Archive for February, 2006

But, hey, at least we’ve got Afghanistan well under control . . .

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

(Associated Press)

Painting a bleak picture of U.S. military operations overseas, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress on Tuesday that violence in Afghanistan increased 20 percent last year.

“We judge insurgents now represent a greater threat to the expansion of Afghan government authority than at any point since late 2001, and will be active this spring,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the DIA chief.

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Well now, there’s a cheery title for an article

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Civil War Looms With 66 Killed in Baghdad

Thank God our Fearless Leader has a solid plan in place for dealing with sectarian conflicts in Iraq,

VARGAS: But what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the U.S. troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?

BUSH: No. The troops are chasing down terrorists. They’re protecting themselves and protecting the people, and — but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq — and I believe we’re going to be successful — is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity.

VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?

BUSH: The U.S. troops will stay there so long as — until the Iraqis can defend themselves. I mean, my policy has not changed.

Repeat after me – Darfur

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

We don’t talk about this enough in the political blogs, not nearly enough – and to be honest with you, it gives me sort of an uncomfortable feeling when I try to figure out why,

ADRÉ, Chad — The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world’s worst refugee crises.

Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.

Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other’s affairs.

Quite possibly the biggest screw up in American history

Monday, February 27th, 2006

What’s left to say?

Washington Post (by way of Atrios):

BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 — Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.

Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday — blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound — and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

18 percent?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that the real news in the new CBS News poll is Bush’s approval rating, which plunged this month to a pathetic 34 percent.

But it turns out that Bush is even second-rate at being second-rate, having been skunked in the unpopularity sweepstakes by his own Vice President, Dick “shotgun” Cheney who clocked in with a favorability rating of — get this — 18 percent.  18 percent?  That’s nothing short of unbelievable.  I’m here to tell you, Captain Queeg could have pulled 20 percent from the crew of the Caine.  18 percent?  No one’s that unpopular.  

If conservatives are so happy, why do they act so sad?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

As George Will’s columns go, I suppose his Feb. 23 offering wasn’t the worst.  It was pretty awful, though.  Having apparently grown tired of what must be a madding job of trying to come up with something — anything — good to say about his fellow conservatives in Congress and the White House, he went, instead, for a fluff piece.

His topic was the recent Pew Research Center poll which purports to show that Republicans, as a group, are much happier than Democrats.  Here’s what Pew found: While fully 45 percent of Republicans said they were “very happy,” only 30 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents said they were.  These numbers are apparently fairly consistent with earlier polls going back to 1972, and, at least according to Pew’s analysis, this difference in happiness level cannot be explained away on the basis of either income disparity, or the fact the Republicans, instead of the Democrats, are in power. (more…)

Episode 9: Lying as a Way of Life

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Last episode, we had the unmitigated gall to suggest that George W. Bush, the duly elected . . . er, well . . . duly selected President of the United States is, in fact, a bald-faced-dirty-low-down-double-dealing-the-truth-would-get- caught-in-his-gullet-like-a-fishbone-liar-liar-pants-on-fire-prevaricator. Proving ourselves utterly incapable, it would seem, of seeing the error of our overtly partisan ways, we do it all over again in this week’s episode.

* * *

The Last Chance Democracy Café:
Lying as a Way of Life

by Steven C. Day

I realize that I’ve already spent a good deal of time talking about George W. Bush’s striking propensity to tell lies. But what can I say? There are some dead dogs you just can’t bring yourself to stop beating: This is one of them. So, with Winston’s permission, let me share a letter he sent on this topic to his oldest son, Robert (If it doesn’t sound altogether like the Winston you’ve come to know and love, remember this is the first time you’ve experienced him stone cold sober).

* * *

Dear Bobby:

My best to Janet and the children. And speaking of Janet, if I did anything to embarrass her — again — at your party last Friday, and God knows I probably did, then tell her I’m sorry — again. You both know I can’t be trusted in polite company, so you really have no one but yourselves to blame. Thanks for inviting me just the same, though — it was fun.

But on to the concern you raised in your last letter. You’re afraid that I’m being too open in expressing my opinion that George W. Bush is a liar. I know you’re no fan of Bush yourself, but being a good son, you’re worried that by being so vociferous on the subject I may end up offending people and even soiling my reputation from my years as a judge. Well, I guess that’s a chance I’m going to have to take. Because to not call Bush a liar, would make me a liar. And, as you well know, I used up my quota of lies, including the ones I shamefully told your mother, a long time ago. So these days I try, as much as I can, to always speak the truth.


Nicholas Kristoff strikes again

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

To borrow from Ronald Reagan (yeah, hell did just freeze over), there you go again, Nicholas Kristof.

In today’s column, The Arabs Are Coming! (warning, Times Select wall), Kristof argues in favor of standing by the Dubai port sale.  No problem.  This seems to be one of those issues where reasonable minds — even progressive ones — can disagree (as to whether it’s worth the risk of sending the wrong message to the Arab world by backing out of the deal now, not the stupidity of entering into it in the first place). 

But this is Nicholas Kristof we’re talking about.  So naturally, he can’t bring himself to conclude the column without tisk, tisking fellow liberals (Democrats) for attacking the deal,

Democrats have so many legitimate reasons to criticize President Bush — from ruining our nation’s finances to despoiling American wilderness — that it’s painful to see them scaremongering in just the way that Mr. Bush himself has.

So there you have it: “Nicholas Kristof, Man of Integrity,” willing to criticize even “other liberals,” episode 7763.  And just so as to make the point absolutely clear, he doesn’t stop with just criticizing the Democrats’ reasoning on the port deal — he accuses them of scaremongering, and by implication racism.  And, of course, he somehow never quite gets around to mentioning that a large percentage of Republicans in Congress also oppose the deal.  But then bipartisan opposition wouldn’t play all that well into the “Alas, my breaking heart, but being a man of honor I must unmask even the skullduggery of my fellow liberals” routine, would it?

I hope Frank Rich comes back from book leave soon.  It will be nice having something worth turning to on the Sunday Times editorial page again.

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Saturday, February 25th, 2006

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When you don’t have a clue, make a few calls

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Two articles on Iraq in today’s press, one from the Iraqi street and one coming out of the White House:

First, the real world,

While Baghdad and three other Iraqi provinces are supposed to be under security lockdown, Shiite militias are roaming the streets among and alongside Iraq’s police and army, attacking and occupying dozens of Sunni mosques — and reflagging some as Shiite — and detaining and killing worshipers. Residents of several Baghdad neighborhoods have reported seeing pickup trucks barreling through otherwise empty streets, bearing militia members armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ostensibly outlawed, private militias maintain thousands of foot soldiers across Iraq. Members of two Shiite militias — the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, which is affiliated with the country’s dominant Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — dominate the ranks of Iraq’s police and army. Ethnic Kurds also have a huge armed force whose members, called pesh merga , are arrayed throughout the Kurdish-populated north. But Sunni Arabs, who make up the bulk of Iraq’s insurgency, lack their own formal militia and have blamed the Shiite militias for recent kidnappings and assassinations, allegedly committed by men wearing uniforms of the security forces.

And coming out of the White House,

Bombs and gunfire killed about 60 people as another daytime curfew Saturday failed to halt violence that has claimed nearly 200 lives since the destruction of a Shiite shrine set off a wave of retribution against Sunnis and pushed Iraq toward civil war.

In an unusual round of telephone diplomacy, President Bush spoke with seven leaders of Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political parties in a bid to defuse the sectarian crisis unleashed by the bombing of the Shiites’ Askariya shrine in Samarra.

Bush “encouraged them to continue to work together to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the violence to sow discord among Iraq’s communities,” said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.

The wheels are coming off in the streets, so make a few calls to Iraqi politicians with little influence on the real players.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.