Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Black, But Not Like Me

Prince George's County's Democratic African-American politicians are backing Republican Senatorial candidate Michael Steele. They all seem to claim that race isn't a factor, but at the same time agree that the the Democratic Party has ignored or used them.

Strangely, none of these people seem to have vocally endorsed Del. Anthony Brown (also from PGC).

Look, I know Kathleen Kennedy Townsend picked an old gray Republican for her running mate, but that was her mistake, not the Democratic Party. Putting Steele in the Senate will not make the Democratic Party "pay attention." What it will do is put a another rubber stamp in the Senate.

This support looks to be nothing more than a vengence vote. It's either that, or PGC has more black Republicans mascarading as Democrats than I thought. It should be pretty clear at this point where Cardin and Steele stand on the issues, and which candidate has what it takes to represent Maryland in the US Senate.

For Steele, this is simply a way to bounce back from his poor performance on Meet The Press this past Sunday.

The list of the "Black Democrats for Steele" include former county executive Wayne K. Curry and Prince George's council members David Harrington (D-Cheverly), Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville), Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant), Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) and Marilynn Bland (D-Clinton). I wonder if they would be doing this if they were all up for re-election?


The Fake Communicators

E. J. Dionne Jr talks about how far Republicans have come since Reagan.

Monday, October 30, 2006

...By Any Other Game

Jalen Rose is waived by the New York Knicks.


Everything You Need To Know About Micahel Steele

Via the WashPost article about the Meet the Press debate:

"Have I moved off of my philosophical orientation on these issues? The answer is no, but I have learned to listen to the people. . . . In that sense, I have grown."

WTF?!? "I haven't changed, but I've grown?" What kind of Roshomonian nonsense is that?

Sadly, Steele's entire time on the show was like this. You have to have a decorder ring to figure out what he means, and even then there's a different decorder ring for each scenario.

Without a doubt, Steele's platform is simply: "Trust me." That simply isn't enough for Maryland, and not enough to get my vote.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Living In Different Worlds

Via WashPost, William Saletan gives his take on the Fox/Limbaugh battle.


Sunday Showdown Breakdown

Oliver Willis with a very good breakdown of the Cardin-Steele Debate on Meet the Press. Bottom Line: Steele gets exposed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's Not Really a Challenge

Stephen Maynard Caliendo, a political scientist at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., weighed in on the MD Senate Race: "Michael Steele in the ad was really appealing to black voters. He was basically trying to say, 'It's OK to vote for me, even though I'm a Republican, because I'm black."

If that's Steele's message, yikes. I would think that you'd see a list of accomplishments on Steele's site (other than education). But there's nothing. So it really boiling down to voting based on race and promises. I don't remember Steele being all about African-Americans before he decided to run, and nothing about his past implies and Afro-centric agenda. So while he is black, there's enough doubt to whether he's for blacks.

As for his talk about changing Washington, well, he's in Maryland!! Why didn't he try to change the tone in DC earlier? DC isn't that far from Prince George's County; again, this is Steele addressing something now that he could have dealt with a long time ago.

Everything else is a complaint or a dodge. He says he'll talk about what's wrong in both parties, but what will he do about it? Will he vote for censure of a Republican or Democrat he feels he/she is out of line? How far is he willing to go? There's so many questions with this guy, but every answer boils down to "just trust me." Well, remember that Bush said the same thing too in 2000 when he was running as a "compassionate conservative."

In other words, it shouldn't be a challenge to black people at all.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

One Man's Timetable is Another Man's Benchmarks

From the WashPost:

The text of President Bush's news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.

The president talked repeatedly about "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was "hypothetical."

That response left unclear how the benchmarks would be different from previous times when the United States has set out intentions, only to back down. For example, the original war plan envisioned the U.S. troop presence in Iraq being cut to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. Last year, some top U.S. commanders thought they would be able to significantly cut the U.S. troop level in Iraq this year -- a hope now officially abandoned. More recently, the U.S. military all but withdrew from Baghdad, only to have to have to reenter the capital as security evaporated from its streets and Iraqi forces proved unable to restore calm by themselves.


Maybe Next Time

"Iraq's most notorious death squad leader escaped a major US-led raid on a Shi'ite Muslim militia stronghold in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday."

Is This the Best They Can Do?

Self-Proclaimed Heir to the Throne Bill Frist has joined the "Desperate Wing" of the Republican Party.

But what else can you expect when the headlines read: "Polls: GOP losing advantage on national security?" Apparently he didn't see the "We're Winning" Press Conference his Master gave yesterday.

"The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in an interview with the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire. Frist, of Tennessee, is considering a 2008 presidential bid.

He might want to re-consider that bid.

Of course the "pocketbook issues" must include things like defaming Michael J. Fox, labeling Harold Ford Jr. a Hollywood-addicted womanizer and calling Hilary Clinton ugly - because that's what Republicans have spent their time, money and resources on.

I think the challenge is getting this country back on track. I think the challenge is becoming a role model for other nations worldwide, not a schoolyard bully. I think the challenge is getting President Bush to focus on issues that matter to Americans, and not just to his base. But that's just me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Like 2000 All Over Again

"Two weeks before the midterm elections, at least 10 states, including Maryland, remain ripe for voting problems, according to a study released yesterday by a nonpartisan clearinghouse that tracks electoral reforms across the United States.

The report by Electionline.org says those states, and possibly others, could encounter trouble on Election Day because they have a combustible mix of fledgling voting-machine technology, confusion over voting procedures or recent litigation over election rules -- and close races. "


MD Senate Debate

WashPost has part of the Senate Debate today (notice that Steele has positioned himself in the "middle"). Independent Kevin Zeese seems to want to paint both Cardin and Steele as Bush-lovers.

Also, if you read this story you get the impression that Cardin's biggest fault is that he doesn't understand the Purple Line. If the people of Maryland care more about that than, say, soldiers sacrificing their lives in Iraq or stem cell research, so be it.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maybe We Weren't Clear the First Time

Apparently, "Stay the Course" really means "Adapting to Win."

I think the White House needs to be more honest with their strategies/slogans. How about mixing some of our most famous ones? If you think about it, these can still apply:

1. Stay and Run: As in "stay in Iraq and run from the bombs."

2. Cut the Course: Liberate part of Iraq, let the Iraqi government handle the rest (currently happening).

3. Adapting the Course: This is actually a political strategy, and an explanation of how we came from "WMDs" to "Saddam was an evil dictator" to "bin Laden wants us to lose in Iraq."

4. Adapting to Run: A complete and utter pullout (Bush will only do this if a Democrat wins the 2008 election).

5. Stay and Win: Just stick around and hope the enemy gets bored. The bloodiest option.

6. Cutting to Win: Bring troops home; declare victory anyway (Bush will only do this if impeachment crops up).

Any other slogans/strategies?

Like a Good Neighbor...

"Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled the unrelenting violence in their homeland since the U.S. invasion in 2003 -- a mass exodus directed primarily to neighboring Arab countries."

Hearts & Minds: The Thirsty

"An Iraqi civilian detained by British troops in Iraq told a military court Monday that he was beaten and forced to drink urine by his captors.

Muhanned Thaher Abdullah al-Mansouri said he had been repeatedly beaten and forced to lie face down over an open toilet while detained as a suspected insurgent in Basra in September 2003.

Seven soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment are standing trial for abusing the Iraqis. One of the detainees, Baha Mousa, 26, died. "

October Surprise Watch: The Beginning

Just keepin an eye out for the proverbial October Surprise. If someone sees it, please let me know.

Around the Internets

1. Michael J. Fox's video about stem cell research (and the canidates for/against it).

2. Water flames. Very cool.

3. Glen Greenwald on fringe versus mainstream.


Kim Jong Il Is Not Sorry

"Kim Jong-il has reserved the right to escalate the nuclear crisis, China said today, refuting earlier reports that the North Korean leader apologised for this month’s atomic weapons test."

Guess something got lost in MSNBC's translation.

A Plea For Reason

From Richard Holbrooke's letter to the President:

I urge you to lay out realistic goals, redeploy our troops and focus on the search for a political solution. We owe that to the Iraqis who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and put their trust in us, only to find their lives in danger as a result. By a political solution, I mean something far more ambitious than current U.S. efforts aimed at improving the position of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by changing ministers or setting timelines for progress. Sen. Joe Biden and Les Gelb have advocated what they call, in a reference to the negotiations that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995, a "Dayton-like" solution to the political situation -- by which they mean a looser federal structure with plenty of autonomy for each of the three main groups, and an agreement on sharing oil revenue. Your administration has dismissed these proposals out of hand, and the time lost since Gelb first presented them more
than two years ago has made them far more difficult to achieve.

Yet only two weeks ago, the Iraqi parliament took a big step toward creating more powerful regions, with an interesting proviso to delay implementation for 18 months. You could use this legislation as leverage to negotiate a peaceful arrangement for sharing power and oil revenue, while redeploying and reducing our forces in Iraq. If such an effort fails, nothing has been lost by trying.

Same Course, Different Lane

Hanging With the Big Boys

Rock the Jails

Foxy Brown misses court again.

Man of Steele

An alternative to Micahael Steele's homepage.

And while I'm at it, more MD-Senate news. First, The Washington Times Adrienne Washington tries to figure out who Steele really is and what he stands for. Second, Michael J. Fox comes out in an ad endorsing Democrat Ben Cardin.


Why Some Women Cheat

Via testimonies, Chelsea Kaplan explains why some women cheat:

"You’ve probably heard that men cheat for physical reasons, women for emotional reasons. Sure, there’s some truth to that, but when we asked real women around the country to share why they strayed from their boyfriends, we learned they had a whole host of explanations—from bad kissing to sheer revenge. Read on for the truth about why women have given in to temptation. "

Kaplan gives six other reasons: lack of passion; delay in a breakup; long-distance relationships (aka absence); the old flame comes back; the current guy's a jerk; and the current guy's not her type.

Can't say these are all legitimate, meaning, why couldn't the women just break up with the guys in some of these situations? Guys I've known who've cheated say they don't break up with the girl they're cheating on because they fear reprisal. Maybe some women feel the same way?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Steele More Endorsements

Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of Radio One, has put her support behind Michael Steele. Listen.

This is big. Radio One has quite a reach in the black community, and I'm not sure if Ben Cardin has gotten any kind of comparable endorsements.

Oh, and add her to Don King, Mike Tyson and Juste Pehoua (other picture).

UPDATE: Via their website, here is a look at Juste Lounge's clientele.


7 out of 18 Provinces Ain't Bad, Right?

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh wants the US to be patient and don't "cut and run" because he's on the verge of regaining 39% of the country by the end of the year.

"Basically, it's like your worst day is every day"

From CBS News:

"Army Staff Sgt. Bryce Syverson spent 15 months in Iraq before he was diagnosed by military doctors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sent to the psychiatric unit at Walter Reed Medical Center, CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports.

That was last August. This August, he was deployed to Ramadi, in the heart of the Sunni triangle -- and he had a weapon.

He's still there. Under pressure to maintain troop levels, military doctors tell CBS News it's become a "common practice" to recycle soldiers with mental disorders back into combat. "

Dealing with their disorders over there so they won't have to deal with them over here.

Should Obama Run?

That seems to be the deabte over at BAW. Here's the "yay" and the "nay."

Basically, it boils down to "he's too popular not to run now" versus "he has zero executive experience," and neither are real reasons to be for or against the guy. I think the question that needs to be answered is "Is he the best candidate that the Democrats have to offer?"

Them's Fighting Words

"As Maryland's hotly contested campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate entered their final two weeks, the candidates drew contrasts on education, transportation and foreign policy yesterday as they reached out to voters in the state's heavily populated Washington suburbs."

Just a reminder of who the WashPost seems to be endorsing:

"ONE CANDIDATE in Maryland's U.S. Senate race, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin , would be a natural leader in the Senate by dint of his command of issues, proven integrity, formidable intellect and unstinting work ethic. The other candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, deploys platitudes and gauzy rhetoric to disguise a tissue-thin grasp of policy. Mr. Cardin would give Maryland legislative clout from Day One; in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill, he has been an effective, knowledgeable, serious lawmaker. Mr. Steele is hard-pressed to claim a significant achievement in public service.

Slightly frumpy and occasionally professorial, Mr. Cardin, a Democrat, is sometimes stereotyped as a drab policy wonk. In fact he is fervent about ideas, chief among them that government should be effective, accountable and proactive. No one who has heard Mr. Cardin on the subject of health insurance, Social Security, or tax and trade policy will conclude that he lacks passion -- or an impressive mastery of detail. It is that passion and attention to the mechanics of government that have earned him such respect for pragmatism and problem-solving.

To a degree rare among Democrats, Mr. Cardin has broken through the barriers of partisanship and minority-party impotence in Congress, enabling him to craft major bills to help senior citizens and reform the Internal Revenue Service. He forged strategic partnerships with key congressional Republicans, notably former Ohio representative Rob Portman, who is now the White House budget director. Such alliances could help Mr. Cardin play a key role in the Senate on a range of issues, no matter who is in the majority.

Mr. Cardin is well known to Marylanders. While still in his 30s, he was the youngest-ever speaker of the state's House of Delegates. In that role and in Congress, he has been sensible, tough-minded and independent. He broke with many Democrats and labor unions to back the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Steele, a Republican, deserves credit for helping move Maryland's Republican Party in a centrist and more appealing direction. But during the campaign he has done everything in his power to sidestep questions of substance while positioning himself mainly as a friendly guy. At times he has bristled when pressed on, say, abortion, as if it were somehow unfair to delve deeper into his thinking. His economic prescription is tax cuts and more spending -- a recipe for budgetary disaster. As lieutenant governor, he promised a study on Maryland's death penalty, but he waited three years to produce a report that the governor did not see fit to make

Mr. Steele recently said on talk radio that the race is "not about the issues so much as it is about the style of leadership that we need to elect in Washington." We're old-fashioned enough to believe that leadership arises from a mastery of policy and a commitment to positive change. Mr. Cardin has both, and as a senator he would be an asset to the state of Maryland."

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Um, A Little Help Here?

"Iran must be prevented from attaining nuclear weapons, and its threats to destroy Israel must not be taken lightly, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday.
Israel considers Iran to be the greatest threat to its survival, and rejects Tehran’s claim that its nuclear program is peaceful. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the Jewish state’s destruction, and Iran already has missiles capable of carrying payloads to Israel."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Suddenly, Conflict's a Bad Thing

For the Ironically Funny File:

"The White House is bracing for guerrilla warfare on the homefront politically if Republicans lose control of the House, the Senate or both — and with it, the president's ability to shape and dominate the national agenda.

Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress. But polls and analysts in both parties increasingly suggest Democrats will capture the House and possibly the Senate on Election Day Nov. 7.

Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to regain the House and a gain of six seats to claim the Senate."

"Guerrilla Warfare?" Like in Iraq?

"The U.S. military announced the deaths of a Marine and four soldiers, raising to 83 the number of American servicemembers killed in October — the highest monthly toll this year. The pace of U.S. deaths could make October the deadliest month in two years."

If the President didn't make the false case for invading Iraq, if he hadn't invaded the country without a viable plan for rebuilding and an exit strategy, and if he would be willing to be flexible with his foriegn policy, he wouldn't have a "war" at home.

Bush: Still Snippy and Stubborn

Remember when Al Gore gave George W. Bush the "I'm not ready to concede yet" call on the eve of the 2000 election? Bush was understandably confused, then upset that Gore would dare changed his mind. Gore told not to get snippy.

Little did we know that this was a foreshadowing of both Gore's penchant for using posh terms, but also Bush's temper when things don't go his way.

Fastforward to now: George H. W. Bush has expressed some concern over what may happen to his son should Democrats take over. Once again, Junior's gotten a little snippy:

"He shouldn't be speculating like this, because -- he should have called me ahead of time and I'd tell him they're not going to (win)."

Jesus. So it's gotten to the point where Bush's own father can't give him some friendly advice, or show some concern, without getting the Naughty-Naughty Finger Wave?

I've had more than my share of arguments with my father. But any advice he's given me has always factored into my decisions. And in Bush's case, I would take the advice of a guy who had to deal with a Democratic Congress.

Of course, Bush has decided to be even more stubborn than he usually is. His first domestic item on deck for the new Congress? Social Security Bamboozlepalooza Part II.

In other words: "stay the course."

If Change Happens

David Broder talks about what Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) think would happen if the Democrats regain control of Congress:

"When the senators were asked if a Democratic majority in the House or Senate would force the issue in Iraq by threatening to cut off funds for the war, they quickly ruled out any such action. Levin said that a simple resolution recommending to the president that he set a date to begin redeployment might do the trick.

Other forces could nudge Bush in that direction, he said: the growing concern among senior uniformed officers about the impact of the lengthy Iraq deployment on troop morale and unit readiness; and the post-election report of the special Iraq Study Group, headed by James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton.

But after all the debate on Iraq this year, a change in control of even one house of Congress 'would have a major impact, a huge motivating force on the president to change course,' Levin said. 'More and more Republicans would join with Democrats in trying to get the administration to change course

Senator Joe Biden seems to agree. So for those voters where Iraq is the most important issue, the decision is simple: if you want a change in course, there needs to be a Democratic majority.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kim Jong Il Is Sorry

"North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country’s nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, South Korean media reported Friday.

'If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks,' Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China."

Uh-huh. OK.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

MLK: Republican?

This ad says so, according to the WashPost. Maybe during the Lincoln Administration, but I doubt that King would recognize this particular incarnation of the Republican Party.


Rush, In His Own Words

I've been looking for this for a long time. Personally, it's the music more than the lyrics that do it for me.

The Dumb of All Fears

"Homeland Security doubted the credibility of a recent threat made on a Web site, claiming seven NFL football arenas — including Houston's Reliant Stadium — will be hit with a radiological dirty bomb on Sunday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, who oversees terrorism investigations in the Houston area, said the agency's preliminary determination is that the threat doesn't appear to be real."

I'm sure I've seen this somewhere before.

Around the Internets

1. From Slate: The magic and myth of Karl Rove.

2. From WashPost Wizards' Insider: Gilbert Arenas says he's not quirky.

3. From the Onion: Spurs star Tim Duncan cuts loose.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Maverick No More

Ruben's Back

Harry to Explain it All

"Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., announced Monday that he will amend four years of ethics reports to Congress to more fully explain a real estate transaction that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004.

At the same time, he said he will reimburse his political campaign $3,300 that his campaign fund had contributed for the Christmas bonuses of support staff at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, where he lives."

Let's hope so. Democrats can't campaign on "cleaning up Congress" if the Senate Minority Leader is involved in any shenanigans. Well, they can, but it would be so hypocritical.

Time Out

"Tag, you're out! Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School Principal Gaylene Heppe, who approved the ban."

It's bad enough most schools are trying to get rid of recess (which, I think, contributes to them being fatter than the last generation). But now the schools who still allow are trying this crap.

If "we don't want the kids hurt" was a viable excuse, than they should ban sports as a whole. But they won't do that because (1) the schools make a little money off the deal and (2) where would colleges get their recruits?

I think the other important thing at stake is this: when kids play at recess, they use their brains and their bodies. I won many a tag game not just by being fast, but by outwitting and anticipating my targets.

Sure kids go wild during recess, but it plays a part in keeping them healthy and sharp. And I'd rather them go wild outside than in a classroom.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"a culture of warped violence"

"Lynddie England, the young woman associated with some of the most notorious photographs to emerge from Abu Ghraib, has offered new insights into the abuse scandal that rocked the US military and revealed how she acted to please her former lover.

Speaking for the first time since she was jailed more than a year ago, England revealed the abusive nature of her relationship with fellow reservist Charles Graner and suggested that her actions inside the Baghdad jail were largely directed by him. She has also reiterated claims made by her lawyers that much of the mistreatment of prisoners was carried out at the behest of military intelligence officers or the CIA. "

By a Nose

President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 with about five days to spare.

"Spare what?" Spare the ordeal of having to debate the legislation again. Unless I'm mistaken, Congress adjourned on 10/06, which gave the President until the 20th (or 21st) of this month to sign the MCA.

Putting a Face on a Cause

"Three years ago, at the tender age of 17, Metok Lhazey sat in solitary confinement in a pitch dark, filthy and horribly cramped Chinese prison cell in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

This weekend, the nervous 20-year-old is dreaming about being crowned Miss Tibet in a small but controversial beauty pageant held by Tibetan refugees in northern India."

Bending Steele

Now here's a gem from the "Michael Steele is a hypocrite" file:

Steele’s campaign is passing out bumper stickers with “Steele” printed in capital letters on the top line and “Democrat” underneath it.

Is there a chance some Democratic voters might mistakenly conclude that Steele is a Democrat?

Steele reacted testily to that question: “Remember the term ‘Reagan Democrat’? So where’s the confusion here? Why are people making such a big deal about something that has been part of the political lexicon for over 20 years?”

WTF? The question was not about whether Democrats support Steele, it's about whether or not Steele is (by his actions or inactions) encouraging the myth that Steele (a Republican) has Democratic leanings, maybe moreso than the actual Democratic candidate, Ben Cardin.

And I'm sorry, but it's not been "part of the political lexicon" to lie about your party affiliation so you can get some votes. The press really needs to call Steele out on this one.


Paris the Peacemaker

Somebody make this girl an ambassador: Hilton and Lindsay Lohan make up, but mostly out of boredom.

Ready for the Next Step

Antawn Jamison says that he wants to be remembered as more than just a good player and scorer. My response: start guarding people. If you can average 9rpg, than you can get a blocked shot. Gilbert Arenas shouldn't be the player trying to defend LaBron James, you should.

No Main Topic

1. Only In America: Mike Tyson considers fighting women.

2. Always a Wedge Issue: A majority of Virginians support a same-sex marriage ban.

3. Join the Club: U.S. gets her 300 millionth person today.

4. Thanks for Catching Up: WashPost is picking up on President Bush's rejection of reality.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Not Like It Should Be a Surprise

From Yahoo (I'm reposting in full because sometimes it's hard to get yahoo-linked stories back):

Bush keeps revising war justification


President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.

Initially, the rationale was specific: to stop Saddam Hussein from using what Bush claimed were the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction or from selling them to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

But 3 1/2 years later, with no weapons found, still no end in sight and the war a liability for nearly all Republicans on the ballot Nov. 7, the justification has become far broader and now includes the expansive "struggle between good and evil."

Republicans seized on North Korea reported nuclear test last week as further evidence that the need for strong U.S. leadership extends beyond Iraq.

Bush's changing rhetoric reflects increasing administration efforts to tie the war, increasingly unpopular at home, with the global fight against terrorism, still the president's strongest suit politically.

"We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions, or used to inflict economic damage on the West," Bush said in a news conference last week in the Rose Garden.

When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.

After Saddam's capture in December 2003, the rationale became helping to spread democracy through the Middle East. Then it was confronting terrorists in Iraq "so we do not have to face them here at home," and "making America safer," themes Bush pounds today.

"We're in the ideological struggle of the 21st century," he told a California audience this month. "It's a struggle between good and evil."

Vice President Dick Cheney takes it even further: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us," Cheney tells audiences.

Except for the weapons of mass destruction argument, there is some validity in each of Bush's shifting rationales, said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution who initially supported the war effort.

"And I don't have any big problems with any of them, analytically. The problem is they can't change the realities on the ground in Iraq, which is that we're in the process of beginning to lose," O'Hanlon said. "It is taking us a long time to realize that, but the war is not headed the way it should be."

Andrew Card, Bush's first chief of staff, said Bush's evolving rhetoric, including his insistence that Iraq is a crucial part of the fight against terrorism, is part of an attempt to put the war in better perspective for Americans.

The administration recently has been "doing a much better job" in explaining the stakes, Card said in an interview. "We never said it was going to be easy. The president always told us it would be long and tough."

"I'm trying to do everything I can to remind people that the war on terror has the war in Iraq as a subset. It's critical we succeed in Iraq as part of the war on terror," said Card, who left the White House in March.

Bush at first sought to explain increasing insurgent and sectarian violence as a lead-up to Iraqi elections. But elections came and went, and a democratically elected government took over, and the sectarian violence increased.

Bush has insisted U.S. soldiers will stand down as Iraqis stand up. He has likened the war to the 20th century struggles against fascism, Nazism and communism. He has called Iraq the "central front" in a global fight against radical jihadists.

Having jettisoned most of the earlier, upbeat claims of progress, Bush these days emphasizes consequences of setting even a limited withdrawal timetable: abandonment of the Iraqi people, destabilizing the Middle East and emboldening terrorists around the world.

The more ominous and determined his words, the more skeptical the American public appears, polls show, both on the war itself and over whether it is part of the larger fight against terrorism, as the administration insists.

Bush's approval rating, reflected by AP-Ipsos polls, has slid from the mid 60s at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to the high 30s now. There were light jumps upward after the December 2003 capture of Saddam, Bush's re-election in November 2004 and each of three series of aggressive speeches over the past year. Those gains tended to vanish quickly.

With the war intruding on the fall elections, both parties have stepped up their rhetoric.
Republicans, who are also reeling from the congressional page scandal, are casting Democrats as seeking to "cut and run" and appease terrorists.

Democrats accuse Bush of failed leadership with his "stay the course" strategy. They cite a government intelligence assessment suggesting the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a book by journalist Bob Woodward that portrays Bush as intransigent in his defense of the Iraq war and his advisers as bitterly divided.

Democrats say Iraq has become a distraction from the war against terrorism — not a central front. But they are divided among themselves on what strategy to pursue.
Republicans, too, increasingly are growing divided as U.S. casualties rise.

"I struggle with the fact that President Bush said, `As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' But the fact is, this has not happened," said Rep. Christopher Shays R-Conn., a war supporter turned war skeptic.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, said after a recent visit to Iraq that Iraq was "drifting sideways." He urged consideration of a "change of course" if the Iraq government fails to restore order over the next two or three months.

More than 2,750 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war, most of them since Bush's May 2003 "mission accomplished" aircraft carrier speech. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.

Recent events have been dispiriting.

The United States now has about 141,000 troops in Iraq, up from about 127,000 in July. Some military experts have suggested at least one additional U.S. division, or around 20,000 troops, is needed in western Iraq alone.

Dan Benjamin, a former Middle East specialist with the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, said the administration is overemphasizing the nature of the threat in an effort to bolster support.

"I think the administration has oversold the case that Iraq could become a jihadist state," said Benjamin, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "If the U.S. were to leave Iraq tomorrow, the result would be a bloodbath in which Sunnis and Shiites fight it out. But the jihadists would not be able to seek power."

Not all of Bush's rhetorical flourishes have had the intended consequences.

When the history of Iraq is finally written, the recent surge in sectarian violence is "going to be a comma," Bush said in several recent appearances.

Critics immediately complained that the remark appeared unsympathetic and dismissive of U.S. and Iraqi casualties, an assertion the White House disputed.

For a while last summer, Bush depicted the war as one against "Islamic fascism," borrowing a phrase from conservative commentators. The strategy backfired, further fanning anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world.

The "fascism" phrase abruptly disappeared from Bush's speeches, reportedly after he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant now with the State Department.

Hughes said she would not disclose private conversations with the president. But, she told the AP, she did not use the "fascism" phrase herself. "I use `violent extremist,'" she said.

No Main Topic

1. Do You Know What Time it Is? : An ex-NASA employee uses go-go to promotes peace.

2. Not Your Average Family Feud: "A day after five members of a family were gunned down in their southeastern Iowa home, the family's 22-year-old son was charged with murdering them, authorities said."

3. Holy Eco-System, Batman! : The environmental benefits of those ugly little bats.

4. Blame Someone Else For a Change: At least that what Bill Clinton says.

5. All His Life: Michael Steele has been preparing to be a MD US Senator since waaaay back in 2004.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Giving Up

To interesting stories in the Washington Post that refer to "giving up," but in different contexts.

First, there's Congressman Jack Murtha addressing claims that Democrats are defeatists who want to quit. Basically, Murtha says it's a reflection on how desperate Republicans are to keep control of Congress.

Then there's Lonnae O'Neal Parker, who talks about why she "quit" on Hip-Hop. The main reason: the misogyny and glorification of violence.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Take the Money and Run

"Faced with a deteriorating political climate, Republican Party officials are hoping to keep control of the House and Senate with a strategy aimed at shoring up enough endangered incumbents to preserve their majorities, while scaling back planned spending on races that now appear unwinnable.

In recent days, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has given back television time it had reserved in Democratic-held districts in West Virginia, South Carolina and Ohio -- apparently concluding that those races are beyond reach unless something dramatic changes the national political environment in the 25 days before the Nov. 7 election

(Compare that to the Democrats "50-State Strategy," which some once called crazy:)

The Democratic Party is committed to winning elections at every level in every region of the country, and we're getting started right now with a massive effort to fund organizers on the ground in every state.

The ultimate goal? An active, effective group of Democrats organized in every single precinct in the country. Here's what we're doing to get there:

1. The Democratic Party is hiring organizers chosen by the state parties in every state -- experienced local activists who know their communities.

2. We bring those organizers together for summits where they can learn from each other the best practices for getting organized to win elections.

3. Armed with the knowledge they've shared with each other, Democratic organizers return to the states and recruit and train leaders at the local level.

4. Those local leaders recruit more leaders and volunteers until every single precinct in their area has a trained, effective organization of Democrats dedicated to winning votes for Democrats.

Now who's fighting here, and who's cutting and running? Good thing Iraq is a war and not an election, right?

The Buck Stops...Somewhere Else

Rep. Chris Shays blames Maryland National Guard Troops for the "sex ring" known as Abu Ghraib.


Foley-Gate: Following the Fabrications

Just Accept It.

Saying that President Bush is stubborn is an understatement, but it's not that surprising. Most contraversal presidents have ranged from "stubborn" to "steadfast." However, in Bush's case, it seems like his time in the White House hasn't changed his stubborness:

"But a survey of transcripts from Bush's public remarks over the past seven years shows the president's worsening political predicament has actually stoked, rather than diminished, his desire to proclaim what he cannot abide. Some presidential scholars and psychologists describe the trend as a signpost of Bush's rising frustration with his declining influence.

In the first nine months of this year, Bush declared more than twice as many events or outcomes "unacceptable" or "not acceptable" as he did in all of 2005, and nearly four times as many as he did in 2004. He is, in fact, at a presidential career high in denouncing events he considers intolerable. They number 37 so far this year, as opposed to five in 2003, 18 in 2002 and 14 in 2001."

Mo' Clubbin', Mo' Problems

"Some of Washington's most vibrant neighborhoods, destinations for suburbanites, barhoppers and urban professionals, share a lesser-known distinction: They have the highest concentrations of holdups in the city.

Criminals are striking in areas that boast of dynamic nightlife, newly minted condominiums and restaurant grand openings."

"A despicable, deliberate, vengeful act."

Oh boy:

A coroner ruled Friday that U.S. forces unlawfully killed a British television journalist in the opening days of the Iraq war.

Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would ask the attorney general to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for the death of Terry Lloyd, 50, a veteran reporter for the British television network ITN.

Witnesses testified during the weeklong inquest that Lloyd — who was driving with fellow ITN reporters from Kuwait toward Basra, Iraq — was shot in the back by Iraqi troops who overtook his car, then died after U.S. fire hit a civilian minivan being used as an ambulance and struck him in the head.

'Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said. "There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces. There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire.'"

Steele Fighting

Republican Senatorial candidate Michael Steele is so desperate to separate himself from his conservative (Read: currently unpopular) bretheren that he's decided to bash the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind initiative.

My question: if Steele think that Republicans aren't the right choice either, then why doesn't he pull a Joe Lieberman and run as an independent? Until he does that -or at the very least, answer why he doesn't- he's a hypocrite in my book. He can criticize the Republicans all he wants, but as long as he's one of them, he'll support them more often than not as a Senator. And I still don't believe he'll be the outspoken maverick he claims he'll be.

If he's a true conservtive Republican, he should just admit it and stop faking. Those stupid dog ads aren't fooling anyone.

Meanwhile, Russell Simmons tries to explain why he's endorsing Steele:

Some of my liberal friends and associates are quite upset with me for personally endorsing Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele for the United States Senate. Steele is conservative and a Republican. I am an Independent who has, in the past, supported numerous Democratic candidates with the recent exception of my endorsement of the re-election of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a moderate Republican.

At a time when the ranks of the poor and impoverished across America and throughout the world are on a steady increase, I am going to support and endorse those political leaders who are bold enough to commit publicly to playing an active leadership role in building an effective legislative strategy to end poverty and ignorance. Real leadership, however, should not be limited, solely defined or circumscribed only by political party affiliation.

Hip-hop culture is global and universal. It not only transcends race, ethnicity, class, gender, geography, religion and national boundaries, hip-hop also transcends established political parties. Hip-hop is inclusive, not exclusive, of all of the realities that impact the quality of life of millions of people who daily cry out for a better way of life.

I was pleased to witness Michael Steele as a statewide official taking action in Maryland during the last four years to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, initiate educational programs for incarcerated youth, increase access to minority community economic development, clean up the environment and develop alternative energy sources, as well as support equal, high-quality education for all in the public school system. My attention was focused on these accomplishments and the fact that Steele kept the promises and commitments that he had made to the voters.

Steele’s criticism of President Bush and the war in Iraq further exemplifies that Steele is an independent thinker and leader who is not chained or bridled by the neoconservatives of the Republican Party. Of course, I know that no politician is perfect and there are many issues that Steele and I do not agree on. What’s important to me is that I believe, after reviewing his track record, Michael Steele will be a leader in the U.S. Senate toward making ending poverty and ignorance a clear priority.

Love is neither liberal nor conservative; it is what God gives to us all. Love requires justice, fairness and openness for new ways of making a difference in the quality of life for all people everywhere. One of my mentors, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, encouraged me to directly connect my daily private practice of Yoga to my public actions and endorsements. Dr. Ben was with me when I made the trip to Baltimore to announce my support of Lt. Gov. Steele. In one of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is written, “The practice of concentration on a single subject is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” In other words, a singular focus or concentration on ending poverty is a necessary commitment by anyone who is serious about this issue.

That night Steele announced, “I declare a new agenda for America; an anti-poverty agenda – an economic empowerment agenda that I will take with me to the United States Senate – because empowerment creates opportunity that poverty will never let you see. To tell you the truth, not enough people in either party are willing to even say the word ’poverty’ ….. much less do anything about it. To begin, unlike a lot of Republicans, I believe we need to raise the minimum wage.”

Great movements for change always require taking risks and acting outside the close-minded boxes of society. Building an effective anti-poverty movement will need many elected officials like Steele and many others from different constituencies from across the nation and throughout the world. Let’s stay focused. Don’t get distracted by party labels. Let us all work together and share responsibly in God’s love for all. Let’s end poverty and ignorance!

I'd like to believe Simmons, but there nothing in Steele's history or current political positions that suggests he'd be anything but a Republican rubber stamp for the Bush Administration. Even the story of how he came into the national spotlight has Bush connections.

Simmons and Steele both speak of a person who appears to be a politically moderate independent. But reality says different.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The First Cowboy Boot Drops

File this under "That Didn't Take Long:" T.O.'s not happy with his role in Dallas.

No Main Topic

1. "Vote for Me If you Want to Live:" Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger goes on Jay Leno and, among other things, criticizes the way Iraq's going.

2. Another Spokesman for Viagra?: Hugh Hefner says he's running low on energy.

3. I Guess An American Can be Charged for Treason: The first since WWII, infact.

4. LOST was awsome last night. Add Sun to the list of trigger-happy killers. The best way to neutralize Kate? Put her in a dress. Jin's English is improving, as well as his ability to use firearms. And I'm beginning to wonder how Jack and Sayid became the default leaders of this group.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So What About North Korea?


"North Korea's explosive declaration that it has joined the ranks of nuclear-armed nations is the sort of shock wave that at first glance would seem to provide a boost to Republican candidates.

One month before election day, with the GOP mired in a congressional sex scandal, the emergence of a new global threat and a renewed focus on national security seems to play right into a Republican strength with an issue that has secured their national majority the past two elections. "

What a disturbing world we live in when a country going nuclear -and therefore has the capicity to use nuclear weapons against America and her allies- is considered a boon politically.

But that's just how John McCain sees it:

"The North Korean nuclear crisis is causing a political showdown in the United States between Sen. John McCain and his potential rival in the race for the White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton.

McCain is pinning the blame for North Korea's recent
claims of nuclear testing on former President Clinton. He is also attacking the New York senator for her stance on North Korea.

On Tuesday, McCain accused former President Clinton of failing to act in the 1990s to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. "

I believe McCain's transformation from a "maverick" to "toadie of the neo-conservatives" is complete. Keep in mind, this was the same guy who routinely challenged Bush before his desire to be president overcame his common sense.

Of course, McCain was only protecting Bush because the president plans on taking action, right? Wrong:

"The Bush administration, under fire for policies that have failed to stop North Korea from advancing its nuclear-weapons arsenal, ruled out direct talks with the North after its apparent nuclear test.

Instead, the United States and other world powers on Tuesday began discussing U.N. sanctions on North Korea that would authorize inspection of cargo going to or
coming from the country to halt weapons-related transfers."

At today's confusing press conference, Bush basically said he's taking a different approach with North Korea (as opposed to Iraq). It seems like he's going to the other extreme: not doing a thing until everyone he classifies as a "participant" comes to the table for talks.

The only good thing about all this is that Bush only labeled three countries part of his "Axis of Evil."

Hitler Would Be Proud.

"State Rep. Russell Pearce, already facing severe criticism for his nostalgic comments about the offensively named "Operation Wetback" federal deportation program, this week sent out an e-mail to supporters that unbelievably quoted from and linked to an anti-Semitic article from the Web site of the neo-Nazi hate group National Alliance."

Seriously: are candidates vetted at all anymore? We could have vampires in our government (if they existed) and the story wouldn't break until they run for a second term ("Nobody thought that when the Congressman starting biting people in the neck that it was unusual...").

Or is it just that our media has been scared and handcuffed to the point where they can't do decent investigative reporting?

No Main Topic

1. Stand by Your Man: Joe Torre will stay with the Yankees, but doesn't someone have to go (A-Rod)?

2. Get Ready to Root for the Drunk Guy: Mel Gibson blames his anti-Semitic rant on (what else?) booze.

3. Generation XXL: 7 ways to slim them down.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baker's Back

Fred Kaplan of Slate:

"There's a final benefit for Bush in [Former Sec. of State James] Baker's plan. Woodward's title State of Denial renews the critique that the president is isolated from reality and criticism. If Bush ultimately accepts the findings of a Study Group led by James Baker, he won't be the boy in the bubble anymore."

I don't trust James Baker. He dismissed the 2000 election recount attempt and his law office fought against one of the earliest independent 9-11 Commissions. I'm with Kaplan; Baker is trying to give Bush some wiggle-room.


Get Your Facts Straight.

ABC News' Charles Gibson obviously doesn't understand the data coming from his own network.

Michael Rogers Strikes Back

"Mr. Bush, Don't Build This Wall"

"Legislation passed by Congress mandating the fencing of 700 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico has sparked opposition from an array of land managers, businesspeople, law enforcement officials, environmentalists and U.S. Border Patrol agents as a one-size-fits-all policy response to the nettlesome task of securing the nation's borders.

Critics said the fence does not take into account the extraordinarily varied geography of the 2,000-mile-long border, which cuts through Mexican and U.S. cities separated by a sidewalk, vast scrubland and deserts, rivers, irrigation canals and miles of mountainous terrain. They also say it seems to ignore advances in border security that don't involve construction of a 15-foot-high double fence and to play down what are expected to be significant costs to maintain the new barrier."

Dress to...Um, Impress

"Women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study they say shows that signs of human ovulation may not be as mysterious as some scientists believe.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelery when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs."

Riding The Poll

The numbers here are very interesting. It's gonna take some time to crunch them (from a historical standpoint) even though it's pretty obvious that the message now is "people are pissed."

Bad Poll Numbers = Hug Some Kids!

"Compelled to respond to a spike in school violence, the Bush administration is hoping that a high-profile summit will get the word out about safety."

I like the "compelled" part; it's like Bush needs to be prodded to give a damn about America's children...which is true.

"Two Cabinet members, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, will lead panel discussions. First lady Laura Bush is also scheduled to speak."

Because if there's one thing the Bush Administration can do, it's look after the kiddies.

Yeah; right.

Looking For a Few...Well, Anyone Will Do, To Be Honest.

"The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties."

Now That's an Addictive Meal

"Two Burger King employees are in jail this afternoon for allegedly putting marijuana in hamburgers served to on-duty Isleta pueblo police officers."

Getting Ready For The NBA

Charley Rosen goes over the training camp issues for each NBA team, and I couldn't be happier. His take on the Wizards' needs:

"Is this the season in which Brendan Haywood fulfills his potential? Will DeShawn Stevenson oust Antonio Daniels as the starting 2-guard?"

Compared to the other 29 teams, the Wizards have it easy. Haywood's been a 7-foot question mark since he first hit the hardwood, and if Stevenson cuts into Daniels playing time, that doesn't change the production of the Big Three (Arenas, Jamison and Butler) by much. Of course, the team still has to prove that they can shut teams down.


No Main Topic

1. Take the money and run: "Jennifer Wilbanks, who became known as the 'runaway bride' after taking off just days before her lavish wedding in 2005, is suing her former fiance for $500,000."

2. Watch what you say; it may come back to bite you: "Nearly five years after President Bush introduced the concept of an 'axis of evil' comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the administration has reached a crisis point with each nation: North Korea has claimed it conducted its first nuclear test, Iran refuses to halt its uranium-enrichment program, and Iraq appears to be tipping into a civil war 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion."

3. Eugene Robinson on the 'vote values' song-and-dance of the GOP: "The Republicans wouldn't be where they are today -- in control of the White House and all of Capitol Hill -- if they hadn't portrayed themselves as the stalwart defenders of moral standards and painted Democrats as a bunch of anything-goes libertines. Republicans promised social and religious conservatives that the values they treasure would not only be respected but written into law. Even if they didn't deliver on these promises, or even try very hard, Republicans paid enough lip service to moral issues to keep "values voters" inside the tent."

4. Give Peace a Chance: Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie did.

5. I Promise to Investigate Myself: Vladimir Putin pulls an OJ in the wake of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.


Monday, October 09, 2006

You Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em...

Apparently, VA Senator George Allen liked to play the race card literally.

Keep It Simple, Please

One may read this and think "Sweet Merciful Crap! The President didn't give two figs about North Korea!"

I see something else. Take this quote: "Hmmm," Bush said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea.

This, I think, is all we need to know about President Bush. He's just not a big-pitcture, abstract thinking kinda guy. So how in the world are we supposed to buy their all-new "winning by adapting" strategy (which is just "stay the course" in a shinny new wrapper)?

Everything has to be boiled down to a sentence or phrase for him to get it; a version of what Ed Schultz calls the "two-word culture" that neo-conservative Republicans have used to win the last three election cycles. That may be fine for running a failed oil company or a floundering baseball team, but it shouldn't be the mindset for the POTUS, let alone a President who's presiding during wartime.

For The Love Of God, Get Her a Hamburger.

Any wonder why Spain's trying to ban "overly skinny" models? I know "less body means less materials" ergo, "more $ for designers," but come on. Does this poor lady even look healthy?

Friday, October 06, 2006

How the West Was Pissed

From the WashPost:

"Using language that suggests they are fed up with the Bush administration, federal judges across the West have issued a flurry of rulings in recent weeks, chastising the government for repeated and sometimes willful failure to enforce laws protecting fish, forests, wildlife and clean air.

In decisions in Oregon, California, Montana and Wyoming, judges have criticized the judgment, expertise and, in some cases, integrity of the federal agencies that manage natural resources on public lands."

Dan Rohlf (a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School) says, "You are seeing frustration in the federal judiciary. When judges express that frustration on paper, which is not all that often, they are often reflecting what they see as a systematic effort to get around the law."

Homeland Superiority

Via the Boston Herald:

"President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department’s reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency’s 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”"

Pacer Problems Persist

If you're a Pacers fan, there are three phrases you don't want to hear together, especially after the "Ron Artest Affair." They are:

1. "Pacer's player,"

2. "Fires gun" and

3. "Strip club."

Sadly for Pacer fans, they're going to have to hear it anyway.

Is It the Hypocrisy or the Myth?

I thought the whole Foley/Hastert thing was about hypocrisy. Eugene Robinson sees it differently:

"Still, I don't think hypocrisy alone is enough to explain why the Foley mess is such a big deal. I think it goes deeper.

One of the central tenets of anti-homosexual doctrine is the notion of "recruitment" -- that adult gay people lure young people into homosexuality as a way of increasing their numbers. The most extreme anti-gay activists perceive a full-fledged conspiracy. The Traditional Values Coalition, a group whose homophobia can only be called rabid, goes so far as to claim that, after being enticed into sexual acts, the "young 'initiates' into the strange world of homosexuality are to be trained to reject the moral beliefs of their parents."

This is complete bunk, of course -- most new research has tended to support the idea that homosexuality is more a matter of nature than nurture, and in any event the notion of an organized "recruitment" drive is far beyond ridiculous.

There are people, though, who are not consciously bigoted against gay people but who find homosexuality difficult to comprehend. There aren't many things more primal and specific, after all, than an individual's sexual desires. For some people who have no base of knowledge about gayness -- and, often, whose pastors routinely denounce homosexuality from the pulpit as a sin -- the basic idea of recruitment, without all the paranoid conspiracy trappings, seems to explain the inexplicable."

I can accept that: more than hypocrisy, this thing is about using unproven theories and myths to fill in the gaps of "truth." Which shouldn't be surprising, considering everything else that's been going on.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Message From Beyond?

From the WashPost:

"Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in Baghdad since Monday, the American military reported, registering the highest three-day death toll for U.S. forces in the capital since the start of the war."

Check the graph; doesn't it look like some kind of message?

Bad Poll Numbers = Throw a Party

Courtesy of AHN:

"Despite top U.S. military leaders saying the conflict in Iraq is continuing to devolve into a sectarian civil war, Congress will spend $20 million on a 'commemoration of success.'"

Funny; not everyone thinks there's cause for celebration. I mean, couldn't that have gone into say...body armor so we'll have troops to celebrate with us? Or to increase medical benefits for vets?

He Wants the Power

From the Boston Globe:

"President Bush's frequent use of signing statements to assert that he has the power to disobey newly enacted laws is ``an integral part" of his ``comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power" at the expense of the legislative branch, according to a report by the non partisan Congressional Research Service.

In a 27-page report written for lawmakers, the research service said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional."

Scandal, Spin & Suffering: Revisted.

From C&L: apparently, the best way to get out of a political scandal is to claim that the guilty are really part of the other party. Hastert is a Republican, BTW.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Return of The Taliban"

Martin Smith discussed his film on the WashPost's webpage. Here is the transcript (the Post doesn't always archive these discussions):

The transcript follows.
Martin Smith is a leading documentary producer with over 25 years experience in television. He recently won an an Emmy award for "The Storm." He has also won every major television award, including two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Gold Batons. In 1998 he created RAIN Media, an independent production company, specializing in current affairs programs. He has made a handful of films on related topics, including Beyond Baghdad (2004), Truth, War and Consequences (2003), In Search of Al Qaeda (2002) Saudi Time Bomb? (2001), Looking For Answers (2001) and Hunting bin Laden (1999).
South Riding, Va.: I think you should also have highlighted the reason (I think), Pakistan army has not cracked down on the Taliban's, and that is due to the Pakistan's strategic depth policy. Pakistan does not like India's influence in Afghanistan, and once U.S. leaves it wants to counter it with the Taliban's. What do you think ???
Martin Smith: This is a good point. There's a limit to how much can be included in a one hour report. On the film's Web site -
Return of the Taliban - there are extended interviews with, among others, Steve Coll, Barnett Rubin and Peter Tomsen, all experts in the region, who discuss this.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Smith, based on your eventful experience in Pakistan and Afghanistan - interviewing many Pakistani officials, to what extent do you think the Pakistan military establishment is using religious extremism as an instrument of foreign policy against its neighbors, particularly Afghanistan? Does the fact that the Taliban leadership is intact and openly operating in Pakistan with ISI's knowledge and assistance to launch terrorist attacks in Afghanistan adequately demonstrate Pakistan's reliance on extremism to serve its geopolitical goals in the region? Thank you.
Martin Smith: We know that Pakistan uses Islamic extremists to pursue foreign policy goals vis-a-vis India. And Afghan intelligence and regional experts to whom we spoke all believe the ISI uses the Taliban in a similar fashion in Afghanistan. Everyone expects that sooner or later US and coalition forces will leave Afghanistan. Pakistan is concerned that Iran and India will meddle in Afghanistan to their detriment. They see the Taliban as a way of keeping their hand in Afghanistan.
Richmond, Va.: Another excellent offering from Frontline. Thank you, Mr. Smith. Please help me understand why the Pakistan military preferred to insist it was their strikes that took out those two tribal leaders instead of admitting it was U.S. hellfire missiles from an unmanned Predator drone.
Martin Smith: The perception in Pakistan is that President Musharraf is a lap dog of President Bush. You have perhaps seen comments about Musharraf being Bush's poodle. When evidence surfaces that US is firing missiles in Pakistani territory, the people of Pakistan feel confirmed in their suspicions. It is embarrassing for Musharraf and weakens him politically. Thus they've adopted a policy of obfuscating or out and out lying about US strikes on their territory.
Denver, Colo.: Why do you think the US doesn't just take charge in the tribal regions of Pakistan and weed out the enemy? Granted it is difficult terrain, but we're getting nowhere with Pakistan's "help".
Martin Smith: America is having a hard enough time in Iraq and its military is stretched thin. Plus powerful armies in the past have had great difficulty in the tribal areas. The Russians - with far more troops than the US has deployed - were never able to close down that border area in the 80s. I also refer you to Prof. Barnett Rubin's comment in the film about the British failure to subdue the Pakistani tribal lands.
Anonymous: Please comment on what Ahmed Rashid wrote in his book "Taliban: Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale University Press: 2001, page 132) "What Washington was not prepared to admit, was that the Afghan jihad -in the 1980s], with the support of the CIA, had spawned dozens of fundamentalist movements across the Muslim world which were led by militants who had grievances, not so much against Americans, but their own corrupt, incompetent regimes." In other words, given past U.S. support for Islamic fundamentalism, including Bosnia, why should Musharraf listen to the U.S.?
Martin Smith: Yes, the CIA did help spawn these groups and many of the weapons aimed at US soldiers in Afghanistan today were supplied by the CIA some 20 years ago. But President Musharraf has received $4-5 billion in debt relief and military aid since 9/11 for his cooperation. Before that the Pakistani economy was in the doldrums. He is however playing with fire.
Chicago, Ill.: To what degree is the Taliban's ability to seek sanctuary in Pakistan a product of their popular support in the region rather than the inability of the Pakistani military to go after them?
Martin Smith: It's a combination of the two. Support in the region stems from kinship among Pashtun tribesmen. And the business of jihad benefits the area as well. Great amounts of money and arms transit through the tribal areas, benefiting local leaders and tribal elders.
Lakewood, Colo.: Another great documentary!
What you said in a previous answer regarding the U.S. military being spread too thin, do you believe it would have been a better goal to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda in that region prior to or instead of attacking Iraq? Especially with what we know now?
Martin Smith: There is a general consensus in Washington among policymakers and the military that the diversion of resources to Iraq has been detrimental to US efforts in Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, says this is the case even though he was a supporter of the Iraqi invasion.
Washington, D.C.: I missed last night's show (because I didn't know about it). Will it be rebroadcast? Is a video stream version available?
Martin Smith: Yes - on the FRONTLINE Web site -
Return of the Taliban- you can watch the film online now. And it will be rebroadcast on some PBS stations later this week - check local listings for details.
Manassas, Va.: Can anyone blame Musharraf for how he has acted? The United States has put him in a very difficult situation, almost a Catch-22: Accept the U.S. support, which is in the billions and lose the support of the Pakistani people, which he assures has not happened; or Deny any alliance with the U.S. and become the next Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea. Has he not dodged political suicide rather well?
Martin Smith: Our purpose in producing the documentary was helping Americans understand the complexities of the situation facing Pakistan and Afghanistan. President Musharraf, considering the hand he has been dealt, has been fairly adept. The question we wanted to raise with the broadcast is what should America be doing. It is not clear that we have a well defined policy. Or if we do, President Bush has not articulated it very clearly. As Steve Coll says in the documentary, the US project in Afghanistan will fail, if the US doesn't deal with the sanctuary and support the Taliban receives from Pakistan. What is the United States going to do about it? President Bush speaks as if Pakistan is clearly with us. As the documentary shows, it's not so simple.
Woodbridge, Va.: A few days ago Senate Majority Leader Frist said we must negotiate with the Taliban. This would have been unthinkable previously. Outside of Kabul, are the Taliban in control now?
Martin Smith: Yes, this was a notable comment from a senior Republican. President Karzai of Afghanistan has been saying this for a while. But the Taliban has seen no reason to negotiate because they have had so much success on the battlefield. Our military campaign most likely needs to be bolstered as a prelude to negotiations. However, the administration has heretofore spoken only of complete victory. It is questionable however, as Bill Frist notes, whether a political problem can be solved with guns alone.
Austin, Tex.: Fantastic Documentary! Love Frontline. An insurgency like the Taliban requires the support of the local population and a cause!
What is the Taliban's cause? Is it the Americans, or is there something else? It was the Russians, have we replaced them?
Martin Smith: Basically, it's our country. You don't belong here. Leave us alone. And as long as it takes you to decide to leave, we'll declare victory the next day. In a way, we are the new Russians. It is worth noting that one of the leading Taliban commanders fighting Americans today - Jalaluddin Haqqani - is someone the CIA paid millions to fight Russians twenty years ago. He now derives his support from Pakistan and benefactors in the Gulf.
Middleton, Wis.: Are there any leaders among the Taliban who might be willing to participate in the governing of Afghanistan? Would they be considered traitors by other Taliban?
Martin Smith: Yes, there are some, but recently some who have spoken out have been killed. As I said in reply to an earlier question, the Taliban isn't likely to negotiate as a group until they feel their backs are against the wall. With continued help from Pakistan, that moment seems a long, long way off.
Albany, N.Y.: During your travels, did you ever fear for your personal safety, or that of your crew?
Martin Smith: Of course. But at the same time, it's a privilege to do this work.
Rockville, Md.: During the film, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was not mentioned. He figured so prominently in Steve Coll's book. What happened to him?
Martin Smith: He was mentioned in earlier cuts. He is an important figure and you are right to mention his name. He operates out of the Bajaur tribal agency at the northern tip of the tribal areas and is said now to have a close relationship with Bin Laden, who is also thought to be in that same area. Hekmatyar, like Jalaluddin Haqqani, also has had a very long and close alliance with the Pakistani ISI, going back to the anti-Soviet jihad. We suspect that the ISI knows where he is and could, if they had the political will, pick him up.
Rolla, Mo.: We have been hearing about the resurgence of the Taliban inside Afghanistan. While it was great reporting of what is happening in the tribal areas of Pakistan, with the cross border activity, it seems to put the entire onus on the Pakistani government versus what the coalition and Afghan government have or haven't done to combat the Taliban inside Afghanistan. What is the permanent presence of the Taliban inside Afghanistan like, and why are they controlling areas there?
Martin Smith: You're right, but this was the focus of this particular program. More work needs to be done inside Afghanistan and we've begun that process. We included President Musharraf's statement that every time something happens inside Afghanistan, people point to Pakistan. There is some truth to that. Nonetheless, we felt that the Pakistani side of the equation had been less well explored in the American media. Thus that's where we focused.
New York, N.Y.: I was trying to understand Musharraf's anger at Karzai for broaching the issue of military incursions and destablizing attacks in Afghanistan, supported or controlled from the tribal regions. If presenting detailed intelligence and asking for resolution is not a Presidential concern, what is it then?
Martin Smith: Good point. President Karzai and President Musharraf do not have a good relationship. As you might have noticed, when President Bush invited both to dinner at the White House last week, they did not shake hands. President Musharraf and the ISI have invested millions in the Taliban, which is a Pashtun movement. Karzai's government is seen to be dominated by a rival - Tajik and pro-Indian - movement.
McLean, Va.: Why are we not supporting the Baloch and Afghan (Pashtun) secular democratic parties of Pakistan secede from Pakistan?
I ask this with complete American resolve. These leaders have the ONLY tenable long term solution to the region. Without following in their credible footsteps, the Pakistan ISI and its Army will play us like fools.
It should be obvious to all by now that Pakistan cannot because of political structural reasons within its power dynamics play a long term partner to the U.S.
We need to support democratic non-Islamist movements in the region. Two are staring us in the face: the Baloch and Afghan (Pashtun).
Martin Smith: One of the problems is that secular, Pashtun, political figures are forbidden from giving speeches or broadcasting their policies inside the tribal areas. By default, the mullahs dominate the conversation. In Baluchistan, President Musharraf has repressed Baluchi nationalists in much the same way, fearing they represent a centrifugal force that will pull Pakistan apart. The Indians are also mucking about inside Baluchistan - tit for tat for Kashmir, it is thought. Recently some Pashtun nationalists came to the US to persuade members of Congress that they held the answer to rebalancing politics in the tribal areas. Those conversations are ongoing. But at present it is not clear where the administration stands. Its policy appears to be in flux. They have been listening exclusively to President Musharraf and not pursuing other avenues.
Washington, D.C.: Recently, it appears that some of the other NATO participants have started to "go wobbly". Did you explore the possibility that Canada or some other allied country might pull its forces out and the impact that might have?
Martin Smith: The upsurge this Spring in the Taliban offensive was precisely targeted at the people of Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland et al. in order to strip America of its allies in the region. And public opinion is wavering in those countries. The "Return of the Taliban" got a lot of attention in Canada. NATO commanders have been asking for troop reinforcements and running into resistance back home.
Boston, Mass.: I watched your report last night and came away very pessimistic about our long term success in the "long war". Who do you think will be in charge of Pakistan and Afghanistan in 5-10 years?
Martin Smith: Your guess is as good as mine. I think in Afghanistan the Americans are likely to continue to dominate - depending of course on who is President. In Pakistan, the military is the de facto leader and will likely remain so for many years to come.
New York, N.Y.: When asked about the seemingly impossible task of subduing the tribes in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, General Powell recommenced that they review Rambo for a good look at the terrain.
Takes cannot be used, so every soldier is at risk for skilled riflemen picking them off. There is very little infrastructure to level, so it becomes a one on one fight of infantry. The British were up against this for years, before giving up.
China's CCTV program showed an hour's worth of clips from the Rambo series. Apparently to illustrate the difficulties American soldiers faced in Vietnam and Afghanistan(9/2/06).
If you occupy the hills, what have you got, the tribes continue living in a hand to mouth fashion. Their cultural suppression of youth and women continue, until the next generation is ready to fight again.
Martin Smith: I clearly know less about Rambo than you. But we'll publish this anyway. Thanks!
Harrisburg, Pa.: Mr. Smith, I found your report extremely fascinating but frightening. I was amazed at the scenes showing bags of cash and jewelry collected to support the Taliban. Based on your research, do you have any information leading you to believe funds are being solicited and collected here in the U.S. and transferred overseas to benefit the Taliban or al Qaeda? If so, what methods are being used, and who is involved? Thank you.
Martin Smith: From here, no, but we didn't investigate this angle. The money on the floor of the mosque was raised locally. However, to this day, money is pouring in from the Gulf, just as it did in the 80s when the mujahideen were fighting the Soviets. And, as the recent NIE said, the war in Iraq has emboldened many across the world to contribute to anti-American jihad.
Alexandria, Va.: Christina Lamb covers Pakistan for London Times and was forced out in Nov 2001 for investigating ISI ties with 9-11. She has written an article last month pointing out Pakistan made money from 9-11 as you have. The UK press covers Pakistan and does it as you have, pointing out that its not as Bush portrays it, a loving ally and close friend. Why doesn't the U.S. MSM have regular coverage of Pakistan like the UK press does? Why don't our think tanks come out with reports on its links to terror?
Martin Smith: I can't speak for the mainstream media. You have to ask them. But there are some think-tanks - Jamestown, Brookings, RAND - that have done reports on these issues.
St. Louis, Mo.: What, in particular, do you feel is the biggest hurdle that the U.S. must get over in order to "win the hearts and minds" of Afghanis and the greater Mideast region?
Martin Smith: We must show that we can restore order and are willing to broker negotiations between all parties, including the Taliban. Regrettably, the US has not put in the resources and manpower necessary to succeed in Afghanistan. A further problem is that even if Afghanistan is in some ways pacified, the failed state that has emerged in western Pakistan may continue to harbor Al Qaeda. This is of course the reason the US went to Afghanistan in the first place. If the problems of western Pakistan aren't solved, we're back to square one.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Sarah Chayes, who lives in Khandahar, said recently at the The Wilson Center for Scholars that any encounter between an Afghani and and any Afghani government official at almost any level is basically an opportunity to extract money from that person. Is this Afghani government bound to fall at some point in the coming years?
Martin Smith: This is a good point. It wasn't the focus of our report, but we heard a lot about corruption while we were in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is weak and corrupt officials can take advantage.
Toronto, Canada: It was a great piece. I am working on Hayat Ullah case. What you think is the future of fixers/reporters of Pakistan? After this film how those people you think will be safe or what kind of precautions they should be using?
Martin Smith: There are many brave, independent reporters and fixers working inside Pakistan. Hayat Ullah was foremost amongst them, but won't be the last. There are also several journalists' associations who are working on this very problem. We would encourage you to contact them, for example the Association of Tribal Journalists, which is run by a man called Sailab Mehsud.
Manassas, Va.: If the borders are so open between the tribal lands and Pakistan, what makes anyone in the intelligence community believe bin Laden is still located in Afghanistan?
Martin Smith: I don't know of anyone in intelligence, who is saying that. The consensus seems to be that he is in Pakistan. Only President Musharraf claims otherwise.
Pakistani from Tennessee: Having a beard, gun and wearing a turban does not make a person a "Taliban". It is normal dress in tribal areas. The Taliban were an Afghan group based in Afghanistan. If Afghan provinces were too dangerous for you to shoot in, why did you make this documentary??
Martin Smith: You're right that having a beard and a gun does not make one a Taliban. We never made such a claim. And we filmed in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Martin Smith: Thank you for watching and for your great questions.