as possible." Neither side's beliefs or sensibilites need to be spat upon. This is a clear chance for the Democrats to take the lead and give the country what it really wants and what would be best for it, rather than another round of the usual shrill-a-thons. Some Democrats are already leading the way; will the rest of the party catch up to them?

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