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Monday, July 31, 2006

Today's Nelson moment 



Ha ha!
Ross is on holidays, I think, so I am taking the opportunity to note this story - Trade minister acknowledges softwood deal could be 'dead on arrival'
'It is fair to say that if we do not have sufficient buy-in from industry there really isn't an agreement to bring before Parliament,' Emerson said Monday. 'So the first bridge we have to cross is to get the agreement supported by the appropriate number of players in the industry, otherwise you're dead before arrival.'
Yes, we knew that.

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Hezbollah (or Hizbullah or whatever) 

One of my previous posts has quite a discussion going on in Comments about Hezbollah and terrorism and Israel and the whole damn thing. Here is an interesting contribution to that discussion -- Juan Cole's description of how Hezbollah and Al-Quaeda are different:
Western and Israeli pundits keep comparing Hizbullah to al-Qaeda. It is a huge conceptual error. There is a crucial difference between an international terrorist network like al-Qaeda, which can be disrupted by good old policing techniques (such as inserting an agent in the Western Union office in Karachi), and a sub-nationalist movement. Al-Qaeda is some 5,000 multinational volunteers organized in tiny cells.
Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area.
Read the whole article if you can. Cole concludes:
The Israelis cannot win this struggle against a sophisticated, highly organized and well armed subnationalism.
The only practical thing to do when you can't easily beat people into submission is to find a compromise with them that both sides can live with. It will be a hard lesson for both the Lebanese Shiites and the Israelis. But they will learn it or will go on living with a lot of death and destruction.

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Great line of the day 

John at AMERICAblog notes that Mel Gibson has been directing a mini-series about the Holocaust. He suggests some additional directorial pairings:
Black Like Me, by David Duke.
The Harvey Milk Story, by Jesse Helms.
The American Presidents, by Squeekey Fromme.
A Brief History of Time, by George W. Bush.
The Laramie Project, by the Rev. Fred Phelps.
The Wonderful Field of Nursing, by Richard Speck.
Kids Say the Darndest Things, by John Wayne Gacy.
And of course...
The Naked Chef, by Jeffrey Dahmer.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Over-reach 

So Israel is suspending the bombing campaign and withdrawing from a ground offensive -- but its not a cease-fire like the world has been asking for, oh no, not at all.
OK, call it whatever you want. Maybe this debacle will end as incoherently as it began.
Steve Gilliard says:

I can't stress enough how badly this has gone. The IAF [Israel air force] has become renowned for blowing up hospitals. . . . Now, after the inevitable errant bomb, Israel is shamed before the world. . . . Hezbollah has not been much better, but Israel lost the battle of equivency when they tore up gas stations and red cross convoys. Now, Hezbollah's rockets are a footnote to Israel's bombs.
The other losers in this battle are the United Nations, and the United States.
In spite of Kofi Annan's own calls for ceasefire, protesters trashed the UN offices in Beirut and Palestinian gunmen assaulted the UN compound in Gaza City.
And the US government isn't getting any respect these days, either. Lebanon's government reportedly refused to meet with American Secretary of State Condi Rice. And Ireland refused permission for the use of Shannon airport by US planes flying bombs to Israel.
That last one has me shaking my head in disbelief -- Ireland? Telling the big bad United States to PFO?
The Bush administration overreached too -- they seized on the Israel-Hezbollah war as the ideal time to try again to get John Bolton through the Senate. Bad idea.

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Great line of the day 

Watertiger at Firedoglake writes:
If this week proved anything it was that Bush is to Middle East diplomacy what Ted Bundy was to blind dates. Only without the social skills . . . or boyish good looks.

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18 days in July 

Former CIA agent Ray Close describes how close the world is to widespread war in the Middle East:
. . . intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran ... this [is] an exaggerated picture of the real situation [which] contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time . . .
Former CIA agent Larry Johnson provides further details:
I am disturbed to learn that this analysis enjoys so much credibility at the senior levels of the USG [United States government]. This is, of course, the point of view being pushed so hard by both the Israelis and the neocons in Washington.
I was equally upset to hear this view repeated unanimously (and identically) by a variety of people on national TV yesterday, coming from Senators McCain, Schumer, George Allen and John Warner as well as official spokespersons from State and the NSC. It was as if they were all reading from the same artfully crafted briefing sheet . . . It is a dangerously one-sided point of view that furthers Israel's long-standing objective of luring the US into a violent confrontation with Iran. The ultimate consequence could be that everyone in the USG --- Democrats as well as Republicans --- from the President on down --- will, by such dangerously oversimplified logic and careless rhetoric, accelerate America's momentum toward:
(1) officially defining and treating Hizballah's actions against Israel just as if they were atrocities by international terrorism aimed directly at the people of the United States, and thereby:
(2) making it almost inevitable that both political parties in the US will talk themselves into a "moral" commitment to aggressively confront those who encourage, support and harbor Hizballah terrorists (i.e. Syria and Iran), and thereby:
(3) making impossible the establishment of any constructive dialogue with either Iran or Syria in which other critical issues, such as Iraq and nuclear proliferation, for example, might be dealt with by means short of violence. In other words, this widely-supported urban legend is rapidly becoming another potentially disastrous conflation of biased intelligence analysis, simplistic political bombast and lunatic fringe right-wing Christianity that could drive us toward another major military confrontation --- whether or not that was really our carefully considered and intelligently reasoned objective.
I do not think I am overstating the danger here. Once momentum starts moving in that direction, we might soon find ourselves in another situation where stubborn pride, as much as anything else, would make it hard for us to modify our rhetoric and admit our inability and that of our Israeli allies to disarm and dismantle the military arm of Hizballah. It's a proxy war right now, but if our surrogates (the Israelis) fail to achieve their objectives, they will attempt very purposefully to broaden the conflict into a much larger one directly involving the United States and Iran.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Halifax protest 

Hmmm - this is interesting:
Hundreds demonstrated in Halifax on Saturday to condemn Prime Minister Stephen Harper's defence of Israel's attacks on Lebanon . . .
When we were in Halifax, though of course we were there for just for a few days, it struck us as a very pro-military town. So if THEY are protesting, I wonder what the rest of the country thinks...

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Today's pop quiz 

We take as our text a question and the full answer from today's Bush and Blair news conference:

QUESTION: Mr. President, three years ago, you argued that an invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. And yet today there is an Iraqi prime minister who has been sharply critical of Israel. Arab governments, despite your arguments, who first criticized Hezbollah, have now changed their tune. Now they're sharply critical of Israel. And despite from both of you warnings to Syria and Iran to back off support from Hezbollah, effectively, Mr. President, your words are being ignored. So what has happened to America's clout in this region that you've committed yourself to transform?
BUSH: It's an interesting period because, instead of having foreign policies based upon trying to create a sense of stability, we have a foreign policy that addresses the root causes of violence and instability.
For a while, American foreign policy was just, "Let's hope everything is calm" -- kind of, managed calm. But beneath the surface brewed a lot of resentment and anger that was manifested on September the 11th.
And so we've taken a foreign policy that says: On the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short run by being aggressive in chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice.
And make no mistake: They're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for.
In the long term, to defeat this ideology -- and they're bound by an ideology -- you defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.
And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible. And I believe it will happen.
And so what you're seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles.
For example, you know, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them.
And so they respond. They've always been violent.
You know, I hear this amazing kind of editorial thought that says, all of a sudden, Hezbollah's become violent because we're promoting democracy. They have been violent for a long period of time. Or Hamas?
One reason why the Palestinians still suffer is because there are militants who refuse to accept a Palestinian state based upon democratic principles.
And so what the world is seeing is a desire by this country and our allies to defeat the ideology of hate with an ideology that has worked and that brings hope.
And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, that there's other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world.
There's this kind of almost -- kind of a weird kind of elitism that says well maybe -- maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free; maybe it's best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies.
And our foreign policy rejects that concept. And we don't accept it. And so we're working.
And this is -- I said the other day, when these attacks took place, I said it should be a moment of clarity for people to see the stakes in the 21st century.
I mean, now there's an unprovoked attack on a democracy. Why? I happen to believe because progress is being made toward democracies.
And I believe that -- I also believe that Iran would like to exert additional influence in the region; a theocracy would like to spread its influence using surrogates.
And so I'm as determined as ever to continue fostering a foreign policy based upon liberty. And I think it's going to work unless we lose our nerve and quit. And this government isn't going to quit.
1. Huh?
2. How many imaginary enemies has Bush got?
3. Do you think he has imaginary friends too?

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Great line of the day 

The Sideshow references this Gore Vidal interview:
I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. . . . This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.
Emphasis mine. I liked the whole interview, but having once worked in advertising and PR, I appreciated this little segue about the advertising industry.

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Kangaroo courts 

It's pretty clear what is going on still with the Guantanamo prosecutions.
For hundreds and hundreds of the people imprisoned at Gitmo, the Bush administration has no evidence of wrongdoing and never did.
I'm not saying they have no "admissable" evidence, as in evidence which under usual rules of courtroom procedure and legal precedent can be admitted into court. I'm saying they haven't got "any" evidence, as in no evidence at all -- just some story, perhaps, that some anonymous neighbour told some soldier years ago and thousands of miles away. Or a personal rival to a tribal chief. Or someone who was driving past a checkpoint at the wrong time. Or trying to hide from a firefight in their front yard.
The thing is, the Bush administration KNOWS this. They KNOW they have locked up hundreds of innocent people. They just cannot admit it to the world -- bad for morale, you know, plus think of how embarassing it would be for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. Can't have that, can we?
So in defiance of what the Supreme Court has been ruling for the last three years, the Bush administration continues to be bound and determined to keep the Gitmo detainees far far away from any actual US judge -- who would take one glance at the story the prosecutors are trying to sell, and would throw it out as a ridiculous tissue of lies and delusion.
Once again we're seeing the Bushies trying to gin up some kind of kangaroo court:
A copy of the draft, obtained this week by The Washington Post and others, explains how the government would create commissions of U.S. military personnel who could impose a penalty of life imprisonment or death based on evidence never disclosed to the accused. Military judges could also exclude defendants from their trials whenever 'necessary to protect the national security.' . . . The draft states that using the federal courts or existing military court-martial procedures to try suspects in the war on terrorism -- described formally as "alien enemy combatants" -- is "impracticable" because they are committed to destroying the country and abusing its legal processes. Routine trial procedures would not work, it states, because suspects cannot be given access to classified information or tried speedily. Service members involved in collecting evidence cannot be diverted from the battlefield to attend trials, and hearsay evidence from "fellow terrorists" is often needed to establish guilt.

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Billmon weeps 

From Billmon, A Blight Unto the Nations:

I've felt many emotions about the Israelis before. I've admired them for their accomplishments -- building a flourishing state out of almost nothing. I've hated them for their systematic dispossession of the Palestinians -- even as they smugly congratulated themselves for being the Middle East's only "democracy." I've pitied them for the cruel fate history inflicted on the Jewish diaspora, respected them for their boldness and daring, honored them for their cultural and intellectual achievements. But the one thing I've never felt, at least up until now, is contempt.
But that is what I'm feeling now. The military and political leaders of the Jewish state are doing and saying things that go way beyond the blustering arrogance of a powerful nation at war. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are behaving like a gang of miltaristic thugs -- whose reply to any criticism or reproach is an expletive deleted and the smash of an iron fist.
The most brutal public example would probably be the suggestion by the Israeli Justice Minister (!) that the IDF now has the world's blessing to simply line up the artillery and turn every village in southern Lebanon into a rubble pile -- lest too much Jewish blood be spilled in the vicious door-to-door fighting required to "make something happen" on the ground.
. . .
I've been watching events in the Middle East off and on for the past 25 years, and I've seen the Israelis get ugly before. But I can't remember a time when I've seen them this ugly . . . Massively disproportionate use of force (as defined in the Geneva Conventions, not the fevered war porn fantasies of Right Blogistan) reprisal terror bombings, an if-it-moves-shoot-it mentality on the ground:
"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing." Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see."
And now a proposal to turn all of southern Lebanon into a free fire zone.
This all might be considered normal military behavior for, oh say, a Bosnian Serb militia captain, circa 1991, but when the political and military leaders of an allegedly civilized state start talking this way, something big is going on, and going wrong. The dehumanization of the enemy (much of the Israeli press routinely uses the word "terrorist" to refer to any Hizbullah fighter or Palestinian militant), combined with the rage and humiliation at not being able to stop the rain of rockets falling on northern Israel, are knocking the props out from under whatever remains of Israel's claim to be different from, and morally superior to, its enemies.
The Israeli national persona has always had a macho swagger to it (it's part of the rationale for the state -- that Jews should be able to act like "normal" masculine hyperpatriots everywhere) but what we're seeing now is something different. It has a nasty edge of hysteria to it, a compulsive need to prove to the Arabs, and the world, that Israel still can and will stomp on anyone who gets in its way. The fact that Hizbullah is now demonstrating the limits of Israeli power -- or rather, the limits on how much Jewish blood the Israeli government is willing to spend to exercise that power -- is only making matters worse. The Israeli leadership elite is starting to sound like the semen-crusted violence addicts at Little Green Footballs. Given how much real violence the generals and politicians can inflict, that's a sobering thought, to say the least.
Combine this with an enormous sense of historic grievance ("Serbs will never be beaten again!" "The Versailles Treaty has shamed the Fatherland!") and a gnawing fear of encirclement, and you've got all the ingredients for a catastrophe, of the kind that could leave the Israelis, and their American patrons, up to their necks in blood -- of the innocent and the guilty alike.
. . .
If there's one thing that should be obvious from this God awful tragedy in the making, it's that history has a savage sense of irony -- cruel and pitiless almost beyond belief. That Israel, haven to Holocaust survivors, should find itself in this situation, and respond to it in this way, is enough to make the very walls of Jerusalem weep. As I weep now.


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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Will they ever learn? 

How can the Democrats argue against Bush's foreign policy if they are willing to go along with his choice for UN ambassador, a man who happens to be one of the architects of that foreign policy?
Guys --- you don't get to be the new ruling party by agreeing with the old ruling party -- why should anyone bother to vote for you if you can't be bothered to take a stand?
AP is reporting that the Democrats just aren't quite sure yet whether they will filbuster John Bolton or not:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has 'not made a decision either way' on calling for a filibuster, his spokesman said.
Political experts said choosing not to filibuster Bolton could be a political tactic in an election year, when Democrats plan to argue the Bush administration has failed at bringing peace to the Middle East and bringing U.S. troops home.
'To turn the issue to a Democratic filibuster, rather than Bush's foreign policy is a mistake,' said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Boston University.
If Bolton is at the United Nations, 'he's someone they can point to' as obstructing real progress, he said.
Seems to me I remember back at the last congressional mid-terms, when the Democrats were just so anxious to get that pesky Iraq vote over with so they could get back to campaigning. The "political experts" were dishing out the same BS then, too, about how argumentative and negative the Dems would look if they didn't vote the way the Republicans wanted them to.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stupidest. Remark. Ever. 

So Harper thinks it was the UN's fault our soldier was killed because he shouldn't have been in the way of Israel's bombs.
Does he think it is Canada's fault that our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, because we shouldn't be putting them into the path of Taliban bullets?

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Great line of the day 

Digby writes:
I have said it before many times and I'll say it again: the neocons have always been wrong about everything. This is just the latest in a decades long series of delusional miscalculations . . . The megalomaniacal belief that if only the Israelis are allowed to "get tough" or the Americans "take it to the Iranians" or whatever other simplistic schoolyard impulses they have been operating under have led us to the point at which the US is taking on the character of a rogue superpower, not a global leader.
. . . it's still hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the most powerful country in the world is being led so incompetently that it simply cannot rise to the occasion when the stakes are so high. I confess that I'm still shocked by that myself, although less so each time we are confronted with a challenge and these neocon magical thinkers automatically default to bellicose trash talk they are unable to back up. This is a very dangerous moment for the world. The US is showing over and over again that it is immmoral and incompetent. That is the kind of thing that leads ambitious, crazy or stupid people to miscalculate and set disasterous events in motion . . .
Words to live by -- the neocons are wrong about everything.

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For its early in the morning that I'm far, far away 


So farewell, farewell
To my Nova Scotia home
For it's early in the morning
That I'm far, far away *

I just heard the 6 am plane flying overhead, and realized it was three weeks ago today that my husband and I were on that very plane, as we began our trip to the Maritimes.
We had a terrific time, too -- what a beautiful part of Canada.
I'm not sure if our 10-day Maritimes trip quite make up for the three weeks in England that we missed in March because of my car accident, but it was pretty close, really.
If we had known then what we know now, we would have booked more time in Prince Edward Island - four days was not enought. Because we had lived on the west coast for several years, we found the geography of Nova Scotia very similar but we thought PEI was unique.
One very notable thing we noticed about the Maritimes that I must comment on -- how very proud the people there are of their home and their place in Canada.
Though Nova Scotia and PEI have both had tough times economically, just like the Prairies have, no one there is apologizing -- I don't think it would ever occur to them to be apologetic about where they come from. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and they love their home.
In the Maritimes, they appear to accept that of course many of their young people will go off to take jobs elsewhere, for a few years at least -- there are direct flights now between St. Johns, NFLD, and Fort McMurray, Alta -- but everyone also seems to agree that the Maritimes are the best place in Canada and therefore no one would ever want to leave if they didn't have to.
Such a contrast to the Saskatchewan attitude -- maybe its partly because we live next door to the Alberta economic powerhouse, but here in Saskatchewan we too often feel slightly apologetic, as though just because the Saskatchewan economy isn't as large as Alberta's, it means that Saskatchewan doesn't really quite measure up in some way.
We don't show our pride in our province often enough, I think, maybe because we take our province for granted and we don't realize how much we have here to be proud of.
Being in the Maritimes, even for just a short time, made me realize how we need to wear our Saskatchewan hearts on our sleeves, too.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Unfriendly fire 


Reuters reports that the UN post where four UN observers were killed, including a Canadian soldier, was deliberately targeted by the Israelis:
. . . Kofi Annan [said] "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a U.N. Observer post in southern Lebanon" . . . "This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire," . . . The U.N. force commander in southern Lebanon, General Alain Pelligrini had been in repeated contact with Israeli officers throughout the day, stressing the need to protect that particular U.N. position from attack, he said . . . There had been 14 incidents of firing close to the outpost from Israeli forces in the afternoon before it was hit, U.N. officials said, adding that the firing continued even as rescue operations were under way.
The Vancouver Sun is reporting that the Canadian was a soldier from the Princess Pats. The Sun story also notes that Kofi Annan's statement was mocked by Israel's UN ambassador:
Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, expressed his "deep regret" for the deaths and denied Israel hit the post intentionally. "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the hasty statement of the secretary general, insinuating that Israel has deliberately targeted the UN post," he said, calling the assertions "premature and erroneous."
Billmon says:
If you really are looking to encourage NATO peacekeepers to plunk their behinds down in southern Lebanon, this ain't the right way to do it . . .
Shrub: Shit. A Canadian? Tell Laura to send Harper a crate of maple syrup or something.

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Shorter Rush 

Rush Limbaugh riffs about William Buckley and ends with this priceless bit of military analysis:
. . . It was easier in the old days when nobody saw this stuff. Nobody saw 92,000 battle fatalities in the Pacific theater in World War II, and nobody saw the million and a half Japanese deaths so it was easier to do. It's a different set of circumstances today, and it results in the United States and its allies not using the full force of the power that we are able to project in order to appease. You get caught up and worried about what other people think of you and world opinion and so forth and you're going to get hamstrung, and we're hamstrung, precisely where we are.
Shorter Rush:
If we could only get rid of the media, then we could nuke the Middle East back to the Stone Age -- because nobody cares about war crimes if nobody sees it happening.

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Another great line 

I know I shouldn't post too many "great line" posts, but I just cannot resist this one -- Dave at Galloping Beaver begins his post on Peter MacKay with this great line:
Peter MacKay is either a liar or the stupidest foreign affairs minister Canada has ever had. Anyone who can make Lloyd Axeworthy look good deserves nothing less than a good swat across the back of the head and then immediate dismissal.
Emphasis mine.

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Being unpopular has its advantages 

Well, the fact that the Afghanistan troop deployment is increasingly unpopular with Canadians may not bring any troops back from Afghanistan, but at least it may prevent Peter MacKay from promising to join the Rice-capades and send any Canadian troops to Lebanon at the Rome summit.

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Great line of the day 

Billmon writes about how Arab countries in the Middle East are lining up with Hezbollah:
Those who thought it might turn out otherwise . . . probably should have remembered the old Arab proverb: My brother and me against my cousins, my cousins and me against my village, my village and me against my tribe, my tribe and me against the world.
That's not an Arab or a Muslim thing, really -- just basic human psychology. And it appears that in the concentric circles of Middle East loyalties, Sunni versus Shi'a is still trumped by Arab versus Jew, believer versus infidel and (it would appear) tough Islamic fighters versus corrupt pro-U.S. elites.
The "new" Middle East, in other words, still looks a lot like the old one.
Emphasis mine.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Painting the roses red 

So Condi is off to paint the roses red for George in the Middle East.
She's not actually going to do anything there to stop the war.
She's just going to talk a lot of Christian Fundamentalist code about birth pangs for a new Middle East -- you know, the one George Bush thinks is rising from the ashes of Iraq -- and chatter about the mytical pan-Arab coalition that George wants her to create:

. . . Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state, who is due to travel to Israel tomorrow and then to Rome on Wednesday for talks with United Nations, European and Arab officials, has said she will not call for an immediate ceasefire.
'She's not going to come home with a ceasefire but stronger ties to the Arab world,' said a senior official. 'It's going to allow us to say that America isn't going to put up with this and we have Arab friends that are against you terrorists. What we want is our Arab allies standing against [Shia] Hezbollah and against Iran, since there is no one who doesn't think Iran is behind this. We're going to say to Hezbollah and the terrorist groups, 'This will not stand.'
'That is the way to bring real change to the Middle East. If you just have a ceasefire then, sooner or later, they go back to fighting.'
The 'Arab umbrella' policy is accompanied by largely uncritical support for Israel. . .
Let a smile be your umbrella, Beruit.
And don't miss Billmon's take on the Orwellian implications of all this.

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I read the news today oh boy 

Three comments worth reading -- and the emphasis in these quotes is mine.
Digby:
[Quoting from Dowd]
Having inadvertently built up Iran with his failures in Iraq, W. is eager now to send Iran a shock-and-awe message through Israel.
I honestly think that last is part of what's motivating the warmongers. As with their last epic failure, Vietnam, they believe their hands have been tied by a bunch of liberal generals and a pansy-ass populace who refuse to let them fight the way they need to fight. They see the Israelis as their personal Rottweilers and they want to let them off the chain. The Israelis should ask themselves if they really want to do George W. Bush's dirty work for him. I continue to suspect they did not expect that the US would give them the green light on this (it is insane, after all) and now they have no face saving way out. America did not do its job and now things are deteriorating beyond anyone's control.
Steve Gilliard:
The problem is that Israel cannot stay in South Lebanon. They can bomb, but they cannot stay. And as long as Hezbollah stays in the field, they win.
Israel is frustrated, 50 years of war does that. They want peace and the calculation is that if they crush Hezbollah with shock and awe, they can win.
Some people are wondering when Hezbollah strikes at the US. My bet is that CNN and the BBC are doing a far better job of undermining Israel than a bomb would. Lebanon was at peace, this is like bombing and invading Cancun in mid-winter.
One of the things which is immediately apparent is that Israel is losing the media war. . . . Despite it's capacity for violence, Hezbollah is being treated with a level of respect no Arab state fighting Israel has ever gotten. You are hearing normal people testify to the good works of the Hezbollah quasi-state . . .
The Western public is getting a new view of Israel and the Arabs, and if the Israelis had a clue beyond bombing TV towers, they wouldn't drop another bomb in Beirut and stop shooting up convoys and gas stations. Because you have American reporters running from Israel bombs and American citizens trapped there and Hezbollah is getting a hearing. And that has already forced Bush's hand in sending Condi.
Israel and Bush bet they could destroy Hezbollah with shock and awe. That isn't happening. So what do they do next?
Juan Cole:
Because of their fetish for states, the Neoconservatives of the Bush administration are unable to see that the Levant and points east are now the province of militia-parties that dominate localities and wield asymmetrical paramilitary force in such a way as to stymie states . . . Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and other groups in Gaza and the West Bank, al-Qaeda/ radical Bedouins in the Sinai, the Muslim Brotherhood in some Sunni areas of Syria, the tribes and gangs of Maan in Jordan, the Peshmerga of the Kurds, the guerrilla groups of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, Badr Corps and Marsh Arabs of the Iraqi Shiites, the Basij and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iran, the party-tribes of Afghanistan--whether the Tajik Jami'at-i Islami or the Pushtun Taliban--and the biradaris and ethnic mafias of Pakistan, are all arguably as significant actors as states, and often more significant. . . . The transition under American auspices of Iraq from a strong if odious central state to equally odious militia rule and chaotic violence is only the most obvious example of this process. More people have been killed in terror attacks in Iraq every month since February than were killed on September 11, 2001 in the US . . . Condi Rice echoes the old Neocon theory of "creative chaos" when she confuses the Lebanon war with "the birth pangs" of a "new" Middle East. The chief outcome of the "war on terror" has been the proliferation of asymmetrical challengers. Israel's assault on the very fabric of the Lebanese state seems likely to weaken or collapse it and further that proliferation. Since asymmetrical challengers often turn to terrorism as a tactic, the "war on terror" has been . . . the most efficient engine for the production of terrorism in history.

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Culture of life 

What Americans really think about Bush's stem cell veto and all his pious 'culture of life' BS:

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Great line of the day 

Basketballer Charles Barkley: "I was a Republican until they lost their minds."

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Is she out of her mind? 

So Rice thinks she can put together a new Coalition of the Shilled to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon?:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she wants a "robust'' international military force to try to oust Hezbollah forces from southern Lebanon, as she prepares to leave on a diplomatic mission to the region next week.
Oh, get real, Condi.
No one is going to follow the US and Israel down that rabbit hole.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Laugh du jour 

The Poorman posts three great YouTube videos at I am insane -- the second one is particularly hysterical.

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Scared yet? 

First, here's the setup, a transcript from the G8 microphone transcript:
The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.
Bush: "Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?
Bush: "This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?"
Reply is inaudible.
Bush: "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."
At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.
Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home."
He turns his attention to a server.
Bush: "No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke."
He turns back to whomever he was talking with.
Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China."
Now, here is what Cenk at The Young Turks has to say about this:
. . . Can anyone now credibly claim that Bush is secretly working on a master plan behind the scenes and that he's just playing cowboy for the cameras? I hope the master plan doesn't involve figuring out how long it takes to get to China . . . In the old empires, there would be a lot of marriages between the royal families. And from time to time, these inter-family marriages would produce a mentally challenged son who would inherit the throne. This would set the empire back for hundreds of years. I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying. Russia is big and so is China . . . We have third grader for a President. And worse yet, the Vice President has him convinced he is the second coming of Winston Churchill. Scared yet?
Oh. Dear. God.
Don't push the red button, Georgie. Mommy won't like it if you push the red button. All your little friends might get hurt . . .

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Friday dog blogging 

I had some frames left on the roll I took of our trip, so I was able to take some dog photos this week.
Here is Chillou, in a nanosecond when he was sitting like a good dog:


And here is Charlie (blue collar)and Chillou (red collar) playing in the back yard:

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A proxy war? 

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that someone isn't really out to get you.
So it is paranoid to think that the Bush administration may be thinking it could use Israel's war on Hezbollah to provoke war against Iran?
I'm spending the day reading stuff here and there about Iran and Iraq and Shiites and Sunnis and who is doing what to whom all through the Middle East, and about the neocon eagerness for World War Three , and what Bush is doing or not doing, and the Republicans thinking they could win the midterms if they become the war party again.
And I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a scenario here, what the Washington Post describes as "not just a crisis . . . but also an opportunity".
Juan Cole writes:
. . . The Israelis warn the small town Shiites of the south to flee their own homes and go hundreds of miles away (and live on what? in what?). But then they intensely bombing them, making it impossible for them to flee. The Lebanese have awoken to find themselves cockroaches.
I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population's way of life . . .
Is the Bush administration hoping that if enough Shiite Lebanese civilians are terrorized and killed, then Arab street will be so outraged they will insist on Iran taking direct action against Israel, which would mean the US could immediately declare war on Iran?
Does the Bush Administration see this as a win-win situation, where either, if Iran attacks, the US would be "forced" to protect Israel by declaring war on Iran, or, if Iran doesn't attack, it would be discredited as a regional leader?
Or am I just a raving paranoid?

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Great line of the day 

From Chris Matthews, of all people:
We've killed 50,000 Iraqis in a war that was supposed to be a two-day wonder. When are we going to notice that the neocons don't know what they're talking about? They're not looking at this country's long term interest. They're bound up in regional and global ideology and they have had no experience, I'll say it again, in even a school yard fight. They don't know what physical fighting is all about.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

If a tree falls in the forest... 

If nobody is listening, does the tree make any sound?
If George Bush actually did speak to Israel about ending the Hezbollah-Hamas-Israel war, would they listen?
The Bush administration has spent the last five years frittering away America's international credibility -- failing to muscle the Security Council to support the Iraq war, failing to get any uptake on the 2004 "road map" (remember that?), standing around while North Korea builds nuclear missiles, announcing mythical trips to Mars, insulting South America over illegal immigration, insulting Canada over softwood lumber, demonstrating utter contempt for Arabs and Muslims at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, sending the buffoon John Bolton to the UN. So why would the world care what George Bush thinsk about anything anymore?
Just butter another roll, George, and give someone else a nice backrub.
Over at Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh provides a pretty good summary about what is going on in Lebanon:
. . . President Bush is allowing the current Middle East escalation to continue, because he's hoping Israeli Prime Minister Olmert can take out Hezbollah in a week. Outsourcing American foreign policy isn't the answer. Olmert has a duty to defend Israel against Hezbollah, but Olmert has overreacted badly and miscalculated horribly by pummeling the Lebanese government�s infrastructure, including water purification plants, electrical grids, as well as the airport, which is why we leased a cruise ship. The collective punishment of Lebanon is endangering this fledgling government, which has been given absolutely no backing by Bush except his ad nauseam speeches about 'democracy' . . . For those of you keeping score, here’s the breakdown, as far as I can tell. Hezbollah is Shia (Shiite), with support and backing from Iran, Syria and the Iraqi government sitting inside the Green Zone. Hamas is Sunni, with the support of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinians, Syria (playing all sides), Iraq insurgents and Egypt. That’s simplistic, but you won’t hear it explained on cable, with the nitwits and wingnuts cackling about how Arab leaders are condemning Hezbollah. Well, no kidding, because most of them doing the condemning are Sunnis. The Sunni - Shia showdown could one day be the Israeli - Palestinian conflict on steroids, if we’re not careful. The situation is getting more complicated by the minute . . .
But like other Americans, she continues to assume that America has a role to play in this fight:
We need a leader who can support Israel, while also telling our friend that their actions are out of bounds, because they are destabilizing the Lebanese government . . . What we get instead from George W. Bush is silence, which encourages Israel’s actions. Meanwhile, we are losing Lebanon, while Bush refuses to even appoint an ambassador to Syria. So who are we going to call in a crisis? This isn’t a foreign policy. It’s grade school dramatics.
How long will it be before American commentators realize that the reason Bush isn't telling the world what to do anymore is because the world isn't listening to him anymore?

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Find me some Canadians! 

Just like the military refused to knuckle under to the PMO on the coffin coverage issue, so the Canadian foreign affairs staff are not going to be blamed for the chaos in Beruit. They're telling the Globe and Mail what happened.
Deny it all you want, PMO -- as this story makes clear, the main goal of the Harper trip to Cyprus was to generate good publicity for Harper. Who cares about all those screamers in Beruit -- the Prime Minister has an urgent photo opportunity emergency! He desperately needs some Canadians to fly home with him!
With the preemptive strike by the foreign affairs staff in today's Globe and Mail, however, the news stories now will focus on how the Prime Minister's Office insisted on trying to control everything from afar, not trusting embassy staff on the spot to make good decisions -- likely because they were all appointed by those dastardly Librulls! --
. . . Suddenly, last night, they were told the Prime Minister would be visiting and that Canadians — any Canadians — would have to be brought to the port of Larnaca, Cyprus. They made an urgent request to the British government, which had been taking Britons on large naval vessels with military escorts to the western city of Limassol, to allow 120 Canadians to board one of the ships so that there would be some available to greet the Prime Minister and ride home on his Airbus jet.
One government official in Ottawa, who asked to remain unidentified, expressed concern that Mr. Harper's decision to fly to Cyprus to offer up the services of the government jet might be perceived by Canadians as a publicity stunt. The government could have sent one of its Challenger jets to Paris to pick up the Prime Minister and his staff, the source said, freeing up more room on the Airbus.
But, even if they had qualms, the Canadian officials quickly booked suites of rooms and offices at the Palm Beach resort hotel in Larnaca, and made the half-hour journey to the port. Joined by newly arrived officials from the PMO, they set up a war room in the hotel's conference centre and were quickly struck by waves of bad news.
First, it turned out that 120 Canadians had not boarded the British vessel — at most, perhaps 20 were on board. The officials then scrambled to see whether the single Canadian-rented vessel that had reached Beirut, the Lebanese-licensed Blue Dawn, could sail more quickly to Larnaca to meet the Prime Minister.
It quickly became apparent this wasn't going to happen. While Israel had guaranteed Canadians passage, the captain wasn't ready to move without military escort — and Canada couldn't deliver that. Hours passed. The sun set. And it wasn't until 11 p.m. in Beirut that the ship finally left the dock with 261 Canadians aboard . . .
The story gets even worse from there.
It's pretty clear that, left on their own, our Canadian foreign affairs staff would have made some pretty good decisions, and made them more quickly, on how to get Canadians out of Lebanon. But with the PMO office horning their way into the situation, it will continue to be a balls-up.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The story behind the story 

Here's the news - the Tories have been engaging in illegal fundraising for two years.
Now, you'd never know that from reading this CP story, which promotes the they-are-all-equally-guilty meme. The story says that Liberals, NDP and Conservatives all engaged in "cheque-swapping" until "recently".
What is not made clear by either the headline or the led is that the Liberals and NDP both stopped doing this in 2004, as soon as Elections Canada made it illegal.
The Tories did not. Apparently, they are doing it to this day.
And that's the real story here:

. . . Cheque-swapping, or cheque exchanges as the practice is sometimes called, had been going on for decades prior to 2004 . . . a delegate would make a donation to his or her local riding association, the full amount of which could be claimed by the delegate for a tax credit. The association would then use the donation to pay for the delegate's food, hotel and travel expenses at a convention, bills which would not be eligible for a tax receipt if paid for directly by the delegate.
Essentially, the arrangement amounted to a public subsidy for delegate expenses.
Political financing reforms in 2004 addressed he practice . . .
E-mails obtained by the Vancouver Sun have indicated that some Conservatives were using cheque-swapping to defray their expenses for the party's 2005 policy convention.
"I can tell you that all EDAs (electoral district associations) in Alberta are doing the cheque-swap," advised Red Deer Tory organizer Linda Toews in one e-mail . . .
Mike Donison, the Conservatives' executive director, has said the party had no knowledge that local organizers were using cheque-swapping and did not approve or condone the practice . . .
[Liberal national director Steven] MacKinnon said the Liberals went to considerable effort and expense to analyse the complex political financing reforms and to ensure no one in the party inadvertently breached the law.
Similarly, [NDP federal secretary Eric] Hebert said he spent six months on the phone with officials at Elections Canada, going over every detail of the changes in the law. He acknowledged that some of the complicated details might have been lost on local Tory organizers, but he said it's the responsibility of the central party to ensure all party members respect the law . . .

Except for the Tories, I guess.

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Today's pop quiz 

1. How many days will it take for the evacuation of Canadians stranded in Lebanon to dissolve into complete chaos?
2. I said "days", but should I have said "hours"?
Now, I know a lot of hard-working civil servants are working hard on this, but how can anyone actually take such Canada's mythical evaluation plan seriously? Here's the plan:
The Canadian government has chartered seven ships with a combined capacity of 2,000 passengers. Girtel said about 30,000 people now have registered with the Canadian Embassy, but it's not clear how many of them want to leave. Ships will ferry back and forth between Lebanon and Cyprus until everyone who wants to leave has been picked up, she said. "People are being contacted and told the evacuation will start (Wednesday). The Canadian government has been working around the clock on this." She said that all registered Canadians will be contacted one way or another and the effort would continue until every single Canadian had been reached.
Here's the reality, and its only just started:
The drive to the harbour used to take 15 minutes but now would likely take an hour or two because the bridges have been bombed, said Chaar . . . Chaar said she has heard nothing from the embassy, has had great difficulty getting through, and has been able to obtain little information when she does get through . . . the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., Beirut's top-rated radio station, has reported a sit-in by desperate Canadians at a Beirut hotel.
And so each cruise ship would have to make 15 (that's right, fifteen) round trips before everyone is evacuated. Given a day at each trip end for things like refueling, cleaning, restocking - if there is any fuel or food to be had -- and it will be the end of August before all the Caandians are out.
And when they get to Cyprus, what will happen? More chaos, I think. Other countries including the United States are also sending their people to Cyprus, and the CBC reported last night that no plans were in place to accomodate the evacuees -- Cyprus is at the height of its own tourist season now, and there are no hotel rooms available.
We're going to be reading lots of stories like this one:
A pregnant Hamilton, Ont., woman waiting to be evacuated from Beirut expressed her "sheer disappointment in the Canadian government" Wednesday, after she arrived at the port only to be turned away.
Lara Tcholakian, who was on holiday in Lebanon with her husband and one-year-old son, said Canadian officials called her to say she'd be among the first group of Canadian evacuees to leave Beirut and to be at the port at 8 a.m. "When we arrived it was total chaos - thousands of Canadians just waiting inside the gate where the port is, and they were just baking in the sun," she said in a phone call with the Canadian Press from her sister-in-law's home in Beirut.
A Canadian official announced over a loudspeaker that the ship would begin to accept pregnant women, families with young children and the elderly. Tcholakian, six months pregnant with her infant son in tow, was told she was not on the list. Canadian officials told her to go back "in a very abrupt and very rude way."
After nearly six hours at the port, Tcholakian, 33, and her family returned to a relative's house. She said the security situation in downtown Beirut, where the port is located, is so precarious that she resented being told to drive there unnecessarily.
"If you're going to go, you want to make sure you're going to be evacuated instead of driving back and forth and being told to come back later," she said.

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Chickenshit understatement of the year 

In a blathering article about how Bush should do more dick-swinging at Iran and North Korea, the Washington Post reluctantly admits that perhaps -- just "perhaps", mind you -- the Iraq war is problematic:
It has not helped the neoconservative case, perhaps, that the occupation of Iraq has not gone as smoothly as some had predicted.
Ya think?

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Live by the sword... 

Cue another Steve temper-tantrum with the media.
This CP story leads with:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper . . . quipped that the enemy now carries news cameras, not guns . . . "These were sand, not cement," Harper said of the reconstructed sandbags [at Vimy Ridge]. "And the enemies carried guns, not (a) camera," he added, looking directly over the lip of the old trench at a small clutch of Canadian TV and still cameras.
Now, what Our Leader probably meant was just that the people looking into the trench 90 years ago were soldiers rather than Canadian news photographers. But the way it came out, of course, implied that the news photographers are now the enemy.
Predictably, he and his media people will throw a fit about how he is being so unfairly treated by the media.
But with the way he treats the media, this is the kind of coverage he is going to get from now on.
CP's Bruce Cheadle writes about how Harper handled himself during his first appearance on the world stage at the G8 -- and it wasn't pretty. The reporter describes Harper's "cold calculus", his "awkard" comments, and how he was "clinically dismissive" of questions about support for Israel:
Harper's seeming lack of nuance, empathy and people skills are making his week-long diplomatic foray . . . an excruciating exercise. Throughout the trip, Harper has distanced himself from reporters. Since leaving Ottawa last Wednesday, he has spoken to media travelling with him only three times, including a brief encounter on the plane.
It appears that his handlers consider every media encounter an element of their larger political "strategy," not as a way of keeping Canadians informed about the government's actions.
That may be one reason behind the perception in some quarters that Harper's government hadn't done enough to plan for the Lebanon evacuation. He simply declined to talk about it.
Luckily, Harper's clumsiness has been completely overshadowed at this summit by repeated Bush buffonery. Great how these things work out, isn't it.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Great lines of the day 

From Wolcott, describing Bush's idiotic responses to the Israel-Lebanon war:
In the meantime, as civilians are being slaughtered on both sides, perhaps the president might make an effort not to see quite so blase, detached, and in-character. I understand his exercise regimen is sacred and not to be tampered with, but it looks a trifle cavalier to see him shooting by on his bicycle in St. Petersburg waving at the camera . . . between the news ootage of Beirut going up in flames . . . No doubt exercise helps clear his brain, but if it were any clearer, it'd be a patch of blue sky. He needs to unclear his brain, and let a little reality intrude, and wipe that barbecue grin off his face.
Emphasis mine.

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I'm back! 


"I''m here! I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly. Feast your eyes upon me. I know it's too good to be true, but I'm here! I'm here!"
I'm back and we had a great time. Thanks for all your good wishes - more tomorrow...

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On holidays 

We're off tomorrow morning to Nova Scota and PEI -- we've never been there before so we're looking forward to it.
Posting for the next two weeks will depend on whether I can find an internet cafe. I'll try to check in every day or two, and I plan to post photos when we are back.

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Today's Nelson Moment 



Ha ha!
On this weekend's Meet the Press, Bill Bennett ominously warned the panel of journalists that Americans were growing extremely angry over the disclosures of classified information by The New York Times and other newspapers. Riding this wave of massive public rage towards the NYT, a protest was organized for yesterday by Cliff Kinkaid of Accuracy in Media along with FreeRepublic.com. The protest was heavily promoted by Michelle Malkin (who announced that she would personally attend) and other pro-Bush bloggers, who urged all patriotic Americans to attend and make their anger at the NYT heard loudly and clearly
. . . 16 protestors actually showed up.
Ooohhh, feel the anger!

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Great line of the day 

NYT's Nicholas Kristof:
When I was covering the war in Iraq, we reporters would sometimes tune to Fox News and watch, mystified, as it purported to describe how Iraqis loved Americans. Such coverage (backed by delusional Journal editorials baffling to anyone who was actually in Iraq) misled conservatives about Iraq from the beginning. In retrospect, the real victims of Fox News weren't the liberals it attacked but the conservatives who believed it.
Emphasis mine.

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I always knew it! 

Today, some unsurprising news.
I am a descendent of royalty!
Of course, I share my royal ancestors with just about everyone else on the planet. But I'm not selfish, not a bit - noblesse oblige, you know, and all that. Royal is as royal does, as those of us born to the thone always say:
Even without a documented connection to a notable forebear, experts say the odds are virtually 100 percent that every person on Earth is descended from one royal personage or another. 'Millions of people have provable descents from medieval monarchs,' said Mark Humphrys, a genealogy enthusiast and professor of computer science at Dublin City University in Ireland. 'The number of people with unprovable descents must be massive.'
Makes you realize that democracy came along just in time. Why, without it, we'd be having wars of succession all over the place.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Forest fire situation 

I think this is one of the worst fire years we have had in northern Saskatchewan -- here's the latest news:
At least 1,800 people have fled heavy smoke and encroaching flames from a growing number of out-of-control fires in northern Saskatchewan.
It's "a serious fire situation pretty much across the province at this time," Steve Roberts, executive director of Saskatchewan Environment's fire management branch, said Monday.
He said 14 of the 109 fires burning across the province are more than 100 square kilometres in size, and three of those are over 1,000 square kilometres in size . . . The 1,800 people have registered at the government checkpoint in La Ronge, Sask., about 330 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. They've fled at least five communities north of La Ronge - Stanley Mission, Grandmother's Bay, Waddin Bay, Englishman's Bay and Sucker River - and abandoned campgrounds and cottages. . .
Here, for reference, is a summer view of Stanley Mission:


Here is Grandmother's Bay:


And here is Sucker River:


And here is a map showing all three communities, which are north of LaRonge:

If I can find some fire photos I will post them.

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Today's pop quiz 

Time Magazine's article on How to Fix Gitmo suggests five steps that Bush can take: work with Congress, release the small fry, process the habeas cases, live by the Geneva rules, and lift the veil of secrecy.
1.Can you list the things which the Bush administration will actually do to fix Gitmo?
2. And is Gitmo capable of being fixed anyway?

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Krazy Konservatives 

As we were watching Olbermann the other night, my husband said, Am I wrong or have more conservatives gone crazy lately?
I was reminded that a couple of months ago Digby wrote a post exactly about this -- that as the Bush poll numbers kept falling and as more and more Americans turned away from conservative political ideas, they would get shriller and wilder and more out-of-control -- ie, crazy.
So I'm thinking I'll start a bit of a series, just to help keep track of the nuttiness.
Here is today's contribution:
Culminating a week of yelling at the New York Times for treason, when the Wall Street Journal AND the LA Times also published the financial surveillance story, the wingnuts have now decided the Times should not have published a travel item about some island retreat where Cheney and Rumsfeld and hundreds of other wealthy people have summer homes, as summarized by Glenn Greenwald:
. . . America is currently at war and its enemies are domestic liberals and The New York Times. This war was started by Al Gore and Jimmy Carter when they opposed the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times is allied with Al Qaeda and their latest plot against America is to provide their terrorist friends with a roadmap to the vacation homes of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld so that they can be assassinated. That is what is being reported today by three of the largest 'conservative' blogs on the Internet, along with Horowitz. . .

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Rogue State 

Reading Sy Hersch's new article about the coming war with Iran, one thought struck me -- how wrong we were to think that the risk of war decreased when the Soviet Union fell.
As it has turned out, the risk of a hot war actually increased -- because there was no one to hold the United States in check anymore, except for the civilized restraint of its political leader.
Then they go and elect cowardly, unprincipled leaders like Bush and Cheney. So all bets are off.
If Russia was still a world power, there is no way, today, that the United States would be planning a war with Iran -- the old Russia would just have announced that it would not tolerate any such attack, and that would be it. No attack.
Today, don't expect such rational and reasonable behaviour -- Bush and Cheney are mad, and Rumsfeld too.
In a paragraph dripping with incredulity, Hersh reports they think of themselves as great historical figures:
The President and others in the Administration often invoke Winston Churchill, both privately and in public, as an example of a politician who, in his own time, was punished in the polls but was rewarded by history for rejecting appeasement. In one speech, Bush said, Churchill “seemed like a Texan to me. He wasn’t afraid of public-opinion polls. . . . He charged ahead, and the world is better for it.”
Gad, they take themselves soooo seriously, don't they.
I am a great admirer of Churchill who, in my opinion, singlehandedly saved the western world from the Third Reich. He was a courageous man, but he was often wrong on his political judgments, from Gandhi and Indian home rule to Edward VIII, primarily because he saw the world in black and white. (Besides, it wasn't Churchill who declared war on Germany, it was that appeaser, Chamberlain.)
Actually, the more we read of American atrocities in Iraq, the more the WWII analogy is starting to fit better the other way round, isn't it, as the occupation of Iraq starts to resemble the German occupation of France.
Arthur Silber writes the plain truth about the upcoming war:
Any military attack by the United States on Iran within the foreseeable future -- even an attack using only conventional weapons -- would be profoundly immoral, and eternally unforgivable.
Remember the critical facts: all experts agree that Iran is approximately five to ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Moreover, Iran is fully entitled to take the actions it does at present, including the enrichment of uranium . . . under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory . . . The position of the United States is an entirely unprincipled one, and one which devolves into incoherence. These central facts lead to only one conclusion: an attack on Iran would represent a blatant, naked act of aggression against a country that does not threaten us. It would not be an act of self-defense, if that term has any meaning at all: there is nothing at present or in the immediate future to defend ourselves against.
And thus, too, the recent attacks on the New York Times and on the Democratic party as "traitors" starts to make more sense now, too -- so that their likely opposition to war with Iran can be brushed aside as just more cowardly treason.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Oh, Canada 

Canadians celebrate and here are some photos.

The Snowbirds fly past Parliament Hill:


Special ceremonies were held for the first time at the National War Memorial, to mark the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel , at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme -- 700 men in the 1st Newfoundland Regiment were killed or wounded in the first minutes of the offensive as it began on July 1, 1916:


Governor General Michaelle Jean:


Canadian farmers protest the usual government inaction:

And here is why Michaelle Jean is a great Governor General. Instead of trying to ignore the tractor protest, she welcomed the protestors to Parliament Hill and paid tribute to them in her speech:
As protesters lined tractors and farm machinery along the street in front of the Hill, Governor General Michaelle Jean took note of Canada's prosperity, including in her remarks a thank-you to the people who toil to provide the country with a safe and plentiful food supply. "Ours is a country of great wealth from its plains, forests and mountains that nourish us to the crystal clear waters of our abundant lakes and rivers," she said. "And I was reminded of our bountifulness just yesterday when I received a basket of wonderful fresh farm produce from the farmers of Canada, for which I am very grateful."
A gracious and unifying thing to say.

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Great lines of the day 

d r i f t g l a s s has a message for American conservatives. Canadian conservatives should also take a gander:
Remember?
Remember when it was all gonna be so cool once the Liberals were out of the way and you could liquidate the hated Federal Government. When the Government is the source of all evil in the Universe? When you could hang every problem in the world on welfare queens?
Remember the glory days of "We won. You lost. Now shut up."?
. . . You wanted this, and now it's yours. All yours.
History is watching you. The future is watching you. The massed billions yet unborn are watching you, and they see a pathetic huddle children who are throwing the world's most expensive tantrum because they don’t want to fix what they destroyed.
They see a no-neck ocean of cowards and fools and bigots, led by liars and crooks. They see you taking your hour in the sun -- the one you traded your ideals, your conscience and your soul to acquire – and pissing it away. Deliberately picking fights over trivia in the hopes that no one notices that you have destroyed a great nation,
They see you failing, in more ways and with worse consequences than any generation in American history. And doing it while giggling and jerking off to Ann Coulter.
Your children and grandchildren see all that you have done and all that you have failed to do and they are ashamed of you, so govern, you weak, stupid, frightened little men. You ARE the government, so quit bellowing and blaming everyone from Michael Moore to Cindy Sheehan for your sins.
Actually step up like men and govern and we’ll spend the next 20 years debating anything else you’d like. Flags and queers and all the rest of the fiddling nonsense.
Govern, or admit that you are uniquely incompetent to actually lead a great nation.
Govern…or shut the fuck up.
I couldn't really pick a single line to highlight. It's all worth reading.

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Lumber "deal" 

The Globe story is entitled Drive for softwood deal hits snag.
Well, one snag would be that there is no "deal", apparently.
The Globe calls is "a draft text of a final deal" and a "proposed final draft".
The BC Lumber Trade Council calls it "the current working draft" and says "more talks are needed to achieve a final agreement".
Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay seems to call it "a final draft", particularly when he found out that the whole whatever-it-is could be revoked in just two years.
And to Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson its not a deal or a draft at all, its just "a file", as in:
“This file has been really under intense work over the last few weeks, particularly the last few days. We're consulting with the provinces, with the industry,” Mr. Wilson said. “We want to get it resolved quickly. There's a lot of money at stake here that we want to return as quickly as we can to the producers. And it's very definitely a priority for the Prime Minister and the government,” . . . “I've watched this file evolve over the last three months and we've had our ups and downs on it. We think that a particular matter is resolved and someone comes up with a little glitch and we're back to the drawing board so I don't want to be precise. I can tell you that we're working very hard to get it resolved.”
And then, finally, we'll know just what to call it!

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Last gift 

Maybe I was feeling particularly dark-humoured this morning, but reading this started me laughing:
Dear Miss Manners: I was invited to a Celebration of Life for a friend who had passed a few months ago. What is the proper etiquette to attending a party like this? Do we bring a gift?
Congratulations on finding the only social event left that the guest of honor has not turned into a free shopping bonanza for himself.
If you can't handle that, you could send flowers. But as the nomenclature for the event de-emphasizes death, funeral flowers may seem out of place. It is also late to send flowers and food to the bereaved, as is customary in the first weeks of mourning, and Miss Manners trusts that you have long since sent your letter of condolence.
So just go and celebrate. If Miss Manners was mistaken and your friend left a list of places he registered for the event, you may ignore it. He'll never know.

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"Iraq is not Viet Nam. It's drier and hotter" 

Dave over at the Beaver has produced a chilling post about a painful topic: the rape of women by occupying soldiers. The specific reference is today's report on the accusation that five US soldiers raped an Iraqi woman and then killed her family.
Dave notes that the frequency of rape during the Vietnam war was also unreported, due to the myth that rape is the result of sexual desire. Dave describes the real dynamics:
. . . when soldiers start raping the female civilian population of a militarily occupied but politically unstable country it demonstrates a callous disregard for the indiginous population. Far from being there to help them and win them over, the occupied population has been reduced, in the minds of the occupiers, to sub-human, powerless and subject to intimidation.
In a situation where the "enemy" is no longer a clearly defined, uniformed combatant and has the ability to hide amongst the general population, the entire population becomes the enemy . . . This latest case in Beiji, Iraq, if the allegations are true, is a symptom of a greater condition. It is a sign that Iraq is lost . . . Gook? Hadji? What's the difference? The level of indifference to their survival is the same.

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Curiouser and curiouser 

Ah ha!
So this is how the Conservatives expected to get around the political contribution limits in their own Accountability Act -- they would just declare that their party wasn't making a profit, and keep on pulling the dollars in.
The more Harper insists he is right about the convention registration fee issue, the more it appears that this wasn't an accidental error:
The Conservative party's legal counsel, Paul Lepsoe, said that since "time immemorial" delegate fees have only been considered donations when a convention turns a profit. "If there is a portion that is a contribution, in other words that exceeds the cost of the event, that portion constitutes a political contribution for which a receipt should be issued," he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. "That's longstanding practice that everyone follows, including the Conservative party."
Well, first of all, he is just wrong. As CP points out:
it wasn't a longstanding practice for the NDP, Liberals or the predecessors of the Conservative party . . . the common practice they followed was to disclose convention fees paid by their members as political donations. "I'm absolutely positive we always gave out political receipts, minus the amount paid for meals, but everything else was always treated as a political donation," said Bruck Easton, former president of the Progressive Conservative party who later ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal. "That was quite frankly an important part of getting people to our convention."

And second, profitability has nothing to do with it -- or, at least, it never did before:
. . . the Conservative argument that they didn't need to disclose the fees because the convention didn't make a profit doesn't hold water. "If you carried that logic forward, you could argue that if you made a contribution to a political party and the party was in the hole for the year in question, it wouldn't necessarily need to report all the donations that were the difference from being in the hole and not in the hole," said Seidle. "The important thing is there is money in, and a service out . . . it's a kind of income and expense issue."
The ineptitude of the hastily-written, partisan-based Accountability Actis also coming into focus:
. . . University of Windsor Professor Heather MacIvor said she was stunned to hear the party's explanation on failing to disclose the fees. MacIvor recently wrote a critique of the government's new financing laws, part of its much vaunted Federal Accountability Act.
'Wait a minute folks, you're trying to say you're cleaning up politics and you brought in this seriously draconian tightening of the contribution rules, and now we find out you didn't disclose a few million dollars of contributions, which every other political party in this country has treated as a contribution for the purpose of the contribution rules?' MacIvor said. 'That's not on.'
Well, darn it -- so much for that plan, eh?

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