Saturday, January 27, 2007

Maher Arar and a tale of two countries

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Maher Arar, you'll remember, is the Syrian-born Canadian citizen who in 2002 was detained by the U.S. at JFK airport in New York and "rendered" extraordinarily to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured before being released a year later. A formal inquiry initiated by the Canadian government and headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor fully exonerated him and recommended compensation. A detailed chronology of his story, which you should all read, is here.

And this brings us to the two very different responses from Canada and the U.S.:


Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized Friday to Maher Arar for the torture he suffered in a Syrian prison and said the government would pay him and his family $10.5-million, plus legal fees, to compensate them for the "terrible ordeal."

"On behalf of the government of Canada, I wish to apologize to you... and your family for any role that Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002-2003," Mr. Harper said in a letter to Mr. Arar.

The Prime Minister promised to do everything possible to ensure that the issues raised in the report of a judicial inquiry into the Arar case are addressed.

The government cannot change what is past, he told a news conference in Ottawa...

"But we can make changes to... [reduce the chances] that something like this will ever happen again."

United States

Flights south of the border were once a frequent fact of Maher Arar's professional life. Today, the 36-year-old computer engineer is fearful when the plane that takes him to Toronto or Ottawa from his home in British Columbia strays into U.S. air space.

The Americans continue to keep the Canadian man, whom they branded a terror suspect and sent to Syria in 2002, on their watch list. His name has not been removed despite his exoneration in this country and the apology he received Friday for the role Canadian officials played in his 10-month ordeal in a Syrian prison.

That means Mr. Arar and his family cannot travel to the United States. The U.S. ban is also taken into consideration by about 30 per cent of world, his lawyer said, thus depriving Mr. Arar of freedom of movement on a wide scale. For example, the family cannot make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is a requirement of their Muslim faith.

And, although U.S. authorities say they are not concerned when people on the watch list merely fly through U.S. air pace on their way from one Canadian destination to another, the occasional airborne foray across the border makes Mr. Arar queasy.

“As of today I feel a little bit reluctant to go anywhere else except domestically,” he told a news conference Friday afternoon.

Can you blame him? At least -- at the very least -- he has found justice in Canada, even as the U.S. continues to punish him and to threaten him, an innocent man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was the victim of American paranoia and cruelty.

Prime Minister Harper would do well to keep up the pressure on the U.S. to have Arar removed from its watch list, but don't expect the U.S. to budge. Not with a president who so willfully disregards habeas corpus as he wages his endless war against whomever he defines as America's enemies.

(Our previous posts on the Arar case are here, here, and here.)

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Pity poor Aitch Dubya

By Michael J.W. Stickings


President George W. Bush's father accused the news media of "personal animosity" toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

"It's one thing to have an adversarial... relationship -- hard-hitting journalism -- it's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," former President George Bush said.

As usual, it's all the media's fault. In this, Aitch Dubya is just like any other right-winger on the rampage for a scapegoat. The so-called "hostility" surely can't have anything to do with anything his beloved son has done, right? Those approval ratings and poll numbers must also be a media fabrication, right?. Can it really be that so many Americans want this presidency over and done with? Can it? Get your head out of your ass, Aitch Dubya. You know full well what's going on.

Poor man. He cries over Jeb and now, as if protesting too much, he lashes out at the media. It must really suck when your child fails so miserably in the highest office in the land.

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Wishing it was simply over

By Creature

Wish the Bush presidency was over? You're not alone. New numbers from Newsweek:

The president’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history—30 percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans.

Numbers like those above used to give me cause to happy-dance. They reflected a growing awareness of the American public to the disaster that is GWB. Today, with the tide thoroughly turned against the boy-president and his evil Dick of a sidekick, the reality of two more years just depresses the fuck out of me.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Komodo baby

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A komodo dragon hatches at Chester Zoo in England. Flora, the immaculate conceiver, is now a mother. Congratulations from all of us at The Reaction.

(Photo from The Globe and Mail.)

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XXXVI

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the AP: "In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week at the provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and then shot them to death."

What a nightmare Bush's war has become.

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"I'm the decision maker"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So said Bush yesterday, snubbing Congress. For more, see this good overview article on the current state of the debate over Iraq in The Washington Post.

If Bush insists on referring to himself as "the decision maker," that's fine with me, just as long as he takes responsibility for his decisions -- which, of course, he hasn't. He shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways.

His decisions have brought about disaster. And they will continue to do so unless the new Congress, rubber stampers reduced to the minority in both houses, prevent him from making further decisions unchecked.

Libby has more here.

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Canada and the climate crisis

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What do Canadians care about? With another federal election coming up this spring, in all likelihood, what issue do we place above all others? The climate crisis, according to a new poll:

Anxiety about environmental change has climbed so quickly within Canadians' consciousness that it now overwhelms terrorism, crime and health care as society's greatest threat, says a poll that kicks off a major Globe and Mail examination of the issue.

The Globe and Mail/CTV News survey delivers a number of messages for politicians, including a warning that the government not abandon Kyoto and a desire that Canada make a significant contribution to resolving global warming.

But the overarching finding is the speed with which Canadians have accepted that global warming is a large problem. The issue will also have a profound effect on the next election, as voters decide which party has the best plan to fix the problem.

The Liberals, currently the official opposition in the House of Commons, are in good position on this issue, not least because their new leader, Stéphane Dion, is a committed environmentalist. Although Dion didn't have the celebrity status of a Michael Ignatieff or a Bob Rae at the leadership convention, the Liberals may have been unwittingly prescient in selecting Dion. They picked the candidate who can best address Canadians' chief concern, whether they knew it at the time or not.

No wonder, then, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservatives have turned environmentalist on us -- or at least want us to believe they have. They've been against Kyoto and they've hardly been environmentally progressive. But they can read the polls. They know what Canadians care about. And they know they need to respond if they are to stand any chance of winning the next election.

Of course, other issues, not least our military commitment in Afghanistan, will be debated before we head to the polls. But it says something about this country -- something extremely positive, I believe -- that we are turning our attention, our political attention, to the foremost challenge of our time.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Libby Trial -- opening witness sings on spinning leaks

By Libby Spencer

Since I got off to a slow start as a co-blogger here, I'm going to beg Michael's and the rest of the team's indulgence and double-post this afternoon. In general, I don't plan to write a lot about this case. If you want perspective on the legal issues of the Scooter Libby trial, go to Firedoglake, a blog originally built on this matter, and, if you still can't get enough of the legalese, stop by TalkLeft. But yesterday's revelations from Cathie Martin, former Cheney communications director, are too delicious to leave unmentioned. Ms. Martin sheds some much-needed light on exactly how the White House spin machine works.

Just as we suspected, Tim Russert's Meet the Press is a fave of the administration because it can count on softball questions to "control the message," or, as we like to call it at The Impolitic, pushing the propaganda. Cathie notes it "was a tactic we often used." She goes on to reveal the administration's copious and deliberate use of the Friday news dump. In a moment of unmitigated candor, she told the court that bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it.

She described at length how she and Steve Hadley worked long hours with George Tenet helping him draft the political suicide note in which he faked responsibility for the erroneous mention of yellowcake uranium in the President's SOTU speech that year. And she confirmed that "the White House coddles friendly writers and freezes out others. To deal with the Wilson controversy, she hastily arranged a Cheney lunch with conservative commentators."

But probably her most damaging testimony, backed up with written notes, clearly indicates that the "no leak" White House routinely used leaks to White House-friendly reporters in order to advance its false story lines.

Even if nothing else happens in this trial and Scooter gets off, these revelations proving the odious duplicity of the White House are worth every penny we're spending on it.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Bush plays "Blue Game Matrix"

By Libby Spencer

This can't be good. Bush decided, last fall, to issue shoot to kill orders against Iranian operatives in Iraq. There are a couple of problems with this order. First, since the order is supposed to exclude civilians and diplomats, who determines whether an Iranian citizen is an operative? Considering the recent raids on Iranian diplomatic facilities, I'd say there's some amount of confusion on that score already.

Second, Iran is a Shia-friendly country. Why would they be arming the Sunni insurgents against their own people? Iran has been training and equipping the Shia militias, which are closely associated with the government we installed ourselves in Iraq, which continues to make overtures to Tehran in order to foster a close and cooperative relationship.

I'd say more on this but Chris Floyd sums it up perfectly in an excellent post that should be read in full.

So again, let's be clear. If Iran is not arming their bloodsworn enemies, the Sunni insurgents, and if any Shiite group they are assisting is an integral part of the "sovereign" Iraqi government backed by the Bush Administration, then what on earth can be the purpose of a direct presidential order to the troops to kill Iranians in Iraq? The answer is simple: the purpose of the order is to provoke Iran into some action that can be trumpeted as a casus belli for the Bush Faction's long-planned war against Iran.

What Bush has done with this order is to turn the American military into his own private death squad. It is an act of breathtaking dishonor, of unspeakable moral filth. That this pathetic little man and the jumped-up thugs around him – especially the hulking, smirking, lying coward Dick Cheney – are allowed to show their faces among civilized people, much less exercise power over a mighty nation, remains an unfathomable mystery...and a source of deep shame for all Americans.

Indeed. How is possible to feel anything but pure disgust over such self-serving thuggery being perpetrated in our name?

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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The credibility of Chuck Hagel

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A front-page article in the The Washington Post today on the prospects of a presidential run by Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska gets right to the point:

  • "His Republican colleagues regard him warily."
  • "The White House barely speaks to him."
  • "He is reviled by his party's conservative base."
Those are, in my view, three unassailable reasons to like him. If they don't like him, he must be doing something right. And that something, of course, is opposing the Iraq War with as much conviction and passion, if not more, than anyone else in Washington, with the possible exception of Jack Murtha. Even John Edwards, the Democratic contender to whom I am most partial and now an admirably eloquent opponent of the war in his own right, doesn't quite match Hagel's intensity, and nor do the two other Democratic frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, nor even the more dovish opponents of the war throughout the party.

This has a lot to do with Hagel's credibility on military matters generally. As a decorated Vietnam vet, he knows whereof he speaks, and this puts him well ahead of the Democratic frontrunners. One needn't be a vet to have credibility on military matters, nor to oppose the Iraq War, but it helps. Isn't that why many of us turned to John Kerry in '04? Isn't that why many of us supported Murtha when he came out in favor of redeployment long before others did? In a time of war, there's something to be said for being led by someone who's actually been to war, who understands how the military works, who knows intimately, painfully what it means for men and women to be sent into combat. Bush, Cheney, and most of the rest of the civilian architects of the war lack that experience and understanding and hence lack the credibility to guide the country through the inevitably challenging vicissitudes of war, and particularly of this war.

And, too, Hagel strikes a balance between excessive hawkishness and excessive dovishness. Which is to say, he is neither for all war nor against all war, neither always for military action nor always against military action. This is a key component of his credibility. Those who are always against war are against the Iraq War because it is a war, not because it is a bad war. For them, there are no good wars and bad wars, there are just wars. And wars, by definition, are bad. But this is a reductionism that cannot admit of variation, of degrees of goodness and badness. It is, in short, relativism. And so when those who are always against war come out against the Iraq War, they cannot be taken seriously, or at least not with the seriousness that a Hagel can be taken -- or a Gore, or an Edwards, or a Kerry, or a Murtha. (This is one of the reasons why John McCain had so much credibility until he began to look and sound more and more like a partisan ideologue.) To put it another way, if Hagel is opposed to the Iraq War and wants it ended, there's must be something seriously wrong with it.

So what if Hagel runs? Given that Iraq is likely to be the major issue in '08, would Democrats support him over one of their own? Would independents? Would Republicans? Those are moot questions, given that Hagel stands little chance of winning the Republican nomination, but this is one case where my partisanship -- and those of you know me know well which of the two main U.S. political parties I support -- wavers. I understand, as Steve Benen reminded us the other day, that "Hagel is conservative on just about everything except the war," but, given the primacy of the war, what this means is that, like Churchill, he is right about what matters most.

No, no, Hagel is no Churchill beyond this comparison and he is far too conservative for my liking, but, in the present context, there is no denying his credibility. He is as sane a voice as there is on the insanity of the Iraq War.

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below.]

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The crazy parents of Federal Way, Washington

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know, crazy like James Inhofe. Fucking crazy.

Some of them, including Frosty E. Hardison (believe it or not), have complained to the local school board about Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Frosty, it seems, didn't want one of his daughters, a seventh-grader, watching it in her science class:

"No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.

His angry e-mail (along with complaints from a few other parents) stopped the film from being shown to Hardison's daughter.

Yes, fucking crazy in that specially Christian way. Sure our planet's fucked. Sure we're all fucked. But it's all part of God's plan -- so why worry? Well, not to be too blunt about this, but he and those who think like him can go fuck themselves silly as they await the rapture. The rest of us -- those of us who haven't succumbed to fantasy -- would rather get on with doing something about the climate crisis. For those who think like Frosty are not just ignorant and delusional but grossly irresponsible. They are, to be blunt again, the willing enablers of genocide. For while their little fantasy keeps them ignorant and delusional, the costs, the human costs, of the climate crisis will prove to be enormous. Millions dead, whole cities eradicated, land masses submerged. A true apocalypse, not the imaginary one you can read about in their books.

Al Gore's great documentary is an important film about the most important issue of our time. We ought to watch it. Our children ought to watch it. The crazy parents of Federal Way, and its cowardly school board, be damned.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XXXV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

More bloodshed:

At least 26 people have been killed and 64 injured in a car bomb in the Karrada shopping district of central Baghdad...

Earlier, at least five people were killed in attacks on two other markets in the capital.

And, yes, 30 insurgents were killed, too. So they say.

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The future of Al Gore

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Run, Al, Run": This is the title of a new piece by Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone. Key passage:

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.

It's our must-read of the day. And read it in its entirety you must.

(The great graphic above accompanies Dickinson's piece.)

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Ignoring Pelosi

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to CBS News (well, The Politico -- whatever): "Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that [President Bush] did not consult her before announcing his new strategy for the war in Iraq, a sign that, despite the cozy rhetoric, the relationship between Washington's two powerhouses has already had its share of friction."

Oh, really. This is news?

Bush may smile that absurdly awkward smile when he shakes her hand on camera, he may congratulate her in public, he may have said all the right things about "Madame Speaker" in the State of the Union. But he doesn't like her. And he certainly doesn't want to consult with her about his plans for Iraq. This is Bush we're talking about. He doesn't want to consult with anyone, let alone the winners of an election that was essentially a repudiation of his war by a solid majority of the American people.

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Nightmare scenario

By Creature

More Cheney vs. Blitzer (and the country for that matter):

BLITZER: How worried are you of this nightmare scenario, that the U.S. is building up this Shiite-dominated Iraqi government with an enormous amount of military equipment, sophisticated training, and then in the end, they're going to turn against the United States?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Wolf, that's not going to happen. [...]

Lessons from the last four years:
  1. What can get uglier in Iraq, usually will.
  2. If the vice president is convinced something will not happen, we can be assured that it certainly will happen.
Wolf's "nightmare scenario" is all but guaranteed.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Kerry opts out

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John Kerry has announced that he will not run for president in '08. The Boston Globe has the story here.

There isn't much I can add to what's already been written -- see Memeorandum here for reaction from around the blogosphere. All I wish to say is that I admire and respect Senator Kerry a great deal. He's a good and honourable man. I came to support him enthusiastically in '04, and I believe he would have made (and would still make) an outstanding president. He may not have run a great campaign, and he may not have been the most effective candidate, but he did extremely well against an incumbent (war) president.

But it is probably for the best -- for him and for us -- that he's decided to run for re-election to the Senate rather than to test the uncertain presidential waters for a second consecutive time. Basically, he stood no chance of winning the nomination, not with Edwards, Obama, and Clinton running, not with the memories of '04 still fresh, not with Democrats looking for a new leader to take back the White House.

Kerry's time on the presidential stage has likely come and gone. But, in the Senate, he still has the opportunity to do so much more.

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John Gibson is an asshole

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the story, in brief: Insight magazine, a right-wing rag, reported that Barack Obama had, as a child, attended a madrassa in Indonesia. To the right, all madrassas are terrorist training camps, even though madrassa just means school. The Insight report was picked up by Fox News, which ran with it. It was even suggested that the Clinton campaign had leaked the story in the first place. In all this there were just two problems for the right-wing smear machine: First, there was no evidence whatsoever that the Clinton campaign had anything to do with the story. Second, a CNN reporter went to the school Obama attended and found that it isn't a madrassa, let alone some terrorist training camp.


But no matter. Fox is nothing if not consistent in its partisan smearmongering. And the reporting of the truth by CNN didn't stop Fox's John Gibson from saying this: "Yeah, cause they got a reporter in Indonesia, probably went to the very madrassa, now works for CNN." Ah, right. It's all a conspiracy. The truth may set you free, but Fox, postmodern Fox, which admits of no truth, for which all is spin, forever and ever, will chain you right back down in its cave of lies.

Fox News. Fair and balanced? Fuck off.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Republicans hate poor people

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Well, duh. Unless they're socially conservative, in which case they and their fears can be exploited for partisan gain. As in: What's the matter with Kansas?)

Bob Geiger is reporting that "the Republican minority [in the Senate] voted against cloture on [a minimum wage] bill today, throwing down a roadblock until Democrats agree to more business tax cuts". Because that's what really matters. Not those making the minimum wage, which hasn't been increased in ten years, not working families barely getting by, not children living in poverty, but businesses, and specifically their wealthy owners. Business tax cuts can be debated separately, however. What this is all about is Republicans voting against a minimum wage increase. They apparently think that $7.25 an hour is just too high. Surely poor people don't need that much money.

I mean, come on.

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The bullshit of Michael Gerson

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At Newsweek today, ex-Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson argues that Bush's SOTU address was not the predictable failure many have made it out to be. On the contrary, with expectations "driven down by exaggerated commentary," Bush "gave a speech that matched genuine outreach with ideological boldness".


No, seriously. And there's more: Bush presented "a series of creative domestic initiatives". "On foreign policy," he "combined subtle analysis with a blunt appeal for patience". And his "explanation of Sunni and Shia radicalism exceeded the usual level of State of the Union sophistication".

The Democratic response from Senator Webb -- which at first I thought was flat but which upon reflection, removed from the shadow cast by Bush's irritation-inducing speech and the bad mood it put me in, I think was quite impressive, as good as such a response can be -- was worse than mediocre, in Gerson's view, a bad speech with mixed metaphors and liberal clichés.

There's as much bullshit here as there was in Liz Cheney's WaPo op-ed from Monday. But Cheney's piece was mere juvenilia compared to this drivel. I mean, does Gerson really believe this? There's such strained gravitas to his review of the SOTU, but no sane person could unironically lavish this much praise on it. Even if you don't think it was a failure, even if you like Bush, the most you can say about it, it seems to me, is that it was a competent performance. And perhaps it was -- competent, that is. And perhaps, still touched with partisan delusion, you think Bush said the right things. If that's the case, there's nothing I can say to you. Like Gerson, if not quite as eloquent, you're trapped in a prison of delusion from which not even killing and chaos in Iraq can free you.

Whatever the case, perhaps Gerson was watching the SOTU of his own imagination. It doesn't seem to be the one I watched.

For a couple of on-target reviews of the SOTU, see Dickerson (it was lame) and Kaplan (Bush still doesn't get it) at Slate. They pick it apart properly. Here's Kaplan on Bush's sophisticated "explanation of Sunni and Shia radicalism," that is, on a key point in Gerson's loving review: "He still seems to view the ever-mounting violence as reflecting a struggle between good and evil, freedom and tyranny. He fails to grasp the sectarian nature of the fight. (Does he really believe that the Shiites and Sunnis are the same—or that, besides the small minority of al-Qaida, they're 'totalitarian' in nature?)"

There was so much wrong in and with the SOTU. If Gerson's review is any indication, if it offers us a glimpse into Bush's mind and the minds of his minions, which I suspect it does, it's evident that a state of denial and delusion still prevails in the White House, as bad as ever.

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"There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is why it was so important for Democrats to take back Congress in November. From the AP: "In a calculated snub of President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed plans for a troop buildup in Iraq on Wednesday as 'not in the national interest' of the United States."

In other words, NO to the surge.

Bush asked for support, and specifically for more time, in yesterday's State of the Union, but Democrats have rightly said that his time is up.

This particular measure, which should go to the full Senate for a vote next week, is non-binding. Which means it's all bark and no bite. But some bark is better than no bark, and this bark could be followed with a bite: "Several of the panel's 11 Democrats said they favored stronger legislation to register their opposition to the war." And Committee Chair Joe Biden "said tougher measures were likely to follow".

Democrats rolled over in 2002. It's a bit too late, but at least they're not rolling over now.

The vote of the Committee was 12-9. It was a party-line vote, with one notable exception: the admirable Chuck Hagel, who once again showed he is his party's staunchest critic of the conduct of this disastrous war.

It was Hagel who said the words that are the title of this post. Speaking truth to power in response to the abuse of power, in opposition to a war that has taken so many lives and that has been so utterly devastating, he continues to be a voice of sanity in a time of madness. Here -- a must-watch -- are his remarks from earlier today (TPM Muckraker has the complete transcript here):

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By Heraclitus

"My fellow Americans, the state of the simper is strong. I will not let my own overwhelming, criminal incompetence lessen my sociopathic sense of self-satisfaction. No matter how many die needlessly in Iraq to appease my adolescent bravado, no matter how bleak our economic future, no matter how many major polluters demand that I take action against climate change, I will not waver in my narcissism. This is my pledge to you."

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So what about Iran?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(See my SOTU live-blog here.)

Bush didn't say much about Iran in his SOTU address. By my count, reading through the prepared text, he mentioned "Iran" five times. Four of those mentions concerned Iran's support for Hezbollah and Shiite elements in Iraq. The fifth mention was just this quasi-internationalist statement: "The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons." (The first part of that statement is true; the second is a bit of an exaggeration.)

But what about all the heightened rhetoric about how Iran is arming the Shiite militias in Iraq? What about the warmongering? Whither the neocon worldview?

Perhaps Bush just didn't want to get into it. Given his low approval ratings, given that he's facing criticism from both parties over the upcoming surge in Iraq, perhaps he (or his minions) thought better of drawing attention away from Iraq and to Iran. Bush is having enough trouble selling his "new way forward" in Iraq. How is he to secure support for war against Iran? He's already facing a Democratic majority in Congress. Tough talk on Iran could lose him much of his own party as well, those that haven't already abandoned him.

Or there's this: The L.A. Times yesterday reported that "evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq's troubles is limited". Mortars and mines have been found, but "there has been little sign of more advanced weaponry crossing the border, and no Iranian agents have been found". In his "surge" speech earlier this month, Bush "promised to 'seek out and destroy' Iranian networks that he said were providing 'advanced weaponry and training to our enemies'". Although he was "expected to strike a similar note in [his] State of the Union speech," he didn't. And that may be because there are no such networks. Indeed, "the Bush administration has provided scant evidence to support [its] claims". Again, that may be because there is no hard evidence.

Bush defended his "new" strategy in Iraq and requested more time to pursue victory. In that respect, his speech last night mirrored his "surge" speech. But the differences are more striking than the similarities, and the key differences concern Iran. This is not to say that Bush has given up his hard line against Iran. Military action is hardly out of the question, even now. But, for whatever reason, the content of the public rhetoric has changed within a matter of weeks. And that should worry us. With a lack of evidence, Iran 2007 looks a lot like Iraq 2002/3. Which is to say, Bush may be pursuing military action against Iran even without evidence of Iranian malfeasance in Iraq and even with Iran's nuclear program in its early stages. And if he is, he's doing so privately, without informing the public. He downplayed Iran in his speech last night, but before we know it there could be war.


For more, see co-blogger/asst. editor Creature at State of the Day. He got to this story long before I did. And then go see Greenwald. And then c'mon back.

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Democrat, Democratic

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In my SOTU live-blog, I mentioned that Bush referred to the Democrat majority, not the Democratic majority. Bush and the Republicans do this all the time. It's annoying. And it's wrong. Why do they do it?

Washington Wire, at the WSJ, explains.

Bush used it "to take a jab at Pelosi and the rest of the new Democratic majority of Congress". It was "almost certainly a deliberate move by Bush, who has used the phrase 'the Democrat Party' for months as a way of needling his opponents" And it goes all the way back to Joe McCarthy. As long as it's the Democrat Party, it isn't democratic. Stupid, but effective. Republican friends of mine have also used it, and continue to do despite my objections, and it never fails to piss me off. And it has been "widely adopted by many Republican lawmakers, conservative political activists, and conservative commentators and pundits at media outlets like Fox News".

Of course it has. From McCarthy to Bush, it's the Republican way.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Live-blogging the State of the Union

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Alright. So here we are. I'm not expecting much from this evening's State of the Union. Or, rather, I'm expecting the usual. More of the same from a president who has nothing left but the fumes of his own hubris. That's enough to wreak havoc both at home and abroad, of course, and particularly in Iraq, where The Surge is the last gasp, a desperate attempt to salvage something, and to secure a way out. People will die because Bush is still president. That much is clear. But now what? Perhaps he'll show some humanity, perhaps he'll reach out, admit mistakes, at least in theory, but it's not as if he can do anything more domestically and it's not as if he can strike out beyond America's borders. Or, no. Check that. He can. And may. He'll stick to his "new" strategy in Iraq, he'll lob rhetorical bombs at Iran and possibly Syria, and perhaps North Korea. And -- who knows? -- maybe he'll even mention Darfur just to show he isn't entirely self-absorbed. Maybe he'll even admit that the climate crisis is real.

I'm not even sure why I'm doing this. I'm hardly looking forward to the speech. More than anything, I suppose, I'm interested in the theater of it all. The Republicans were soundly defeated in last November's midterms. And the Republican defeat, the loss of both the Senate and the House, as well as losses at the state and local levels around the country, was also, in part, a rebuke of Bush, a vote against his presidency, a vote against the Iraq War. How will Bush act in front of a Democratic Congress? How will he behave in hostile territory? How sympathetically will the Democrats treat him? How enthusiastically will the Republicans cheer him? Will Bush look and sound presidential? (Does he ever?) Or will he look like the small man and even smaller president he is?

So here we go. Here's my live-blogging of the SOTU:

What's the state of the Union, you ask? Strong, I presume. Or "strong". Bush would never admit otherwise. Because he likely can't imagine otherwise. His America exists only in his mind, inside his bubble, according to his own righteousness.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The big question -- for me, the most pressing question -- is this:

Will Bush and Lieberman pull a Madonna-Britney tonight?


And Bush enters...

(And Blogger isn't working...)


-- How weird. Cheney and Pelosi behind Bush. How refreshing. Oh, he says something to the Speaker. I couldn't hear what. And she introduces him...

-- "Madame Speaker". A very nice touch, I'll give him credit for that. As good an ice-breaker as there could have been.

(I won't comment on everything he says. I don't have the stamina for it tonight. Just a few remarks here and there.)


-- "I congratulate the Democrat majority." I hate it when Republicans say "Democrat" like that. It's Democratic.

-- "This economy is on the move." Well, sure. It's going somewhere.

-- "We must balance the federal budget." Oh, right, the budget. The one Bush found in the black and sent well into the red? Yeah, that one. But there won't be any tax increases. Of course not. There just needs to be spending discipline in Washington. Meaning what, exactly? Easy to say, not so easy to do. And now he intends for the budget to be balanced in five years? After such irresponsibility? Fine. He won't be president anyway. He can say whatever he wants.

-- All domestic stuff so far... So boring... I knew I should have avoided this. Isn't the NHL all-star skills competition on tonight?

-- I need a drink.

-- Health care. Yup, the focus is on private health insurance, but now... two new initiatives! Hoo-wah! Still, it's nothing close to universal coverage. Making health care more affordable only goes so far. Many of the uninsured will remain so, while many of the insured still won't be able to afford anything more than basic services.

-- Border patrol. Ah, the "temporary work program" idea. Fine. Much better than what the Tancredoite xenophobes in his own party have been recommending. But, you know, I now need a passport to go to the U.S. Not good for Canadians.

-- Energy diversification. Clean energy. Okay, but is it just talk? What do your oil buddies say, Mr. President?

-- Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.............................

-- (Blogger still isn't working. I'll keep writing anyway.)

-- I really, really dislike these things. SOTUs, I mean.

-- WAIT! Did he say "global climate change"?! Yes, he did! But... that's all he said. So... what? Did he just admit that it's real, that it's not a hoax? Or what?



-- America and her allies have been "staying on the offensive". Indeed. But more offence in Afghanistan and less offence in Iraq would have been a good plan.

-- And let the fearmongering begin. He just referenced the alleged Britain-based plot to blow up trans-Atlantic planes. But that was never the plot authorities made it out to be. It was really more of a concept that never made it out of early planning. This is not to dismiss it, jut to put it in perspective, context.

-- Yes, the terrorists are bad. We know that. Thanks. And now he's quoting the terrorists. Yes, fine. We get it. We've gotten it. They wish us harm. He keeps mentioning totalitarianism. I'm not sure jihadism is quite Nazism or Soviet Communism. Whatever. Bush lumps them all together anyway. Evildoers, right?

-- 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Get it?


-- The response is all quite subdued. Even from Republicans. Except when Bush promised not to raise taxes. That got the blood going.

-- IRAQ. I'm not watching, I'm listening. But I just caught a glimpse of John Kerry. He's not amused. (Did Bush really win Ohio? What about those voting irregularities? Hmmm.)

-- There is still time to turn the Iraq War around. We must turn our attention to victory. Oh. Thanks. Too bad hope -- wishing it were so -- isn't much of a policy.

-- The Surge: More troops "to find the terrorists and clear them out". More troops to die, that is. But America's commitment isn't "open-ended," as he said in his surge speech. No, of course not. So when the surge fails, or when nothing changes for the better, or as things continue to get worse, Bush can blame the Iraqis for not doing enough, for not taking responsibility, and he can get the hell out. Blame the Iraqis, declare victory, and run.

-- "Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure." "I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way." Ah, the support-the-troops card. Implication: If you oppose me, you oppose the troops.

-- He wants more time. He's had enough time.


-- IRAN. Uh... not much.

-- AFGHANISTAN. Happy talk.

-- NORTH KOREA. More happy talk.

-- Cuba, Belarus, and Burma. And... Darfur! There you go. He mentioned it. But now what?

-- Fight HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa. So does that mean you'll support contraception efforts? Didn't think so. Your crazy base doesn't go for that.

-- And now it's just fuzzy foreign policy proposals. Nothing of substance.


-- Dikembe Mutombo. (Great, great shot-blocker. One of the NBA's best defensive players ever.) He's in the gallery tonight. Geez, he's huge.

-- I can't take much more of this. But I'm committed.

-- Where's that drink?

-- The subway hero. Great. How can you not admire him? But what's the point? He's just being exploited? (Does he know he's being exploited? Does he understand the game? Is he a willing participant in this madness?)


-- Mmmm. Laphroaig. Nice.


-- And the state of the Union is? -- strong. Of course.

-- But there wasn't much confidence behind that assessment, was there?


-- Well, that was pointless. Such a waste of time. There's no way I can deal with the media reaction, which will be typically shallow. What else is on? (Oh, I suppose I'll watch the Democratic response from Jim Webb. Then I'll start flipping.)

-- Webb's fine. But flat. These responses are never effective. Except Webb's last line: "These Presidents [the Roosevelts, Eisenhower] took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way." I certainly hope so.

-- And now I'm done. See you later.

(You can find the text of Bush's address here, of Webb's response here. Just in case you can't get quite enough of this.)

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A few words on Bill Kristol

By Heraclitus

No, not that guy. Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, neo-con talking head, Bush suck-up. Our excellent new co-blogger Libby Spencer wrote a post about Kristol recently, and in the comments Michael reminded me that he and I both saw Kristol speak in Toronto a few years ago, and asked my opinion of him. I responded rather tartly, as is my wont, and Michael recommended I put my acid-tongued reflections up here as a post. And, since he's the Editor and Founder around these parts, I will of course comply. So here they are (though I have softened my initial conclusion, which really wasn't very nice at all).

Yes, I remember seeing and listening to Mr. Kristol. At the time, I thought more highly of him, and was somewaht impressed/relieved to find that he wasn't as ideological as I had expected, and even used most of his direct references to Bush to mock him. There were the obvious jokes about Bush being none too bright, and the jokes about the not-so-obvious fact that the Bushies were still holding it against Kristol that he and TWS supported McCain early in the Republican primaries in 2000, which is presumably why poor little Kristol was still languishing at TWS, rather than having another great job like chief of staff to Dan Quayle.

Since then, though, I've come to despise Kristol completely, and all the more so precisely because he is so cynical, and his incessant cheerleading for Bush is simply lying for personal and professional gain. He's one of the few neocons, in or out of government, not to have acknowledged that the Iraq War is a thoroughly botched debacle, and accordingly to abandon it, which says more about his own ego and narrow and grasping ambitions than anything else. If Wolfowitz and Perle can say mea culpa, you'd think Kristol could.

Last year, the office I worked in had a subscription to TWS. Every week, their cover story was just mindless and slavish fellating of whatever power grab the Bushies were attempting. I remember the cover I found most annoying -- a black and white picture of a man listening to an old-timey wall phone, with the headline "Let's hear it for wiretapping!" ("hear it" -- get it?). They're stuck in that late-'90s, Patio Man, we're the outsider frat boys speaking truth to power tone of flippancy and glibness. And, supposedly, everything changed on September 11th. In fact, they're maybe the only ones who haven't changed, and Kristol's one of the most callous and feckless in his attitudes towards the war in Iraq. Feh.

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'68? No, my fee is €145

By Heraclitus

Here's a new commercial venture: young people, good-lookin' ones, too, willing to rent themselves out for your protest.

Organisations using the service are unlikely to reveal themselves, keen to pass off their protesters as genuine supporters of the cause. But German media reported a Munich march had hired protesters because its own adherents were too old to stand for hours waving banners...

But the fact they are paid has perturbed a number of commentators in Germany, especially those who remember the passion-fuelled protests of 1968.

"It seems to confirm the increasingly common assumption," wrote one, "that democracy is for sale".

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A mediated Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I’m currently reading Mediated by Thomas de Zengotita, a brilliant examination of “how the media shapes your world and the way you live in it,” as the subtitle goes. It’s one of those multilayered books that deserves multiple readings, so poignant and profound are its aphoristic meditations on the state of our culture and our subservience to the forces of representation and mediation.

Zengotita’s overall understanding of human being can be summed up with the memorable line he introduces at the end of the introduction: “We are all method actors now.” Which is to say, we are all performing the personal roles that come from forming individualized identities out of a seemingly infinite supply of choices with which the postmodern world presents us.

I cannot do the book justice here. My recommendation is to read it. And then to read it again. It is one of the most important books of our time because it is a book that gets our time.

And what does it have to do with Bush? In his chapter on politics – all politics is identity politics, he finds -- Zengotita examines the particular cases, inter alia, of Princess Diana, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. The public reaction to Di’s death got it going, but Clinton is the “prototype” of the fully mediated politician, the politician as fully mediated performer. And then came Dubya (pp. 163-173). Here’s just a snapshot of what Zengotita has to say about him:

When George W. Bush plays his role as protector of the ‘Merican people, you can see he is performing. If you watch as he runs through those lists of evangelical/Manichean truisms, you will see he is performing the simplicity he thinks of as his principal virtue. He actually recites (rush of words, pause and stare; rush of words, pause and stare) little bromides like “We are a good people,” “Our enemies hate us for who we are,” and “Our cause is just,” and his eyes light up after each nugget is delivered, as if he is proud to get his lesson right. It is as if he were hoping to ingratiate himself with parents he disappointed.

Which is the basic plot of his life’s story…

All his life, Bush has been protected by his birthright from the consequences of pretensions he might not have been able to live up to, standing alone. Invulnerable because of his position, he became tough and confrontational, but without risk…

That accounts for the spoiled-bully quality in Bush. He is driven to assert himself constantly, looking for the resistance that would test his mettle if it were ever there. The compulsive teasing, admonishing, nicknaming – the symbolic subordination of people around him, people with no choice but to collaborate with his humor at their own expense – these forms of dominance can never be entirely convincing. Hence the aura of puppetry around him, arising from the repeated deployment of mannerisms that have never quite settled in.

And here’s more:

Bush took up the tropes of world-historical leadership after 9/11 in the same way he assumed his Texas-style manhood. He practised them as diligently as he followed his workout schedule, one day at a time, never deviating, with Laura presiding, you may be sure – for it was she who first set him on the straight and narrow. And he was sustained in this discipline by his cast of courtiers, all of whom understood their fundamental role…

After 9/11, Bush was animated by this emotional syndrome [the kind of sentimentality that motivates the revenge movie], and so were those who followed him. That current of feeling shaped his subsequent performance. Hence the baffling references to his “heart,” the maudlin bottom-line intensity with which he insists that he has one, that he feels with it or in it, that it cannot be questioned, that he is who he is because of it. Bush’s heart was elevated on 9/11 from a personal to a historic plane. He understood his role after that day in terms of divine election, don’t doubt that, and take it literally, no metaphor obtains. He experienced himself being chosen by God to lead a war on terror – a war against evil, a war to save the American way of life – in exactly the same way he once experienced his personal salvation: in his heart, where floods of feeling admit no doubt.

I should quote it all, it’s that good. If no one understands our time quite like Zengotita does, no one gets Bush quite like he does either. Indeed, this may very well be the best analysis of Bush there has ever been and may ever be.

Keep it in mind as you watch tonight. Bush will be performing the State of the Union – self-consciously and yet somehow also blissfully ignorant of the consequences. It will be yet more of the sad, pathetic act we’ve come to know so well these past several years, an act that has been so devastating both to his own country and to the world around him.

[Creature's Note: Again, Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Michael seems to think I have nothing better to do with my time... just kidding, boss. Just kidding.]

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A Cheney is a Cheney

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There's an op-ed in the Post today by no less an "authority" than former State Department official Liz Cheney. Its loaded title? The very Cheneyesque: "Retreat Isn't an Option."

As Jason Zengerle puts it at TNR's The Plank, it may be the "[w]orst op-ed of the (admittedly still young) year". It's a "thing of wonder," he writes, for "it manages to touch all the wing-nutty bases" in "a mere 800 words". (Noam Scheiber and Isaac Chotiner have more here and here, respectively.)

It barely deserves my (or your) attention, but let's run through it in fast forward: In order, Lizzy C. attacks Hillary, praises Liberman, attacks Hagel, attacks Pelosi, attacks Obama, conflates the Iraq War with the war on terror (a seemingly endless war against "an existential threat" that will be fought "to the death," a war that must be fought in Iraq lest it get even worse), claims that (Democratic and some Hagel-like Republican) proponents of redeployment are helping the terrorists and handing the Middle East over to al Qaeda, misreads the results of the November midterms, praises Karzai and Musharraf, once again conflates the Iraq War with the war on terror, raises the specter of Iran (stay in Iraq or else Syria and a nuclear Iran will take over the Middle East), plays the support-our-troops card (because Democrats, it seems, don't), attacks Hillary again, spews Bush-friendly platitudes ("Victory is the only option"), and quotes Churchill.


That's a whole lotta bullshit for one measly op-ed. But, then, she must have learned from a master.

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste sweat. Please ignore the "Creature" in byline below.]

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Oh, my

By Heraclitus

No matter your mood, this will improve it. Pam Spaulding has an unbelievably cheesy video up about...well, it's about...that is, it's called...well, you should just click and see for yourself. I agree with Pam that it has to be a joke, but I feel almost bad calling attention to it and pronouncing it a joke. I imagine it's some kind prank or hoax, which the folks in question weren't going to reveal until they got a big fat check from the Scaife Foundation. Making so much noise about it may make that harder to happen.

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Protecting Canada's rainforest

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I know Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is turning its attention to the environment in anticipation of another federal election, perhaps this spring, and I realize it's doing so largely because Canadians consider the environment a key issue and because the new Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion, is a committed environmentalist, and, yes, because the Conservatives could lose election on the environment issue, but, cynicism aside, I am fully in support of this:

Canada has pledged to spend millions of dollars to help protect the world's largest temperate rainforest.

The government will allocate CAN$30m (US$26m, £13m) to maintain the area of British Columbia known as the Great Bear Rainforest...

The 64,000 sq km (25,000 sq mile) forest is about twice the size of Belgium and spans the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island north to Alaska...

The federal cash will be matched by money from the government of British Columbia.

Another CAN$60m (US$51m, £26m) is being given by international donors, mainly from within the US.

No, no, this isn't nearly enough for me to turn Conservative -- this is still a party of the Alberta oilfields, after all, and the environment isn't the only issue, and $30 million isn't all that much money, not nearly enough to do what needs to be done across the country -- but at least it shows that even our Conservative government has been compelled to address the environment and to do something -- however belatedly, however reluctantly, however vote-grabbingly cynical.

Perhaps some such belated, reluctant, and cynical effort to address the climate crisis will come next?

No, that's surely asking too much. All the more reason to take the money for the rainforest and vote Liberal. It's too important not to.

The Globe has more.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XXXIV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

BBC: "More than 130 people were killed in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on the country's bloodiest day this year." I'd go on, but you know the story already. Read the article for the horrific details.

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Fear this!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So it is now being revealed -- now, right before the surge in Iraq, right before the State of the Union address, right when Bush needs some serious fearmongering -- that "insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq" were planning to "orchestrate a new attack on American soil". And apparently it was all quite 9/11-like. You know, with student visas and what not.

First, what does this even mean? Who are these so-called "insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq"?

Second, how serious was it? How advanced was the plot?

Third, according to ABC News, "the plot was discovered six months ago".

Six months ago. Now, former NSC counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, whom I generally like, seems to buy it: "This appears to be the first hard evidence al Qaeda in Iraq was trying to attack us here at home." But -- and it's a huge BUT: "The plan was uncovered in its early stages, and sources say there is no indication that the suspects made it into the United States. Officials also emphasize that there is no evidence of an imminent attack," reports ABC.

Oh. Well then.

It seems we have nothing to fear but what we're told to fear, over and over again and at the most convenient political times for the president. If this was known six months ago, why is it just coming out now? Top-notch reporting by ABC? Or a convenient leak?

With the Iraq War going so badly, do you think Bush might just reference this, or something like it, in tomorrow's SOTU? Look out, another 9/11 is right around the corner? Something like that?

Or do you think this might have something to do not just with the escalation in Iraq but with Bush's declining approval rating? It's now down to 28 percent, according to CBS News.

And so it's more of the same, the eternal return of the terrorist threat. That threat may be real, all-too-real, and there may very well be terrorists plotting another 9/11, or worse, but how is one to tell truth from truthiness, reality from rhetoric, with Bush, or his scripted messengers, crying wolf whenever a boost is needed? Fear is a powerful force in politics, and Bush has pushed all the right buttons. But no more. Who does not suspect that whatever passes through his lips is a lie?

The desperation is palpable. Fearmongering is all Bush has left.

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Dirty rotten lies: Barack Obama and the madrassa smear

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Remember that story, gleefully reported by FOX News, that Barack Obama had attended a madrassa in Indonesia for a couple of years as a child?

(I wrote about it here, Capt. Fogg here.)

Well, it seems there's no truth to the story:

Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971, with his mother and step-father and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school, but an aide said it was not a madrassa.

A Clinton spokesman has "denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim". So who's playing dirty here? The right-wing smear machine or the Clinton campaign?

Good job, CNN. I guess you've made up for that whole Obama/Osama thing.


At Captain's Quarters, sensible conservative Ed Morrissey calls the Insight story an "embarrassment," yet another example of "single-sourcing" that "only belongs in gossip columns". And he defends Obama from some of the criticism he has received from the crazies on the right: "It seems more than a little irrelevant what kind of school in which his parents enrolled him when he counted his age in single digits. Obama has not lived his life as a Muslim but as a Christian, and received most of his education in American public schools... He isn't a stealth Muslim regardless of his middle name or his two-year attendance in a school in Indonesia."

And, in this case: No one has offered "any proof that this information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign".


Madrassa (or madrasah, or madrassah, or any number of similar variations of that transliteration) just means "school" in Arabic, but it can also refer to an Islamic religious school. Some such schools are theologically and ideologically extremist, not to mention anti-American and anti-Western, in their teachings, but some on the right seem to view them uniformly as terrorist training camps.

Hence the intent of the smear: Obama was indoctrinated by terrorists and may be a terrorist himself. Crazy, of course, but some are just crazy enough to buy it.

For more, see here.


Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Crooks and Liars has the CNN video. And puts the whole incident in context: "The only thing this story 'exposes' is the anatomy of a right-wing hit job: Conservative Insight magazine runs an unverified story that the minions at FOX News then cite to smear politicians they don't like. And when it blows up in their faces, they claim they were just citing a source and wipe their hands clean. That's how right-wing 'journalism' works."

(Think Progress has more.)

And see this great post at The Anonymous Liberal. It's a must-read with all sorts of background and context.

Back in the MSM, be sure to check out Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes" at WaPo.

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Spinning a new way forward

By Creature

The president's new way forward... better, more extensive, military spin.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Monday 93 rebels were killed and 57 captured in a 10-day operation against al Qaeda-linked insurgents northeast of Baghdad.

In an unusually detailed video news conference broadcast to journalists in Baghdad from Diyala province, Colonel David Sutherland said Iraqi troops had fought well in the operation and were improving their capabilities every day. [...]

"Since I've been here we have not conducted an operation ... against a group of this size that were willing to fight us out in the open," Sutherland said. "This operation shows ... there's partnership between Iraqi army and Coalition forces."

I'm not saying this is not some kind of victory. I'm not saying there is no budding partnership. All I'm saying is that the "unusually detailed video news conference" and the positive "partnership" spin are tactics used before by this image over substance presidency* to make it seem like progress is being made when in actuality the situation continues to deteriorate.

*And I would not be surprised if the accomplishments cited today are mentioned in tomorrow's SOTU address. I would not be surprised at all.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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