Sunday, January 28, 2007

Half a league, half a league,
half a league onward

Juan Cole thinks the combat between Iraqi security forces and the Army of Heaven in Najaf over the weekend is most likely a battle between Shiites. The Army of Heaven is a minor player in Iraqi sectarian violence, because even by Iraqi standards, the Army of Heaven followers are still crazier than the other religious zealots. Think Branch Davidians versus Jehovah's witnesses.Professor Cole notes:
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that on Saturday night into Sunday morning, a Shiite millenarian militia calling itself "The Army of Heaven" (Jund al-Sama') attempted to move south from the Zarqa orchards just north of Najaf to assassinate the four grand ayatollahs of Najaf-- Ali Sistani, Bashir Najafi, Muhammad Ishaq Fayyad and Muhammad Said al-Hakim. The holy city of Najaf, where Ali is buried, is the seat of Shiite religious authority in Iraq. The militiamen, devotees of an obscure religious leader named Ahmad Hassaani, are said to have infiltrated the area from Hillah, Kut and Amara. The well-armed, black-clad militiamen were heard to call upon the Mahdi, the awaited Promised One of the Muslims, to return on that night.

This group is not the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which bears no enmity toward the grand ayatollahs, but rather a separate and different sect altogether. Shiite clerics told the NYT that the sect is the Mahdawiya of Ahmad al-Basri (possibly Ahmad Hassaani al-Basri?). Although the NYT was told that this millenarian sect (it believes that the end of time is around the corner) was supported by Saddam, you can't pay any attention to that sort of allegation when it comes to Iraqi sectarianism.

It seems most likely that this was Shiite on Shiite violence, with millenarian cultists making an attempt to march on Najaf during the chaos of the ritual season of Muharram. But who knows? It is also possible that the orthodox Shiites in control of Najaf hate the heretic millenarians and the threat of the latter was exaggerated. Darned if I know. The reports of the Army of Heaven being so well armed make no sense if it was a ragtag millenarian band. But those reports could be exaggerations, too.

For those keeping score at home, the United States is supporting a middle east government beholden to Shiite extremists. The extremists have been successful so far in their campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Sunni majority, which the US wants to stop by lending military assistance to the security forces that have been instrumental in ethnic cleansing. This is because al Qaeda, a extremist Sunni idealogy, attacked us on 9/11, and the Iraqi Sunnis don't like al Qaeda, except when foreign fighters are attacking Americans and Shiites.

I think that covers most of it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The race card

Sending Cheney out to pasture and naming Condi Rice as the new VP makes perfect sense for the GOP, and I'm not entirely surprised to be hearing the rumors. President Bush has a slim chance of turning Iraq around before the 2008 election, if by slim I mean practically no chance at all. In all fairness, I suppose the Iranian people could rise up and depose the homophobic, end-times loving head cases that run their government, and install a pro-western, secular parliamentary system that takes as its first order of business reconciliation with Iraqi Sunnis. But then Bush would have to recognize what an opportunity that would be for our national security, and screw it up.

But Shrub has a slightly greater chance of salvaging his party's chances in the 2008 election. Dumping Cheney, preferably in a plastic shredder, and naming Rice as the first African-American veep in our history, would be a good start. Sure, Rice was a terrible national security advisor, and she lacks the spine to stand up to her boss as Secretary of State. But she's cute and well spoken and did I mention that she's a black Repubican?

The Republican National Committee has to be worried about Obama, whose gravity is sucking up all campaign cash in its path. Obama has street cred among the anti-war crowd, currently numbered at two out of every three citizens. He's being called a rock star, but I think that's an understatement - his public appearances are drawing grey haired grannies who wouldn't know Bono from The Big Bopper.

I like Obama, but have deep reservations about an early run for the White House. We don't know enough about him, and he's even less experienced in national government than George Bush, the former two term governor of Texas was when he ran in 2000. I know - Lincoln was a one term senator when he ran in 1860, but the Great Emancipator didn't have Roger Ailes to deal with, the John Wilkes Booth of our day. Better that Obama finishes his senate term, maybe even take a turn as Governor of Illinois before he makes the leap. I'd hate to see a quality pol like Barack turn into this generation's Harold Stassen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thank you, God!

Kerry to bow out of '08 presidential race.

Trouble in River City

Here's the low point of last night's SOTU:
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.
Bush reminds me of Professor Harold Hill, the lead character in The Music Man. A fast-talking flim-flam artist too busy creating his own reality to take stock of his own weakness. Fortunately, the American people aren't buying any of it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rush's new racism

Orcinus posts that Rush Limbaugh's latest observation, that NFL play looks like a fight between the Blood and the Crips, is an attempt to win back audience share lost to other racist radio commentators.
This is, after all, the next logical step in the arc of his career as a right-wing demagogue anyway. His schtick has always been about "pushing the envelope," and the social envelope already has been pushed about as far as it can be without descending into overt fascism these part 10 years or more -- thanks to Limbaugh.

Maybe we can call this the New Racism: emerging from behind a mask of genteel conservatism, it openly calls for a revival of ole-time white supremacism, having found that the "liberal social experiment" with racial equality has failed.
The Neanderthal Right has always had bug up its butt over Left Wing group think.

Whether it's environmentalism, compassion for the poor, or civil rights, the far right has always chosen rugged individualism over anything that smacks of a shared ethic, unless the ethic originated on the right (abortion, homophobia, Christian values, etc.)

Limbaugh's racist jibes are just an extension of the right's "rugged invidualism" mantra, where persons are freed from the shackles of group think and free to make whatever observations they want, no matter how ill informed or shallow.

After all, it's just radio.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sylvia Browne is despicable

People who believe in psychic powers are nearly as delusional as Bush supporters. People who believe Sylvia Browne is anything but a vulture are beyond help.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

We report. You deride.

Basically, journalists do two things: they report, and they explain. It doesn't matter if you're reading the nightly news for a network, or doing the nightly crop report for Oogalala AM listerners. Report. Explain.

Unless of course you're Steve Scully, president of the White House Correspondents Association, and you don't want to ruffle Presidential feathers. Scully has asked 1970s legend and current D-list celebrity Rich Little to fill the Steven Colbert seat at this year's WHCA dinner, because, well, Heraldblog reports, and tries to explain:
"When I called Rich Little, I said 'I want your brand of humor,'" Scully told E&P. "It is a political audience, here are people who live and eat politics so someone who does George Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Nixon, is someone we wanted."

Scully has said that the choice of Little, who practices a milder former of humor than Colbert, had nothing to do with any controversy surrounding Colbert's performance last year. "Colbert had a couple of zingers toward President Bush, and a couple toward the press corps," Scully recalled. "Stephen Colbert is very sophisticated and if you've not seen his show you may not get it." With Little, he added, "you don't have to explain his humor."
Rich Little isn't the one with some splainin' to do, Mr. Scully. Your job, if you really are a journalist, is to stop fretting about how popular the press is with the public. You're not supposed to be liked, and it's not your job to protect the delicate sensibilities of our Commander in Chief. That's what Laura does.

You and your pals in the popular press have been Bush's enablers for the last six years. If you are trying to shelter poor George Bush, it's because you feel sorry for the wretched state of affairs that you have led us to, with your celebrity culture frame of references and a timidity that borders on treason. I understand that the correspondents dinner is a respite from Washington's adversarial culture, a chance to let your freak flag fly. But the dinner is a reward that you have to earn. You are no more entitled to be chums with the President than I am to be a White House correspondent.

Ditch Little. Bring in Stewart.

We won't make you explain afterwards.

Rush to judgement

From 50 Most Loathsome People in America

30. Rush Limbaugh

Charges: It’s hard to believe this repulsive shit fountain is even human, until you remember that we share 70% of our DNA with pigs. Then again, to be any more hypocritical Rush would actually have to be a member of another species. After the Democrats took congress in November, Limbaugh said he felt "liberated" because "I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried," essentially telling his listeners he’d been lying to them all year. The dittoheads didn’t mind; that’s why they listen.

Exhibit A: If someone had taken a shotgun and blown Rush’s head clean off while he was wobbling his bloated body back and forth in an inconceivably cruel mockery of Michael J. Fox, whom he accused of faking his Parkinson’s symptoms for political effect, it would have been the greatest viral video of them all.

Sentence: Parkinson’s disease, of course, triggered by oxycontin abuse.

h/t Josh

Friday, January 19, 2007

Great victory demands great sacrifice

President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have a great deal in common: they both rely on religious zealots for their political lives. At least Maliki is trying to let go of the apron string:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increased on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security crackdown in the capital.

Al-Sadr said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published Friday that the crackdown had already begun and that 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted him as saying he fears for his life and stays constantly on the move.

The raid came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates began his second trip to
Iraq in less than a month, arriving in the southern city of Basra to consult with British and other allied commanders.

Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.

"We strongly condemn this cowardly act," said Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi.

The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, an eastern neighborhood near al-Sadr's stronghold. It did not identify the detainee, but said two other suspects were detained by Iraqi forces for further questioning.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents in a planned security operation. His reluctance to confront the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr, his political backer, has led to the failure of previous efforts to stem sectarian violence in Baghdad.
It's hard work shooting, jailing, and torturing your friends, and at times like this Mr. Malaki can use all the encouragement he can get. So I proposed that President Bush crack down on some of his own extremist supporters. Round up James Dobson and his illiberal posse for a few hours of detention at an ActUp meeting house. Sentence Pat Robertson to 100 hours of community service excavating dinosaur bones in Montana.

The War Against Religious Extremism® demands nothing less.

h/t Blogenlust

Friday Emo blogging

John McCain Googlebomb

Following the 2000 election, I never believed that
John McCain
had a shot at his party's nomination, but his staunch support of President Bush's escalation of the Iraq War seals his doom. That and Senator Straight Talk's pandering to James Dobson et. al.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The yolk of tyranny

"Grandpa, what was it like living under the worst President in American History?"

"Well, Sonny, it was a lot like this":
MR. LEHRER: Is there a little bit of a broken egg problem here, Mr. President, that there is instability and there is violence in Iraq - sectarian violence, Iraqis killing other Iraqis, and now the United States helped create the broken egg and now says, okay, Iraqis, it's your problem. You put the egg back together, and if you don't do it quickly and you don't do it well, then we'll get the hell out.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, you know, that's an interesting question. I don't quite view it as the broken egg; I view it as the cracked egg --

MR. LEHRER: Cracked egg?

PRESIDENT BUSH: -- that - where we still have a chance to move beyond the broken egg. And I thought long and hard about the decision, Jim. Obviously it's a big decision for this theater in the war on terror, and you know, if I didn't believe we could keep the egg from fully cracking, I wouldn't ask 21,000 kids - additional kids to go into Iraq to reinforce those troops that are there.
Honest to God, is there no end to this man embarrassing himself?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Here's a lively little number to get things going

Here's the US Army's 1947 manual on how to execute people. I like this part:

f. Upon pronouncement of the death of the prisoner by the medical officer, the execution party will proceed to the racks from which the rifles were originally obtained, and replace the rifles in the racks at random. The execution party will then be dismissed.

g. The escort, with the band playing a lively air, will return to their parade ground and be dismissed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

These things must be done delicately

Iraqi death squads hanged two more Baathists yesterday, including Saddam's twisted half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti. According to an eyewitness account by chief state prosecutor Jafar al-Musawi:
The two had black hoods placed over their heads by the executioner before the noose was looped around their necks.

At the appointed time, the trapdoors to the gallows fell open below both. Al-Bandahung limp and lifeless, al-Musawi told news channel al-Arabiya, but 'Barzan's body fell down' to the ground beneath.

'When an official went over to see what had happened, he saw that Barzan lay on his stomach, headless. The head was still in the black hood.'

Al-Mussawi, who had called for the death sentence for the two men as well as for the former dictator, additionally said he believed God had had a hand in the gruesome turn of events.
C'mon fellows, get it right. There are instructions for this kind of thing:


Procedure: Prior to any execution, the gallows area trap door and release mechanisms are inspected for proper operation. The rope, which is of manila hemp of at least 3/4"and not more than 1 1/4"in diameter and approximately 30 feet in length, is soaked and then stretched while drying to eliminate any spring, stiffness, or tendency to coil. The hangman's knot, which is tied pursuant to military regulations, is treated with wax, soap, or clear oil, to ensure that the rope slides smoothly through the knot. The end of the rope which does not contain the noose is tied to a grommet in the ceiling and then is tied off to a metal T-shaped bracket, which takes the force delivered by the offender's drop.

Additionally, prior to an execution, the condemned offender's file is reviewed to determine if there are any unusual characteristics the offender possesses that might warrant deviation from field instructions on hanging. A physical examination and measuring process is conducted to assure almost instant death and a minimum of bruising. If careful measuring and planning is not done, strangulation, obstructed blood flow, or beheading could result. At the appropriate time on execution day, the inmate, in restraints, is escorted to the gallows area and is placed standing over a hinged trap door from which the offender will be dropped. Following the offender's last statement, a hood is placed over the offender's head. Restraints are also applied. If the offender refuses to stand or cannot stand, he is placed on a collapse board. A determination of the proper amount of the drop of the condemned offender through the trap door is calculated using a standard military execution chart for hanging. The "drop" must be based on the prisoner's weight, to deliver 1260 foot_pounds of force to the neck. The noose is then placed snugly around the convict's neck, behind his or her left ear, which will cause the neck to snap. The trap door then opens, and the convict drops. If properly done, death is caused by dislocation of the third and fourth cervical vertebrae, or by asphyxiation. A button mechanically releases the trap door and escorts then move to the lower floor location to assist in the removal of the offender's body.

History: Hanging is the oldest method of execution in the United States, but fell into disfavor in the 20th century after many botched attempts, and was replaced by electrocution as the most common method. There have been only 3 executions by hanging since 1977: Westley Dodd (WA 1993), Charles Campbell (WA 1994), and Billy Bailey (DE 1998).
It always looks so simple in the movies.

Friday, January 12, 2007

War? What do you mean "war"? Quick! Look over there!

Now this is plain pathetic. The Fighting Keyboarders who are propping up the President are desperately trying to divert our attention from the fiasco in Iraq to a comment by Sen. Barbara Boxer at yesterday's Senate hearings.

Boxer was grilling Condi Rice on a legitimate point that can't be made too much: who pays the human price of war?
“Who pays the price? I’m not going to pay a personal price,” Boxer said. “My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young.” Then, to Rice: “You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."
The White House organ, also known as Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, ran this exchange under the screaming headline "Boxer's Low Blow". Rice is the quintessential career gal - unmarried and childless. Boxer, with her strong feminist credentials, was not suggesting that Rice deep six career and find a man post haste. She was making the point that most Americans have been asked to sacrifice very little for a war that supposedly carries so much importance.

But right blogosphere smells blood. Not since Kerry's botched joke have the Fighting Keyboarders had such an opportunity to turn attention away from the worst military blunder in 40 years to a sitting US Senator pointing out that the secretary of state has no children.

A bleach blonde barking loon at Fox News was suddenly overcome with the PC vapors, declaring "That is offensive to somebody who doesn't have children." It's obvious the outrage is manufactured because there is no repeated theme. One reality-challenged blogger at Townhall declared "It was funny to hear Mrs. Boxer care so deeply about the life of a soldier when she cares so little for the lives of the unborn...but if you've chosen not to have a child you really haven't offered anything to society ...if you decide to abort the child, then you're ok.........there's that strange illogical liberal valueless position that they never seem to have to explain."

I'm sure that some lonely little wingnut is calling Boxer homophobic. How rich is that?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Are you ready for a miracle!

President Bush is looking for a miracle. That's all that can save him, and the country now.

Any connection between his rhetoric in tonight's address and reality is purely coincidental. He spoke of a Democratic government of Iraq that needs protection from crazed Jihadists. Maybe on another Earth, in a parallel universe far far away. But not here. Malaki's government is wholly owned by radical Shiites, primarily the Mahdi Army. It's like saying the governor of California is a Crip.

As a born-again, evangelical and dry drunk, George W.Bush is no stranger to miracles. He will he the first to tell you that a miracle drew him to Christ, and sobriety, and the Repubican butt-sniffers who sought him out in 1999 to run against Al Gore. And a miracle will rescue his Presidency, and, oh yes, the country, from the ignomy of two lost wars in 39 years.

But what kind of miracle could reasonably rescue Dear Leader from this mess? I mean, short of a 600-foot Christ returning to Earth to smite the Mahdi Army?

There's a small chance that Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and other Sunni governments could broker a deal to prevent Iraqi sunnis from being exterminated. The Saudi government has already sent a strong signal that it would not allow the Sunnis to be destroyed by Shiites in a civil war. The Sunni governments could come up with a package of incentives to make the radical shiites put down their carving knives in exchange for jobs and oil revenue sharing. The deal could be enforced by magical unicorns and shape shifting jinni.

The other possibility is that Bush's clear and hold strategy of pacifying Baghdad will work. Moderate Iraqis will tolerate having their houses searched without probable cause, and will later be grateful that the US military actions in their neighborhood has decreased the car bombings to only five or ten a week. Maliki will welcome Sunnis into the government who will quickly forgive the Shiite death squads for torturing Sunnis with power tools and dumping their corpses in landfills. That Moqtada Sadr is such a goof!

There was a third facetious miracle but I kind of lost track. Maybe I'll think of it later.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Coming next: Sean's Final Solution!

From Heraldblog's "WTF Is He Thinking?" desk, Sean Hannity is now labelling those he disagrees with as "Enemies of the State". Sean kicks off his little laugh fest with low hanging fruit, tagging Sean Penn with an epitaph first used by Roman despots to disappear their enemies. Book learnin' types (not you, Sean), will pick of the Orwellian overtures.

Hannity is trying to upstage Keith Olbermann's Worst Person in the World awards, which are based on a shared sense of right and wrong. Hannity is arrogating powers only found in the worst totatlitarian states, in order to threaten those he disagrees with.

Prediction: I give Hannity's schtick no more than six weeks before Fox pulls the plug. Not on Hannity, just the reveal.

A note on usage

Attention all bloggers: Pictures are hung, Iraqi dictators are hanged.

We now resume our normally scheduled blogging.

Take Five

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Democratic mandate

Presidential mouthpiece Tony Snow told reporters today that voters weren't that concerned about Iraq when they booted Republicans out of office Nov. 7. The evidence? Exit interviews!
The president believes that — if you take a look at the elections, you can read any number of messages. I mean, when people were asked in exit interviews what was their top concern, Iraq was number four; corruption was number one.
So there you have it. Americans don't think Bush is incompetent. They think his party has been taken over by crooks.

Two thought jumps out at me here. First, is that gobs of voters have connected Republican corruption with the Iraq quagmire. More governmental transparency, honesty, and accountability would have gove a long way in assuring the American victory that Bush so craves, and the voters were led to expect. Second, if corruption tops voters' lists of concerns, as Snow admits, then Congressional Democracts clearly have a mandate to investigate.

Tony Snow should probably just stop talking altogether, although it's probably too late for that.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saddam 2.0

From a TPM reader comes more evidence of President Bush's tone-deaf foreign policy:
I would like to refer to the note about Saddam’s changing image in the Arab world. I have lived in the United Arab Emirates for 8 years. The other night I was taking a little run into Dubai for a bad burrito (for some strange reason the cooks in Dubai do appalling things to Mexican food) and a beer. My taxi driver, Amjed, a Pakistani who has been driving taxi in Sharjah and Dubai for 25 years, was unusually quiet on this trip. Finally, after we got going on the freeway, he asked me, “So, Saddam gone, eh?”

“Yes,” I answered. “He is dead. He was a bad man. But it won’t change the troubles in Iraq.”

“He was bad man,” Amjed agreed. “You see?”

“No. I didn’t see it.”

“I see on television. He was brave.”

“I heard that.”

“He was bad man. In end, he was brave. He was not afraid. In end he was brave man. Was good.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say to that. We drove on in silence. When we got to the bar, I thanked him, tipped him, walked in, and ordered a cold pint of Stella.
What we are seeing here my friends is the power of redemption. Some find it in Christ, others in good deeds. Saddam found his, posthumously, in a camera phone.

Appearing on Meet the Press this morning, Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-Butt Plug), brushed aside criticism of the Saddam snuff film, suggesting that a little "taunting" was called for, given that Hussein was such a brutal fellow. But what would a Christianist like Graham know about redemption?

Disney promotes hate speech

Pass it on.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Chutzpah, Islamist style

"This is a failure of capitalism, of democracy and the freedom of speech."
- Anjem Choudary, a former spokesman for the now banned Al-Muhajiroun organisation. He was complaining after a fellow Islamist was found guilty of calling for the murders of Danes and Americans who practice free speech.

The man who never wasn't

I wrote a while back about Jumil Hussein, and the right wing blogosphere's skepticism that he even existed. Hussein was quote last fall in an AP story about a hideous death squad attack at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad. Now we know that Shiite death squads are torturing and executing Sunnis, and that Iraq's rivers, garbage dumps and sewers have been turned in dead Sunni depositories, to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies.* So why is it so hard to believe that six Sunni men were grabbed in a mosque during prayer services and burned alive?

Because the bad news flowing out of Iraq every day is an inconvenience to assorted media whores that make up President Bush's amen choir. Brave Little Michelle Malkin questioned the authenticity of the Sunni immolation, and asked the simple question "Who is this Jumil Hussein character that the UP keeps quoting?" An exhaustive search of Google in English didn't help, thereby proving Malkin's suspicions: Jumil Hussein doesn't exist! He's a sock puppet for AP reporters who hate the United States of America, President Bush, and Jesus. Only two days ago, Malkin reaffirmed her belief that Jalil Hussein does not exist.

But wait, hold the presses. This just in from the AP:
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press.

The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was sourced for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.
This nasty bit of reality has sent the right wing bloggers padding into their studies for a shot of Jack and some quiet reflection. Malkin says she's looking for a new way forward, and will seek out Jamil Hussein if she leaves the Green Zone during her embed adventure this summer. Cap'n Ed scrunches his pointy brow and wonders why the Iraqi authorities would want to arrest Jumil if he told the truth to the AP? And my very favorite quote of all comes from Hee Haw reject Confederate Yankee who reckons "As far as the AP's story goes, it does raise some very interesting questions, and I think I'll have a very entertaining weekend trying to make sense of it all." Take your time, Jeb - you've had four years to think about the underlying issues here.

What exactly did the AP do wrong? Jumil Hussein is a Baghdad police captain. He reported acts of violence to a wire reporter, and had been since 2004. The AP identified Mr. Hussein by his full name and job title. But that's not good enough for the Fighting Keyboarders. Mr. Hussein shared bad news, and that's unforgiveable.

What if Mr. Hussein was spreading imaginary success stories? Would Malkin even care?
BAHGDAD (AP) - Sunnis and Shiites joined hands in a human chain around the al Harama neighborhood of Baghdad today as part of a "Coalition Forces Appreciation Day Celebration". Children flew kites and young men competed in pick up softball games, which are becoming increasingly popular in this America-crazy neighborhood.

"Donald Rumsfeld is number one!" said Aisha al Tikriti, a comely teenage girl dressed in a halter top and cut off jeans. Nearby, members of the Mahdi Army, an Islamic service organization, nodded in agreement, then showed off their hip hop moves for a reporter.

Celebrants partied late into the night under the glow of street lights, installed and maintained by American contractors, many of whom danced with jubilant Iraqis.


* Pulp Fiction

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Iraq War for Dummies

So this is where we are now.

George Bush has hailed the verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial as a triumph of justice.

The sentence, death by hanging, was carried out by the Mahdi Army.

The Mahdi Army is a gang of thugs and Islamic fundamentalist nutjobs that control Baghdad.

President Bush wants to insert an additional 30,000 or so American troops into Iraq to do battle with the Mahdi Army.

Nuri-al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, needs the Mahdi Army's support. More specifically he's scared to death of Muqtada Sadr, the 13th century whackjob who orchestrates the beheadings, torture and summary executions of Sunnis and women who show too much ankle.

Bush speaks glowingly of Maliki, and has repeatedly expressed his confidence in the man.

Malaki says he wasn't thinking clearly when he took the job, and wants out.

That about covers it.

I can see where this is going

From President Bush's op-ed in yesterday's Opinion Journal:
If democracy fails and the extremists prevail in Iraq, America's enemies will be stronger, more lethal, and emboldened by our defeat. Leaders in both parties understand the stakes in this struggle. We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war.
Because you see what has been missing the past four years is a bi-partisan approach to national security. It's always those darned, obstructive Democrats, blocking Dear Leader at every move, and comforting the enemy with talk of Democracy and due process.

Don't fall for it, guys.

Update: Publius catches another Bush lie in the same op-ed, where the Great Decider claims his tax cuts have led to record revenues. Record if you don't adjust for inflation, it turns out. In constant dollar terms, revenues are lower today than they were five years ago. Publius adds:
I've made this point before, but it’s just another example of how the conservative defense of tax cuts — at least the political defense of them — relies on disingenuousness and a presumption of ignorance. If you want to argue for tax cuts on the basis of fairness or efficiency, fine. But the primary defense you hear from elected officials — that tax cuts increase revenue — is just, well, a lie.

Justice for pod people

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Who hung the monkey?

The trial and execution Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity reminds me of a story I heard years ago from a Brit living in the north of England.

The Brit lived in County Durham, and he was having fun with a lad from Hartlepool, also in the north. The story is apocryphal, but instructive. It seems that during the Napoleanic Wars, a French man-of-war floundered and sank in the North Sea. The only survivor was the ship's mascot, a monkey dressed in a smaller sailor's uniform. The hapless primate floated to Hartlepool's beaches, where it was seized by vigilant fishermen.

Now the good people of Hartlepool had never seen a Frenchman, much less had any insight to French culture or language. But they were, above all, loyal to the crown, so they tried the monkey as a spy, found him guilty, and sentence it to hang. "Who hung the monkey?" has become, I'm guessing, a good natured dig at anyone from Hartlepool.

I can't draw any direct lines from this story to the hanging of Saddam without wondering "Who is the monkey?" Is it Saddam, caught up in the frenzy of war? Or are Americans "the monkey", surrounded by captors unschooled in Western ways of justice and order? But one thing is certain: bringing Saddam to justice in the way it happened created more problems than it solved.

In the administration's defense, there probably wasn't a better way for US occupational authorities to have handled Saddam's trial and execution. We have no business being involved, and as long as we are, it's foolish to apply Western standards of decorum and fairness to Iraq's judicial system. We should feel lucky that Saddam wasn't buried inside a pig carcass, or wearing a frilly burka when the trap door fell. That's the difference between the West and Iraq, where memories are as old as the ruins of old Mesopotamia, and reconciliation is another word for suicide pact.

Compare Saddam's trial to Adolph Eichmann's, the Nazi monster brought to justice in 1960 by Israeli Mossad agents. Israel is also a mideast country, albeit one settled by Europeans. Eichmann was arguably more evil than Saddam, but his trial was marked more by its healing qualities than outbursts. The Eichmann Trial, which was televised, helped both Holocaust survivors and a shaken Europe come to terms with the Holocaust. That's no small accomplishment. Iraqis would have benefitted in the same way by keeping Saddam alive long enough to recount more of his crimes, and hopefully bring Sunni, Shia and Kurd closer to a shared understanding of the last 30 years. Should the US have had a role in making that happen? Tough call.

It's easy to talk about foreign policy realism, and the futility of the neo-con approach. But realism carries a rather ugly price - writing off huge swathes of humanity as "too tribal" or "too shame-based" to conform to the modern world. An honest rejection of neo-con bufoonery will also recognize the futility of bringing order and justice to countries like Iraq, and the millions of people stuck there who truly want a better life.

Ideally, bringing freedom and enlightenment to the world would involve modeling good behavior, but without the residue of resentment that comes with military conquest and occupation. Ask the monkey, whoever it is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Goode intentions

From Rep. Virgile Goode's Op-Ed in today's USA Today (via Kevin Drum):
Let us remember that we were not attacked by a nation on 9/11; we were attacked by extremists who acted in the name of the Islamic religion. I believe that if we do not stop illegal immigration totally, reduce legal immigration and end diversity visas, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to infiltration by those who want to mold the United States into the image of their religion, rather than working within the Judeo-Christian principles that have made us a beacon for freedom-loving persons around the world.
I know the Democrats have a fair number of nimcompoops in their ranks, but Goode, a Virginia Republican, has raised brainless blather to a new level. Last week, Goode attacked a Democratic congressman for using the Koran during his swearing in ceremony. Nevermind that the Constitution specifically prohibits religious tests for office holders. Nevermind that Congressman are free to use a Bible, Koran, or the phonebook during their swearing in. Goode refused to apologize, then dressed up his bigotry in a Homeland Security jumpsuit, insisting his concern is really about fighting terrorists. Right.

Goode biggest mistake, and he's made so many, is assuming a one-size-fits-all religious ethic for America. Unspecified "others" want to force their religion on Americans, rather submit their will to Goode's religious vision.

Did I mention that Goode is a Repubican?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Extreme unicycling

Monocycle extremeBecause you're never two tired to unicyle.


Heraldblog predictions for 2007

In which your fearless blogger dusts off the crystal ball and peers fearlessly into the future.

Iraq. Bush's urge to surge will not materialize, due to opposition from both parties. Violence in Iraq will continue to escalate, but Dubya will stubbornly refuse to withdraw troops.

Presidential hopefuls. McCain will emerge as the frontrunner at the end of 2007, but threats of a Christianist revolt will force the GOP to reconsider its nominee. Eventually, the party will nominate Jeb Bush as a compromise candidate. John Edwards will emerge as the Democratic favorite by year's end.

Democrats. Bush will attempt to blame Democrats for the deteriorating conditions in Iraq, but the public won't buy it as long as the number of troops in-country remain the same.

Republicans. Major split between centrists and Christianists will erupt in floor fight over immigration. Centrists will win with backing of Democrats, resulting in 25 percent approval rating for Bush, despite the fact Bush also backs centrist approach.

US economy. Iran briefly shuts down oil production in protest against US sabre rattling. Oil hits $5 a gallon, major recession looms. Bush backs down, and looks even weaker and dumber, as if that is even possible.

Best. Protest. Ever.

Those wacky French say non to 2007.
Parodying the French readiness to say "non", the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: "No to 2007" and "Now is better!"

The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop time's "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future.

The protest was held in the rain and organisers joked that even the weather was against the New Year.

The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight - but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

The protesters began to chant: "No to 2008!"

They vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.
Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ├ža change.