George W. Bush threw the world -- and the media -- a curveball during his U.N. speech this past week when he suddenly developed an interest in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the violent reaction of the military junta there to pro-democracy demonstrations. The media dutifully has picked up the story, serving its now routine purpose of stenographing the White House's desires.
Of course, my first question upon learning that Myanmar is supposed to be important to me, was whether Myanmar has any oil. They must, otherwise, the Bush administration would have no interest in them, or in their need for "democracy."
But let's back up a bit.
First, here's Wikipedia's rundown on Myanmar, as well as a map. (Short version: Myanmar is in east Asia, east of India, between Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China.)
And here's CNN's latest update on the violence that's taking place there (short version: Myanmar is ruled by a military junta. Pro-democracy groups, and even monks, have been demonstrating, and the government has been cracking down on them violently.)
Just last Sunday Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was in Myanmar's capital for the signing of oil and gas exploration contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd. and Myanmar's military rulers.
The signing ceremony, which coincided with marches led by Buddhist monks that drew thousands in Myanmar's biggest cities, was an example of how important Myanmar's oil and gas resources have become in an energy-hungry world. Even as Myanmar's junta intensifies its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are jostling for access to the country's largely untapped natural gas and oil fields that activists say are funding a repressive regime.
China -- Myanmar's staunchest diplomatic protector and largest trading partner -- is particularly keen on investing in the country because of its strategic location for pipelines to feed the Chinese economy's growing thirst for oil and gas.
Companies from South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere also are looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor Southeast Asian country.
France's Total SA and Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, pump gas from fields off Myanmar's coast through a pipeline to Thailand, which takes 90 percent of Myanmar's gas output, according to Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production PLC.
The American media sniffs at Iranian executions, while ignoring our own ... meanwhile the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether the method of U.S. killings -- not the fact of them -- is unconstitutional. So what's the point? Lethal injection is just high tech hanging, isn't it? Arguing over the method is silly if we agree with the Iranians on the notion of putting criminals to death.
Now they're gonna have to pass a resolution condemning that conservative magazine Pat Buchanan works for...
In fact, American Conservative magazine, which has been 100 percent right on the war and on George Bush's neocon Mideast policy, is taking aim at General Petraeus, just like MoveOn.org. The title of October's cover says it all:
In common parlance, the phrase “political general” is an epithet, the inverse of the warrior or frontline soldier. In any serious war, with big issues at stake, to assign command to a political general is to court disaster—so at least most Americans believe. But in fact, at the highest levels, successful command requires a sophisticated grasp of politics. At the summit, war and politics merge and become inextricably intertwined. A general in chief not fully attuned to the latter will not master the former.
George Washington, U.S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all “political generals” in the very best sense of the term. Their claims to immortality rest not on their battlefield exploits—Washington actually won few battles, and Grant achieved his victories through brute force rather than finesse, while Ike hardly qualifies as a field commander at all—but on the skill they demonstrated in translating military power into political advantage. Each of these three genuinely great soldiers possessed a sophisticated appreciation for war’s political dimension.
David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes. ...
...From the very beginning of the Iraq War, such harmony has been absent. The war’s military and political aspects have been badly out of synch. (In this regard, the hackneyed comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are tragically apt.) The failure to plan for an occupation, the wildly inflated expectations of Iraq’s rapid transformation into a liberal democracy, Donald Rumsfeld’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the insurgency’s existence until long after it had begun, the deeply flawed kick-down-the-door campaign that ensued once Rumsfeld could no longer deny reality: all of these meant that from the outset, the exertions of U.S. troops, however great, tended to be at odds with our stated political intentions. Our actions were counterproductive.
The Petraeus-Crocker hearings found Petraeus in a position to resolve that problem. Over the previous eight months, a discredited president had effectively abdicated responsibility for managing the war. “I trust David Petraeus” became George W. Bush’s mantra, suggesting an astonishing level of presidential deference. Sometime in early 2007, the task of formulating basic strategy for Iraq had effectively migrated from Washington to Baghdad, passing from the office of the commander in chief to the headquarters of the senior field commander. The president made it clear that he intended to takes his cues from his general. Military judgment would inform, even determine, political decisions. ...
...A political general in the mold of Washington or Grant would have taken a different course, using his moment in the spotlight not to minimize consternation but to stir it up to the maximum extent. He would have capitalized on his status as man of the hour to oblige civilian leaders, both in Congress and in the executive branch, to do what they have not done since the Iraq War began—namely, their jobs. He would have insisted upon the president and the Congress making decisions that wartime summons them—and not military commanders—to make. Instead, Petraeus issued everyone a pass.
The article then goes on to explain that Petraeus' optimism about the progress of the surge makes his recommendation that we draw down troops, rather than lay the pressure on even more ridiculous, concluding that:
If Petraeus actually believes that he can salvage something akin to success in Iraq and if he agrees with President Bush about the consequences of failure —genocidal violence, Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against the United States, the Middle East descending into chaos that consumes Israel, the oil-dependent global economy shattered beyond repair, all of this culminating in the emergence of a new Caliphate bent on destroying the West—then surely this moment of (supposed) promise is not a time for scrimping. Rather, now is the time to go all out—to insist upon a maximum effort.
There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.
Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing
...A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.
A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.
Although they won’t say so openly, a modest drawdown comes as good news to Democrats as well. Accused with considerable justification of having done nothing to end the war since taking control of the Congress in January, they can now point to the drawdown as evidence that they are making headway. As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch observed, Petraeus “delivered an early Christmas present” to congressional Democrats.
Above all, a modest drawdown pleases President Bush. It gives him breathing room to continue the conflict in which he has so much invested. It all but guarantees that Iraq will be the principal gift that Bush bestows upon his successor when he leaves office in January 2009. Bush’s war will outlive Bush: for reasons difficult to fathom, this has become an important goal for the president and his dwindling band of loyalists.
Granted, no one is completely happy. Yet neither does anyone go away empty-handed. The Petraeus plan offers a little something for everyone, not least of all for Petraeus himself, who takes back to Baghdad a smidgen of additional time (his next report is not due for another six months), lots more money (at least $3 billion per week), and assurances that his tenure in command has been extended.
This outcome reflects the handiwork of someone skilled in the ways of Washington. Yet the ultimate result is to allow the contradiction between our military efforts in Iraq and our professed political purposes there to persist.
The article ends with a damning conclusion:
The president has made no serious effort to mobilize the wherewithal that his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require. The Congress, liberal Democrats voting aye, has made itself complicit in this shameful policy by obligingly appropriating whatever sums of money the president has requested, all, of course, in the name of “supporting the troops.”
Petraeus has now given this charade a further lease on life. In effect, he is allowing the president and the Congress to continue dodging the main issue, which comes down to this: if the civilian leadership wants to wage a global war on terror and if that war entails pacifying Iraq, then let’s get serious about providing what’s needed to complete the mission—starting with lots more soldiers. Rather than curtailing the ostensibly successful surge, Petraeus should broaden and deepen it. That means sending more troops to Iraq, not bringing them home. And that probably implies doubling or tripling the size of the United States Army on a crash basis.
If the civilian leadership is unwilling to provide what’s needed, then all of the talk about waging a global war on terror—talk heard not only from the president but from most of those jockeying to replace him—amounts to so much hot air. Critics who think the concept of the global war on terror is fundamentally flawed will see this as a positive development. Once we recognize the global war on terror for the fraudulent enterprise that it has become, then we can get serious about designing a strategy to address the threat that we actually face, which is not terrorism but violent Islamic radicalism. The antidote to Islamic radicalism, if there is one, won’t involve invading and occupying places like Iraq.
This defines Petraeus’s failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.
Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.
Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.
Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. ...
President Bush has a bad habit of using (and using up) the credibility of generals. He did it to Collin Powell, and he is doing it to Petraeus. That these men are willing to be so used is perhaps the saddest thing of all. Petraeus should know from having watched the Bushes use up and wring out formerly solid military men, including Powell, Ricardo Sanchez and Anthony Zinni, that the future for him is either bitterness or infamy. Or both.
I won't hold my breath waiting for the frighty Congress, let alone the right wing nut-0-shere, to condemn draft dodger and theoretical troop supporter Rush Limbaugh for branding soldiers who question the rationale of the Iraq war "phony soldiers," any more than I'd expect them to attack the first person to come up with the term "General Betray-us" -- no, not Moveon.org, and not Keith Olbermann -- rather, a commenter called Brad R. Torgerson, who coined the phrase in a posting on the blog belonging to conservative milblogger Blackfive (who apparently doesn't see the irony in filing an FEC complaint over an ad for which one of his posters essentially wrote the headline.)
Here's Blackfive's post, dated November 19, 2005 and titled "Generals of yesterday and today" (hat tip to Democratic Underground, though the poster there copied the wrong commenter's handle):
Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 17, 2005 at 07:23 PM
I don't know GEN Petraeus personally...but when I was in the "Devil Brigade" folks called him "Colonel Betrayus". He came up with things like the "Devil button" (button your BDU collar up to the top when on jumps) and the "Devil grip" (special name for keeping your trigger finger out of the trigger well) which sounded hokey to most of the troops at the time.Can any other All American paratroopers out there expand on my comment?Posted by: TBone November 19, 2005 at 10:52 AM
Torgersen was participating in a thread comparing the relative greatness of past era generals like Patton to the modern ilk. The exchange started when another poster, "IRR Soldier", posted a positie review of then Lt. Gen. Petraeus:
Posted by: IRR Soldier... November 17, 2005 at 06:09 PM
LTG Petraeus. When I arrived to my battalion in the 82nd Airborne as a private, he was leaving the battalion as it's commander. The troops loved him, and would have followed him without question.
To which Torgersen responded:
Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 18, 2005 at 08:07 AM
Petraeus may have been loved by his troops but his officers hated him. He was a pompous, "mine is bigger than yours" kind of guy. However, he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met or worked for.
My vote goes to BG Bill Mayville. He was my BC in the 82nd before leading the 173d into Iraq. Hard as woodpecker lips, tough, but fair.
Then further down the thread, Torgersen posts the "Betray-us" line.
So doesn't that mean that when Congress condemned the Move-on ad, they were really condemning the Devil Brigade???
Could the Iraq disaster, with its cost careening toward $700 billion, and estimated to ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers $2 trillion ... have been avoided for a measly $1 billion? A newspaper story out of Spain has some revealing allegations:
Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).
The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President's Texas ranch.
The White House refused to comment on the report last night.
But, if verified, it is certain to raise questions in Washington and London over whether the costly four-year war could have been averted.
Only yesterday, the Bush administration asked Congress for another £100billion to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total war bill for British taxpayers is expected to reach £7billion by next year.
The newspaper account of the conversation between Mr. Bush and Mr. Asnar, which reportedly took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's Crawford ranch -- at a time when Bush was publicly telling the American people (and the world) that he was still hoping diplomacy would work to bring Iraq to heel, paints a now familiar portrait of a president who was outright lying -- he had every intention of invading Iraq, no matter what.
Asked by the Spanish premier whether Saddam - who was executed in December last year - could really leave, the President replied: "Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated."
But he added that whatever happened: "We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."
We invaded Iraq on March 19th. The conversation with Jose Maria Asnar was said to have been recorded by a diplomat who attended the meeting. Other revelations:
Mr Bush was dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he "thinks he's Mr Arab".
Referring to his relationship with Downing Street, he said: "I don't mind being the bad cop if Blair is the good cop."
The President added: "Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games.
"The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is."
Days before the invasion began on March 22, 2003, the United Arab Emirates proposed to a summit of Arab leaders that Saddam and his henchmen should go into exile.
It was the first time the plan had been officially voiced but it was drowned out in the drumbeat of war.
A spokesman for Mr Aznar's foundation had no comment on its authenticity.
Saved for posterity: Our childrens really IS learning...
Damn, I'm gonna miss this guy... By the way, the White House press team has returned the transcripts to their original Bushism form, having previously cleaned up the "childrens" for public viewing. Yeesh. Will these clods ever learn?
The widely villified district attorney for LaSalle Parish, Louisiana pens an op-ed in the New York Times, explaining why he didn't charge the students who hung three nooses from a tree in Jena, Louisiana with a crime, and why he felt that the attack on white student Justin Barker, who he claims had nothing to do with the noose incident, was a case of attempted murder. Walters writes that the hanging of nooses broke no law under the Louisiana criminal code. And he quotes the African-American U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana in stating that it did not qualify as a hate crime, and that furthermore, no stand-alone hate crim law exists under Louisiana law. Fair enough. He then adds this:
Last week, a reporter asked me whether, if I had it to do over, I would do anything differently. I didn’t think of it at the time, but the answer is yes. I would have done a better job of explaining that the offenses of Dec. 4, 2006, did not stem from a “schoolyard fight” as it has been commonly described in the news media and by critics.
Conjure the image of schoolboys fighting: they exchange words, clench fists, throw punches, wrestle in the dirt until classmates or teachers pull them apart. Of course that would not be aggravated second-degree battery, which is what the attackers are now charged with. (Five of the defendants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.) But that’s not what happened at Jena High School.
The victim in this crime, who has been all but forgotten amid the focus on the defendants, was a young man named Justin Barker, who was not involved in the nooses incident three months earlier. According to all the credible evidence I am aware of, after lunch, he walked to his next class. As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside, he was blindsided and knocked unconscious by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell. While lying on the ground unaware of what was happening to him, he was brutally kicked by at least six people.
Imagine you were walking down a city street, and someone leapt from behind a tree and hit you so hard that you fell to the sidewalk unconscious. Would you later describe that as a fight?
Uh-huh ... Walters also takes the opportunity to play down the recent protests in Jena, undercutting even the low-balled Associated Press count by stating that "10,000 people" came to his "little town" of Jena on September 20th. And his column, while dripping with sympatico for Justin Barker, fails to answer some important questions:
What did Justin Barker say to Robert Bailey Jr. before he was attacked, initially by Mychael Bell according to prosecutors?) According to eyewitnesses, Barker mocked Bailey for having been beaten, and hit in the head with a bottle, by a white man named Justin Sloan the Friday before at a place called the Fair Barn. (Barker denies it). Sloan, by the way, was charged only with simple battery -- not attempted murder. In his op-ed, Walters didn't even mention the Fair Barn incident.
What about the incident which occured on Saturday, December 2nd, 2006, the day after the Fair Barn attack on Bailey, in which Bailey and several friends were encountered by a white student from their high school, who pulled a shotgun. In that incident, Bailey and his friends wrestled the gun away, and then THEY were charged with theft of a firearm, second degree robbery and distubing the peace, while the white student wasn't charged with anything -- nothing -- nada. Can Mr. Walters imagine going to a convenience store and having a gun pulled on him, wrestling that gun away and then being charged with stealing it? That's not disturbing the peace, it's just disturbing.
If Justin Barker was nearly killed, why was he never admitted to the hospital? Barker was treated and released after two hours in the emergency room. And while Barker testified at Bell's trial that his eye was swollen shut and he had pain and loss of vision, no medical evidence has ever been produced that verifies that he had anything other than the kinds of injuries you'd expect to see in a fight -- namely a swollen eye and injuries to his hands.
Why wasn't Coach Benjy Lewis, who was the only adult to witness the attack on Barker, called in Michael Bells' case? Lewis told police it wasn't Bell who initiated the attack -- and that Bell wasn't even on the scene. Instead, Lewis identified another student, Malcolm Shaw, as the initial attacker.
And last, but certainly not least, why did Walters feel it appropriate to go the Jena High School and announce to the African-American students who were still enraged about the noose incident and subsequent violence against them in Jena -- and before any charges had been filed -- that he could "end their lives with a stroke of a pen?" In hindsight, would he make that statement again?
Mr. Walters' op-ed was disengenuous and trite. He trivializes the attacks on Robert Bailey, and quite frankly, his failure to prosecute the people who attacked him will go down in history, along with his over-prosecution of the Jena 6, as a low point in American juris-prudence.
Update: Gov. Blanco has announced that Walters has agreed not to appeal the ruling overturning Mychal Bell's adult conviction. The case will now be tried in juvenile court.
Update 2: Mychal Bell is now free on bail. He was released today (Thursday afternoon). Here's video of him walking out of the courthouse into the arms of happy family members and supporters, along with Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.
Watch video of Walters' press conference, in which he continues to stump for his case, here. And note the comment that "had it not been for law enforcement, and God, there would have been major trouble in Jena during last Thursday's march. And where would you get that idea from, Mr. Attorney General? Does that many Black people in one place scare you?
While you were choking on that $190 BILLION supplemental war request by the Pentagon, several chess pieces moved in the endless global war today. Here are three:
The Knight: An amendment (#3017) to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, authored by uber-neocon Joe Lieberman and Arizona Republican John Kyl, passed the Senate with 76 votes to 22 against (Biden and Dodd voted against it, as did military vets Chuck Hagel and Jim Web; Hillary "Margaret Thatcher" Clinton voted in favor, and Barack failed to show...) The admendment is tantamount to a soft declaration of war, even with the more egregious portions stripped out, and the technically non-binding nature of the measure. Recall that this is the same Joe Lieberman who was the AUTHOR of the legislation that gave George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq. The resolution designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and decrees:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and
(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.
The Bishop: An amendment (#2997) authored by Joe Biden passed the Senate, also by a wide margin (75 to 23,) advocating a plan of "soft partition" -- something Biden has been pushing for some time -- which would turn Iraq into a loose republic. Clearly, the idea of the United States Congress voting to change the form of government in a supposedly sovereign country is bordering on scary, but then again, this is America. We tend to do that sort of thing. (full text here, again, search for 2997). In fact, the Biden amendment is largely an exercise in wishful thinking. It reads in part:
(1) the United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions;
(2) the active support referred to in paragraph (1) should include--
(A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors--
(i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;
(ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and
(iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council;
(B) further calling on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to intervene in or destabilize Iraq and to agree to related verification mechanisms; and
(C) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the creation of federal regions within a united Iraq;
(3) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement based upon federalism; and
(4) the steps described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors.
The Rook: On the domestic front, a federal judge has struck down two the many egregious portions of the Patriot Act, in a case stemming from a chilling incident for anyone who believes in the basic civil liberties and freedoms promised by the Constitution:
Federal district court judge Ann Aiken struck down the government's ability to get orders from the secret spy court for anything other than acquiring foreign intelligence activities, saying that using that court and its lowered standards -- instead of getting a traditional criminal wiretap order -- violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling applies to Patriot Act changes to wiretapping laws and to so-called sneak-and-peak searches, where the government can search someone's home secretly and never have to disclose the search to the individual.
The ruling comes out of a lawsuit brought by Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, who was arrested by the FBI shortly after train bombings in Madrid, Spain. The FBI publicly said Mayfield's prints matched the bomb, though Mayfield had no passport and the Spanish police told the FBI they did not believe the print was a match. The government approached the secret spying court, saying that Mayfield was an "agent of a foreign power" which allowed the government to get warrants to secretly search his home and office, as well as bug his house and eavesdrop on him, for use in a criminal court. Prior to the Patriot Act, searches authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had to have a primary purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, rather than prosecuting a person.
Mayfield, a practicing Muslim who argues he was targeted by the FBI because of his religion, was later exonerated of all charges.
Mayfield and the government settled his lawsuit, with the exception of his challenge to the changes to the Patriot Act that allowed the government to use secret spying orders, rather than traditional wiretaps, for criminal cases.
It's a chilling incident, but a heart warming result.
The score for today: one down, one neutral, one up.
The U.S. delegation walks out before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech, but he gives it nonetheless:
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Tuesday that Iran's disputed nuclear program is closed as a political issue and said Tehran will ignore a U.N. Security Council demand imposed by "arrogant powers" to curb its nuclear program.
Instead, he told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly that Iran has decided to pursue the monitoring of its nuclear program "through its appropriate legal path," the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
When Ahmadinejad was ushered to the podium, the U.S. delegation walked out, leaving only a low-ranking note-taker to listen to his speech, which indirectly accused the United States and Israel of major human rights violations. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the U.S. wanted "to send him a powerful message."
The Iranian president spoke hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world." In her talk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher sanctions against Iran.
Iran insists the program is purely peaceful, aimed solely at using nuclear reactors to generate electricity. But the United States and key European nations believe the program is a cover for an Iranian attempt to produce nuclear weapons.
Just ask Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, who managed to draw frowns from as anti-Iran a publication as the Jerusalem Post for his insulting, silly performance ahead of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech -- at Bollinger's invitation -- yesterday.
The right and its media handmaidens have been foaming at the mouth since before the Iranian leader set foot in the U.S., even stammering implausibly that were he to visit Ground Zero while in New York to address the United Nations, it would be an ourage upon the dignity of 9/11 (how, I'm not sure, since Iran not only had no part in 9/11, it couldn't have, since the Taliban and al-Qaida are just as much Tehran's enemies as they are ours, and since Iran cooperated with the U.S. against the Taliban after the attacks...) No matter, the right must have its boogeymen, and for now, Mahmoud is it. Even Congressional Democrats couldn't resist getting in on the action. (Soon, Iran will be as isolated and battered by U.S. aprobrium as Myanmar!)
Anyway, in his way too long introduction, Bollinger sought to squirm out from under the ridiculous criticism of his university's decision to invite the Iranian leader -- to allow him to partake of the precious freedom of expression we really don't much believe in here in the land of the free and the home of the brave ... His back-peddling had all the subtlety of a brick to the head -- the head being Ahmadinejad's... (video here)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was taken to task Monday for casting doubt on the Holocaust, during a forum at Columbia University in New York.
Columbia president Lee Bollinger told the Iranian leader he exhibited "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," to enthusiastic applause from the audience.
He then said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust came across as foolish in front of an audience of students and teachers.
"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," said Bollinger. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."
Well, actually, it's simply ridiculous to invite the man and then say he's ridiculous for showing up... next, it was Ahmadinejad's turn (audio):
... Ahmadinejad replied that Bollinger's words were "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here."
He accused Bollinger of being influenced by U.S. politicians and biased news agencies.
"I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment," he said.
Ahmadinejad quoted extensively from the Koran during his appearance, expounded on the relationship between science and enlightenment, and claimed Iran itself was a victim of U.S.-supported terrorists.
He said members of the Iranian government had been killed in an attack by U.S.-supported terrorists, though he didn't name the alleged attackers or provide other details.
He also spoke out against governments that "tap telephones" and was critical of what he described as governments that unleash an "onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations."
Ahmadinejad didn't directly answer a questions about whether he sought the destruction of Israel, but instead discussed the plight of the Palestinian people. He received loud cheers from the packed auditorium when he demanded whether or not the Palestinian situation was an important global issue.
Ahmadinejad also claimed European academics have been put in prison for "approaching the Holocaust from a different perspective," and defended Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology and has never intended to use it for violence, nor has it hid anything from international inspectors.
At another point, Ahmadinejad denied that any homosexuals lived in Iran -- a comment that prompted derisive laughter from the audience.
Unfazed, Ahmadinejad persisted: "In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this."
He spoke to The Associated Press prior to delivering the speech at Columbia and a scheduled address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
"Iran will not attack any country," he told AP in an interview.
Bollinger's stunt made Ahmadinejad -- who is hardly a dictator since he was elected to his position in Iran -- despite the U.S. supporting his rival, Mr. Khatami -- appear sympathetic, almost a victim. He came across as the man seeking a way around war, while American freedom of speech looked like a greeting card lie we feed to the Third Worlders before we take over their countries and install a new government.
Pathetic. Sad. Frankly, ridiculous.
That said, I cannot help but wonder if very many Americans even know why they hate Iran. I mean, we used to arm that country... remember Iran Contra? Remember the deals the Reagan-Bush administration cut with the Ayatollah to delay the release of our hostages in return for brand new American F15s for the Iranian Air Force?
On the flip side, remember the gassing of Iranian citizens by Iraq, back when we liked, and armed, Saddam Hussein? What about our takeover of that government in 1953 via a CIA overthrow the then-democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossedeq in order to halt the nationalization of Iranian oil? It was that takeover, and our subsequent installation of a phony king -- the Shah -- on a phony Peacock Throne WE MADE UP -- that set the stage for the student revolution of 1979, and the coming to power of the mullahs, whom we now hate.
In other words, there's plenty of water under the bridge between the U.S. and Iran, but I'll wager that very few Americans can articulate why they are salivating for war with a country that they know nothing about.
As for Iraq, sure Iran is meddling. They're doing what WE did in Afghanistan during that country's war with the Soviet Union. And my dears, they're mostly meddling ON THE SAME SIDE THAT WE'RE ON in Iraq -- the side of the shaky, but very Shiite, al-Maliki government. The Dawa Party, to which Mr. Maliki belongs, is closely aligned with Tehran, as it is with the "rebel" cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who only answers to one man: Grand Ayatola Ali al-Sistani -- an IRANIAN born mullah who wields some of the only real power in that broken country. All of these players have a foothold in Iran, with the mullahs who are the REAL dictators of Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad is the face, but not the body, of that country. He is an academic, a soccer fan, and compared to Lee Bollinger, a rather temperate sounding guy.
The truth of the matter is that most Americans who loathe Iran do so because they have been told to, and for little reason beyond that. Iran is the new boogeyman, meant to replace Iraq in our endless resource wars in the Middle East. Americans say "Iran hates America" with absolutely no evidence of that. To be sure, Iranians appear to hate George W. Bush, but then, so do a majority of the British... care to bunker buster nuke them, mates?
As for the real reason most Americans hate Iran -- Ahmadinejad's attitude toward Israel, I submit that his personal feelings about a country that is not, nor has it ever been, a part of the United States, is utterly irrelevant to you as an American. The Iranian president's rhetoric on Israel is mostly meant for consumption around the Arab world, where such imflamatory rhetoric is a necessary precursor to claiming a mantle of leadership (Iran seeks to be the savior of the Mideast...) And if Ahmadinejad truly believes the Holocaust didn't happen (something he hasn't really said -- rather he's said that since the Palestinians didn't perpetrate it, they shouldn't be the ones paying for it with their land...) then how does his ignorance harm you? Will Iran attack Israel? Please. Israel has nuclear weapons and would wipe Iran off the map.
In fact, Iran is literally surrounded by nuclear powers, including Pakistan and India, and it's sitting next door to a collapsing country called Afghanistan. No wonder they want to be nuclear armed, assuming you don't believe Ahmadinejad's protests to the contrary, again, because the media tells you you shouldn't...
At the end of the day, I don't see how the U.S. can purport to tell any country what they can and cannot do in the interests of their own security. Iran hasn't got the missile capacity or range to threaten us, any more than Iraq did, even if Saddam did have nuclear weapons. The country they threaten -- assuming, again, that the mullahs are suicidal -- is Israel, a country that can more than take care of itself.
The next argument I'll hear is that Iran "supports terrorists" -- ok, which ones? Not al-Qaida, of course. They're the wrong sect. Hezbollah? They killed hundreds of Americans in the 1980s, and Ronald Reagan didn't do a damned thing about it. In fact, he turned around and kept right on doing business with Iran, as did Richard Cheney, through his notorious company, Halliburton. So if we want to punish Iran for those past wrongs, we're about 20 years too late and more than a dollar short. And are they fomenting terrorism today? If so, tell me where, and against whom. Lebanon? That's an internal struggle akin to a civil war. America isn't threatened there. And again, any rockets being lobbed by terror groups funded by Iran are headed Israel's way. So unless you're saying that Israel's interests are always and necessarily our interests, you must admit that the U.S. has no DIRECT reason to hate Iran, or to feel threatened by it. On the contrary, we have a vested interest in getting that country's cooperation, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Is Iran a bad actor? On human rights, certainly. But then, we aren't doing great shakes in that arena either. And we do business with country's that are as bad, or worse (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China come to mind...)
But that only counts if you aren't gung-ho determined to go to war.
And I hate to say it, but I think the American people are fully capable of being fooled again.
Is George W. Bush offering free advice to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on how, if either becomes president, they can help us stay in Iraq? (And isn't that rather like Adolph Hitler advising Moshe Dyan?) I'd almost prefer to believe that Bush is devious enough to be trying to poison the waters for the Democratic front runners with their base by making it appear that they're on his side when it comes to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for years to come ... but that's not our President Bush, is it?
Our president Bush is delusional, and apparently quite insane. He's like a little Nero fiddling away, unaware that the city is in flames.
Bill O'Reilly is shocked ... SHOCKED! ... that an upscale soul food restaurant in Harlem isn't a scene out of a BET music video! Said Orally:
"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming 'M-Fer -- I want more iced tea.' " Oh, my God.
What's worse, Orally made the comments while talking with Juan Williams, an otherwise perfectly respectable commentator. ... yeesh...
Now that Bill is reaping the whirllwind for his stupid comments, he's not getting mad, he's getting FURIOUS ... at Media Matters...
Maybe next time, Juan should take Bill-o on a field trip to see some Black children playing ... he'll be pleasantly surprised to find they're not playing tag with AK's...!
Florida's Democratic Party isn't backing down in the battle over our primary date, which the GOP-led state legislature has set for January 29. The DNC -- led by the thoroughly misguided Dr. Dean (and Donna Brazille, surprisingly) -- has seen fit to punish Florida by threatening to disenfranchise 4.2 million Democratic voters, by taking away 100 percent of our delegates to the Denver convention. (The RNC is threatening to take away half of the GOP delegates as punishment.)
The issue here is whether Iowa and New Hampshire have some God-given right to decide who the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. Where this right comes from, and why it was afforded to two of the least diverse states in the country, I'll never know.
But I do know this. The Democratic Party had better pray that this doesn't come down to a showdown. They will lose.
For now, it appears the Florida Democratic Party will sue the DNC over the disenfranchisement threats.
PEMBROKE PINES - Florida Democratic party leaders on Sunday dared their national party to disenfranchise millions of voters next summer when their delegates meet in Denver to nominate their candidate for president.
Their dare, they added, might be bolstered by a lawsuit contending that "four rogue states" are conspiring to violate the civil rights of minorities in Florida by getting the Democratic National Committee to ignore the results of Florida's Jan. 29 party primary.
"For God's sake, this is the state where the election was stolen from in 2000," state party Vice Chairman Luis Garcia said at a news conference held in Broward because it is the most heavily Democratic county in the state.
At stake are the 210 delegates that Florida Democrats plan to send to the Democratic National Convention in Colorado. The national party in August threatened not to seat those delegates unless Florida delays its primary at least a week so New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina can pick their nominees for president.
"Four rogue states took action against the state of Florida," said Sen. Steve Geller of Cooper City, the Senate's Democratic leader.
Florida Democrats said it wasn't their fault the date was set for Jan. 29; the Republican-controlled Legislature did it. But Democratic leaders said they ruled out other options, such as holding a Democratic-only primary, a caucus or a mail-in vote.
"We looked at other alternatives and some looked serious and some not so serious, but at the end of the day we came down to the primary on Jan. 29 as the only way to have a fair and independent election," said party Chairwoman Karen Thurman.
The problem, she said, is that municipalities throughout Florida moved their elections to Jan. 29 and the state set the same date for Floridians to vote on a constitutional amendment for a "super" homestead exemption. This was done because presidential primaries attract people to the polls and without Democratic candidates on the ballot, Democratic voters might not show up to vote on the other issues.
"So there are a lot of reasons we stand together today to say to voters of the state to vote on Jan. 29 and to be assured their vote will count," she said.
Thurman said the national party isn't likely to carry out its threat to ignore the delegates selected by Florida Democrats.
"I believe they have to seat Florida's delegates," she said. "Florida is part of the United States."
Added Geller: "There is no question that in Denver our delegates will be seated, no question about it." ...
Get 'em, Florida.
... Geller said it might take a lawsuit to force the party to seat Florida delegates. He predicted one will be filed contending that the national party, by ordering Florida to move the date, is violating the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965
The suit will be brought, he said, by a minority resident of Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough or Monroe County and contend that the four early voting states are "conspiring amongst each other to intimidate the presidential candidates, telling them that if they come down to Florida, they will be blackballed in the state."
According to Geller, the civil rights violation is that moving the primary date would force minority voters in the five counties to pay to see presidential candidates in person, something they could do for free if the candidates stumped in Florida for the scheduled Jan. 29 primary.
Because candidates would fear being blackballed, he said, their only appearances in Florida would be at fund-raisers open to those who pay. Without the fear of being blackballed, they would come to Florida and make traditional, free campaign appearances.
The suit would have to come from one of the five counties because they are being monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice for violations of minority voting rights.
Go ahead and try and disenfranchise Florida, Dems. I double, triple dare you.
The following comment was posted in response to my post of yesterday:
Be assured -- I am neither underground nor in danger of arrest. One site is just changing servers, but we're still up in a dozen other places, like overthrow88.blogspot.com
This isn't the first time we've done this, and it won't be the laST.
We killed Lefkow, we kidnapped Wiesel, and we can take care of a few ghetto niggers as well. Bill White Homepage 09.23.07 - 4:54 pm #
I'll be forwarding the post to the FBI. If that really is Bill White, I'll wager he's pretty tough from the anonymity of his pajamas, but I'd like to see him come down here and run his mouth in Liberty City.
On his blog for the Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan writes today:
Bill Kristol knows that the current strategy in Iraq will not work as it was designed to do. He's not crazy. The chances of national reconciliation in Iraq have gone backward, not forward, this past year, and the U.S.'s empowerment of anti-Shiite propaganda in Anbar will only isolate Maliki further. The best that can happen is an indefinite occupation of a dismembered Iraq to slow down genocide and make ethnic cleansing more orderly. But even that is a very risky proposition. And the events of last week mean that the Republican party now owns the Iraq occupation more exclusively and deeply than they ever had - and indeed intend to maintain it for another decade.
So what to do? Remember that Kristol's loyalty to the Republicans often trumps national security. How else to explain his support for the GOP last November, even though a Republican victory would have prevented the surge in the first place and kept Rumsfeld in the Pentagon? One option: Change the subject by launching wars against Syria and Iran, and so polarize the country that the choice is framed as: MoveOn or America? That's much better than having, you know, an actual debate about the merits of the war in Iraq and the war against Islamist terror. On that, Republicans lose. If the war is far wider and more terrifying, if the enemies can be multiplied and amplified, then the dynamic plays to the advantage of the GOP. It's for us or against us again.
Remember it doesn't matter to the current Bush Republicans if they cannot persuade a majority of thie necessity of extending the war to Iran and Syria. They have dropped attempting to persuade a majority on the war. They are concerned only with shoring up their own party, which can enable them to launch new wars before the current presidency ends. ...
That being the case, Sullivan reports, via Kristol, that the president must now move to put down potential rebellions against his policy from within the military, from generals who may be "jealous of Petraeus" (whatever that means -- could one possibly be jealous of the military man placed in the service of presidential P.R.?) or who otherwise oppose Bush on the subject of expanding the war to Syria and Iran, in order to prevent them from underminig the neocon project in Iraq.
But not all of the military is in need of "putting down."
THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.
Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.
It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Checkmate’s job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military’s tendency to “fight the last war” and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.
It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, who is considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.
The Israeli connection is alarming, given the myriad signals that the U.S. policy in Iran is heavily influenced by the desires of the Likud government -- which badly wants President Bush to rid Israel of its chief enemies: Iran and Syria, before Mr. Bush leaves office, Saddam Hussein already having been taken care of.
It's not just those on the left who fear that Mr. Bush will launch yet another war on his way out the door. Pat Buchanan and other true conservatives believe as much as well, as do leading journalists like Seymour Hersh.
The question remains, however, whether Congress will sit still for yet another war, and whether Senate Democrats can successfully stop neocons and deocons like Joe Lieberman, from aiding the Bush administration in forcing upon this country a foreign policy that is not in the best interests of the United States.
I by no means think that most White Americans are racists. In fact, I would guess that the majority of White folks are embarassed by the kind of throw-back, red-neck, bigotry that is on display in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana. I say this, despite the fact that I truly believe that most Whites, while not actively racist, harbor an inherent sense of privilege, which is inculcated in them almost from toddler-hood; a notion that they have ownership and dominion over this country, its resources and benefits, and that they have an inherent right to judge and exert authority over other nations (like Iraq for instance), other people, other ethnic groups, and other value systems. On that, I don't hate the players, but I definitely hate the game...
That said, there are some Whites who are so unreconstructed and backward on the issue of race, that I puzzle at how they manage to get up in the morning, knowing that they live in a world where every facet of life, every job category, every major sport (save hockey and NASCAR, and even that is changing...) every form of entertainment, and damned near every other aspect of life is infused with people of color. How do these throwbacks manage to turn on a TV set without recoiling in abject horror?
So now, we have a few troglodites who have come out of the woodwork, not to merely hang nooses, with the implied threat of lynching, but to actually call for the lynching of the Jena 6, and to go a step further: a neo-Nazi outfit has published the addresses of the Jena 6 families on its web-ste (the site has been down this morning, so I'm assuming the ISP took action, due to the criminal probe now under way...) The organization behind the posting is the National Socialist Movement -- a Hitlerian operation fronted by a guy, aptly called Bill White -- has gone underground since CNN broke the story of the postings, and White himself may face criminal charges, if the federal and state authorities can manage to get their acts together on such a clear hate crime. One hopes that the FBI's level of urgency on this matter will be an improvement upon the flat-footed, slack-jawed reactions to the original nooses hung under the "Jena tree" by the district attorney, Reed Walters, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Donald "See no hate crime" Washington, and by the babbling, useless governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineau Blanco.
Rev. Al Sharpton and others have called for federal marshals to be sent to LaSalle Parish to protect the Jena 6 families. At the least, the state should provide for, and pay for, round the clock protection (Blanco has pledged to have state authorities "investigate" -- not good enough, dear, but then again, that phrase seems increasingly to apply to everything you do...) These families are living in a parish where the district attorney goes to high schools to threaten Black students, where he over-prosecutes them while letting whites who point shotguns at, break bottles over the heads of and hang nooses with the implied threat to lynch black teenagers go unpunished, and where a judge holds a 17-year-old boy in jail, even after the case against him has been thrown out of court. This is not an American city or county in 2007 -- it is a pre civil rights movement-era Dixie, where there apparently is no justice, and no protection, for Black citizens.
So will the federal government step in ? We shall see. Meanwhile, it seems that the Black community -- and people of good will in the White community -- can and should coalesce around a simple set of demands, and should begin considering a series of consequences if those demands are not met:
First, the judge in the case of Mychal Bell should recuse himself, or be removed from the case.
Second, the district attorney, Mr. Walters, should be investigated by the Louisiana Bar for his comments made in that high school gynmasium, that he can "end your lives with the stroke of a pen," before any charges were filed against the Jena 6, and for his refusal to prosecute the White student who pulled a shotgun on Jena 6 member Robert Bailey and two friends (instead, Bailey, who wrestled the gun away and took it home, was charged with theft of a firearm, second degree robbery and disturbing the peace,) not to mention failure to prosecute the students who hung those nooses, and the person who broke a bottle over Bailey's head at a party in December 2006.
Third, Governor Blanco should immediately convene her pardon board to request consideration of an order vacating the charges against all six Jena defendants.
Fourth, state police and/or federal marshalls should be sent to Jena to protect the Black families who have now been threatened by an organized, racist group, as well as by individual White citizens in Jena and in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Fifth, the remaining Jena 6 cases, if not vacated, should and must be moved out of LaSalle Parish.
If no action is taken along these lines, I would venture to say that it's time for Americans of good will -- of all races --to begin an economic and tourism boycott of the state of Louisiana, which has shown no interest in protecting its Black citizens -- either from natural disaster, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, or from racist attacks by organized groups and individuals harboring clear race-based malice.
In addition to that, if Kathleen Blanco runs for reelection as governor, she does not merit, and should not receive, a single Black vote, or for that matter, a single vote by anyone who cares about competent government that serves all citizens equally.
Can I get a witness?
By the way, major big-ups to the Afrosphere, which pushed and continues to push, this important story. Key links:
Why won't the State of Louisiana release Mychal Bell? His conviction on aggravated battery charges has been thrown out of court by an appeals court. The bulk of the sane world sees that the prosecutor, and clearly the judge, in this case, are determined to railroad young Mr. Bell and the other members of the group now known as the "Jena 6" into prison for a substantial portion of their lives. The reason why seems equally clear, given the retrograde racial canons of Jena, Louisiana. But will all of the protests, the abysmal publicity, and the incredible public pressure now on that backward state, and its even more backward system of "justice" -- and I put that term in quotes quite on purpose -- the judge and prosecutor seem to be working hand in hand to retain custody of Mychal Bell no matter what.
Meanwhile, purse, unadulterated ignorance is still in fashion in Jena (would that it would only be there...) A picture of the latest nooses to grace that backward town (which the AP managed to portray as Mayberry in its slanted report of today) is below:
Smart move, rednecks. I guess you haven't figured out that prosecutors -- even in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, now HAVE TO charge you with a crime for doing some stupid stuff like that...
The Louisiana District Attorney who over-charged the Jena 6 should be disbarred, both because of the excessive charges, and because of his statement in the Jena high school gym, before any charges were filed in the case, that he could "end your lives with the stroke of a pen."
If Nifong had to go, this guy should, too.
And he's not done. Walters' new act is to pal around with Justin Barker, the kid who got beaten up in that now notorious fight, but who was partying by that night.
With the Jena 6 protests scheduled for today, I thought I'd repost this article that I included in headlines yesterday:
Key Republican leaders are encouraging the party's presidential candidates to rethink their decision to skip presidential debates focusing on issues important to minorities, fearing a backlash that could further erode the party's standing with black and Latino voters.
The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) all cited scheduling conflicts in forgoing the debate. The top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June at Howard University.
"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."
Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed.
"For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."
Ain't it interesting? A bit more:
But while the GOP campaigns have generally offered no public rationale other than timing for missing the forums, an adviser to one suggested they had little to gain from attending an event such as Smiley's.
"What's the win?" said the adviser, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they're probably going to be booed?"
Giuliani, Romney and McCain also declined to appear at events sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Urban League, which Smiley said suggests a pattern of ignoring minority voters. He said debate organizers will set up lecterns showing the names of the absent candidates.
"When you reject every black invitation and every brown invitation you receive, is that a scheduling issue or is it a pattern?" he asked. "I don't believe anybody should be elected president of the United States if they think along the way they can ignore people of color. That's just not the America we live in."
I did a quick check of some of the major left wing blogs to see if any of them are covering the Jena 6 case. Wanna guess whether or not they've got stories up? After checking several popular left-of-center sites: Daily Kos, ThinkProgress, Talking Points Memo, MyDD, Democratic Underground, RawStory and the Huffington Post, this post on the HuffPo was all I found.
Some 60,000 people are headed to the town of 3,000 to 4,000 people for a peaceful protest. Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena 6 to be tried, by an all-white jury, by the way, and with his court appointed attorney calling no witnesses, was to be sentenced this morning at 9:00. That won't happen now that his conviction has been vacated by an appellate court. But the underlying problem in Jena, Louisiana -- one of racial bigotry -- and the larger problem in the country -- racial bigotry combined with national indifference -- remains. The mainstream media is treating the Jena 6 story as an afterthought, much as they are doing with the unbelievable West Virginia torture case. Meanwhile, it's all about O.J., and the media is indulging in an orgy of revenge journalism. Sure, the MSM will cover the Jena story today, because of the massive protest. But where have they been for the past nearly a year, as this case has dragged on ...?
What is wrong with this picture?
If you're still not up on the Jena 6 story, this column by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! from back in July should help.
Americans to Congress: "we hate you" (and your little president, too...)
The Pope to Condi Rice: "I'll get back to you on that meeting..." not... sorry but I've got to give this bit to you:
Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday. Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.
She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.
"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.
It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
Oh, Condi, you pathetic little dear ... at least you can pick up some fabulous shoes while in Italy...
Rudy Giuliani is slowly, but surely, beginning to show himself. From the Guardian UK:
LONDON (AP) - Rudy Giuliani was on the trans-Atlantic campaign trail Wednesday, schmoozing with conservative idol Margaret Thatcher and bragging about his international credentials.
``I'm probably one of the four or five best known Americans in the world,'' Giuliani told a small group of reporters at a posh London hotel as onlookers gathered in the lobby to gawk at actor Dustin Hoffman, who was on a separate visit.
The former New York mayor is the latest GOP presidential candidate to travel to Britain, meeting the country's new political guard and rubbing elbows with Thatcher, an icon for American conservatives.
He also was asked to deliver a special lecture at the Atlantic Bridge, a group that promotes ties between British and American conservatives.
Giuliani told reporters he has made 91 trips to 35 countries in five years and many governments seek him out for advice on security. He was given an honorary knighthood in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II for his leadership after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
But who are the four other best-known Americans?
``Bill Clinton ... Hilary,'' he said, but he was whisked away for another engagement before he could throw out any other names. ...
What a shit. Why would anyone want this 9/11 pimping nut-ball for a president? Republican Rudy supporters, please take your temperature and "just say no."
Closer to home, the Liberty City Seven trial is under way, with jury selection having started yesterday. We spoke with the attorney for one of the men on the show this morning, and I'll be watching this one. In my opinion, this is as clear cut a case of government railroading in order to prove that there really is a war on terror (requiring us all to be surveilled) as I've ever seen.
What's hot on the blogs? Taser Guy (of course, it all happened in FLORIDA!) He's out of jail now, but some people -- myself included -- are asking: why the hell didn't John Kerry stop talking and do something??? Meanwhile, the wingers, including Drudge and Breitbart, are on the war path against Andrew Meyer. The hot phrase of the day: "Don't tase me bro!"
Looks like White America finally got O.J., the object of their angry obsession, and his stupidity let them do it. The question still remains open for me whether he's being set up by his so-called acquaintances -- perhaps by this guy, who's actually profiting from Simpson's demise. But it's not arguable that Mr. Simpson, who is 60 years old, has the brains of a 1 day old squid. Now he's facing life in prison for an alleged armed robbery in a Las Vegas hotel (indictement here.) The state is obviously over-charging O.J. and his cohorts in hopes of not creating the next Marcia Clark, Chris Darden and Judge Ito. It's a sad spectacle, and one that O.J. himself helped orchestrate by being so arrogant, beligerent and so ... damned ... stupid.
Still, there are principles at stake in this case that are bigger than O.J., like vindictive prosecution, white America's (I believe racist) obsession with O.J. (in my opinion, because he exploded the old taboo about Black men sleeping with white women, and then beat the system by getting acquitted for the Brown-Goldman murders), and the media's clear double standard (where's the outrage over Robert Blake beating those wife murder charges? Hm, Geraldo?)... and then there is the rather sorry, pitiful spectacle of the Goldmans, whose seemingly unquenchable obsession with scraping up Simpson's assets, including his largely worthless memoribilia, has become an embarassment.
I wish that all of this would go away, but unfortunately, I know the media too well to think that it will. Welcome back to the future.
A quadruple shooting of Miami-Dade police officers by a clearly troubled young man got even stranger, when the suspect's ties to another notorious shooting were uncovered. One officer died in the shooting, by a young man wearing body armor and toting an AK 47, who had apparently stolen another man's identity (clearly, the other man could have been killed had he been in South Florida when police caught up with him.) He wound up hold up in a Pembroke Pines apartment complex a day later, and died in a hail of bullets by police, who reportedly shot him a dozen times, including one bullet in the back. Now, the case is raising questions of whether police need heavier firepower, and whether their reactions in such a stressful situation were valid. (Studies have shown that police are actually less trigger happy than the public.)
A Timeline of the shooting can be found here. Six people are now under arrest for allegedly helping the killer evade police. And now for the truly weird stuff:
Shawn LaBeet, wanted in Thursday's shooting attack on four Miami-Dade police officers, is the half-brother of a notorious mass murderer and fugitive from justice, a half-brother of both men said.
Keith LaBeet, who described his family's extensive connections in a telephone interview from his home in St. Thomas, said he was in shock Thursday night as he watched television news reports from Miami about the massive manhunt.
''This thing is all over the news and I don't know what's going on,'' Keith LaBeet said. ``I'm watching the news right now and this looks crazy.''
''I just hope what they're saying isn't true and that he's innocent,'' said Labeet, who said he had met his half brother only about twice.
Shawn Sherwin Labeet, 25, is now on the run from Miami-Dade police after allegedly shooting four police officers, killing one. Keith LaBeet said Shawn is the half-brother of Ishmael LaBeet, who was implicated in eight slayings at a St. Croix resort in 1972, a crime known in the Virgin Islands as the Fountain Valley Massacre.
''We're all half-brothers. ... What can I say? My father got around,'' said Keith. ``There's a lot of us .... Shawn is one of the younger ones.''
Shawn Labeet was not yet born in 1972 when Ishmael LaBeet and four associates killed eight people at a St. Croix resort, Carambola.
The five -- all dressed in fatigues -- sprang out of the bushes at the Rockefeller-owned Fountain Valley golf course in St. Croix and sprayed the dining area with bullets.
According to newspaper accounts of the 1972 massacre, the attackers rounded up as many as 15 people into a nearby patio. Four Miami residents were among them. Eight were ordered to kneel in a circle and systematically shot to death with a shotgun and .45-caliber and 9mm pistols. The four from Miami, two couples vacationing together, were among the dead.
The five black robbers, who had screamed racial, anti-white insults during the massacre, according to witnesses, then fled with $731 from the cash register and the personal effects of the dead.
Thirteen years later, on New Year's Eve, 1985, Ishmael LaBeet overpowered guards from the Virgin Islands Department of Corrections who were escorting him on a flight from St. Croix to New York.
LaBeet forced the American Airlines flight with 198 people aboard to divert to Havana, Cuba, where he was taken off the plane by Cuban authorities. The plane later made the flight to New York with the rest of the passengers.
Ishmael LaBeet remains a fugitive, and his crime still resonates with locals to this day.
''I watched the news and immediately remembered Fountain Valley,'' said Eric Hansen, a retired local police officer who lives in St. Croix and investigated the Fountain Valley case. ''I'm pretty sure they're related,'' he added of Shawn and Ishmael LaBeet.
Said Keith LaBeet: ``Fountain Valley is something we don't really talk about.''
He said saw Ishmael LaBeet ''way back sometime in jail,'' and me this half-brother Shawn when Shawn was about 11 or 12.
''We don't know each other that well,'' said Keith. ``But I never knew him to be a problem ... he was always really quiet.''
One wonders whether the nexus of Roger Ailes and Mr. Mukasey -- both advisors to Mr. Giuliani, will help brng more of the GOP base to heel. I would assume that Giuliani would be natural choice for Mr. Bush to throw his support, for what its worth, behind. Rudy will willingly invade every country in Arabia, he is as servile to the Likud as Joe Lieberman, and he gives Bush the chance to use the words "September the 11th" continually throughout the campaign.
On the other hand, sidling up to Rudy is an awkward look for the Bushes, since Rudy's abortion stance is still an issue for the Red Staters. And now, AP reports that some social conservatives are already developing a Mukasey allergy.
Mukasey ... issued the first ruling in the Jose Padilla case after 9/11. While he ruled that “President Bush did have the authority to hold Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant without charging him for a crime,” he also “ruled that the government must allow Mr. Padilla to see his attorneys.”
That, is not a good look, and with the Senate Judiciary Committee already looking into Bush's seizure of near dictatorial power in the so-called "war on terror," I would think Mukasey's rulings in this regard would be a contentious issue at trial.
Related: I wonder if Orrin Hatch is getting drunk right now...
The aggravated battery charge against Jena 6 member Mychal Bell was vacated by a Louisiana appeals court on Friday:
Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree battery conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a case that has raised allegations of unequal justice in the small, mostly white town.
Last week, the judge who presided over Bell's trial in June, LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, vacated a conspiracy conviction against the youth for the same reason, but inexplicably let the more serious battery conviction stand. Now the local district attorney, Reed Walters, must decide whether to refile the entire case in juvenile court.
Walters, who himself should be under criminal investigation in this case, has indicated he will appeal the reversal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Bell's trial was wrought with gems from a by-gone era:
Walters initially charged Bell and five other black teens, who have come to be called the "Jena 6," with attempted murder after the white student was beaten and knocked unconscious at Jena High School last December. The white student suffered cuts and bruises but was treated and released from a local hospital.
Walters later reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery, contending at Bell's trial -- the first case to go to court -- that the tennis shoes Bell was wearing constituted a dangerous weapon. ...
... the beating incident followed a series of white-on-black attacks in Jena in which the white assailants escaped serious charges. And it capped months of escalating racial tensions in the town set off after three white students hung nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard in what was perceived as a threat to blacks. School officials called the noose incident an "adolescent prank" and declined to expel the white students, outraging black students and their parents.
... Bell has remained in jail since December, unable to post a $90,000 bond. But his attorneys said they would go before Mauffray on Monday seeking to have Bell released. The judge declined previous defense requests to reduce Bell's bond, citing several juvenile assault convictions on the teen's record.
Bell's pro bono attorneys, brought into the case by civil rights leaders after his conviction, have argued that his trial, heard by an all-white jury, was filled with irregularities, including a court-appointed public defender who called no witnesses on his behalf and a prosecution witness who was one of the white youths who hung the nooses at the high school.
The march in Jena is still on, as of today, and buses are leaving from around the country, including here in South Florida. And did you catch the fact that Bell's bail is just $10,000 less than those sick, twisted animals in West Virginia, who are charged, not with getting into a fight, but with kidnapping, gang raping a torturing a woman? Nice touch...
Here's hoping the negative attention jolts the town of Jena into the 21st Century.
President Bush gave his address to the nation tonight on the subject of his "way forward" in Iraq. My headline:
Bush: Americans can now unite as 3% of troops may come home
Bush's speech tonight was almost surreal. Right off the top, having George W. Bush warn ominously of shadowy people who want to topple the government of Iraq must have elicited a chuckle or two from the shadowy neocons around him. He then went on to argue that a successful Iraq will make America safter because the terrorists we drew therein the first place by toppling the government of Iraq and invading the country will be stopped from toppling the government. But he also admits that the Iraqi government -- which is essentially a front for one of the numerous Shiite militias wrecking the country and which may be a client of Iran -- hasn't even met its own benchmarks, and that the "terrorist" enemy is a grave threat -- one that again, we created by invading Iraq.
He argues that Americans should "come together" to support his strategy on the basis of the apparently wholly owned by David Petraeus plan of reducing U.S. forces in Iraq by some 5,700 troops, when the surge alone added more than 30,000 troops to Baghdad and Anbar Province. So this 3 percent reduction is a reason to unite? Toward the end of his speech, Dubya threw out this gem: "it's not too late to support our troops in a fight they can win." Wow. That's rich. Dear, Americans DO support the troops. It's their mission, which comes from the politician in charge of them, namely YOU, Mr. President, that the majority of Americans do not support.
As Chris Matthews -- who has been a booster of this president in the past -- said tonight, the fact of the troops being in Iraq is not a reason to support the mission in Iraq. The mission comes from the president. It's his policy, not General Petraeus' and not the troops'. They carry out HIS policy, and it's that policy that Bush must defend.
And as for calling for Americans to "come together," Bushie, you're about six years too late.
Bush also mentioned that there are 36 countries fighting with us in Iraq. To quote Chris Matthews again, who are these people? They sure are quiet! Where are their troops? Their patrols?
Bush is clearly living in a world of his own.
But perhaps the most eerie thing about Bush's speech was his explication of the evolving, and apparently eternal -- if George W. Bush has his way -- role of U.S. troops in Iraq. He talked about a mission that would go from fighting, to training, to "overwatching" Iraqi troops, to essentially remaining in Iraq for generations to come -- sort of an overseer of a client nation we will never quite leave alone. But what a client! Iraq isn't even clearly a country capable or interested in being an ally of the United States. The Sunnis, whom we ran out of the Army, only want us there to keep the Shia, whom we put in place, from slaughtering them. But for that, they'd probably just as soon be down with al-Qaida. The Shiites hate us, but they find us occasionally useful for killing Sunni Baathists they don't like. The Kurds just want out of the country.
In George Bush's conception, the troops, not the president, own the war. The reason to remain in Iraq is because the troops are in Iraq. And the American people
I think it's clear that George W. Bush is no longer dealing with reality. He has entered an hermetically sealed bubble from which he will never emerge.
Admiral William Fallon, head of CENTCOM, thoroughly disses Gen. David Petraeus, calling him ... well ... "an ass-kissing little chickenshit." No, seriously, he did. No disrespect to the General, but daaaaaaaammnn....
A caller on the morning show this morning said that she had information that the animals involved in abducting and torturing a 23-year-old Black woman in West Virginia are members of what are called the Irish Travellers (see the movie "Snatch" -- Brad Pitt's character). Interesting note.
Another caller made the point that West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd has yet to take to the floor of the United States Senate to denounce the barbarity of this horror in his home state the way he denounced Michael Vick's dog fighting. Email Senator Byrd here.
Meanwhile, the neighbors of the West Virginia goon squad are speaking out.
What's going on in America these days? First, we have the outrage of the Jena 6 case, which Rev. Sharpton has rightly said should be the subject of a federal, criminal investigation against the racist (my word, not Sharpton's) prosecutor... and now, here comes Maryland, where some idiot (or some idiots...) hung a noose from a tree near the Black student center at the University of Maryland.
I've been on that campus. It's a beautiful campus. But apparently, it, like so much of America, is infused with ugly elements.
Attention White People! This is a noose, this is what it means:
But frighteningly enough, some of you already know that.
And then there's this: a case that makes Dunbar Village look like a walk in the park:
A black West Virginia woman was sexually assaulted, stabbed, and tortured while being held captive by her white abductors, one of whom told her, "That's what we do to niggers around here." The 23-year-old victim was freed Saturday after cops responded to the home of Frankie Brewster for a "welfare check on a female that was reportedly being held against her will." When cops arrived, Brewster claimed she was the only one home, but then the victim limped to the door and said, "Help me." According to six harrowing criminal complaints, the woman, who apparently had been held for more than a week, had four stab wounds in her left leg, bruised eyes, and had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and humiliated. The woman told police that she was forced to lick Brewster's "toes, vagina, and anal cavity." Brewster's son Bobby forced the woman to eat dog and rat feces, according to one complaint filed in Logan County Magistrate Court. The victim, who is now hospitalized, was raped at knifepoint, choked with a cable cord, and had her hair pulled and cut during the ordeal.
Authorities are still looking for two people who drove the victim to the perps' home. This case is as sickening as it gets. If I believed in the death penalty, I'd want these devils to get the chair. Just look at them ... all Anglo Americans should get together and excommunicate them.
As John Aravosis points, out, a lot of White people are laboring under the delusion that racism is a relic of the past. It isn't. And it's up to White people to confront their own demons, and the demons among them.
By the way, a lot of people have been clamoring for Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineau Blanco to intervene in the case. Well here's what she's had to say on the case:
“I have received hundreds of calls, letters and emails from citizens concerned about the situation involving the case of the high school students in Jena, La. As Governor, as a citizen of the State of Louisiana, and as a mother, without rushing to judgment, I condemn racism in any form, and I fully expect that those involved in this case, including all parties, will act with fairness and in complete good faith. [Really??? Is that what you "fully expect," Kathleen...?]
“I must clear up a widespread misunderstanding of my authority in this case. Our State Constitution provides for three Branches of State Government - Legislative, Executive, and Judicial - and the Constitution prohibits anyone in one branch from exercising the powers of anyone in another branch. This issue is currently a matter in the Judicial System, and should those involved in this case suffer any defects, it is their right to address them in that system through the appeals court.
“Again, the oversight regarding how this case was handled, from arrest to prosecution, lies within the Justice System. Therefore, I have consulted Attorney General Charles Foti and Donald Washington, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, regarding these events in Jena. As a result, General Foti has been and is in consultation with U.S. Attorney Washington and other members of the Justice System. Regardless of the outcome of this case, the Jena community has much healing ahead of it, and I urge all those citizens to come together for the common good of their community and their state. Our children deserve nothing less.”
Well that's nice, Kathleen. In other words, you don't intend to do a damned thing about it, except for the hoping for healing thing.
To be fair, Blanco does not have the unilateral power to pardon anyone. She can, by law, only consider pardons brought to her by the Louisiana clemency board. That means its time to put pressure on that board, to take up the cases on Mychal Bell and the other four young men who are facing trial (Bell is facing sentencing next Thursday) as adults (the sixth member of the Jena Six was charged as a juvenile.)
Update on the powers of the Louisiana governor:
Pardon, Commutation, Reprieve, and Remission; Board of Pardons. (1) The governor may grant reprieves to persons convicted of offenses against the state and, upon favorable recommendation of the Board of Pardons, may commute sentences, pardon those convicted of offenses against the state, and remit fines and forfeitures imposed for such offenses. However, a first offender convicted of a non-violent crime, or convicted of aggravated battery, second degree battery, aggravated assault, mingling harmful substances, aggravated criminal damage to property, purse snatching, extortion, or illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities never previously convicted of a felony shall be pardoned automatically upon completion of his sentence, without a recommendation of the Board of Pardons and without action by the governor.
A lot of people, myself included, have been getting on the Democrats for not standing more firmly against George W. Bush's agenda, particulary when it comes to Iraq. But do the Democrats really have the power to bring the House of Bush down? Maybe, maybe not. Joe Biden has made a debate point of saying "you don't have the votes!" And maybe he's right. A little numbers reminder for you:
The Democrats won 54% of the popular vote, to wrest control of the Senate away from the GOP in 2006, winning six seats (the ones I predicted they'd get, by the way... just thought I'd throw that in.) But did they win the Senate?
After the 2006 election, the Democrats hold 49 seats in the Senate. The Republicans? They too hold 49 seats. The other two seats are held by Independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Dems, giving them that 50th seat that keeps Dick Cheney out of their Kool-Aid, and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut neocon who claims he caucuses with the Democrats, too, and who was allowed to keep his committee assigments as if he hadn't lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to an actual Dem.
And Lieberman? Well he's a whole 'nother, nother.
He supports George W. Bush ... totally.
He is zealously in favor of continuing the war in Iraq.
He is eager to expand that war to Syria, and to Iran.
Case in point: here's Lieberman questioning Gen. David Petraeus the day before yesterday on the subject of Iran's supposed complicity in the fighting in Iran, and what he thinks the U.S. should do about it. Note that Petraeus does the calm military version of "get the f--- outta here...!"
Six years after the worst terror attack on U.S. soil, we are, in my view, at a dark place in America. Our political fabric has never been so worn. Our president has been proved a liar at worst, and an incompetent fool at best. He twisted the collective rage that we all felt after those towers came down in New York, in order to service a paranoid neocon fantasy of Middle East domination. "Get the Arabs!" That's what the neocons have been shrieking since George H.W. Bush failed to take his oil war all the way to Baghdad. They begged Clinton to do it, but he wouldn't. They whined that the only way America would see the light is with a "galvanizing, Pearl Harbor style event." It took a fool like George W. Bush to do their bidding. And after 9/11 he found a way to twist America's outrage into a thirst for war, not just against Afghanistan, where al-Qaida is, but also against Iraq. In fact, Bush was talking about invading Iraq well before those towers came down, including allegedly, before he became president, and it's clear now that the attacks provided merely the excuse.
But even before that, George W. Bush shamed himself, utterly, when on September 11, 2001, a Tuesday, just like today, he hid from the American people for nine long hours, leaving the stage to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who for once, behaved like a man, instead of a snake. By ceding his presidency to Giuliani, and then having his henchmen orchestrate the destruction of any journalist or writer who dared to call a coward a coward, George W. Bush became what he ultimately was destined to be shown to be: a small man, an arrogant man, a self-centered and inadequate man, in every possible way. And it is that man who is leading us into the quagmire of Iraq.
To paraphrase the Dixie Chicks: this man embarasses me. He is an embarassment to this country.
And as for Rudy, he pimped 9/11 for his own financial gain, and is now doing so in order to get himself into the White House. Meanwhile, the bodies of scores of firefighters and other victims of the Towers' attack are languishing in mounds of rubble at Fresh Kills Landfill in New York.
And on this day, like many Americans, I still have questions...
Did George H.W. Bush turn to his breakfast buddy, Safiq Bin Laden, on the morning of 9/11 and ask him where his younger brother Osama might be? (More on the Bush-Bin Laden ties here.)
Just where did George W. Bush disappear to for those nine, long hours on September 11, 2001?
Why did Bush bother to talk to Robert Draper, and give away his secrets? (I'm definitely going to read the book...)
Is al-Qaida a trumped-up fantasy designed to perpetuate Bush's corporate wars? Or is it a real threat to the security of the United States that the administration is simply incapable of containing (or worse, inadvertently expanding...)?
Has it been resolved to most people's satisfaction that the Bush administration had nothing to do with 9/11? (I think the answer here is clearly, no.)
...and six years after the attacks, and the Iraq catastrophe that the Bush administration concocted from it, can the United States ever fully recover its good name?
George W. Bush just can't win. He can't win the war in Iraq. His approval ratings are crap. And he's ... well ... stupid. Exhibit A: Bush in Australia, fresh off his Iraq visit stunt that the media didn't fall for, screws up the speech to a half-empty auditorium: I'm gonna miss this guy. Not the incompetance, or the lying, or the spying, or the warmongering... no, I'm just going to miss the comedy.
Disentangling the mangled hash that is George W. Bush's brain can't be an easy thing to do, but new information seems to come out every month that attempts to explain what the president was thinking when he made the disastrous decision to put the United States Army and Marines into Iraq.
And depending on who you believe, George Bush either knew that Iraq had no WMD and didn't care, or he still believed Iraq had WMD as late as 2006. At the end of the day, it may not matter, but for the purposes of history, it will be pondered for generations whether this man took his country to war based on deliberate lies, or negligent ones.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero today stated that a section of the updated USA PATRIOT ACT "offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers," and struck down the provision in the law allowing the government to secretly obtain personal records, the Associated Press reports.
Marrero ruled that the National Security Letter provision of the Act, permitting the FBI to demand the private information and then gag those who received the order, violated the the 1st amendment to the Constitution protecting free speech and also threatened separation of powers. "In light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual's personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association - particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies - a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes," Marrero wrote.
If the ruling is to be upheld, such NSLs must be subjected to full judicial review.
Percentage of Americans who want Congress to investigate the actions of the Bush-Cheney administration during and after the 9/11 attacks, according to a new Zogby poll. Also, according to the poll, more than 30 percent favor the immediate impeachment of the president and/or vice president.
Today's theme: three things that start with the letter "O" ...
Thing 1 that starts with "O": Osama bin Laden! Supposedly, he's back, and advertising a new video release, timed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Yeah, right. Like he hasn't been dead for like, 12 years... So I wonder how long it will take for that video to wind up in a Rudy Giuliani commercial? ... or a Bush administration secret briefing to select members of Congress on a brand new warrentless surveillance program? And which way will the media go on the story: "Bin Laden still free after six years" ... or ... "Terror threat still acute! Vote Republican!"
Thing 2 that starts with "O": Osama bin Laden! ... but not the real one. This time it's an Australian comedian dressed like bin Laden who managed to get past President Bush's crack security team during Bush's visit to an economic summit in Australia. So let me get this straight: we're facing a dire ongoing threat of terrorism from al-Qaida, which is led by Osama bin Laden, but the threat hasn't prompted the POTUS' security team to protect him from Osama ... in a motorcade? Well that's interesting.
Thing #3 that starts with "O": Oprah! ... and another: "Obama!" (hey, that's FOUR things that start with "O"...) Apparently, the queen of all media, is taking her endorsement of Barack Obama a step further. Maybe, two steps. First she's throwing a major fundraiser for him -- star studded and priced at $2,300 a ticket. And second, she may actually be taking a larger role in his campaign. CNN has it this way:
It remains to be seen if the popular talk show host's role may go beyond raising money from her Hollywood friends, but the prospect of seeing Winfrey in campaign commercials or on the stump is already causing widespread speculation on the effect she may have. Watch how Winfrey could boost Obama
"I think what Oprah can do is potentially bring out the congregants of the church of Oprah," Marty Kaplan, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, tells CNN. "She is a charismatic leader of a lay congregation."
"People buy books when she tells them to. They will watch her shows, and buy her magazines when she asks them to," Kaplan added. "So the question is, are enough of them willing to follow her lead not with a consumer good, but with a ballot cast?"
Moreover, Kaplan says, Winfrey's core audience is women, and her endorsement could help Obama compete with his chief presidential rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for women's votes.
"One of his campaign officials in California told me Oprah is everything," Kaplan added. "So they have high hopes for the endorsement."
Obama and Winfrey's close relationship may also increase the chance she will be willing to take a visible role in the campaign.
"They met way back here in Chicago in the African-American social circuit back in, I believe, either the late 1990s or around 2000 when he was running for Congress," David Mendell, an Obama biographer tells CNN.
Could this be a threat to Hillary? Time will tell.
Roll Call obtains the voicemail left by Larry Craig indicating that he may not step down after all. You can hear it for yourself via RawStory here. The transcript:
"Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling. You can reach me on my cell. Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears, by all that he knows, that I’ve been railroaded and all of that. Having all of that, we’ve reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my ‘intent’ to resign on Sept. 30.
“I think it is very important for you to make as bold a statement as you are comfortable with this afternoon and I would hope you could make it in front of the cameras. I think it would help drive the story that I am willing to fight, that I’ve got quality people out there fighting in my defense, and that this thing could take a new turn or a new shape; it has that potential.”
Sorry, GOP, this guy may not be going away quietly. Meanwhile, check out this crazy coincidence...
This from an Associated Press report today on U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho reconsidering his resignation:
“Craig has hired a high-powered crisis management team including Billy Martin, the lawyer for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, and Washington attorney Stan Brand, a former general counsel to the U.S. House.
“Martin is looking into the Minnesota guilty plea; Brand, who represented Major League Baseball in the congressional investigation into steroid use, will handle any Senate Ethics Committee probe.”
Who let the dogs out, indeed...
Apparently Craig began to reconsider withdrawing from public life after having a long talk with his grown, adopted children (adopted... does that mean he wasn't interested in procreating with his wife? Just sayin...) They apparently questioned him explicitly about the potty incident, and came to the conclusion that he did nothing wrong.
JENA, La. (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday reduced the attempted murder charges against two more teenagers among the "Jena Six," a group of black high school students who were arrested following an attack on a white schoolmate.
Five of the teens were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, carrying sentences of up to 80 years in prison. The sixth faces undisclosed juvenile charges.
Civil rights advocates have decried the charges as unfairly harsh.
On Tuesday, charges against Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. That same reduction was made earlier for Mychal Bell, who was tried and found guilty and could be sentenced to 22 1/2 years at a hearing Sept. 20.
Also awaiting trial are Robert Bailey Jr. and Bryant Purvis, who still face attempted murder charges, and the unidentified juvenile.
The attack on Justin Barker, 18, came amid tense race relations in Jena, a mostly white town of 3,000 in north-central Louisiana where racial tensions have grown since incidents that started last school year at Jena High. After a black student sat under a tree on the school campus where white students traditionally congregated, three nooses were hung in the tree.
Students accused of placing the nooses were suspended from school for a short period.
The six black students were accused of beating and kicking Barker on Dec. 4. A motive for the attack was never established. Barker was treated at a hospital emergency room and released after about three hours.
Shaw's attorney, George Tucker, said Tuesday that he still doesn't believe his client will get a fair trial in Jena.
Shaw himself has dreams of attending Gramling State University. "Just drop all the charges and let us go on with our lives," the teenager told CNN Tuesday.
Problem is, these kids are still facing 22 years in prison for a schoolyard fight, after they were subjected to the most egregious racism imaginable in Jena. Outrageous in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, even Wolf Blitzer is now acknowledging the failures of the Iraq campaign, pointing out these unpleasant statistics to one of the Bush faithful during his program on CNN:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday. In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227.
Oh and the ethnic cleansing since the surge? It's up.