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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Yesterday's news 

I always think the catch-phrases that media outlets use for their continuing stories are instructive. For example, during the Iraq war, we're seen phrases like 'America at War' and then 'America in Iraq'. Now, we're seeing a definite tone-down, reflecting the idea that as far as the American media is concerned, they want to treat Iraq as yesterday's news:
MSNBC now uses "Iraq: Transfer of Power". CNN calls their section "The Struggle for Iraq". The New York Times section head is incomprehensible: "The Reach of War", while CBSjust uses "Iraq: After Saddam". The word "America" has disappeared, in spite of the fact that not a single American soldier is coming home because of the so-called transfer -- in fact, another 6,000 are being drafted. Happy July 4th to them and their families!

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The GOP headline project 

Josh Marshall writes about the recent Financial Times story about how there really was uranium evidence after all.
What is happening here is this: Rove and the GOP are getting their ducks in a row. One by one, they're getting SOMEONE to publish refutations of all of their problem areas -- no WDM, no uranium, no links between Hussein and 9-11 -- as news stories. Many of these have been in the New York Times, but some are being slipped in elsewhere.
Now, it doesn't matter to Rove or the GOP that these stories make no sense -- as Marshall points out about the uranium story, don't you think that if the Bush administration had had any evidence whatsoever of Iraq yellowcake interest, they would have used it a year ago when Wilson hit the news? And it doesn't matter whether the stories are actually proven wrong the next day -- remember the one where Putin supposedly told Washington a year ago that Hussein was behind 9/11, and the State Department replied "Huh?" And it doesn't matter whether there is any follow-up on the stories, or whether any other media print or broadcast them. The Putin story, for example, was widely seen as a joke two days after it appeared.
The point is only to make sure that one story gets published.
So now, when Bush is asked on the campaign trail about all these probems, he can state, truthfully, that major media outlets have published stories confirming the truth of his claims. And they can use the headlines in their ads, too.
Watch for more of these types of stories in the coming months. You will recognize them by how conveniently their headlines dovetail with the Bush reelection slogans.
So now I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more foreign affairs headlines coming soon, perhaps about how grateful the former soviet satellite states are for Bush's strong leadership. I predict we will also be seeing headlines aimed to the domestic agenda -- how well the No Child Left Behind act is going, how grateful seniors are for their drug benefit, and how any day now there will be a ton of new jobs for everyone.
It doesn't matter what the truth is, just what the headlines are.

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Second verse, same as the first 

So I checked out Today in Iraq, to see if anything had changed since the big handover on Monday.
Nope, it hasn't. They're still dying over there.

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Bush the debater 

Read James Fallow's latest in The Atlantic Monthly (unfortunately, the article is not online), about how the Bush/Kerry debates will go -- very interesting stuff, especially about Bush's skills as a debater, and how his side always manages expectations by promoting what a terrific debater the other guy is, and how terrible Bush is, to the extent that Bush gets himself declared "the winnah" just because he doesn't fall off the stage. In reality, Bush is an excellent debater, on message, clear, thinking on his feet, coming across as warm and responsive without actually responding, etc etc.
Apparently there will be four debates this year beginning September 30 in the University of Miami.

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American polls 

With the Canadian election so interesting, I haven't been looking much at American stuff for the last few days. Josh Marshall writes about the recent polls, showing Bush at 4 out of 10 approval.
I guess this is OK, though I would be much happier if it were 3 out of ten.
As Canadian polls showed, sometimes polls don't get you very far -- they may help people decide who to vote for, or against, but I'm not sure how useful they are in predicting results. The last Canadian polls were done about 5 days before the election, and the thinking is that there was a bit of a turnaround over the last weekend, enough to give Martin an extra 20 seats -- I guess his last-minute coast-to-coast sprint was a vote-getter -- he came across as pumped up, positive, energetic. So even a day can make a difference, I guess.
So when it comes to the American polls, I don't know how much faith to put in them. Also, by their nature, national polls are not reflective of the riding results or, I presume, the Electoral College results -- after all, it doesn't matter whether Kerry gets 95 per cent of the New York vote, or 55 per cent, he still gets 31 electoral college votes. And likewise, whether Bush gets 52 per cent in Texas, or 98 per cent, it still gets him 34 electoral college votes.
So when you read those national polls that have asked a thousand voters nationwide how they will vote, the result has to be read with a bale of salt -- a 30/70 split is large enough to be significant in the electoral college, but a 40/60 split may not be, depending on where those votes are. And a state-by-state breakdown of a thousand-person poll is meaningless.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Some more random thoughts on the election 

Next election - 2006 - I think it will be a long time (like two years or more) before we go to the polls again unless the Liberals decide to go.
The Bloc won't want another election any time soon -- they have nowhere to go except down now. Basically, the Liberals want 25 more seats in Quebec, which they can only get from the Bloc. Bloc support in Quebec is soft -- it was based on Quebec anger over the sponsorship scandal. Once that is over (and presuming that Martin himself doesn't get tainted with it)the Bloc has no issues to win on next time. So they will want to hang onto their seats now as long as they can by supporting the Liberals as often as possible. Martin is in a position of strength with the Bloc, not a position of weakness.
The NDP won't want a quick election, either. They did pretty badly, really, in spite of Layton's rhetoric, and they need to regroup -- their vote went to the Liberals, and even more will go if Martin does a half-decent job.
And the Conservatives won't want a quick election -- they need time to find an Ontario leader who can speak French (sorry, Brenda). The long knives will be out for Harper now.
Proportional referendum? Even if Layton gets a national referundum on proportional representation, who will vote for it? I would predict 65-35 against. Look at how resentful people were when the party leaders picked even a few candidates - I think the CBC said Martin picked 8, out of 308 ridings, and we had losers crying all over the place. So imagine how people would feel if the party leaders picked everyone in the government? I think its just too gigantic a step, in a country as diverse and individualistic as ours, to expect that people will not want to pick their own representative, however flawed the first-past-the-post system is, rather than have a representative picked for them somehow from a slate.
Sask outcome - In Saskatchewan, Liberal support picked up quite a bit -- this is why the NDP lost their two seats here --the usual NDP vote went to the liberals instead. It was not enough for either the liberals or NDP to win, so conservatives took the seats. So it will be interesting to see what happens next time.
And thank you Jesus - Jim Pankiw is gone, gone, gone! After all the local concern about whether he would win again by dividing his opponents, in the end he finished FOURTH, behind the Conservatives, the Liberals AND the NDP. This only proves there is a God.

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Winners and losers 

Canadians give Liberals a minority; 'We must do better,' Martin pledges So Harper loses by winning more seats, but not enough. And Martin wins by losing some seats, but not enough.
According to the final count, unless recounts change it, Martin doesn't need the NDP as long as he has about half of the Bloc. But with the NDP alone, he cannot do it.
A "majority" in this government is not actually 155, its 154, considering that one member will serve as speaker (I think I have that right). If a Liberal is speaker, that cuts Martin down to 134 votes. Adding the NDP's 19, it still is only 153 votes, one short if the Conservatives, the Bloc and Cadman all vote against Martin. So Martin needs the Bloc, at least one or two or them, or the NDP plus Chuck Cadman, whose main focus is on law-and-order issues like illegal street racing and grow ops.
Oh, may you live in interesting times.

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Don't worry, be happy 

Hitler used in Bush election campaign ad
I think the Democrats should let this one stand -- it hurts the Republicans themselves more than it hurts Kerry. Its on the Bush-Cheney 2004 site.
As an ad, its very strange -- the controversial shots of Hitler are interspersed with the quotes from Gore and Dean and Moore, and its not very clear whether the ad is trying to imply that Hitler is against Bush too, or that Gore and Dean and Moore are also opposed to Hitler. And the quotes they use are strong statements against the war and against the Bush administration's use of fear as a tactic -- they don't actually come across as irrational rants, though maybe the RNC thinks they are. But the wierdest thing is at the end, with the cheery little burst of music and the smiling Bush -- I guess the conclusion is supposed to feel like "don't worry, be happy" and it comes across like Bush comforting the faithful by playing Bobo the clown-- well, considering the hundreds dying daily now in Iraq, its pretty disconcerting and strange.

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sensible discussion 

What Next? Rolling Stone convenes a panel of experts to discuss what went wrong in Iraq
Finally, some sensible talk about Iraq from smart people who have actually worked in the region. Some selected quotes:
Chas Freeman U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-1992; assistant secretary of defense, 1993-1994: Increasing sophistication in the ambush tactics and improvised explosive devices used to kill American troops indicate growing cooperation between secular Iraqi factions and religious extremists like Al Qaeda. Sunni insurgents in Iraq are being helped by Hamas from the Palestinian occupied territories, and the Shiites are being assisted by Hezbollah from Lebanon. All these forces are cooperating, even though many have historically been mortal enemies. Clearly, the U.S. is a big enough enemy for everyone in the region to put aside their differences.
Gen. Anthony Zinni Commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000; special envoy to the Middle East, 2002-2003; author of Battle Ready: Any time we look at an "enemy," we look at it at three levels. At the tactical level, the enemy is the terrorist organizations and the financing they get. The operational level is the enemy's center of gravity -- it's the rationale, which is radical Islam. At the strategic level, it's the continuous flow of young people so desperate and angry that they're willing to believe it.
At the tactical level, we could be winning - we could be hurting Al Qaeda and capturing its leadership. But as an ideology, it's strengthening. It is probably stronger now than before September 11th, in terms of recruiting manpower willing to kill themselves.
Sen. Joseph Biden Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.
Youssef Ibrahim Managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group; former Middle Eastern correspondent for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: The sixty-year relationship we've had with Saudi Arabia is on the verge of collapse. How many times have we asked them to please, please open the spigots so we can bring prices down? There's a new 900-pound gorilla coming called China. In ten years, it's going to be the largest consumer of oil in the world, which means that the people who produce oil are no longer kissing America's ass -- they're beginning to kiss China's ass. [In response to a question about whether the war has produced a new respect for American military power] Hardly. We are no longer loved because of Iraq, and we are also no longer feared because of Iraq. The neoconservative dream of regime change throughout the region -- in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia -- is dead. Do you really think any of those countries are afraid of us after watching us bleed in the streets of Iraq?

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Martin the listener 

Rick Salutin's column Ideas on election ideas sums up a lot of my own thoughts. He quotes Jack Layton saying "Elections should be about ideas" and then continues "Uh, I think that's a bad idea. Undergraduate education should be about ideas. You get great reading lists, inspiring profs, you yak in the dorm late at night. But elections? They should be about what happens to ideas put into practice. . . . Elections are also about judging leaders' capacity for judgment, since mostly what they deal with in power is unexpected crises, such as SARS or 9/11, that you can't have ready-made ideas for."
So on the basis of judgment, whose should I trust, Martin's or Harper's? Clearly, as far as I am concerned, its Martin by a landslide.
Over the course of this campaign, Harper has shown himself to be not-ready-for-prime-time -- he cannot even manage the continuing gay-bashing, abortion-bashing blather from his own caucus. And clearly, he has an agenda about which he does not want to talk. Salutin writes "For a real ideologue, you have to turn to Stephen Harper. He doesn't spew ideas, he takes a few and muses on how he got them, honed them, stuck to them . . . These ideas are clearly a deep part of his sense of self. Or should I say, this idea. The sign of ideology is the conviction that one idea, or a tight, related set, can be successfully applied to any topic or situation. Everything follows reasonably, except the monomaniacal premise it starts from."
Martin's mistakes, on the other hand, have been more personal -- he doesn't have Chretien's ready wit or ability to lunge for the quick ripose; he comes across looking clumsy, stuttering. But his heart is in the right place -- in the CBC interview on Wednesday night, the audience warmed to him when he demonstrated how responsive he is toward this country and the people who live in it. He wants to do, not what he thinks is best for us, but what we think is best for ourselves. As Salutin says, this makes Martin appear to be waffling:
"I know people who say Paul Martin's real agenda is to serve the rich and the corporate elite. But after watching a lot of TV for the past six weeks, I've come to the conclusion that his real problem is that he has no agenda. (He may not realize this, but what difference does that make?) And maybe it's not a problem. Maybe for the next 10 years, he could get as excited about building a vibrant health-care system as he was about erasing the deficit -- come hell, high water or sick people -- during the past decade."
Salutin continues " He's like Groucho Marx, who barked, "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others." Principles can be overrated when dealing with reality. Even V. I. Lenin, whom you'd normally consider a total Marxist ideologue, after seizing power in a devastated Russia, decided: What this country needs is a little capitalism. That showed genius."
Basically, what I like about Martin is that he takes his cue from us -- if we say that defeating the deficit is what we want, then he does it. If we say health care is our top priority -- as poll after poll has shown -- then it becomes Martin's top priority too. He listens to us. That's the kind of man I want as Prime Minister.

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The new GOP Campaign Slogan 

Cheney Defends Use Of Four-Letter Word
So I guess "Go Fuck Yourself" is now going to be the new Republican slogan. It is very apt, since that is essentially what the Bush administration has been telling just about everyone about just about everything for the last three years -- Concerned about the impact of the Patriot Act on cherished civil liberties? Go fuck yourself! Questioning the stated reasons for the Iraq war? Go fuck yourself! Wondering what can be done about the federal deficit? Go fuck yourself! Worried about global warming? Go fuck yourself!
Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? And better yet, it saves Bush and everyone else from any boring policy work, working out any response that actually addresses the issues.
I'm looking forward to seeing it plastered all over the campaign bus and the posters. The campaign can use it as a tag line, too "Yes, America Can - go fuck itself!"

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Friday, June 25, 2004

Bravery 

This news story Canadians honoured for bravery reminded me that today 35 Canadians (two from Saskatoon) were recognized for bravery. Here are their stories. Scroll down to the Citations, starting about half way down the site.
Clarkson said "You remind us of the best that lies within the human heart ... I wish that every Canadian could be in this room today." I wish so, too. You know, I think each of us wonders whether, in such a moment, we would meet the test. Its inspiring to read about those who do.
I also checked the GG's website -- people who receive the Star of Courage can put S.C. after their names, while those receiving the Medal of Bravery can put M.B. after their names.

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No, no, not any more! For the love of humanity, please, no. . .  

Oh, God, she's back! So poor little Monica is boo-hooing now about how she has been rejected again -- Lewinsky rebuffs Clinton's claims And all along, while she was blabbing everything to her wired girlfriend, she thought it was "true love" that brought them together, not just her thongs?
I have an announcement to make, on behalf of the entire free world and all the ships at sea -- now that you all, Bill, Hillary and Monica, have written your books, will you all please shut up!

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

This is the war that never ends 

Reading the most recent reports from Iraq -- Attacks in 5 Iraqi Cities Leave More Than 100 Dead -- reminded me of what must be the world's most annoying song:
. . . This is the song that never ends.
It goes on and on my friends.
Someone started singing it not knowing what it was,
and they'll continue singing it forever just because . . .

There's a CNN poll now on their website that asks whether the media is protraying Iraq as better or worse than it is -- a surprising number have voted for the "worse" side. I suppose these dreamers didn't read the latest NYT story, particularly this cheery little sentence "Across the country, Western security consultants are warning foreign workers not to set foot outside their compounds and to brace themselves for a major offensive."
And it goes on and on, my friends.

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Use the word, Al -- the "F" word 

Gore's powerful speech -- "Democracy itself is in grave danger" -- pulls it all together. Read it. He concludes:
"In the end, for this administration, it is all about power. This lie about the invented connection between al-Qaida and Iraq was and is the key to justifying the current ongoing constitutional power grab by the president. So long as their big flamboyant lie remains an established fact in the public's mind, President Bush will be seen as justified in taking for himself the power to make war on his whim. He will be seen as justified in acting to selectively suspend civil liberties -- again on his personal discretion -- and he will continue to intimidate the press and thereby distort the political reality experienced by the American people during his bid for re-election. "
The word which Al could have used, the F word, is FASCISM.
And the next step is impeachment.

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Your vote is an endorsement, nothing more, nothing less 

I keep seeing these TV interviews with voters whining "I don't support seperatism but I'm voting for Duceppe because I want to send the liberals a message" or "I don't support what the conservatives want to do but I'm voting for Harper because of the sponsorship scandal" or "I like Paul Martin but I'm not voting for him because the Liberals are too arrogant."
It's just dumb. If you want to send Martin a message, write a letter, or phone a talk show, or start a blog. Your vote is not a message, it's an endorsement.
Everyone who votes for the Bloc is voting for separatism. Period.
Everyone who votes for Harper is voting to support the Conservative agenda, open and hidden. Period.
That's how the parties will read your vote -- it's how they should read it. No winning politician, even someone who wins by one vote, ever says "Yes, I know I won, but the voters didn't really support my platform, so I'm not going to enact it after all." Nope -- quite rightfully, they view their win as an endorsement of their party's beliefs.
So if Duceppe wins in Quebec, and if Harper wins in the rest of Canada, I don't want to hear any whining on June 29 about how the result doesn't really mean increased support for separatism, or increased support for conservatism. That's only what it means. That's exactly what it means. Period.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Liberals by a nose? 

I haven't posted much about our election lately -- I guess I don't have much to complain about now that the Star Phoenix is covering some local stories (not a lot, but some) and the national media is holding leaders' toes to the fire over their platforms instead of publishing just cutesy gonzo stories -- and I say this despite the "Harper-the-brave" story in today's Mop & Pail, just for pitching a high, short one -- did Harper take Monday off just to practice?
Anyway, it looks like it will come right down to the wire, now that the polls show the Liberals ahead again in Ontario. But it will still be a Perils of Pauline finish:
Will Martin's latest "hardball" tactic --"if you want me then you have to vote for me" -- beat Harper's softball?
Will Ontario believe that Ralph Klein really doesn't intend to do anything that would challenge the Canada Health Act? Or can we expect that Ralph will remember after the election that he had a few more ideas?
Will Landry's musings about another referendum frighten any Quebec voters back to the liberals?
Did Harper actually get any secret briefings from the RCMP about the Arar case or was he just trying to make himself look important in front of the TV cameras?
Will anyone come up with any more "confidential" Harper policy memos?
Will the NDP disappear?
Stay tuned.

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Plain speaking 

In Grand Delusion, Cohen states it plainly -- "The fact remains that Hussein's fingerprints are not on the attacks of Sept. 11 and that the United States went to war for stated reasons that have simply evaporated -- weapons of mass destruction and that vaporous link between two very bad men. "


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"If I go crazy, I'm taking you with me!" * 

What connects most of the US news lately -- Justice department memos justifying torture, pretentions to presidential imperial power, the Patriot Act, Gitmo, CIA secret prisons and ghost prisoners, airline no-fly lists, the Plame leak, colour-coded threat levels, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, roundups and deportations of Muslims by Homeland Security, the preemptive war doctrine, the hysterical attempt to connect Saddam with Al Qaida -- is its overall craziness.
The Bush administration went crazy after a terrorist attack within US national borders -- an attack which, but for the bravery of a few airline passengers, could have killed them all. And their craziness is getting worse, not better.
Now, over the last 30 years or so, dozens of other countries have suffered hundreds of other terrorist attacks, including Canada with the FLQ. Britain with the IRA, India, Pakistan, France with the communists, Spain with the Basque separatists, Italy and Germany with the Red Brigades, Russia with the Chechnians, Indonesia, Malasia, Mexico, most of south and central america, Japan, not to mention Israel - the list goes on and on. And I suppose every one of these countries went crazy for a while -- Canada did too -- remember the October Crisis and the War Measures Act?
But it ended. Most of the time, nations came to their senses and figured out a combination of police and policy to deal with it. They healed, and their national life went on.
But in the United States, supposedly the greatest, strongest, democracy in the world, the craziness has now lasted three years and counting.
Maybe its because neither the police nor the policy responses have been very effective or competent. Judging by the cases reported by the Justice department, the "police" response has been pretty minimal. And America's two wars have both failed to make America feel any more safe or secure, less so in fact. And the "policy" response hasn't gone anywhere -- the Bush administration has not taken the lead on any national dialogue because they refuse to discuss any of their policies, responses, tactics, strategies, or philosophies.
So American national life now seems to consist of a lot of crazy people screaming all the time.
My hope for Kerry is that he will help America heal, in a way the Bush Administration has been incapable of doing.

*This was, by the way, Catherine O'Hara's best line from Beetlejuice.

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Just a reminder about why John Kerry should be elected president 

Blogger Tristero quotes author Scott Turow on why John Kerry will make a good president:
Scott Turow’s remarks on John Kerry and why he is the right person to be President:
(John Kerry) is running against a man who was not fit for duty in 1968 and is not fit for duty today, a man who lacked the qualifications for the office when he was elected and has demonstrated it. We have been through a skein of national disasters, for which he accepts no blame, because he literally doesn’t understand enough about the job to realize how a better President would have responded. John Kerry has been in public life for 35 years. He was a prosecutor when GWB was running an oil company into the ground. And he was already a seasoned United States Senator when GWB decided it was time to give up abusing substances. JK has a sharper grasp of foreign policy, and more experience with it, than any candidate for President in the last 50 years, with the possible exception of GHWB (see today’s NYT). His dedication to the cause of our military and veterans is long established. And his commitment to economic and social justice for all Americans cannot be doubted. A man can’t be the committed liberal Bush sometimes maintains Kerry is, and also the unprincipled waffler. Life and public service are complicated, as GWB doesn’t understand. JK does. He has a sense of nuance, and the experience and values to improve the life of the country.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Whiskey Bar: What's In a Name? 

Whiskey Bar: What's In a Name?
Billmon summarizes the issues very well. When Jon Stewart interviewed Stephen Hayes on The Daily Show last night, Hayes approached it as the usual book puffery interview, chuckling along with Stewart's jokes, and defending his book as just another piece of journalism. Then Stewart got serious on him, told him that preemptive war, if it was to be justified as a US doctrine, simply had to achieve a higher standard of truth than the mighta-coulda-shoulda chain of circumstantial rumours and mythical stories of which the assertions of an Iraq connection to 9/11 presently consist. It was a terrific interview.

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"White House Disavows Interrogation Memo" but does it anyway? 

This is an odd story -- the Associated Press story is titled White House Disavows Interrogation Memo but then the story lead sentence states "President Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties covering prisoners of war after the invasion of Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized guards to strip detainees and threaten them with dogs, according to documents released Tuesday." So what, exactly, did the White House disavow? Just the memo? But the torture itself is still OK?
Maybe the AP headline writers were scared of more Dick Cheney nitpicking criticism after he raked the New York Times headline writers over the coals on the weekend..
UPDATE -- so, when I clicked back to the story, the headline had changed. It now reads, accurately, "Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws". Quick work, AP.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

A disappointing report 

Commission on First Nations and Metis Peoples and Justice Reform
Apparently the FSIN isn't happy with the Commission's final report. Now, I don't know what the FSIN will say -- they're having a press conference tomorrow -- but in skimming through the report, I think there are two main flaws. From the FSIN perspective, the report doesn't acknowedge First Nations governments and their role in the justice system. From my own perspective, the report only reluctantly acknowledges that the problems have been caused primarily by racism.
For example, here is the section of the FSIN brief to the Commission which lays out simply and eloquently the present situation for most Aboriginal peope:
The everyday life of a First Nations person involves accepting the fact that he\she will eventually have contact with police. Those individuals on the street such as addicted people and youth have a greater chance of negative police contact because they are lower on the socio-economic scale and thus more vulnerable. This reality impedes First Nations people from attaining their goals in life. Put simply, it is a crime to be First Nation. Many First Nations people, particularly those who are socially marginalized, have had to deal with clashes with police. Although there have been inquests and analyses of the deaths of two men on the outskirts of Saskatoon in 2000, many First Nations people believe the truth has not come to light. It is difficult to be confident in a system that does not use transparent and accountable procedures through its own policies and practices. It has been cited in many documents, that police hide behind the “Blue Wall”, primarily in investigating alleged misconduct of each other. This practice severely hinders the chance of uncovering any wrongdoing by officers, which cumulatively erodes any existing confidence in the current accountability mechanisms. The fact that the police force is so untouchable leads to a multitude of problems for the overall structure and daily operating rocedures designed to ensure safety within First Nations communities.
In response, the Committee report comes across as patronizing, denying responsibility. For example, there is this:
The justice conditions faced by First Nations and Metis people in Saskatchewan today are both a crisis and a tragedy. Yet, no amount of intervention, however well intentioned, will return First Nations and Metis people to the well-being they once enjoyed. What external forces cannot bring about, however, First Nations and Metis people can achieve for themselves. Developing First Nations and Metis leadership is essential in bringing about the major improvements that are required.
And the reports's recommendations are namby-pamby. No targets, no performance measures, no management expectations, just blather like this one: Recommendation 6.32: This Commission recommends that the options of alternative measures, bail, probation and conditional sentences be employed instead of the use of remand and incarceration wherever possible.
After a lengthy discussion of police violence against Aboriginal people, the Commission can come up with only two recommendations:
Recommendation 5.9
5.9.1 This Commission recommends the increased use of video recording equipment by RCMP and municipal police services.
5.9.2 This Commission recommends that an Aboriginal liaison worker or volunteer individual be available for First Nations and Metis people upon their arrival at a police station or detachment office.

Note that rather than being the responsibility of police management, the prevention of racist violence in police stations is somehow the responsibility of Aboriginal people, volunteers even, who will have to hang around police stations 24/7 - yeah, who wouldn't want to do that?
Then, at the end of this section, which should be the strongest section of their report, the Commission appears to say that "vision", rather than good management and good policy, will be enough to turn the tide:
Many individuals, organizations and government leaders have said that this Commission was created in response to the actions of police officers in Saskatoon. The Commission acknowledges this fact. The Commission also acknowledges that in order to transform the justice system a new vision must be put into place in Saskatchewan, not singling out police, but including them. The focus of this vision must be on justice as a means of providing healing, compensation and understanding, instead of the traditional goals based on punishment and retribution. In this way, a focus on returning justice to the community will benefit all citizens of Saskatchewan, including First Nations and Metis people.
Sorry, folks, but the police have to be singled out -- they've been the problem and there is no way around that.

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Is anyone surprised? 

U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guantanamo Detainees
This is not surprising in the least. In future histories of the 21st century, Gitmo will be considered to exemplify the depths to which the US could sink, even more than Abu Gharib, because this was created as a deliberate US policy. How can Bush keep praising Rumsfeld for his so-called leadership when this mess is what his Pentagon created.
In particular, note the descriptions of how the US army handled Gitmo for the first year -- what a bunch of Keystone Kops. Then, deciding to "blame the victim" for their own failures, they started systematic torture. Now, they're too embarassed and ashamed to just send everyone home.
Its shameful.

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Will there be another shot heard round the world? 

PLAN B
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
This is a major, major story -- Hersch tracks the confusing web of alliance and betrayal between Israel, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds, Iraq, and Iran with the United States caught in the middle. The rickety structure of Middle East allegiances is really nothing more than a scatter of pick-up-sticks, piled high and dry, waiting for the spark.
And it reminded me how the First World War began -- which, by the way, started 90 years ago this summer. Lord help us!

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

That loud crashing sound . . . 

. . . you just heard is the Conservative campaign tripping on its own hubris Winnipeg Sun: NEWS - 'Porn' barb leaves bad taste
So on Wednesday, mesmerized by polls saying that he had "won" the debate, Harper muses about what he will do when he is king (and I doubt the world will sing.)
People started to think, who does this guy think he is? Then on Thursday, people started to find out.
The Conservative premier that Ontario loves to hate, Ralph Klein, announces he is going to trash the Canada Health Act the day after the election -- and Harper didn't seem to care, confirming his remarks during the debate that he wasn't concerned about whether health care was delivered privately or not -- which is, of course, the very core of Medicare, and shows his contempt for its basic principles.
Then the Liberals start running their most effective attack ads, likening Harper's spending plans to Mulroney and to Mike Harris, who likely come second and third as the men Ontario loves to hate. This not only echoed Martin's show-me-the-money attack during the debate, it also capitalizes on Martin's own greatest strength, his success in reducing the deficit.
Then Friday, the two "bizarre and ugly" press releases, one against Martin and the other against the NDP, saying they favour child ponography, a ridiculous slander straight out of the old Reform playbook and an offensive attempt to find a cheap political advantage in the Holly Jones tragedy.
Stay tuned

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Penguin Papers nails it 

Penguin Paper's take on the Putin story -- Penguin Papers: Putin Says Russia Warned U.S. on Saddam
I knew there was something wrong with this story when I read it, but I hadn't reasoned it out. Penguin does, and nails all of the stupidities in it:
Let me get this straight, after 9/11 when even the FRENCH declared that "we are all Americans" the Russians had info on a Saddam attack on the US and they still opposed an Iraq invasion? Surely if it was known that an attack was imminent on the US, then the UN wouldn't have to be involved because this would have then become a NATO issue (attack on one, is an attack on all… even it is only planned) . . . And leading up to the war, the US cited sources from the UK, Africa, Prague, Chalabi, some UK PhD student's thesis off of the web, and yet they somehow forgot to mention that, oh yeah, the Russians have given us concrete proof of an up-coming Saddam attack . . . If there was an attack plan, then all the other reasons for the war would have been moot. They were going to attack us, so we attacked them. Who cares about WMD and so on, this would have been self-defense. And the day after the 9/11 commission comes out saying there is no proof that ties Saddam to bin Laden, the Russians come out with this little nugget of information. Besides, what was Saddam going to attack with? Imaginary WMD? His oh-so-powerful Republican Guard who went more AWOL that Bush during the Vietnam era. Maybe they were going to get the Iraq Information minister to hurl insults at American targets and interests? This story just boggles my mind. How fantastically stupid do they reckon we are? So Putin, what it Bush giving you for this little PR boost? A nice share of Iraq oil perhaps?
Great stuff, Penguin.

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Happy father's day, Mary 

When I first read this headline -- Websites accuse U.S. vice-president's lesbian daughter of hypocrisy -- I thought it wasn't fair for gay activists to expect a daughter to publicly oppose her father's beliefs. However, reading the story, it notes that Mary Cheney is a director in the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign organization. So I think that does make her fair game.
She is gay, yet she is working to help reelect the administration which wants to make her a second-class citizen. Either she is profoundly conficted about her own sexual orientation, which I don't think is the case, or she is profoundly cynical that the gay-banning amemdment is just a meaninless political gesture pandering to the religious right, an attitude which certainly disrespects the US constitution. Either way, I wonder what she and her dad will talk about this father's day.

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Friday, June 18, 2004

Local election news, at last! 

Two local election stories in today's Star-Phoenix -- Tories commit to south downtown and Pankiw has worst attendance record
I got a chuckle out of them both, for different reasons.
First, the local conservative candidates may be "committed" to the south downtown, but that will mean diddly-squat in Ottawa if Harper cancels the program and they both know it, I think. Skelton says "I'd take (the request) to the leader, say, 'Look, we need this. Our city depends on it,' " while Yelich says "If it was something the city was definitely counting on, I'd definitely try to make sure they got their funding. It would be only fair . . . How can you make a promise? What I will promise is to do what I can, if this is in fact money that they are depending upon getting. Of course, I would work very, very hard." Well, I doubt that Atchinson can take that to the bank. As Goodale is quoted as saying "If the program's not available, the money's not available. "
Second, the Pankiw story about his abysmal attendance record in the commons. I'll bet it didn't help his attendance record when he was kicked out of the Conservative caucus either. I heard one of his radio ads today that said "polls show" he has 43 per cent of the vote in his riding. Well, that's about the percentage of the vote he got in the 2000 election so I suppose technically he could say that is true.
But as my brother notes, who lives in that riding, he has not seen ANY Pankiw signs in front of anyone's home, though they are sprinkled in the ditches. So hopefully that means something.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Shorter Thomas Friedman 

Maids vs. Occupiers "America doesn't have to worry that the Middle East now hates everything it stands for. Islam will surely buy into the American vision of becoming a consumer society as soon as they realize how much money their children can make."
Thanks to Penguin for the link.
Thanks to Busy Busy Busy for the "shorter" concept.

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Too many broomsticks 

Rumsfeld admits secret detention of suspect in Iraq Either Bush fires this man, or he is, in effect, saying that making people "disappear" is OK with him.
How many other people have been disappeared this way? Didn't America used to condemn governments who acted like this?
But it does bring to mind the image of Mickey Mouse as the magician's apprentice -- America watching in despair as Rumsfeld and the Pentagon shatter more and more broomsticks in Iraq, each one springing to life again to march against the American occupation, resulting in more and more bombings and attacks, drowning competely the neocon dream of a pro-US democracy.
And meanwhile the broomsticks are multiplying at home too, with Bush and Cheney clinging vainly to the one shred of justification they have left for this mess, the belief they instilled in 60 per cent of Americans that Saddam had something to do with 9.11. As the New York Times says:
Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide . . . the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11 . . . the claim has crept back into view as the president has made the war on terror a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. . . . There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.
Sometimes there are just too many broomsticks broken.

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Sask beer babble 

Well, I was interviewed by a Leader-Post reporter today, and I learned something.
I was complaining to him about how difficult it is to get any sense of how the election campaign is going in Saskatchewan -- due to the almost-complete lack of stories in our newspapers about any of our local candidates or any of our ridings - no polls, no discussions, nada. Maybe there is more on the radio, but I cannot listen during the day.
Anyway, the reporter referred me to the "babble" section with election discussions on the Rabble site where there are some interesting analysis and seat projection discussions going on -- for the first time, I got a sense of where people think this election might be going. Also, check out the Saskatchewan/Alberta/Manitoba discussion (follow the link at the bottom of the general discussion page.)
One of the most active Saskatchewan discussions concerned a recent increase in the price of beer! Now, there's an issue we can all get behind, big time. Forget health care and the elected Senate -- let's talk about something that really matters!

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Incomprehensible, but irrelevant 

Here's an odd little story -- How are the papers covering the campaign? -- it seems to combine incomprehensibility with irrelevance. It seems to be about some kind of measure of newspaper coverage just after the debates, measured on some sort of scale. But it isn't very clear what any of this means.
Can anyone explain it?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Women's petition against Harper 

See it at Women's petition denouncing Harper and sign it by emailing jillianskeet@telus.net

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And here's some more 

Manitoba Tories throw support behind Martin
So now we have not only former PC leader Joe Clark, but also conservatives in Alberta and Manitoba supporting Martin over Harper. So far, at least, there seem to be more high-profile conservatives leaving Harper, the supposed front-runner, than there are liberals leaving Martin, who supposedly is losing.
I'm also beginning to wonder about the extent to which the whole "winner/loser" thing based entirely on polls. For example, the Star Phoenix today trumpets the Ipsos-Reid poll saying that "56 per cent of decided voters surveyed in Saskatchewan and Manitoba said they'd vote for the Tories if the election was held now."
But it turns out, reading further into the story - the 14th paragraph - that this poll size was 68 people.
In other words, 38 people spread across Manitoba and Saskatchewan said they would vote Tory. Well, a sample size this small is just not meaningful. I'm still waiting for some real polls.

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Another Conservative against Harper 

CBC News: Former PC president to vote for Liberals
Good for him -- and thanks, Mike, for the link.
"As party president, Easton worked for the merger of the Progressive Conservative and the Alliance parties, but he's clearly not comfortable with the Alliance domination of Harper's party. Easton fears that Harper would make cuts to social programs and take the country back into a deficit if he follows through on his promises. "
So maybe someone else is actually reading the platform!


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9.11 deconstructed 

This 9/11 commission staff statement No. 16 is fascinating -- more intriguing than any mystery novel. It describes the 9.11 plot in detail, what the hijackers did, how they trained, their conflicts and arguments, their many, many trips within the US and overseas. This is where all the news stories are coming from today, about how Al Qeada and Hussein did not cooperate. But read the whole thing.
Particularly chilling was the last bit, about how the attacks might have been called off ". . . the Taliban leader was under pressure from the Pakistani government to keep al Qaeda from engaging in operations outside Afghanistan. While some senior al Qaeda figures opposed the 9/11 operation out of deference to Omar, others reportedly expressed concern that the U.S. would respond militarily. Bin Ladin, on the other hand, reportedly argued that attacks against the United States needed to be carried out immediately to support the insurgency in the Israeli occupied territories and to protest the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia. Bin Ladin also thought that an attack against the United States would reap al Qaeda a recruiting and fundraising bonanza. In his thinking, the more al Qaeda did, the more support it would gain. Although he faced opposition from many of his most senior advisers—including Shura council members Shaykh Saeed, Sayf al Adl, and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian—Bin Ladin effectively overruled their objections, and the attacks went forward."
So the last, best chance to avoid 9.11 and all that has followed was maybe not the FBI investigations or CIA survelliance operations, but Bin Laden's own choice.
It reminded me of The Road Not Taken
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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"I don't understand it" 

Harper asks Canadians for 'strong mandate'
Just another example of Tory policies that are actually opposed to Canada's best interests: "Polls in Windsor suggest the usually left-leaning city is set to elect its first Tory MP in 50 years. 'I don't understand it,' said Lewenza, whose union has officially endorsed local NDP candidates. 'I'm frustrated because they seem to be doing better than they've ever done in this area,' he said of Tory contenders. Lewenza says Harper's plan to cut business grants in exchange for lower business taxes will drive investment elsewhere. Such government support is crucial if Canadian auto plants are to compete globally, Lewenza said. 'Every other state looks at it as an investment. Harper looks at it as a subsidy. I don't understand it.' On Monday, Liberals offered millions in aid to automakers as the campaign entered the home stretch toward the June 28 vote. Lewenza said voters wanting to vent frustration with the current government should think twice before handing power to the Tories. Meting out such so-called punishment could wind up costing thousands of jobs, he said. "
For the most part, the Conservatives haven't had to defend their platform at all in this election campaign -- the media is more interested in Harper's zingers against the sponsorship scandal than in the patchy, inconsistent piece of fiberboard that Conservatives are calling their platform.
The section that Lewenza is referring to says
"• Cut wasteful corporate subsidies in order to reduce taxes for all businesses." - whatever that means.
Lewenza isn't alone -- basically, no one knows where they fit in the Conservative plan.
Witness the stunning lack of content about farming, agriculture, trade, subsidies, BSE, and all the other issues that are crucial to the Prairie economy.
There only one reference to Agriculture that I can find --
"• Support Canada’s farmers, fishers, and forestry workers."
Now, this sounds nice, but to lump farmers, who have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in their land and machinery, in with fishermen, who I guess own their boats and licenses, and with forestry workers, who maybe have to buy their own boots -- well, it shows a profound misunderstanding about Canadian agricultural production. This is ridiculous and meaningless, and it trivializes what farmers do.
I had thought there was also something in the platform somewhere about dumping the Wheat Board, but now I cannot find it -- and dumping the Wheat Board would be a disaster for western agriculture.
But I did find this one --
"• Become an environmental world leader by focusing on clean air, clean water, clean land, and clean energy."
What is "clean land" -- does this mean outllawing pesticides and herbicides? Eliminating the use of GM seed, like Monsanto's roundup-resistant canola?
No one knows because no one -- including as far as I can tell, any of our media in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary or Edmonton -- is demanding that Harper or any of the Prairie conservative candidates here explain it.

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Olympics coming 

Well, its a sign that the Olympics are approaching when I start reading stories about it. I love the Olympics and try to watch as much as I can -- and darn it, I'm in for another year of watching softball at 3 am, because its being played on the other side of the world. My only criteria for a "good" Olympic site is one where I don't have to watch in the middle of the night.
I remember during Sydney, idly flipping over to the triathlon at about 5 am for no good reason, listening to the Canadian announcers describing the event but no one mentioning any Canadian participants in the swimming and biking legs. Then watching the final sprint -- and there came Simon Whitfield, amazing the announcers as well as the rest of us -- Its a Canadian! -- and there I was, shouting at the TV, Go, Go, Go! What a memory, and to think I would have missed it if I hadn't been watching at 5 am.
So I haven't really been following what is going on in the States, but the Washington Post has a nice little update site -- see this story about Marion Jones,Jones Wants Public Hearing and check the sidebar on the right which sums up what has been happening there. You know, if this were Canada, all of it would be headline news every day, but I haven't had the impression that the US news outlets are making a big deal about it. Anyway, I am glad that the US is finally taking the doping issue more seriously, at least judging by the list of major athlets already suspended and the ones being investigated -- I recall lots of criticism of the US in Sydney for letting athletes participate who had maybe tested positive but were appealing and they weren't telling anyone about it.
And just for everyone's reference, here is the Canadian Olympic Committee's Athens site.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

More analysis 

Analysis: On-line panel calls the debate

I thought these opinions were interesting, too -- worth reading.

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Monetary union? 

The CTV coverage is here and the CBC coverage is here
The CathiefromCanada instant analysis and one WTF moment:
The Winnah!! -- The CBC "At Issue" panel (Alan Gregg and Chantal Hebert) thinks Martin won by not losing, and the CTV Ottawa bureau chief Craig Oliver thinks Harper won by not losing. CTV's instant poll had Harper winning the debate, while Martin won the "Which leader would make the best prime minister" question. Go figure!
The Difference -- As much as Mike Duffy's CTV panel tried to blather about how the debate wasn't going to make any difference, I did think that the divisions between how the Conservatives would run the country, and how the Liberals would do it, were made clearer. Gregg and Hebert both agreed that the race is wide-open now, and we'll see a lot of campaigning in the next two weeks, particularly in Ontario.
The WTF Moment -- Did anyone else notice this? At one point near the end, Harper started to talk about the US-Canada relationship and said that one of the points for discussion should be "monetary union". No one picked up on this -- I think one or two of the others were yapping at the time -- and there is no reference to it in the post-debate news stories. But that's what he said!
UPDATE - hey, POGGE heard it too -- it was in the midst of a health care discussion segment, when they were talking about US corporate health care.

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Yearning for dictatorship? 

Whiskey Bar: Room Service
Wow - here are some prophetic quotes posted by Josh Prophet on Billmon's comments site:
"'You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.' Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas. Governing Magazine 7/98.
'I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator,' Bush joked. CNN.com, December 18, 2000
'A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it, ' [Bush] said. Business Week, July 30, 2001.
Is this what the republicans mean about being "on message"?

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"He looked frightened." 

Torture and Rumors of Torture: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal:
I'm reprinting most of this post, which consists of notes taken by writer Rick Pearlstein of a talk given by Seymour Hersh at the University of Chicago:
He asserted several things that he says he didn't have nailed down enough to write, but that he was confident of.... [snip]He connected the dots, and spoke of the CIA secret prisons we haven't heard about yet: 'We're basically in the disappearing business.' He made the first of several criticisms of our humble profession: 'there's no learning curve in America. There's no learning curve in the press corps.'... Unsurprisingly, he flagged the extraordinary importance of the WSJ memo revealing the government's plans to torture, including its assertion that it's not against the law if the president approves it, and mocked the New York Times headline "9 Militias Are Said to Approve a Deal to Disband," suggesting in its stead, "Bush Administration Offers Hoax in Hopes of Convincing U.S. There's Some Peace." His assessment of the postwar settlement: "It's going to come down to who has the biggest militia will win."... [snip] "NATO's falling apart in Afghanistan now." And this was one of the most stunning parts. He had just returned from Europe, and he said high officials, even foreign ministers, who used to only talk to him off the record or give him backchannel messages, were speaking on the record that the next time the U.S. comes to them with intelligence, they'll simply have no reason to believe it.... He lamented of his journalistic colleagues, "I don't know whey they don't just tell it like it is."... He said the people most horrified by the way the war was planned were the military commanders responsible for protecting their troops.... He talked about the horror of the 1000 civilian deaths in Fallujah (but was careful to note the Marines were doing their job, placing the blame with their superiors).... He talked about how hard it is to get the truth out in Republican Washington: "If you agree with the neocons you're a genius. If you disagree you're a traitor." Bush, he said, was closing ranks, purging anyone who wasn't 100% with him. Said Tenet has a child in bad health, has heart problems, and seemed to find him generally a decent guy under unimaginable pressure, and that people told him that Tenet feared a heart attack if he had to take one more grilling from Cheney. "When these guys memoirs come out, it will shock all of us."... He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run." He looked frightened.
And read some of the comments following this post.
Frogsdong, we need your help now, because its either laugh or cry!

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I'd like to see Bush try to take communion! 

This -- Bush Asked for Vatican's Help on Political Issues, Report Says is appalling. Josh Marshall also has some additional detail.
How stupid are the Roman Catholic bishops these days, that they would fall into this kind of trap, and on behalf of such an immoral administration. The bishops tried to pull this in Canada, too, when Chretien moved to support gay marriage, but Chretien shut them up by saying that he governed on behalf of the Canadian people, not on behalf of his religion. And the Canadian media couldn't be tricked into doing some kind of 'communion watch" on Chretien or Martin.
But I wonder if Bush is now going to start listening when the Pope says the Iraq War is immoral -- and I wonder just when Bush is going to say mea culpa for all those executions in Texas -- and I wonder what guidance Bush will be seeking from the Pope in determining whether its OK for US troops to torture people?

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Sunday, June 13, 2004

I think its priceless 

Kerry, on Radio, Hails Stem Cell Research
So, with all the Reagan tribute stuff on the Bush-Cheney website, with a week of national mourning and wall-to-wall coverage of the Reagan Legacy, etc etc. what's the one thing which his family wants as a permanent, lasting memorial? Approval of stem-cell research to investigage and perhaps cure Alzheimers.
And what's the one thing that the Bush Republicans dare not approve, because their religious right base think it is murder? Stem-cell research. And what's one thing that Kerry, the evil democrat, is promising? Stem-cell research. So I presume the Reagans will be campaigning for Kerry now?

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Here's two questions 

U.S. responsible for global crisis, Annan says
Reading this story, two questions occured to me:
If Brian Mulroney had been Secretary-General, would he have handled the Iraq crisis the same way Annan did?
And would the Bush administration have been more likely to have listened to him?

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How could they do this to the dogs, not to mention the people? 

Use of dogs to scare prisoners was approved Its funny, but sometimes people will get more outraged about abuse of animals than of people -- so maybe THIS will finally outrage the US radio-talk-show hosts who think Abu Ghraib was a fraternity hazing.
This is so cruel for the dogs, who naturally love and respect people. This is animal abuse, as well as prisoner abuse -- how could any responsible handler allow his dog to be used this way? Good for dog handler Kimbro that he wouldn't allow it.
We have two dogs now, yellow labs, and their trusting good natures would be ruined if they ever were encouraged to attack people. Actually, I'm not sure you could get a yellow lab to attack a person, no matter what the provocation.
Compare this miserable story to the stories of how many dogs gave their lives following 9/11, when they got so ill from the dust as they searched for survivors but they wouldn't quit. And in Oklahoma City, I've read that the rescue dogs were getting so depressed and unhappy about not finding any survivors that their handlers had to set up some fake "survivors" for the dogs to find. That's just the way dogs are.

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

So what else is the US Justice Department doing? 

Terror suspect freed: documents I'm beginning to wonder about the US Justice Department. This is a department with a proud history -- they won civil rights cases against Klansmen when nobody believed it could be done. But under Ashcroft, there's something bizarre going on here -- they're spending their time developing justifications for torture instead of dealing with real cases. They demand that the Patriot Act be extended, but they don't even seem to be trying to convict anyone of terrorism in court -- they're either just locking them up without a trial, or shipping them out of the country.
A couple of years ago, they did prosecute the Lackawanna Six though it is still unclear whether they really had a case, or whether the guilty pleas were just the result of government threats -- and there's been the shoebomber case and that case against the Canadian fellow running the arms training camp, which was laughable, but that's all I can remember reading about.
So is it that these lawyers and prosecutors are so incompetent that they couldn't win a case? I cannot believe they wouldn't get convictions -- the US is so scared of terrorism, a jury would convict even if the evidence is difficult or complex or has a few holes.
More logically, I suspect, they haven't been able to gather any actual evidence of terrorism against these people, just a bunch of hearsay and rumour and profiling -- but they followed the political bidding to make some high-profile 'show" arrests anyway because everyone believes there are terrorists hiding around every corner.
In searching for "terrorist convictions" by Google, I came across this December 2003 press release from the ACLU, which said:
. . . more than half of all 879 terrorism or anti-terrorism-classified convictions since 9/11 resulted in no jail time. Only 23 convicts received sentences of five years or more . . . since 9/11, 80 international terrorism convictions resulted in no jail time and 91 received sentences of less than a year (suggesting) that even successful prosecutions that the government claims are linked to terrorism are for very minor crimes . . . the ACLU said, the report raises serious questions about the premise of the Justice Department’s post-9/11 focus on preemption and prevention: how does aggressively prosecuting alleged terrorists who do not end up behind bars contribute to the interdiction of terrorist acts?
And I found the April, 2004 issue of the Atlantic with this short article about how the Justice Department defines terrorism:
In the two-year period following the World Trade Center attacks, federal investigative agencies referred significantly more cases classified as "terrorism" (3,500) to prosecutors than in the two years prior to the attacks. More such cases (730) were also prosecuted, and more convictions were won (341). Yet during the two years after the attacks, only sixteen people were sentenced to five years or more in prison for terrorism—fewer than during the two years preceding 9/11. Moreover, this "terrorist" tally includes not only the would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid but also such threats to national security as a Georgia man who detonated a pipe bomb in his girlfriend's empty car and a Texas man who conspired from his prison cell to assassinate a federal judge. Other facts cast additional doubt on the efficacy of the Justice Department's wide net: for instance, federal prosecutors deemed only 41 percent of the terrorism referrals they received worth pursuing (whereas 68 percent of all criminal cases referred to the department were prosecuted); and the majority of terrorism convictions (276 out of 341) resulted in no prison at all or sentences of less than a year. Even among those convicted within the narrower category of "international terrorism," the median sentence was fourteen days—the stuff of traffic violations, not al-Qaeda operations.
Not very impressive, is it? Back in the 50s, Americans convinced themselves there were communists in every closet, just waiting to pounce. Are 'terrorists lurking around every streetcorner' just the same myth?
UPDATE: And maybe the myth also explains the memos -- imagine the frenzy these attorneys and prosecutors and FBI and CIA must feel when they just "know" the US is harbouring terrorists, terrorists everywhere, yet they just can find any, or get anyone to admit knowing one or helping one? So they start thinking that maybe with a little "persuasion" they'll find all the terrorist cells . . . and suddenly there they are, having a Pinochet Moment as they justify the righteousness of beatings, dog attacks and electrodes.

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Keep on truckin' Martha 

Stewart seeks new trial, citing witness I think Stewart deserves a new trial -- as I recall her trial last winter, there was no smoking gun. It was the cumulative weight of the circumstantial government case that convinced jurors to convict -- that, and their resentment at her "rich bitch" lifestyle. Personally I don't think she should have been found guilty. But anyway, the fraudulent ink testimony went a long way toward creating the appearance that Stewart was lying. Good luck, Martha.


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Moral choices 

Great column THE GHOST OF TET - Like Vietnam, Iraq was never the media’s to lose.
by Matt Taibbi refuting conservative arguments that Americans are spineless losers.
Let's get something straight. The people who marched against the Vietnam War were not holding signs that said, 'We Can't Win!' They called for withdrawal, both before and after Tet, because they came to believe that the war was wrong. [emphasis mine] They protested not because our saturation bombing of the North and our Phoenix assassination programs and our toxic defoliating campaigns in the South were ineffective. They protested because they were effective, because they killed so many people so efficiently . . . .America would never have considered giving up after Tet if Vietnam had been a moral war. We would have fought to the last man no matter what setbacks came our way. We would do so now in Iraq."
For some mindsets, a war is neither moral nor immoral, its just winnable or not. Winning, in this way of thinking, is a justification in itself for the war. Taibbi is pointing out that Americans are capable of making a moral judgment about a war regardless of how many soldiers are dying.
When the history of this war is written, I hope the behaviour of the US commands in Fallujah, Najaf and Sadr City will be shown for the act of humanity I think it was. Now, this is my evaluation from thousands of miles away, only reading news stories, but it appears to me that the US soldiers who could have "conquered" these cities decided that killing thousands of Iraqis to do so would be an immoral act, a crime against humanity --and indeed history would have seen it that way. In pulling back they ultimately put their own soldiers at risk, because these cities are now "free zones" where resistance fighters prepare more bombs and attacks. The Marines, I think, knew this would happen, but they negotiated a settlement and pulled back anyway because the alternative was too horrible for a moral person to stomach.
I wonder what these soldiers think of the Pentagon chickenhawks who write quibbling memos justifying torture -- of course, it isn't them or their children who are at risk of being tortured in return, it is these young men who are now fighting this war for them in Iraq, and who are making the hard choices that the Pentagon and administration leadership are apparently too chicken-hearted to make.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

What you see is what you get 

So much for the "hidden" agenda.
If Canadians elect Harper as Prime Minister, it won't be because they don't know what he will do. Council of Canadians chair Marg Barlow quote from several recent Harper speeches in Harper, a Bush in Tory clothing and concudes "Stephen Harper is a pro-American hawk . . . Under a Harper government, Canada would lose the right to set its own labour, environmental and security standards. Most disturbing is his proposal to negotiate international trade agreements with the very superpower whose corporations want to come to Canada and deliver our public services on a for-profit basis. Stephen Harper has also called for a continental energy strategy . . "
So lets add it up:
1. Harper supports aligning our security, military, and immigration standards with the Bush administration (the ones who think the president can ignore US laws if he thinks there is a bogeyman under his bed.)
2. Harper wouldn't stop his caucus from making it more difficult for women to have abortions
3. He will let his caucus change the law so that discrimination based on sexual orientation is OK
4. He will withdraw the gay marriage law from the Supreme Court and possibly end up using the notwitstanding clause to outlaw gay marriage
5. Again, if his caucus pushes it, he would allow changes to the Official Languages Act,which will alienate Quebec.
All of this is now quite clear, thanks to the verbal slip-ups of Conservative MPs and Harper's own speeches.
And, as is also quite clear, he's not much of a leader -- he cannot or will not control his caucus no matter what outrageous, hurtful, divisive things they say.
So if Canadians vote for him now, they know exactly what they will get.
The tragedy is, maybe this is what they want.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Bush, have you no shame? 

NOW do you get it? Now do you see why the bloggers listed on this page, joined by other bloggers from all over the world, have been ranting and raving about the Bush administration? The DOJ memos turn the American constitution inside out in attempting to provide so-called legal cover to justify government by presidential decree and justice by torture.
The Washington Post editorial Legalizing Torture thunders "There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments.(emphasis mine).
It continues " Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of 'national security.' For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy . . . "
The "bad apples" are in the Department of Justice and in the White House.
UPDATE -- I changed the headline from "America" to "Bush", when comments rightfully pointed out that more than half the country voted AGAINST this guy, and millions of Americans are working hard to get rid of him. Go for it, people!

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Gone with the Wind 

Back in March, I proposed a reissue of Young Frankenstein starring our favourite gang of Washington idiots.
Now, our election campaign is starting to remind me of Gone with the Wind (which just about describes the Liberal majority, I think) -- and how about this casting:
Stephen Harper as Scarlett: "As God is my witness, I'll never be seatless again."
Paul Martin as Gerald: "Do you mean to tell me that . . . land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts." (and remember, Gerald was the one who fell off his horse while jumping a fence.)
Jack Layton as (I just can't resist it) Miss Prissy: "Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies."
And how about Duceppe as Ashley: "Dreams, dreams, always dreams with you, never common sense."
Who else but Chretien as Rhett Butler: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Now, the one I'm stuck on is who should play Mammy: "It ain't fittin'... it ain't fittin'. It jes' ain't fittin'... It ain't fittin'."

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Monday, June 07, 2004

"Event management"? 

Bada bing, bada boom Well, it was a satisfying last episode, many loose ends wrapped up -- this MSNBC story hits most of the high points, except one -- Tony and Carm's reaction to the idea of AJ going into "event management" as a career.
This subtle scene was just so typical of what parents of teenagers go through. Over several AJ fuck-up episodes, they've come to grips with the fact that AJ likely won't achieve the conventional professional career they imagined (and, little do they know, but darling Meadow isn't quite the angel they think she is, either; both AJ and Meadow have demonstrated an inborn ability to follow their father's footsteps.) Then they find out he actually earned $300 organizing a slightly-illegal party. Tony's initial reaction to the event management idea is that maybe its 'kinda gay, isn't it?' But finally, as they ruefully agree, at least he's interested in SOMETHING, maybe its not so bad after all, yeah, OK, I guess -- and both heir faces show the perfect combination of befuddlement and hope that all us parents feel when our children turn out to be the kind who march to their own drummer.
All in all, a satisfying season-ender.

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Strike Three (or maybe four) 

A week ago was Strike Two -- the double-barreled day when Conservative MPs said the languages act should be repealed and women's access to abortion should be hampered. Now here comes Strike Three -- Conservative MP slips on party's hate law view with Gallant saying that hate speech about sexual orientation should not be a crime. (Maybe its actually Strike Four, because I missed the remark from a conservative candidate about bringing back capital punishment, though in this case, the remark was not made by a sitting MP)
And once again, her party is saying its nothing, really, we didn't really mean it, just ignore it, no problem here -- "A party spokesperson said Gallant's comments were incorrect, and the Conservatives were not planning to move to repeal the act. Conservative House leader John Reynolds told CTV's Question Period that Gallant was expressing her own beliefs, which she is free to do. "During a campaign, candidates are going it make comments. These things happen," he said. "Candidates will say things for whatever reason in their own riding. But it's not a major issue with our party." Reynolds added that the party does not intend to seek to repeal the law."
Now the question has to be -- how much of a leader are you, Mr. Harper, when the members of your caucus can keep telling reporters what laws they intend to pass if they are elected, and these apparently aren't the laws that you yourself support?

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

We hardly knew ye 

I've been thinking about the thousands and thousands of US war casualties, lying in Walter Reed hospital or at home trying to put their lives back together, hearing all the D-Day coverage.
And I was reminded of this song, one of the great anti-war songs from Ireland. Click on the link and then on the song title to hear the music.
Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

While goin' the road to sweet Athy,
hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy,
hurroo, hurroo
While goin' the road to sweet Athy,
A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye,
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Chorus:
With your guns and drums and drums and guns,
hurroo, hurroo
With your guns and drums and drums and guns,
hurroo, hurroo
With your guns and drums and drums and guns,
The enemy nearly slew ye
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
Johnny I hardly knew ye.

Where are your eyes that were so mild,
hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild,
hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild,
When my heart you so beguiled
Why did ye run from me and the child
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

Where are your legs that used to run,
hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run,
hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run,
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

I'm happy for to see ye home,
hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home,
hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see ye home,
All from the island of Sulloon;
So low in flesh, so high in bone
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye

They're rolling out the guns again,
hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again,
hurroo, hurroo
They're rolling out the guns again,
But they never will take our sons again
No they never will take our sons again
Johnny I'm swearing to ye


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Good for the Anglicans 

Its not the complete endorsement it might have been, but the Anglican Church took a bold stop forward by recognizing the "integrity and sancity" of same-sex relationships - Anglican measure recognizes same-sex alliances This took courage. Good for them.

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Cutsey headline, boring story 

More gonzo journalism. This cutsey headline Liberal team running out of gas? is followed by this so-called news story:
Reporters used to kicking up dust around the prime minister were left sputtering in dust of their own Sunday. Two media buses accompanying Paul Martin through France were at the tail end of a motorcade going 150 kilometres an hour, accompanied by gendarmes on motorcycles. They were on the way from Juno Beach to Caen, the military base where reporters were to catch a plane back to Ottawa. But the second bus couldn't keep up. It had to pull out of the motorcade and into a gas station when the fuel light indicator came on. Reporters had been with Martin on the beaches of Normandy to commemorate Canada's contribution to D-Day.
That's it -- the whole story. Whenever did reporters get the idea that, on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Canadians deserved a story about how a bus full of reporters ran out of gas -- well, it didn't actually run out of gas, just had to stop FOR gas. And this was in France, not in Canada, but we need to blame the Liberals for it anyway though it wasn't even their bus. But what's the difference when a headline is at stake?

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Some questions about the Conservative platform 

Here is the Liberal Platform, and here is the ConservativePlatform Its hard to make comparisons because the Liberal platform provides 10 times the detail, including lengthy discussions of policy frameworks within which the liberals have already developed legislation and initiatives, and say they will develop more.
As for the Conservatives, their platform is a series of bullet points, which give short shrift to a series of regional and national issues, but which sometimes highlight bizarre specifics ("natural health products"?) Its unclear the extent to which these promises are meaningful because the overall framework within which the Conservative would implement these ideas sometimes hasn't been articulated.
For example, the Conservative platform says things like this:
• Ensure fairness in party nomination and leadership races [where did this come from and what does it mean? Surely the parties can do what they will in this regard.]
• Support Canada’s farmers, fishers, and forestry workers. [Seven words -- no other mention of agriculture, fishing and forestry. Why are all of these lumped together? Are farmers, with hundreds of thousands invested in land and machinery, and fishermen, who also have thousands invested in their equipment and licenses, actually the equivalent of forestry workers? And I could find no other reference to agriculture anywhere in the platform.]
• Improve access to new drugs and natural health products. ["Natural health products?" why would this be a national priority?]
• Work to improve economic and social conditions for aboriginal Canadians. [Other than these 10 words, I could find no other reference to First Nations in the platform.]
• Become an environmental world leader by focusing on clean air, clean water, clean land, and clean energy. [no specifics, just this 17 word sound bite - and what the heck is "clean land"?]
• Protect our children by eliminating legal loopholes for child pornography. [what loopholes? this panders to the base but doesn't actually mean anything]
• Build a more constructive partnership with our major allies and trading partners
and enhance the North American trade relationship. [The Globe said this means some kind of customs union - does it?]
• Implement a Made in Canada foreign policy. [what do these seven words mean? What have we had up to now? Its the Liberals who kept us out of Iraq, when Harper would have supported Bush.]

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Leadership 

In response to comments on my previous post, I wanted to do a follow-up on my thinking about leadership.
First, I think of Reagan now exactly the same way I thought of him when he was alive -- death doesn't deify someone. He got elected because America blamed Carter for the hostages being held in Iran. And previously, Carter got elected because America was ashamed of Ford, who pardoned Nixon -- and Nixon got elected because America was mad at Johnson and the Democrats over Vietnam.
Actually, looking back on it, the elections of Kennedy, Bush the Elder, and Clinton were the only ones in the last half-century where the candidate was elected primarily on his own merits, not as a reaction to the foul-ups of the previous administration.
But I digress . . . my point is this:
Leaders of countries, however they come into power, absolutely have to understand their leadership role. When they don't, bad things always happen.
The role of an elected leader is to decide what is important and to focus on it. Exerting leadership day-to-day is a balancing act between belief and reality -- the leader has to have goals in which he believes, but also has to adjust to the situation in which he finds himself. This means he sometimes has to jettison a goal if he cannot convince his electorate to support it. The leader must attract and hire people who are smarter than he is, and give them enough authority to do their best work. But he still has to provide enough supervision and direction that they will respect his agenda and not replace it with their own.
Kennedy understood this, and so did Bush the Elder and Clinton. They let their cabinet and military and White House aides do much of the decision-making. But if these people started to swerve off the rails, the president knew enough about each decision that he could step in and get the train back onto the tracks. Perhaps, come to think of it, it was this inherent leadership ability that enabled these men to get elected on their own merits in the first place.
Reagan didn't have it -- he surrounded himself with people who were supposedly smarter than he was, who did all sorts of bad things to enrich themselves and their friends because he wasn't paying attention. Carter didn't have it either -- he didn't trust anyone in Washington, having run as a populist, and so he tried to do everything himself and buried himself in detail. Johnson let the joint chiefs run Vietnam while he focused on doing good for America, but the bad decisions they made on Vietnam ran his presidency into the ground. Nixon was reelected by allowing his aides to develop a culture of dirty tricks, an approach that showed his basic disrespect for the American people -- an attitude which became, ultimately, his downfall. Their stories are instructive.
Bush the Younger is now in trouble because he believed his own press clippings, which told him that he was a moral beacon of light for America but so ignorant of government and foreign affairs that he needed older, supposedly wiser heads to tell him what to do. Well, they did. And what a mess they have made of it. Now, as Joe Klein writes in Time, Bush is too ensnared by his own ideology to accept this or to deal with it. Klein writes "The world might have more confidence in the judgment of this President if he weren't always bathed in the blinding glare of his own certainty."



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Reagan's legacy 

I seem to have spent today finding great things to quote that other people wrote.
Here's another one: Whiskey Bar: Ronald Reagan Billmon writes about Reagam's foreign policy:
Reagan's foreign policies . . . still make my blood boil. . . His decision to challenge the Soviets on every front - which, given the senility and paranoia of the Breshnev-era Soviet leadership, could easily have led to war - is, of course, relentlessly promoted by the conservative propaganda machine as the masterstroke that ended the Cold War. In reality, it was the end of the Cold War (made possible by Mikhail Gorbachov's rise to power) that headed off the disaster that Reagan's recklessness might otherwise have triggered.
The legacy of Reagan's policies in the Middle East, meanwhile, are still being paid for - in blood. The cynical promotion of Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the alliance of convenience with Saddam Hussein against Iran, the forging of a new 'strategic relationship' with Israel, the corrupt dealings with the House of Saud, and . . . the weakeness and indecision of his disastrous intervention in Beruit - all of these helped set the stage for what the neocons now like to call World War IV, and badly weakened the geopolitical ability of the United States to wage that war.
But all this pales in comparison to Reagan's war crimes in Central America. We'll probably never know just how stained his hands were by the blood of the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of defenseless peasants who were slaughtered in the Guatemalan highlands, or the leftist politicians, union leaders and human rights activists kidnapped and killed by the Salvadoranian death squads, or the torturned in Honduran prisons, or terrorized by his beloved contras. . . Looking back, it's also easy to see the propaganda connections between Reagan's war in Central America and the current Orwellian nightmare in Iraq. There were the same moral oversimplications - pure goodness versus absolute evil - the same flowerly rhetoric about freedom and democracy (to be administred to impoverished campesinos with machine guns and torture chambers.) There was the same lurid hype about the dire danger to the homeland - as when Reagan famously warned that Nicaragua was just a "two-day drive from Harlington, Texas." And of course, we're even looking at some of the same actors - Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, Colin Powell. To a large degree, the Reagan administration's covert wars in both Central America and the Middle East formed the template for how the war in Iraq was packaged, sold and - unfortunately - fought.
. . . The ritual deification of Ronald Reagan has become one of the essential bonds that holds the modern Republican Party together . . . the tremendous conservative nostalgia for Ronald Reagan is a sign of a movement that is, if not in decline, then poised on the cusp of it. It's an implicit admission that the golden age, when a conservative ideologue like Reagan could win the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans (and not just the instinctual cultural loyalty of red state America) has passed away.
The contrast with Bush the younger - desperately scrambling to avoid defeat in a bitterly polarized electorate - is painfully clear. In it's obsessive desire to glorify Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement is retreating psychologically into its own past. It's a sign that the political era that opened the night Reagan was elected may also be nearing its end. To which I can only say: Rest in peace.

My own memory of the Reagan era was that it was on his watch that the US lost its cities -- US cities (New York, LA, Chicago, Detroit, etc) had been fighting economic disaster all through the 70s, and Reagan's policies which withdrew federal support from things like low-income housing, jobs programs, drug rehab, policing, schools and hospitals tipped them over; youth gangs, crime, poverty and despair overwhelmed city governments across the US. It took years for Clinton's policies to turn the cities around.

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Saturday, June 05, 2004

The end of "the West" as an historical construct 

Good column The Decline of the West By Gwynne Dyer
: I usually find Gwynne Dyer's columns perceptive and interesting. This one is a D-Day retrospective about the differences between Europe and the US, now that the Cold War is over. One example of the contrasts -- Europeans see terrorism as a long-term problem that can do considerable damage and must be contained; Americans (or at least those who set the terms of the public debate) see it as an apocalyptic threat that must be destroyed at any cost. This ind-set fed the Bush administration's instinctive unilateralism and provided a saleable political rationale for the neo-conservatives' project of 'pax americana'. The resulting wars have accomplished in three years what might otherwise have taken fifteen: the Western alliance has been gutted, although the shell remains.

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Agenda vs mission 

Rex Murphy's column Leaders are so-so, so we yo-yoin today's Globe is terrific. I think he hits the nail right on the head
What gains the Tories have made from the Liberal follies and mischief is as much as they are going to make. From here, they have to manufacture new support on their own ground and on their own issues. Which is both an advantage and a threat. Mr. Harper is going to face a real testing. The public in essence will use that testing to answer the question of the election: Should this man and his party be the beneficiary of their anger and disappointment with the Liberals?
It is also the critical point in Paul Martin's campaign. His trip to Normandy for D-Day celebrations will allow for a natural hiatus from the campaign. It will give him the space to start this whole effort anew. Which he has no choice but to do.
He must drop the previous scripts, isolate himself from the campaign mechanics, the dubious artists of spin and campaign management, and speak -- to borrow a phrase -- straight from the heart. Why has he sought this job? What does he, really, want to do with it? Why is Paul Martin running? This is a message that can only come from him.
It is possible for him to earn a second look from the voters, but he has but this one chance to do so. An outburst of authenticity could burn off the smear from the sponsorship mess. It could disentangle him from the McGuinty tax-hike harpoon.
For both leaders, this is the crucial turn of the campaign.
Mr. Harper needs to state his agenda. Mr. Martin needs to state his mission.

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Shorter Christie Blatchford 

Christie Blatchford"I'm pro-choice, of course, but birth control is so easy to get and pregnancy out of wedlock is not shameful anymore, not like it was when I was a girl, so any woman with an unwanted pregnancy these days must be an ignorant slut who deserves to be hassled about having an abortion."


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