Saturday, April 14, 2007

Huzzah for the internets

Okay, we get it. God is angry that we moved daylight savings time up three weeks (or whatever that thing was that we did), and he's punishing us with weeks of overcast skies and freezing rain in April. Does anyone know anything about blowing up the sky?

The internets can be an ugly place, no? No, wait, check that, a damn fugly place. There were the death threats against tech blogger (yes, tech blogger) Kathy Sierra (there's been a whole bruhaha in response to that that I don't have time to discuss and link to; if you're curious, see here, here and here). For another innerwebby emetic, see the first update to this post. (In the words of Kim Gordon, which just came through my speakers, "I took a look into the hate. It mad me feel very up-to-date." Meanwhile, if The NY Times reports on any of this, it will no doubt be just to blame it all on Al Gore for inventing the internet.)

Anyways, in response, I'd just like to link to two especially brilliant posts I read today dealing with some of this. The first is this post by Sylvia at The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum. I think it's a really powerful and compelling post, dealing with the perspective of women and women of color to threats against them on the internet.

So when I see insults and threats to my existence extolled under free speech, pardon my skepticism of your reason. When I’m told that allusions to my dehumanization throughout history functions merely as humor — solely as humor — pardon me if I question your estimation of my fear. Because personally? With a history of rape, abuse, degradation, silencing, marginalizing, and flat-out scorn for women of color? With a knowledge that even as we experience success society can remind us with its icons and its dregs how easily we can be raped, how quickly we can be lynched, how they view us as animals, how much value we lack in the eyes of our oppressors, the oppressed, and even ourselves? It scares the shit out of me. With reason.

Meanwhile, Twisty Faster, radical femininst blogger, gentleman farmer, amateur entymologist, foodie, and chronicler of the public cans of Austin, writes this in response to people criticizing Kathy Sierra for behaving like a victim:

But look here. Who are they trying to kid. Women can be kept in line with intimidation, and the whole world knows it. Aren’t people who have been raped and intimidated and harassed and threatened with death “victims”? What the fuck is wrong with that word? It describes the situation perfectly.

Do you guys get, I mean actually get, that our society is a patriarchy? Patriarchy isn’t just a gimmick for a blog. It really exists. There are actual implications. Do you get that a patriarchy is predicated on exploitation and victimization? It’s not a joke! It’s not an abstract concept dreamed up by some wannabe ideologue making up catch-phrases while idling away the afternoons with pitchers of margs. Exploitation and victimization is the actual set-up! A person is either an exploiter or a victim, or sometimes both, but never neither...

If, by some Stone Age fantasy-world turn of good fortune, our society had not been permitted by the clumsy aliens of the planet Obsterperon to devolve into a patriarchy, Kathy Sierra wouldn’t have done anything wrong. The Rutgers basketball team wouldn’t have done anything wrong. They would have just been human beings, doing whatever the fuck they felt like doing.

But it is a patriarchy. And in a patriarchy, where women are the lowest caste, a public woman is always wrong. Which is why Sierra and the basketball players and lard knows how many others over the millennia have been victimized by a gazillion patriarchy-enthusiasts. These women attempted publicly, in a society in which they are devalued as dirty jokes, hysterics, babymommas, and receptacles, to behave as sovereign human beings. It is one of the first laws of patriarchy that insubordinate females should be jeered at and harassed, from the moment they dare, as members of the sex caste, to step into the gray subumbra of proto-celebrity, to the moment the last blurb is written by some feminist blogger who criticizes their behavior as victims-who-let-the-terrorist-manbags-win.

Read the whole post. Some of you will no doubt find it too bleak (I'm not sure we can "never" be neither victim nor exploiter) or too "radical," but she's a very talented writer, and this is one of the best posts I've read at her blog.

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Fake sperm

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or, rather, sperm from bone marrow:

Scientists say they have successfully made immature sperm cells from human bone marrow samples.

If these can be grown into fully developed sperm, which the researchers hope to do within five years, they may be useful in fertility treatments.

It's all quite interesting, although, as one biologist put it, "we are still many years away from developing any therapies for infertility using such techniques". As well, "manipulating stem cells to develop into mature sperm could cause permanent genetic changes in the sperm, making the cells unsafe to use in fertility treatments".


Now, I know what you're thinking: What about sex? Well, reproduction doesn't require sex anymore, and soon it may not even require the male sex at all:

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

Of course, this would, if even possible, produce only female offspring (XX, not XY -- the male sex would still be required, in some capacity, for suppying the Y). Still, "[t]he latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer".


I'm hardly a Luddite, but one wonders if we're not flying a little too close to the sun for our own good.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

He didn't know nothing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Think Progress has an interesting post up on the partisan political context of the Pentagon's announcement that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (both those currently there and those on their way there) will have their tours of duty extended -- which yesterday I addressed here.

Here's what seems to have happened:

On Tuesday, in a speech to the American Legion in Fairfax, Virginia, Bush blamed Congress (the Democratic Congress, of course) for forcing the extension of those tours of duty by failing "to fund our troops" (although Congress is right to stand up to Bush on this -- Bush wants Congress to fund his war but to have no say on how it's conducted, let alone when it will end). The next day, Wednesday, the Pentagon announced the extension.


The White House is playing dumb, claiming that Bush knew nothing of the Pentagon's plan.

Which is a revealing defence, is it not? The White House is essentially saying that Bush doesn't know what's going on, or isn't in the loop. Obviously, it would be unfair to expect the president to know everything about Pentagon policy, but this ignorance defence is pretty lame. Should the commander-in-chief not know about such an important change, one that affects to many men and women in uniform?

Aside from Bush's startling out-of-the-loopness, what this also reveals, it would seem, is that the plan was to put the blame squarely on Congress, not to assume responsibility for the extension. The Pentagon announcement was thus premature. Now it is perfectly clear that the blame falls squarely on the White House and the Pentagon for stretching the U.S. military so thin and for lying to the American people about the "surge" in Iraq. It's not that troop levels are being increased by an infusion of fresh troops, it's that tours of duty are being extended.

Welcome to the warmongering world of human resources, Bush-style.

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This is not a joke

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The BBC may or may not have a sense of humour, but, as far as I can tell, this is for real:

A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal.

The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders.

They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.

Apparently Tombe "fell off the back of the goat" (use your imagination) when confronted by Alifi. So Alifi "captured and tied him up. The elders, according to Alifi, "said [he] should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for [his] goat because he used it as his wife".

Lovely. (Poor goat. Her new "husband" is the village idiot -- or, if not, should be.)

The world is a crazy place. And some places, and some people, are crazier than others.

(Although one is reminded of the great Gene Wilder segment in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, the one where his doctor character falls in love with an Armenian sheep. Classic.)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

More than enough Imus

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Updating this post, Imus has been fired by CBS.

Good riddance. (Was it the time of your life?)

Although I still think the story has been revoltingly overblown, although I think the Rutgers players would have been better off telling him to go fuck off than contributing to the story, and although I defend Imus's right to speak his mind and generally reject efforts to censor speech, this has been my preferred outcome all along.

But what of CBS? Just like MSNBC, and more so, it was more than happy to profit off Imus's popularity as long as it could. And that means it was more than willing to put up with his bigotry while the money was rolling in. Imus is the bad guy here, but that tells us a lot about how the media operate. It's not about principle, it's about profit. (No revelation there, I admit.)

On CNN this evening, Jack Cafferty, whom I generally like, defended Imus as a great interviewer, noted that everyone wanted to be on his show, as if that excuses him, and suggested that this whole sordid episode would get America talking about race again.

How ridiculous. This isn't about race or even racism. It's about, as I've said before, a stupid man who, once more, said a stupid thing. And he's gotten what was coming to him. At long last.

Free speech is a foundational element of liberal democracy. And there are many like Imus, and much worse than Imus, out there on the airwaves, unleashing their venom, maybe even trying to be funny about it. But Imus was one of the big ones and the platform from which he could speak freely was as prominent as they come.

Let's hope that his replacement -- who (of course) should be allowed to speak freely even by media conglomerates that put self-interest before individual rights and the public good -- isn't racist or sexist.

Is that too much to ask?

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The Baghdad McCain won't tell you about

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yeah, sure he'd walk through Baghdad without protection. Such courageous speech. For John McCain these days, it's all Bush-style happy talk, delusional belief in the righteousness of the cause (and the winnability of the war), and Democrat-bashing.

The warmongers always tell us about what the media aren't telling us about Iraq. You know, the good news -- whatever that is. I wonder. There are daily stories of violence and death, blood-spattered images of murder and mayhem. But -- no, no. Everything is fine. Or, at least, things are getting better -- all the time, all the time. Yeah, sure. Whatever. Even if there is good news, and I'm sure there is, the bad news, so commonplace that it barely registers anymore, is hardly to be outdone.

And the bad news goes beyond the bombs and bloodshed. Consider this image, a telling snapshot of another side of Iraq that goes unreported, the other Iraq, the forgotten Iraq: "An Iraqi woman sifts through a Baghdad rubbish dump looking for metal and plastic objects to sell for recycling." (Conservatives might praise her entrepreneurial spirit. I'm sure she sees it differently.)

Perhaps McCain, Bush successor that he hopes to be, should go back over there and take a stroll through this landscape of misery.

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A Bush on my doorstep

By Creature

Never one to miss a chance at linking the Iraq war to our hides here at home, here's President McScaresalot reacting to today's Green Zone suicide bombing:

"There is a type of person that would walk in that building and kill innocent life and that is the same type of person that is willing to come and kill innocent Americans."

Nothing you have done has made us safer, Mr. President. I fear you showing up on my doorstep more than I do an Iraqi insurgent.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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My close encounter with Vonnegut

By Libby Spencer

The world lost a great author and an exemplary human being last night. Kurt Vonnegut is dead. Perhaps that explains the riotous weather around the country, as a spirit as large as his own left its earthly confines. Being a product of the sixties of course I read every one of his books. It was practically required reading in my set, but I didn't begrudge the task. I loved his work and looked forward with anticipation to every new release.

I always thought I might meet him at cocktail party somewhere in the Happy Valley when he was teaching as an artist-in-residence at Smith College in Northampton. He had family in Amherst and we had friends in common, so it was a possibility, but I never did. I used to see him on the street now and again in that year but he always seemed to be just out of reach. It was years later that I finally had my Vonnegut moment.

It was a sunny afternoon in lovely downtown Noho and I was walking down Pleasant St. absorbed in my own thoughts when I looked up and there he was - heading right towards me. We made eye contact. This was my chance but what do you say to your literary hero? I could have told him what an inspiration he was to me or how much I loved his work, or a hundred other things. I had too much to say, so I said nothing.

Instead we both slowed our gait and our eyes held until we were parallel on the concrete. He could clearly tell I had recognized him. We both paused for just an instant and everything that could be said, we exchanged with a broad smile and a warm glance instead of words. We simply nodded at each other and walked on. Somehow it felt just right and I made my way back to the office, humming a happy little tune. I had "met" my hero and the moment had felt meaningful.

Today the sun is shining and I can almost feel his spirit in the unusually stiff wind that bangs my unlatched screen door at oddly timed intervals. I think perhaps he's lingering for one last look.

"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge, you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center." ~Kurt Vonnegut

Rest in peace, Kurt Vonnegut. I'm going to miss you.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Security questions

By Capt. Fogg

The CNN web page headline reads
Parliament bomb raises security questions.

And we thought only the British could do understatement like that. Coming just soon enough after John McCain's idiotic and mendacious statements about being safe to wander around Baghdad to make both him and the administration look like liars of the worst sort, the bombing of the Iraqi Parliament, well within the ultra secure "green zone" certainly does raise questions, the most obvious of which is: where is this progress Bush keeps talking about? Where are the good stories, where are the smiling happy faces of women at the market, playful children in new schoolrooms? Where is the electricity, the running water, the infrastructure of modern life. How many contrived and isolated little news bites do the media have to show before the Iraqis give up their ancient religious hatreds and and become western style democratic secularists?

Or were the suicide bombers "emboldened" by the knowledge that some Americans are figuring out that they've been lied to about how why we're there and how well things are going?

"This simply is a place where people have come to represent the 12 million people who voted," said the pathetic Mr. Bush.

I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean other than any place in Iraq is simply a place where you can be blown to bits at any time regardless of who or where you are and regardless of whether the media are giving us optimistic stories or showing us the body parts strewn all over the floor. Trying in vain to make this an issue of democracy and opposition to democracy; an issue of blind optimism versus pragmatic objectivity, Bush keeps stuttering and stumbling on and on about how the chaos, anarchy and mayhem are the result of a lack of grinning cheerleaders and not the result of the most dangerously incompetent and brazenly dishonest administration in US history.

Perhaps if we continue to think we can muddle along until Bush allows himself and the malignant Mr.Cheney to be replaced, we are as delusional as he is. He will be blaming the media and the Liberals and the flag burners and the Democrats while the world goes up in smoke and democracy in America becomes a sad memory.

There is no choice but impeachment and no time to lose.

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bush's Iraq strategy or Biden's presidential bid?

Both, but let's stick with the former for now.

Joe Biden may have a screw loose here and there, but at least he has foreign policy experience -- far more than Hillary, Obama, and Edwards -- and at least he seems to be thinking seriously about how best to get the hell out of Iraq. And he isn't all about focus-grouped soundbites. Which can get him in trouble when he's insulting Obama but which can make him sound refreshingly candid when he's on his game.

And, aside from waffling on Imus, he was on his game on WaPo's PostTalk, where he said this: "Assume the surge worked, then what? Stay there forever? If you don't stay there forever, what's the political solution?" And this: "Does anyone think [GOP senators up for re-election in '08] are going to stick with this president's plan without any target date to get out of Iraq, without a fundamental change in strategy? I think not." Good points, despite a disturbing tendency to make statements in the form of questions. This isn't Jeopardy. (I can't stand it when people answer their own questions like that.)

Biden may be right about his qualifications, but he's overly optimistic about his chances.

He's way too much of a loose cannon (Strike 1), too hawkish (Strike 2), not nearly "Oprah" enough (Strike 3), and doesn't have any money (Strike 4). Plus, the netroots don't much care for him (Strike 5). And he's from Delaware (foul ball).

So do I think he can win? No. But do I think he brings a great deal of credibility to public discourse on foreign policy (and on Iraq in particular)? Yes.

Am I annoying myself yet? You bet.

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Enough Imus

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Damn. I didn't want to post anything more on The Great Imus Outrage of Historical Proportions, the story of stories (along with The Great Bahamanian Paternity Test of Our Time), but, just when I thought I'd had my say, I succumb to temptation at this late hour and post more. More. MORE!

But I'll make it quick.

Edwards believes in forgiveness, and is keeping his options open, but Hillary is righteous in her outrage and Obama thinks he ought to be fired.

And he has been. Sort of. MSNBC, lack of integrity still firmly intact, has announced that it will no longer simulcast radio show. Which begs the question: Why was it simulcasting his show? Ratings? I don't know. Money? Clearly. And yet Imus has a long history of bigoted speech. So why now? Because it got too hot for MSNBC. Before, when no one was paying much attention, it was more than happy to take the money and let Imus spew his filth.

Is what Imus said worse that what is, say, rapped? Yes, in a way. On that I agree with Atrios, our own Mustang Bobby over at Shakesville, and various others. This was a personal attack.

And yet this is not to excuse rap and the hip-hop culture. Far from it. On this I agree with Kevin Drum: "A slur aimed at specific people is obviously different than a generic slur in a rap song, but it's not that different. If one is offensive, so is the other, and it's hard to argue that the cesspool of misogyny in contemporary rap has no effect on the wider culture. It's not that this excuses what Imus did. It's just the opposite. If we're justifiably outraged by what Imus said, shouldn't we be just as outraged with anybody else who says the same thing, regardless of their skin color?"

Yes, absolutely.

And that is all. I've had enough.

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Be all that you can be, whether you like it or not, tour after tour after tour

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So how will the ongoing surge in Iraq be sustained? By sending in fresh troops? Hardly:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced yesterday that all active-duty soldiers currently deployed or going to Iraq and Afghanistan will see their one-year tours extended to 15 months, acknowledging that such a strain on the war-weary Army is necessary should the ongoing troop increase be prolonged well into next year.

The decision -- coming three months after President Bush put forth his new security plan for Iraq, including the deployment of at least 28,000 additional troops there -- reflects the reality that the new strategy is unfeasible without introducing longer Army tours.

The across-the-board extension will affect more than 100,000 active-duty soldiers and will result in the longest combat tours for the Army since World War II. It will also mandate for the first time that active-duty soldiers spend more time at war than at home.

So what's wrong with this? What isn't wrong with this?

First, troops who thought they were going home aren't. Second, the Iraq War isn't WWII. These tours are being extended for a war that no longer makes any sense (if it ever made any sense at all) and that is unwinnable. The troops are being sent not into a necessary and noble war but into an occupation of a country that has had more than enough of the occupation, an insurgency against that occupation, and a sectarian civil war that is going from bad to worse. Third, the surge won't succeed, whatever the illusion of short-term improvements. Fourth, the American people turned against the war a long time ago. Fifth, the U.S. military is already "stretched" (Gates's word) to the point where it can't respond effectively to other crises in the world.

And sixth, it was all a big lie. I'll let Kevin Drum explain: "It's not plausible that the Pentagon didn't know this when the surge was announced. They just decided not to announce it at the time."

But let's take that one step further. It's not plausible that the White House didn't know this. From the start, and even before, Bush has never levelled with the American people about the Iraq War, and this was no exception. He talked up the surge -- confidently stressing that the war was still winnable, just give it more time, give him more time, one last push -- but what he failed to mention was that the increase in troop levels was just an Enron-style deception.

The American people -- and particularly those with loved ones fighting Bush's disastrous war, risking their lives for a lost cause -- should be pissed off at this.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mormons in arms

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's nice to see that the dipshit known as Dick Cheney isn't getting a free pass even in the hardest of the GOP's hardcore heartland:

The invitation extended to Vice President Dick Cheney to be the commencement speaker at Brigham Young University has set off a rare, continuing protest at the Mormon university, one of the nation’s most conservative.

Some of the faculty and the 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, who are overwhelmingly Republican, have expressed concern about the Bush administration’s support for the war in Iraq and other policies, but most of the current protest has focused on Mr. Cheney’s integrity, character and behavior.

He's "a morally dubious man," said one student. If that's code for amoral bastard, I concur.

Of course, this is but a minority of BYU's student body and faculty. (The overwhelming number of students are not protesting, whatever their private thoughts.) And one wishes the protests were rather less polite -- and certainly far less moralistic. It's like Cheney isn't nearly conservative enough for them. "I just don’t feel that Cheney represents what we want B.Y.U. to represent," said one Democratic student (a lonesome political soul, one imagines). I suspect he doesn't. There's all that "sleaze" after all, as one professor put it. "We espouse honesty, chastity, integrity, ethics, virtue and morality, and he does not epitomize those values." Okay, I can agree with that.

The best line comes from a Cheney supporter, the chairman of the College Republicans: "No matter what you think of Cheney, he’s easily the most powerful man in the world."

Take that, Dubya! The Big Dick's running the asylum.

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Welcome aboard Lee Iacocca

By Libby Spencer

I never thought in a million years, I would be inspired by former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca. I mean, Lee is the kind of rabid Republican that hangs with Reagan, Bush and the sleazy Amway heir Dick DeVos. However, Steve Benen posts a review of Iacocca's new book that has me actually liking the guy. In fact, Lee gets quote of the day with this excerpt.

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

It just gets better from there. Try this one out.

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged…. Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy.

It's a shame it took Lee so long to board the reality-based bus, but as far as I'm concerned, with this kind of talk, he's a welcome addition to the passenger list. Read the rest for yourself at The Carpetbagger Report.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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All for a good cause

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hey, every little thing helps: "Women in the Philippines vie for a place in Miss Earth -- an international beauty pageant aiming to raise awareness of environmental issues."

Which of course brings us to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said that environmentalism needs to be "hip and sexy" (and a Filipino beauty pageant is surely sexy, if not necessarily hip). "Environmentalists were no fun, they were like prohibitionists at a fraternity party." "Successful movements aren't built on guilt, they are built on passion."

Right on, Governor.

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Outsourcing torture: The Egyptian edition

By Heraclitus

I don't have a lot to say about this
new Amnesty International report on torture in Egypt. (There's been increased scrutiny of Egypt recently because of a mobile phone film of a man in Egyptian custody being raped with a stick.) I'm not sure there is much to say at this point; I think it's just important to keep reiterating the facts, that our country has sunk itself eye-deep in torture. A good deal of this torture -- but do we really have any idea how many people our government has tortured or ordered to be tortured? Do we really have any idea how many have died under torture at the hands of our intelligence operatives and soldiers, our private contractors, and our allies? -- has been done by the Egyptian government as our behest. A few details from the BBC summary of the report:

The report details the case of Abu Omar, an Egyptian resident in Italy who was allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Italy in 2003 and handed over to the Egyptian authorities.

Abu Omar was held without charge in Egyptian jails for nearly four years and in testimony given to an Italian prosecutor he has alleged that he was whipped, subjected to electric shocks and raped.

He was never successfully charged and was released in February 2007.

AI also highlights the case of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national of Egyptian descent.

He alleges that he was detained and tortured in Pakistan in 2001, handed over to US officials and then flown on to Egypt.

There he was tortured, including in a "water cell" in which he had to stand on tiptoe for hours in order not to drown.

Under torture, Mr Habib says, he confessed to training the 11 September 2001 hijackers in martial arts.

He was later taken to Guantanamo Bay, from which he was finally released in January 2005. He was never charged.

How many "enemy combatants" have we tortured? How many will ever be convicted of anything? At what point do we start seriously trying to stop it?

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Asshole radio

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And the Imus racist-sexist insult story goes on and on and on, the media turning it into something far more significant than it really is -- for example, the headline on Anderson Cooper this evening: IMUS OUTRAGE.

Honestly, big fucking deal.

I don't care for Don Imus -- I never have -- and what he said about the Rutgers women's basketball team was quite clearly racist and sexist. And I understand that the players were hurt by it.

But is anyone truly surprised by this? Is anyone sincerely outraged? This is Imus we're talking about. And talk radio. Imus is hardly the only radio host who has used racist and sexist language. And he is hardly the worst. Indeed, popular right-wing blowhards like Limbaugh and Hannity are far more offensive far more frequently than Imus ever has been.

Imus has been suspended for two weeks, and perhaps that was the right punishment for CBS and MSNBC to mete out -- it's up to them. But calls for further censorship concern me for the very same reasons they concern Capt. Fogg, who wrote about this whole stupidity earlier yesterday. Racist and sexist speech of this kind is certainly offensive, but freedom, including the freedom to be offensive, should take priority, given its foundational place in liberal democracy, over attempts, mostly ill-founded, to limit it for the sake of trying to protect people's feelings or otherwise to sanitize society to the point where there is no genuine diversity of thought and speech at all.

This is not to defend Imus, of course, nor to suggest that the Rutgers players are in the wrong to be upset by what he said. He offended them, and they have every right to speak out against him. On that, I'm with them. But let's not take this too far. Unlike media outlets -- pretty much all the major ones -- desperate to fill the 24/7 "news" cycle with fabricated sensationalism, let's not make it out to be more than it is. A stupid man said a stupid thing, and he has continued to say stupid things in his defence, in his lame efforts at contrition. That's pretty much it.

Indeed, all that we have learned from this episode -- as if we needed the reminder -- is that Don Imus is an ignoramus with a foul mouth.

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"When people say dreams don't come true, tell them about Rudy"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Is it? Could it be? Yes! Giuliani's in the lead, out in front of a pretty pathetic bunch of GOP candidates for '08. Just look at that list of likely losers.


Except Rudy. Maybe, just maybe, he'll pull it off. Or not. Whatever. It's still early.

But, if you just can't get enough, even this early, check out Ed Morrissey's take. He thinks we might be in store for a "Subway Series," a "Madison Square Garden general election":

Giuliani v. Clinton.

Let the good times roll.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Responsible withdrawal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via Kaplan, two proposals for withdrawal from Iraq -- one from Steven Simon, the other from Juan Cole.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for anyone serious about U.S. policy in Iraq -- that is, about the war and occupation -- to read all three pieces (the two proposals and Kaplan's analysis). I cannot do them justice in this short post.

Kaplan: "They both reject the Bush administration's stay-the-course surge and the congressional Democrats' insistence on a fixed timetable for withdrawal. And they're also both utterly unlikely to receive the slightest attention from President George W. Bush."

Both Simon and Cole argue that "the surge and the new counterinsurgency strategy almost certainly won't work, in part because the war is not just an insurgency war but also a civil war involving three sects (and divisions within those sects) against one another)"; that "the U.S. occupation strengthens the insurgents and broadens their support at least as much as it weakens or isolates them"; and that "real hell would break out if U.S. forces suddenly or arbitrarily withdrew."

Yes, that's right -- and this is important for critics of the war and proponents of withdrawal to keep in mind, particularly when confronted with slanderous accusations from the other side (e.g., "cut-and-run," "Defeatocrats," etc.) -- withdrawal, or an end to the war as we know it, would not necessarily (and certainly not preferably) involve a complete evacuation of U.S. forces. If all-out civil war and genocide are to be avoided, a responsible withdrawal would involve "a timetable to be negotiated with the Iraqi government and in tandem with a separate, broader negotiation to end the civil war," "active engagement with all of Iraq's neighbors," the maintenance of some U.S. forces in Iraq "to secure Baghdad International Airport, the Green Zone, and access routes in between" (Democrats also support "continued funding for troops involved in counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces, and protecting U.S. personnel), and "a stepped-up U.S. military presence elsewhere in the Persian Gulf".

I have conflated the two proposals here, but these are the key elements of a phased withdrawal that would allow the U.S. to get out of Iraq without Iraq falling into complete chaos.

Bush won't pursue either proposal -- he prefers to invite Democrats to the White House not to negotiate but to lecture them on his ongoing plans for Iraq -- but, and Kaplan is right about this, his successor should.

Any plan for Iraq involves risk -- even a well-staged withdrawal along the lines of these two sensible proposals could result in chaos -- but what other viable options are there?

It seems to me that this is a risk worth taking.


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Grim celebrations on Saddam's fall

By Libby Spencer

So how did you celebrate the fourth anniversary of the toppling of Saddam's statute? Me, I didn't really mark the occassion and neither did the White House, who prefered to showcase the state visit of Clifford the Big Red Dog. In Iraq, several thousand demonstrated in the streets burning US flags and chanting "Death to America."

But via Buzzflash, perhaps the saddest commemoration comes from the man who took the sledge hammer to Saddam's statute on that day. Leaving aside the dispute over the staged enthusiasm and size of the alleged crowd, there's no denying Khadim al-Jubouri was the man who did it. He has the magazine covers to prove it. However, four years later he doesn't feel much like celebrating.

"It achieved nothing," he said after putting away the magazines.

Four years later, with violence besieging the country, al-Jubouri cares most about security and order, and he has seen little of either. He blames Iraq's Shiite-led government and its security forces, and he wishes for a return of the era led by the man whose statue he helped tear down.

"We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him," said al-Jubouri, who is a Shiite. "Now we regret that Saddam Hussein is gone, no matter how much we hated him."

Sure, now he can buy the Harley Davidson motorcycles he so loves, but since his income is only a quarter of what it was pre-invasion, he can't afford gas to run them. He now has a cell phone which he couldn't get under Saddam's rule, but seven of his relatives and friends are no longer alive to answer his calls.

He called the new Baghdad security plan "a failure from the beginning." Although he has noticed that Shiite militias have faded from neighborhoods, suicide bombings haven't stopped. Every time he hears an explosion, he worries that his friends and relatives are among the victims.

Under Hussein, he never faced day-to-day corruption, al-Jubouri said, but now he must pay bribes just to get a license or file a police complaint.

"I feel lost now," he said.

Khadim feels lost. The war feels lost. Indeed the prospect for any lasting Middle East peace feels almost irretrievably out of reach. Me, I'm just waiting for someone to find a definitive definition of victory so we can declare it and get the hell out of Baghdad.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Politics and coffee

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A striking image from the BBC: "Pro-government protesters in Ukraine are seen reflected on an advertising poster as they hold a rally against the president in Independence Square in Kiev."

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You can't say that!

By Capt. Fogg

CNN will spend the afternoon surveying the career of Don Imus, says the talking head while people are being blown up in Iraq. I've just been watching the Rutgers women's impassioned self pity over how their magic moment has been stolen. All as if nothing else were going on. As if Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News and Jerry Fallwell and a host of comedians, congressmen and religious leaders are not making careers out of disparaging people for their ethnicity and beliefs and opinions. No one calls a news conference when Dave Chappelle says he's tired of having his racist comments edited. No one has suggested that Mel Gibson should be "banned" from making movies or talking about them in public and I imagine the millions that some entertainers are making by calling women bitches and whores, nappy headed and otherwise, aren't coming from white racists. I'm not calling for the burning of the Gospel of John even though it insults me and my ethnicity and I'm not anxious to live in any place where people get to ban speech just because it isn't reverential enough or is actually insulting toward women, minorities, basketball players or other people.

Face it, it's time to be women and not little girls whining to mommy. You won some games and that doesn't make you special or worthy of my admiration or give you special protection against being insulted. If you think your "moment" was taken away because somebody made a bad joke or called you a name, then your moment wasn't worth much anyway; certainly not enough to make a slur into slander. Sooner or later you will have to leave the nanny state and face a world that some college administration can't control. People say stupid and ugly things and sometimes they get ambassadorships for it. People tell lies and get millions killed. I'm a bit less concerned about the fragile self esteem of young women who think basketball and their ephemeral achievements are more important than the First Amendment.

If one really wants to call, as the Rutgers women's basketball team is doing today, for the lifetime ban of Don Imus from public commentary, one has to ask who in a free country has the authority to do it. Certainly the US Government is denied that power and for good reason. If any self appointed guardians of propriety think they can claim the right to regulate public dialog or to ban anything and everything they found offensive and without regard to law and liberty, they will succeed, as much as I dislike Imus and hate racism, only over my dead body.

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An excuse for war: Neocons and the Iranian hostage crisis

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Libby mentioned yesterday, neocon leader Bill Kristol has argued that Iran should have been threatened with war over its capture of 15 British sailors and marines. Although he talks about avoiding war -- the only way to avoid war is to be tough, he suggests -- what he actually supports is a policy of threat-based engagement with Iran that could, and perhaps should, lead to war. Does Kristol think the U.S. should go to war with Iran? How could such reckless engagement not be taken to be a prelude to war? If he supports being tough, he must support following through on the threats and going to war.

Regardless, Kristol thinks that the hostage crisis, including apparently its diplomatic resolution, was "a real humiliation for the British" that also "strengthened the worst forces in Iran by making them think they can push the West around". And he's not alone. Others on the right, the neocon right, have made that very same point. One of them is noted Kristol cause célèbre John Bolton.

In a piece in the Financial Times, also published at the AEI website -- I will mention a few points here, but do check it out for further insight into the neocon mind -- Bolton argues that the release of the hostages, Iran's "gift," was "a political victory" for Iranian President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian hardliners: "Against all odds, Iran emerged with a win-win from the crisis: winning by its provocation in seizing the hostages in the first place and winning again by its unilateral decision to release them." He claims that "the incident was deliberate and strategic," "a low-cost way of testing British and allied resolve".

In Bolton's view, the British and the allies failed that test. Bolton blames the British for "surrender[ing] without a shot fired in self-defence". He blames Prime Minister Blair for not being confrontational and for pursuing "discussions" with Tehran. He blames the United Nations and the European Union for doing nothing. And he blames the U.S. for remaining silent, though it did so, as he acknowledges, "at Britain's behest".

The result is an "emboldened" Iran -- "it probed and found weakness." And "[t]he world will be a more dangerous place as a result". After all, "it is even less likely there will be a negotiated solution to the nuclear weapons issue," and Iran now "has every incentive to ratchet up its nuclear weapons programme, increase its support to Hamas, Hizbollah and others and perpetrate even more serious terrorism in Iraq".

Let me make two points in response:

1) Iran may or may not feel "emboldened," but the fact remains that the 15 sailors and marines were returned safely to Britain. Either diplomacy ("discussions") worked or Iran realized it couldn't hold them indefinitely without suffering the consequences of what could be deemed an act of war. Either way, Britain achieved its desired outcome without resorting to the threat of war and consequentially to an escalation in its already tense relationship with Iran, or to another act, such as the threat of further sanctions, that could have contributed to escalation.

Kristol and Bolton, inter alia, may argue that Britain (and, with it, the U.S.) should have been tougher with Tehran, but what would this have meant? Aside from risking the lives of the 15 sailors and marines, a tougher response would have contributed to an escalation of the situation. Yes, Iran started it -- the capture of the sailors and marines was a blatant act of escalation -- but it hardly follows that a reckless act should be followed by a reckless response. If that's the game, then war is inevitable. And, indeed, that seems to be precisely what Kristol, Bolton, et al. want. But, again, what should Blair have done? Should he have threatened a military strike on Iran? Should he have made the first move? It's one thing to threaten -- and it ought to be remembered that many of those pushing for war have never actually been to war, hence the term "chickenhawk" -- it's quite another to follow through on threats. What if Iran hadn't blinked in response to a threat? Or what if Iran had responded to a threat with yet more escalation?

And yet I have no doubt that Britain considered all options, including the ones that would have appealed to Kristol, Bolton, and their ilk, before choosing to pursue "discussions" and asking the U.S. to back off. It presumably chose a course of action that it deemed to be most likely of success (the release of the hostages and the peaceful resolution to the crisis). It may be easy to second-guess world leaders like Blair from the cozy confines of the AEI or PNAC, but the real world, which neocons tend to see as some sort of lab experiment for the realization of their armchair ideology, is rather more complex than their worldview can handle.

2) Bolton argues that Iran will now be less likely to accept "a negotiated solution to the nuclear weapons issue". He qualifies this, however: "not that there was ever much chance of one." This is revealing.

Kristol, Bolton, and their warmongering allies do not think that a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis is possible. They may talk about peace, but they envision a future, a near-future, of war. The U.S. "came closer to war with Iran this week," as Kristol put it, but they do not lament that fact -- if indeed it is a fact. They see war with Iran as inevitable and they desire war sooner rather than later. Which is to say, they have every interest in promoting escalation. They wanted Britain and the U.S. to be tough on Iran in response to the hostage crisis not because such toughness would prevent war in the long-run but because it would accelerate the escalation to war in the short-run.

In short, they want an excuse for war. This is why they played up those unsubstantiated allegations that Iran was arming Iraqi insurgents and militias. This is why they play up the threat of Iran's nuclear program. And this is why they find such fault with how the Iranian hostage crisis was handled and resolved. It was just the sort of excuse they were looking for.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Sarkozy time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

France will hold its next presidential election in less than two weeks -- on April 22. If no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the vote, a second-round run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on May 6.

The top two candidates are Nicolas Sarkozy of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement and Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party. Recent polls put Sarkozy up by anywhere between 2 1/2 and 8 points over Royal in terms of first-round preference, but he tops out at just 31.5 percent. Royal's support hovers in the low- to mid-20s. François Bayrou of the centrist Union for French Democracy polls a close third, with as much as 21 percent. Jean-Marie Le Pen of the far-right National Front is a solid fourth at 12-16 percent.

In terms of second-round preference, Sarkozy leads Royal by 2-8 points. (An early-April poll showed a 51-49 result.) However, multiple Ipsos polls show Bayrou beating Sarkozy in the run-off election. Sarkozy is the clear favourite, but if Bayrou can beat Royal in the first round, he may just knock off Sarkozy in the second. Considering that "Others" are polling at around 12-16 percent, there is much uncertainty going into the election.

Sarkozy is a former minister of both finance and the interior. He is also an extremely effective and charismatic politician. Once a close ally of current President Jacques Chirac, the two men now loathe each other. A dominant figure in French politics, he has angered both the left and the right. However, there is little doubt that he is now something of a law-and-order neoliberal -- this is what passes for mainstream conservatism in France today. He is neoliberal on taxes and jobs/unemployment/labour, as well as authoritarian on crime and immigration (particularly since the 2005 riots). The Wikipedia entry linked above puts is well: He seems to be pursuing "an Atlanticist foreign policy and a Thatcherite economic policy" -- yes, he's even rather pro-American, a radical and courageous position for a leading French politician to take.

Heraclitus has previously written on Royal and Bayrou. I recommend both posts.

For more on Sarkozy, beyond Wikipedia, I recommend this excellent piece at Der Spiegel. Although his critics refer to him as a "neoliberal with a French passport," he is perhaps best understood as a "third way" centrist (by the standards of Western European politics) with a penchant for provocative rhetoric.

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Kristol laments lost cause for war

By Libby Spencer

Our favorite nutty neo-con, Bill Kristol, dropped this gem yesterday. You know in saner times a guy who talked like this would be under psychiatric care and medicated with massive doses of thorazine. Think Progress has the video, which I urge to watch because it loses some impact without the physical mannerisms, but here's the key quote.

KRISTOL: It’s a real humiliation for the British and, of course, the Europeans didn’t stand by them either. And it sent the signal to the worst forces in Iran. To me there are splits in the Iranian government. It has strengthened the worst forces in Iran by making them think they can push the West around. We came closer to war with Iran this week. The only way to avoid war is to have the Iranians believe the west is tough enough to threaten them with war and tighten the economic pressure. After the Germans refused to help the British, after the British refused to do anything, after we’ve been very passive, we’re closer to war with Iran — if either war or an Iran with nuclear weapons.

He wishes we were closer to war. He and his AEI buddies have been sitting around salivating like a pack of ravenous dogs around a freshly killed carcass ever since the British captives were taken, just thinking about those military strikes.

Can't you just picture them lounging in the easy chairs at the club, sipping cocktails and plotting how this time they were going to get the war that Jimmy Carter cheated them of in the 80s. Kristol's disappointment in the speedy and diplomatic resolution of the affair couldn't be more apparent.

All this talk of weakness and humilation is merely projecting his own sense of failure at having incorrectly predicted the outcome again. Not that George didn't try his best to make his little dreams of war a reality. Fortunately for us, cooler heads prevailed and Blair wisely told Bush to back off.

It takes a lot more guts to hold your fire than it does to pull the trigger. Blair stood down Tehran and got his people back, unharmed and in a reasonable amount of time without having to fire a shot. How is that weak? And since when is such a positive outcome as a result of diplomacy instead of armed intimidation, humiliating? For the first time in four years, I'm actually kind of proud of Blair for pulling it off.

The humilation is Kristol's. How far from human decency has he fallen that he can so emotionlessly suggest the captives should have been sacrificed for the good of his war? He was instrumental in devising the plan that failed so completely, it put us into this mess. Little wonder he reacts with such bitterness when others figure out how to repair what he and his PNAC brethen have so badly broken.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Canada's bloodiest day

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. On April 9, 1917, Canadian forces launched a ground attack on German positions at Vimy Ridge. Where the British and French had previously failed, the Canadians succeeded. They secured the ridge in just four days.

Casualties were enormously high. On the Canadian side, about 3,600 were killed, about 7,100 wounded. On the German side, the numbers were significantly higher.

Vimy Ridge was a key battle of World War I. If not a decisive battle, it was the Allies' first victory in about a year and a half and the taking of a major German stronghold. Aside from boosting morale and establishing momentum, victory allowed the Allies' to resist a German counter-offensive in 1918 and ultimately to prevail later that year.

For Canada, however, Vimy Ridge was decisive. It was a battle fought mostly by the Canadian Corps, all four divisions fighting together for the first time. As such, it was a key moment in the national development of Canada -- not as a member of the British Empire, not as an adjunct of Britain, but as Canada. Indeed, it may be argued that Canada became a nation at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There are other significant dates in our history -- Confederation on July 1, 1876; the Treaty of Westminster of December 11, 1931; the Canada Act, or patriation, of April 17, 1982 -- but April 9, 1917 belongs among them.


Canadian forces are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Fifty-one Canadian soldiers have died there since 2002 in the ongoing war against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

And yesterday -- just a day before the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge -- was the worst day yet: "Canada suffered its worst day in battle since the Korean War as six soldiers were killed Sunday and two injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan."

There are debates here, as there are debates in the U.S. and elsewhere, regarding our military commitments. Should we still be in Afghanistan or not? Those debates can be divisive; they are certainly political -- and many of us have strong views. The war in Afghanistan will be a major issue in the next federal election campaign, expected shortly. But no one -- no one I know -- doubts the bravery and heroism of our men and women in Afghanistan. Like their counterparts 90 years ago, they are proudly wearing the uniform in defence of what this country stands for.

Afghanistan is a long way from France, but we have also come a long way as a nation.


This is The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard Jack (for more on this and other World War I battleground images, see here):

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

A message of peace

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've been highly critical of Pope Benedict XVI (not to mention the Roman Catholic Church generally) in the past, but his Easter message managed to strike the right tone, particularly this line:

Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.

But it's not all so bleak, the "thousand faces of violence" notwithstanding. Benedict said there are "some signs of hope" in the Middle East, including "the dialogue" between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Peace is sorely needed" -- indeed it is.

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You can look it up

By Mustang Bobby

After all the crap Speaker Nancy Pelosi took for going to Syria this week, you'd think it was the first time a Speaker of the House of Representatives ever went overseas. You'd also think it was the first time a Speaker from the opposition party to the president in office ever expressed doubts about the foreign policy being enacted by that president. And you would think that the right-wing columnists, pundits, and the jowly-faced fingerpointers who know everything there is to know about all that is Good and True had ever criticized the Speaker for having the nerve to venture forth.

Well, it's not the first time a Speaker from the opposition party has gone abroad, questioned the foreign policy, and caused a kerfuffle. All of this has happened before... except the part about the righties. They were all in favor of it.

Glenn Greenwald brings back the memories:

Speaking with startling bluntness on an issue so delicate that diplomats have tiptoed around it for years, Newt Gingrich said today that he had warned China's top leaders that the United States would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked.

As he left for Tokyo after a three-day trip to China, Mr. Gingrich said he had made it absolutely clear how the United States would respond if such a military conflict arose.

Referring to his meetings with China's leaders, Mr. Gingrich said: ''I said firmly, 'We want you to understand, we will defend Taiwan. Period.'"

He also said, ''I think that they are more aware now that we would defend Taiwan if it were militarily attacked.''

Mr. Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, delivered his message, among the most forceful ever given about Taiwan by a visiting United States official, to Wang Daohan, China's chief representative in talks with Taiwan. Mr. Gingrich said he had given the same message to President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li Peng in Beijing last week.

Chinese leaders offered no public response to Mr. Gingrich today. But on Friday, Mr. Jiang urged him to treat the Taiwan issue with care. . . .

Asked about Mr. Gingrich's statements, a Clinton Administration official in Washington said Mr. Gingrich had received briefings about American policy toward China, but that Mr. Gingrich ''was speaking for himself'' in his conversations with Chinese leaders.

Greg Sargent reminds us of the righties' approval. In this case it is Pat Buchanan:

Speaking at a news conference organized by the conservative magazine "Human Events," Buchanan said the Clinton administration's policy of constructive engagement with the Chinese was a failure...

"It's now up to Congress to run foreign policy and it has the power to overturn the president's decision" on China's trade status, expected in June, Buchanan said. "There is time to organize a campaign" to influence Congress, "and this is a battle we can win."

As Mr. Sargent notes, Mr. Buchanan had "concerns" about Ms. Pelosi's trip:

Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, Condi Rice has been working on the Palestinian account and that hasn't come out very well. But you're right there. But let me say about Nancy Pelosi, I think it's a mistake for her, unlike these Republican and Democratic back benchers, who nobody really cares about. She's a major, major figure in American politics now. And this is thumb in the eye of the president of the United States, and it does send a mixed message. I remember going abroad with Richard Nixon in 1967. Every country he went to, we went to the embassy and he would say, `What do you want me to say and how can I help the president?' And the country, in its foreign policy, in talking to these leaders, foreign ministers and others. And this idea that we've got--America's got a couple foreign policies, I think, some Americans, it certainly bothers me that she's there.

And there's more. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) took on the Speaker, saying,

"It's one thing for other members to go," Boehner said, "but you have to ask yourself, 'Why is Pelosi going?' She's going for one reason and that is to embarrass the president."

But when he and Mr. Gingrich went to China in 1997:

"Well, let me just say that the speaker, Mr. Dingell, and the rest of my colleagues, were diplomatic; they were respectful of the countries that we visited -- but I think very clear in terms of our interest; the role of democracy that should [evolve ?] in more of these countries -- the issue of human rights. And I know from my own background, it was a very educational trip."

Isn't the internets a wonderful thing? Not only does it bring our world closer together, it also provides an invaluable aid in curing short-term memory loss and exposing rank hypocrisy.

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How America trains terrorists

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know how the warmongers, and Cheney in particular, have repeatedly drawn that imaginary connection between al Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq as a justification for their war? You know how that war has turned Iraq into a playground for terrorism? And you know how the warmongers defend the war now by arguing that if the U.S. withdraws Iraq will become a haven for terrorists who will bring the war back to the homeland?

Well, crap:

America's high-security prisons in Iraq have become "terrorist academies" for the most dangerous militant groups, according to former inmates and Iraqi government officials.

Inmates are left largely to run their blocks, which are segregated on sectarian lines. The policy has created a closed world run by Iraq's worst terrorists and militias, into which detainees with no links to insurgent groups are often thrown.

I have hardly been alone in arguing that the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq is only making the situation worse. I had no idea the situation was already worse than I had imagined.

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Jesus Camp for law students

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Did you know what 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University are serving in the Bush Administration? (Including the DoJ's Monica Goodling, who has taken the fifth.) Did you know that former AG Ashcroft teaches there? Did you know that the school's motto is "Christian Leadership To Change the World" (i.e., "Building Theocracy in America," the constitution and the church-state separation be damned).

No, I didn't either, until I read Dahlia Lithwick's fascinating piece at Slate on Regent's (and Regent Law's) massive influence on American governance and jurisprudence, an influence well beyond its size or academic stature.

Make sure to read the whole thing, but here's a key passage:

Is there anything wrong with legal scholarship from a Christian perspective? Not that I see. Is there anything wrong with a Bush administration that disproportionately uses graduates from such Christian law schools to fill its staffing needs? Not that I see. It's a shorthand, not better or worse than cherry-picking the Federalist Society or the bar association...

No, the real concern here is that Goodling and her ilk somehow began to conflate God's work with the president's. Probably not a lesson she learned in law school. The dream of Regent and its counterparts, like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, is to redress perceived wrongs to Christians, to reclaim the public square, and reassert Christian political authority. And while that may have been a part of the Bush/Rove plan, it was, in the end, only a small part. Their real zeal was for earthly power. And Goodling was left holding the earthly bag.

I take her point, but actually I do see a problem with Christian legal scholarship, and particularly with the extent of its influence in Bush's America. The Federalist Society may not be any better, but how is it possible for religious (in this case conservative evangelical Christian) legal scholarship not to distort the law according to its own religious purposes? If you're out to do God's work, after all, you likely won't have much time to do the work of a secular liberal democracy with safeguards against religious rule like the United States. (Read some Thomas Jefferson.) Unless, of course, you think that doing God's work is also doing America's work, that America is -- or should be -- God's political expression on earth. Or, looking at it another way, unless you think that America isn't a secular liberal democracy at all but rather a theocracy that has been taken over by secular liberal democrats.

Regardless, there is something profoundly anti-American about this Christian leadership out to change the world. It's bad for America, which isn't the theocracy these zealots imagine it to be, and likely also bad for Christianity, which ought to concern itself not with politics but with faith.

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Happy birthday, LSD

By Libby Spencer

They say if you remember you weren't there, but there are some things I remember vividly from the 60s. LSD is one of them. Via d at Lawyers, Guns and Money, I'm reminded that 69 years ago today, Albert Hofmann discovered lysergic acid diethylamide -- or, in the common vernacular of the day, acid. But it was Abbie Hoffman who made LSD famous when he "turned on and tuned in with 250 micrograms -- ten times the threshold dosage in humans." That reminded of two things.

First was the time I spent with Abbie. I was on the defense team when he was in court with Amy Carter for protesting Iran-Contra at UMass in Amherst. Around the office we called the file "CIA on Trial." Maybe the press did too. I don't really remember. But I do remember Abbie.

We hung around the office after work and he told me stories. He was articulate and charming. He tried to get to get into my pants. He didn't, but I did literally buy the shirt off his back. I gave him eight bucks and he took it off his t-shirt and gave it to me. It was kelly green with yellow lettering that says: My country invaded Nicaragua and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. I still have it.

Reading about his acid trip also reminded me of the time I dropped a four-way barrel of Orange Sunshine acid by mistake when I went to see the Who perform Tommy. It was a long trip and long story. If you're interested in the reminiscences of this old hippie, you can read my recollection here.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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