Thursday, August 31, 2006

What Hannity Would Die For

Via Atrios:

Sean Hannity thinks that preventing Pelosi from becoming House leader is worth dying for.

Good to see his priorities are straight.

And meanwhile, of the many people Ann Coulter would like to kill, Lincoln Chafee is but one.

Coffee Break

Another day, another bold California initiative.

Sanctions it is.

Pelosi says Rumsfeld's judgment is impaired.

Nobody can stop our children from calling Bush a lying drunk-driver chicken-hawk in chief who abused marijuana and cocaine.

Jonathan Woodward on justice in Uganda.

Annan scolds Israel over the use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

What Year Do You Think It Is?

I missed this when it originally came out, but I was amused by the clever categorization of foreign policy types. I guess I'm a 1948ist, if any of those. I'm not sure it's helpful to think of the novel terrorism threat in any of these terms, though.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Iran Shelling Iraq

When I read this a few days back, I was amazed that I hadn't seen anything about this in the American press. If it's true that Iran has been shelling Kurds in Northern Iraq, and that Iran and Turkey are talking about conducting operations across the Iraqi border to root out Kurdish rebels, how can this not be pertinent to the US operations there? You would think that America's current enemy #1 shelling the country in which more than 100,000 US soldiers are stationed and which is already in a low-level civil war would be setting off a lot more alarms. Not to mention, Kurdistan has pretty much been the only stable region of Iraq until now. So how is the US addressing these actions?

Press Conferences

From the NYT:
The free-wheeling news conference veered off into an unruly question and answer session with reporters praising the president, questioning the president and some jumping from their seats, demanding that their questions be taken. The president politely admonished one reporter saying he needed to behave better.

One reporter said he had no question, but wanted to recite poetry.

“I was hoping when you arrived I would share my pain with you,” said a reporter for a small newspaper called The Path of the People, when he stood to ask a question. “Now I have no pain in my heart, only happiness.”

Did Jeff Gannon move to Iran?

Holder Who Dare Not Speak His Name

It looks like there's finally an answer to the Secret Holder mystery. TPMmuckraker is reporting that Ted Stevens is the man. This isn't really a surprise, what with Stevens being a petty curmudgeon, legendary pork-loving politician, and generally the worst senator in the country. It is odd that this article has gone unnoticed for the past couple of weeks while bloggers tried to eliminate senators one by one by calling their offices.

The entire secret holds thing seems very odd and mysterious to me. I have to admit, I didn't realize that legislation could be stopped in such an opaque way. And it's pretty funny that a piece of legislation encouraging transparency in government is being blocked by a "secret hold."

Coffee Break

Because I'm in Britain, this is what I see if I try to read this article. Here's the reason why.

Classy Rumsfeld.

Richard Armitage admits what Corn and Isikoff have reported, i.e. that he was the initial leak source for Plame's CIA identity.

Another investigation of Kenneth Tomlinson reveals his abuses at the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Universal Music aims to steal Apple's thunder.

So which is it, the Freedom Falcons, The Freedom Hawks, or the Liberation Hawks?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Coffee Break

The California legislature prepares to do what the federal government won't.

If you decide to form a violent separatist group, don't give it a name that sounds like an American junior high football team.

After ten million articles about John Karr and utter media devotion to this case, charges against him are dropped.

26 more bodies are found in Baghdad.

The NYT has a piece on Bill Clinton's AIDS work.

This is odd timing on the part of Mr. Kerry.

Warren Steed Jeffs is in custody.

With a Thursday deadline looming, Ahmadinejad proposes a televised debate with Bush.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Jill Carroll

The release of the Fox News reporter and camera-man, coupled with the recently published details of Jill Carroll's kidnapping and release, reminds me of the right-wing blogosphere's widespread reaction to Carroll's ordeal. Think Progress kept track of the attacks. The gist is that Jill Carroll was somehow understood by right-wingers to be sympathetic to the terrorists and their cause. The most egregious attacks on Carroll came from Jonah Goldberg and John Podhoretz of The Corner, and Don Imus's producer, who likened Carroll to a suicide bomber. Even when the truth came out, that Carroll was forced at gunpoint to make propoganda videos and lied in her first public interview because she feared for her safety, the Cornerites in particular were unapologetic about their previous statements.

It's interesting that they slander someone so awfully and with no evidence to support their accusations, and yet when reporters from a Bush-friendly news outlet are kidnapped and forced to take part in videotaped propoganda, there's no mention of mental instability or Stockholm Syndrome or hidden sympathies. Why is that?

Update: Oh, I just found some new NRO stuff. First, we have Cliff May announcing the release of the Fox News guys, but lamenting that the reporter and camera-man said that their ordeal shouldn't dissuade reporters from covering Gaza and telling Palestinian stories to the world. May apparently thinks that the kidnapping may have badly affected the mens' impartiality, making them more sympathetic to their kidnappers.

Then we have Andy McCarthy, who takes the cake for NRO hypocrisy, as he accuses Reuters of bias for reporting that a video had appeared in which the men appeared to convert to Islam. After all the mud-slinging that NRO aimed at Jill Carroll for wearing Muslim garb and appearing in propoganda videos, they accuse Reuters of bias for reporting that the Fox guys did something similar? That's fucking rich. And I wonder if McCarthy will apologize after reading this. The reason the original article didn't mention that they converted at gunpoint is because the article was published before the men were released and held a press conference. NRO idiots.

Coffee Break

Richard Armitage was the first, but not the last, official to leak Plame's identity.

The American version of The Office gets some recognition.

Fox News journalists are released after vowing to convert to Islam.

Kofi Annan is in Lebanon to shore up the ceasefire talks.

This P-I commentary on Katrina reminds me of an old Mike Myers sketch from SNL. Anyone remember the hyper hypo?

The US is preparing to test its missile defense system again, this time with lowered expectations: "we're not going to try to hit the target"

Marine soldiers guarding Saddam Hussein have reportedly been forcing him to repeatedly watch the South Park movie which features him as the devil's lover.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Valerie's identity was exposed by Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and others in Bush Administration in the summer of 2003 [as] she was doing undercover work to monitor, detect, and interdict nuclear technology going to Iran.

Now House members are criticizing US intelligence agencies for not coming up with enough damning evidence about Iran's nuclear activities. Memo to the GOP: maybe if you let our intelligence agencies do their jobs without injecting political sabotauge into the works, things would be different.

Also, since when do you come up with a foreign policy game plan and then wait for the intelligence to conform to the plan, rather than the other way around? What an ass-backwards administration we have.

Bad Cat

This is a great story. A 4-year-old boy camping with his family on Vancouver Island was attacked by a cougar, but his dad sprinted over and jumped full on its chest, chasing the cougar away and leaving the boy with only very minimal injuries. The boy's response: "It's a bad cat that made a bad choice."

His dad surely deserves consideration for father of the year.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fortune Cookies

This is a pretty funny dig at neoconservative arguments, and I think it also hits on an important truth: when neocons go on and on about how serious they are, how their arguments are serious and that only other serious thinkers can appreciate them, and that realists and progressives aren't serious enough, the seriousness basically boils down to those three little words that Michael Brendan tacks on. They think of themselves as more serious because all of their solutions are militaristic. Maybe they should substitute "serious" with "grim."

I Want a Pair of These

This is awesome, and Stephon Marbury is my new hero. I know what I want for Christmas.


I think Turkey was already doomed on its ambition to join the EU, but this would seal it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Electra Glide in Blue

One of the very best things I've seen in this year's festival is the film Electra Glide in Blue, part of the retrospective of early 1970s lost classics. It's unbelievable that this movie is not more well-known, because the acting by Robert Blake is perfect, the cinematography by Conrad Hall is breath-taking, and the screenplay is just beautiful, striking the perfect balance of humor, drama and majesty. It feels very contemporary too, like something the Coen Brothers might achieve at their best. This was a one-off by director James Guercio and it's a shame that he didn't pursue film-making. I feel very lucky to have caught this one on the big screen.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

John Banville

I saw an interview with John Banville this morning, as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival. I've been a fan of his for several years, since I lived in Ireland and read Book of Evidence and the Revolutions Trilogy, and it was exciting to see the writer sometimes referred to as the greatest living novelist of the English language. The conversation mostly centered around The Sea, his novel which won the Booker last year. He gave some great insight into the writing process, was witty and friendly and seemed like a man with genuine curiosity and astonishment at the things around him. But I have to say, both the interviewer and the audience questioners were horrible. The worst question from the interviewer: "You said a bit ago that you've always loved watching the sky and the clouds. And yet you called your last book The Sea. Why didn't you call it The Sky, or The Sea and the Sky?" And one audience member saw fit to waste all of our time by asking Banville which recent detective novels he liked. Banville did not answer.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Via Atrios, I found this bit of GOP insanity: the Republican National Committee website posted a photo of several high-profile Democrats including Howard Dean, but in this photo they drew a faint Hitler-style moustache on Dean. Someone must've come to their senses, because it was soon removed, but luckily some bloggers copied the photo before they replaced it with a moustache-less one.

Click here to compare the two photos. Mind you, this isn't from some far-right blogger. This was posted on the Republicans' own national website.

This comes after Fox News anchor John Gibson goes on this tirade:
"Hang on, Dems. Here come the Pol Pots of your party. And if you were for national security, you are now emphatically not. Or else. Remember the mountain of skulls in Cambodia? It's the Democrats new reality now that the anti-war rabble has tasted blood by taking Lieberman down,"

Yes, they think of Democrats as akin to Hitler and the Khmer Rouge.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Fear of Stefan Sharkansky and Co.

It's not a helpful fear.

I had remembered that Stefan Sharkansky wrote a few pieces in The Stranger a while back and was curious to check out his blog, Sound Politics. I was intrigued that Sharkansky was writing as a staunch conservative in the progressive bastion of Seattle and was curious to see his blog's conservative take on politics both local and beyond. But I was a bit shocked by what I found there.

Apparently, Stefan's favorite blogging theme right now is that the Seattle area Muslim community has not been apologetic enough in the aftermath of last week's Jewish center shooting. He has particularly singled out a Jeff Siddiqui of American Muslims of Puget Sound. Note Stefan's cute headline about 'reluctantly expressing sympathy,' trying to make Saddiqui seem very cold-hearted about the shooting. Here's Saddiqui's actual point:
We struggled for some time about whether a statement should be sent out or not, because we would like this to be recognized for the grievous crime that it is, rather than an event that calls for an explanation or apology by Muslims.

In the end, it was decided that we need to extend our sympathies and good will to those who were victimized by this crime because it would prevent misunderstandings between the faiths.

Now, I don't know the first thing about Siddiqui and am not going to try to judge him in general, but if we're just discussing his words, then Stefan is way off the mark in his interpretation. Siddiqui is saying that it should not be assumed that all Muslims are sympathetic with the gunman unless they explicitly come out and say that they are not.

But Stefan plods on. Apparently 9 days before the shooting, Siddiqui had a letter to the editor published in the Everett Herald, in which he wrote the following:
I grieve that once more Muslims will sit it out and watch the slaughter of Muslims and Arabs (many are Christians) [in Lebanon] and only grumble among ourselves.

I fear there may be some idiotic Muslim who will decide to take matters into his own hand and perpetrate some terrible act on people whose only guilt is inaction (just like the Muslims themselves). This will only fuel more fire against us.

His letter can be read in its entirety here. Stefan's comment is just plain nuts, saying that Siddiqui was making veiled threats and that it's 'not unreasonable' to surmise that the gunman was inspired by Siddiqui. In fact, Siddiqui's point seems to be that terrorists like Naveed Haq, the Seattle shooter, are not only committing terrible acts but also causing a great deal of grief for other Muslims, because the community holds all Muslims responsible. And in that respect Siddiqui is remarkably prescient, because that's exactly what Stefan and his crew are doing.

And then Stefan goes from the ridiculous to the sublime, apparently outraged that Muslims are organizing a peace march in Seattle. Stefan even puts 'peace march' in scare quotes. Shouldn't he be celebrating these Muslims? What do you want, Stefan?

I encourage you to read a few of the comment threads, as much as you can stomach. It gives an interesting taste of how deranged the far-right is in the US. I posted a few comments challenging Stefan's arguments and was threatened with decapitation and having a bullet put through my head. And these are the folks who brush all Muslims as being violent and sick.

It's sad, but people like Stefan and many of his readers seem to have sold their souls, thinking that doing so is necessary to fight the war on terror. Should we be concerned about fanatical Muslims? Absolutely - just look at the news today. But Stefan and many of his readers are demented and dangerous and afraid of everything, and they're absolutely not helpful, to say the least.

Update: I also found this, which Sharkansky seems to ignore.

British Muslims

Timothy Garton Ash should be required reading today.

Trans-Atlantic Plot

This is amazing and heartening news that authorities were able to thwart what sounds like a massive terrorist operation; impressive that the intelligence was there and that they could act on it successfully. It's also pretty scary for those of us who regularly fly from the UK back to North America. Sounds like those journeys will be much different in the immediate future, too (BA is not even allowing hand luggage).

I haven't heard yet if this was a joint US/UK intelligence operation, but the threat levels in both countries are at maximum.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont Wins

In the US, the rate of incumbents being returned to office is pretty astronomical, so the fact that 3 incumbents lost primaries last night is huge. And the most significant by far is Lieberman's loss to newcomer Ned Lamont, which serves as an enormous boon to the grassroots and netroots progressive movements and bodes well for November. Yes, the Democrat tent needs to be big enough to support both those who initially supported the war and those who didn't, but it doesn't need to be big enough to support those who think it's going just fine today. Lieberman is delusional, he is blindly supportive of Bush, and he has gone so far as to warn that any criticism of Bush and the war is dangerous. Obviously, he had to go. Hopefully now he'll change his mind about running independent.

But it's interesting to see right-wingers try to spin this as good news for them, that 'the loony left' are taking over the party again. And this spin gets under some people's skin. Check out the comment thread in the Stranger when the decision was announced and you can see that people like commenter Fnarf buy heavily into this line. And I'm convinced that the only danger for Dems is precisely people like Fnarf believing this spin, which subsequently makes us seem fractured. You can see how this discussion unfolded in the thread linked above.

Anyway, it's refreshing to see one conservative admitting that the Lamont win is very bad for the GOP:
Well, someone has to be gloomy about this, so it might as well be me: I don't think that Lamont's win bodes well for the GOP in November. In fact, I think it's very bad news indeed. Yes, yes, Connecticut may not be typical of the nation, and, yes, yes, voters enthusiastic enough to vote in a primary may not be representative of the electorate as a whole, but add in some of the other results from last night, and Lamont's win adds yet more weight to the idea that "throw the bums out" is going to be an important factor this fall. As the National Journal asked last night, "when was the last time in a non-redistricting midterm that 3+ incumbent members of Congress have lost in primaries?" Clue: Newt Gingrich knows the answer.

Then there's the fact that the Lamont win makes it even more likely that the November vote will be a referendum on (a) a president whose ratings are, well, choose your grim adjective and (b) a war for which public support has ebbed substantially.

There are plenty of ways that the topic of debate could shift in a more favorable direction (for the Republicans) between now and November, but it's difficult to use last night's result as evidence for that case.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Border Force

This decision by Lebanon to send 15,000 troops to the Southern border seems like the first major breakthrough we've had in ending this conflict. A positive aspect of having a large Lebanese force there is that if Hezbollah continues fighting after a cease-fire is brokered, and Lebanese troops are stationed in the danger zone, it could turn Lebanese sentiment against Hezbollah again, which would be great. Of course, the preferred outcome is that Hezbollah agrees to a ceasefire.

Having heard the news so far on the draft UN resolution, however, I'm not certain that the US and Israel want a ceasefire at all. The keys words are Rice's:
We'll see who is for peace and who isn't.

Well, that's fine, but it reminds me of just the kind of trip-wire this administration loves, like the UN resolution regarding Iraq which they knew Iraq would not heed. Well, if they craft a ceasefire resolution that is pro-Israeli enough, they know that Hezbollah will not heed it and that it will open doors toward further action, perhaps against Syria and Iran. If that seems far-fetched, check this post again.

Edinburgh Festival - Smoking

This is the most hilarious example of Godwin's Law that I've seen in a while:
[Performer Les] Smith told an Edinburgh paper: "It would have delighted Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler, as you know, was anti-smoking. You couldn't smoke at Adolf Hitler's dining table, so he'd be pleased, wouldn't he? Congratulations Scotland."


Well, today's the day then. Apparently the most recent poll shows Lieberman with a bounce and the linked article says he's optimistic (of course). The pro-Lamont blogs have been trying to dampen expectations a bit the past few days, partly to fight complacency and convince Lamont supporters that they need turn out in numbers, but also because I'm sure some of these bloggers know that Lieberman still has a very good chance of taking it all. And they don't want that result to be seen as a failure, since the movement that brought Lamont from zero to credible challenger has been pretty amazing, and that alone is a success for the movement that opposed the Iraq War and is tired of Lieberman's deference to Bush.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


The Edinburgh Festival, 'the biggest assembly of arts in the world', is just under way and the crowds are already overwhelming. We're going to this tonight and I'm excited about that. They've come the last couple years and got rave reviews.

Also saw Talk Radio, the Eric Bogosian play directed by Stewart Lee. I thought the performances were great, especially Phil Nichol as Ray Champlain, though had some qualms with parts of the writing.

Anyway, lots of good happenings. Check it out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Neocon Ambition

This Salon piece nicely captures how fucking nuts these guys are.

Heat: Fake Controversy

It's interesting that a few conservative commentators insist that there is still no scientific consensus on global warming and its ramifications. Add to that list of commentators one Tim Graham of NRO, who seems never to have heard of the European heatwave of 2003 and doesn't seem to believe that it killed so many:
The Washington Post just throws out today that 52,000 Europeans died of heat in the summer of 2003. Ex-squeeze me?

He then links to some conservative media watchdog that dismisses the source of those stats as hard-core greenies.

It doesn't take much googling to find the official numbers on how many died that summer. In France alone, the Health Ministry's own tally was astounding:
France's summer heatwave killed a total of 14,800 people, according to official figures released on Thursday.
The figure covers 1-30 August, including a fortnight of record-breaking heat.

News Busters doesn't seem like much of a watchdog. Sorry, Tim.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

John Pilger

I've started reading The New Statesman recently, and find it to be pretty informative and more or less balanced on foreign affairs issues. But I was pretty stunned by how awful John Pilger's piece in the current issue is. He's passionately anti-Israeli with nary a condemning word about Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza, and he writes with all the subtlety of a battering ram. Here are some of the worst bits:
An Israeli soldier belonging to an invasion force was captured and held, legitimately, as a prisoner of war. Reported as a "kidnapping", this set off yet more slaughter of Palestinian civilians.

This reminds me of a CNN International bit that I saw on the first day or so of Israeli response to Hezbollah. The anchor (Fanulah something or other?) interviewed the Israeli ambassador to Britain and was literally yelling at him, asking him how many innocent civilians he had killed so far. Mind, this was before Israel had accelerated to a full-out response and before they started tripping all over themselves. To be sure, Israel has lacked any strategy and shown true cruelty these past weeks, though not at that point. The anchor was just determined to villify Israel from the get-go. But the interesting thing is, they then cut to a demonstration in Trafalgar Square against the Israeli response, and they interviewed a Respect MP and a leader of the British Muslim Council. These interviewees also referred to Gilad Shalit as a legimiate prisoner of war, as John Pilger does above. The correspondent allowed them to go on for a long while with an anti-Israel tirade, then simply thanked them for their comments without so much as a challenge.

So where does this idea that Shalit was a legitimate prisoner of war come from? Palestinian militants tunneled under an Israeli base, killed several soldiers, kidnapped Shalit and withdrew to Gaza with him. Pilger endorses this is as legitimate. Something to remember when you read his stuff.

Another bit from Pilger:
"I want nobody to sleep at night in Gaza," declared the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, as children went out of their minds. In their defence, the Palestinians fired a cluster of Qassam missiles and killed eight Israelis: enough to ensure Israel's victimhood on the BBC; even Jeremy Bowen struck a shameful "balance", referring to "two narratives". The historical equivalent is not far from that of the Nazi bombardment and starvation of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto. Try to imagine that described as "two narratives".

Shameful words from Mr. Pilger. Comparing Jews to Nazis is a classic tactic of the anti-Semite, and it's amazing that the New Statesman finds this fit to print

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Reverse Ink Spot

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday directed his country's military to heighten its readiness, vowing to back Lebanese resistance against Israel, the state news agency SANA reported.

On Tuesday, a senior Iranian cleric in Tehran called on Muslim states to arm Hezbollah in the struggle, according to an Iranian Students News Agency report monitored by The Associated Press.

"Now, it is expected that Muslim states not spare any assistance to Hezbollah and the Lebanese people, especially providing weapons, medicine and food," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told ISNA.


From the NYT:
“I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had previously criticized what he saw as anti-Semitic overtones in Mr. Gibson’s hit, “The Passion of the Christ.” “It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”

It's astounding that ABC ever thought that was a good idea.