Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years' Bombings in Bangkok

Not much more to say than that, except that the celebrations were cancelled. It's possible that this was connected to the insurgency in southern Thailand, although as far as I know there isn't any confirmation and the police chief said it was doubtful. It's more likely to be connected to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a non-violent coup earlier in 2006- the NYT said that "the junta has warned of a continuing threat of instability from his backers."

Personally, I had been surprised that the whole thing seemed to be so peaceful. I suppose that in Thailand, like in so many other situations, instability is a long term proposition.

Is Billmon Gone?

Considering that his most recent entry was a loony toon still and a "that's all folks", seeing nothing but a "Site Temporarily Unavailable" on Billmon's site is worrisome. I can understand why he'd stop, but Whiskey Bar was too good a site, and Billmon too good a writer, for it to simply disappear.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is dead

...and, tomorrow, nothing will be different. There will still be strife, there will still be IEDs, there will still be civil war.

If anything, only one thing will be different; the end of the theory that if only the tyrants were dead, the people would be free. Unfortunately, things aren't that simple; it's not a juvenile conflict between tyrants and the "freedom fighters", but something more than that.

Not that it'll affect Bush's war much, as that theory is at its core. With any luck, though, future presidents and future pundits will actually learn the lesson. Here's hoping.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nice Summary

I had mentioned Atrios and his (well-founded) attitude towards the "Wise Men" in Washington. A lot of that has to do with their ill-advised concept of "surge", which is a nicer sounding version of "escalation".

He also gives a great summary of Bush's reaction to "surge".

Leaving is losing. "Stay the course" is no longer a possibility. So, that leaves... more troops!
Everything I've read about the "surge" suggests that it's nothing more than Vietnam-style escalation, driven by Vietnam-style thinking and Vietnam-style obstinance. It's the logic of the gambler, selling his car and house in the belief that just one a little more cash will solve all his problems. Avoiding it is the very reason why the Powell Doctrine was invented.

And, now, it's the logic of Dubya's last stand.

God help us all.

Rahm's Out, and His Successor's a LIEberal

Saying this is a bit of a surprise is an understatement. One would think that such a lionized figure would be followed by a similar "centrist". Not so:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, the corporate-friendly centrist who actively worked against a number of anti-war progressives in 2006 Democratic primaries for US House seats and then refused to support at least some of those candidates in November, is handing his DCCC leadership position off to Chris Van Hollen, a congressman who has a dramatically better track record on foreign and domestic policy issues.

Emanuel, the former Clinton administration "fixer" who organized support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and other Wall Street-favored policies and who then went to Congress as a pro-corporate, pro-war Democrat, has tried to spin his management of the DCCC during the 2006 election cycle as a success. In fact, many of the Democrats who prevailed on November 7 did so despite the Illinois congressman's efforts, not because of them.

In primaries from California to New Hampshire, Democratic voters rejected Emanuel's hand-picked candidates and nominated progressives who went on to win in November. Indeed, while candidates such as Illinois centrist Tammy Duckworth, who had Emanuel's full support, were going down to defeat, the list of breakthrough winners included contenders such as New Hampshire anti-war candidate Carol Shea-Porter, who never got any support from Emanuel or his DCCC team.
Now, everything said here (by The Nation's John Nichols) is true. Emanuel's attempts to parachute in candidates approved by Washington's Wise Old Men (that Atrios has been railing against for being about as wise as a lemming) was a failure, by and large. Other progressive candidates that were selected against his wishes were quite successful. Yes, some of his candidates won and some of the other candidates lost, but he doesn't deserve all, or even most, of the credit.

Here's the thing, though- he was getting it anyway. Head over to MyDD, and go read this piece by Chris Bowers about how Progressives lost the post-election narrative to those repeating the "blue dog victory!" nonsense. Rahm should have been invulnerable, thanks to the triumph of that narrative and, supposedly, of the "centrist" (read: conservative) dems he was backing.

That he is being followed by a far more progressive chairman suggests something different; that while it may be the dominant belief in Washington and in the media that the conservatives won, the story is remarkably different out in the "wilds". Out there, progressives are starting to get what they want, including a more progressive party leadership. They aren't necessarily agreeing with the Washington consensus; the election of Howard Dean to the chairmanship, and the horrified reaction of Democratic party stalwarts like James Carvile to the subversion of a "rigged deal" by party members who, for a change, decided they wanted to choose their own leadership. The progressives have a voice, and you avoid listening to them at your peril.

Good for them. (Shades of what happened just a few weeks ago in Canada, come to think of it.)

The GQ article that line was taken from called him "the new kingmaker". Apparently not. Yes, he's becoming Caucus Chairman after his attempts to become majority whip were torpedoed by the Black Congressional Caucus. He had to get something, and in Washington people often fail upwards. Still, it looks like the DCCC is changing. It looks like the progressives are slowly taking over, one position at a time.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What a hero

I really, really can't believe that Rep. Virgil Goode is keeping up his bullshit crusade against a fellow (Muslim) Rep. swearing in on the Quran.

A congressman said Thursday that he will not retract a letter warning that unless immigration is tightened, "many more Muslims will be elected" and use the Quran to take the oath of office.

Republican Rep. Virgil Goode triggered angry responses from a civil rights group and some colleagues with a letter this month to constituents concerned about a decision by Rep.-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to use the Quran when he is sworn in.

"I will not be putting my hand on the Quran," Goode said at a news conference Thursday at the Franklin County Courthouse.
Well, no, you don't have to. Just like he shouldn't have to swear on the New Testament, even though most Muslims and Islam itself tend to treat Christianity with a hell of a lot more respect than you're demonstrating.

It reinforces the idea that the true conflict in the world right now, if such a thing exists, is between secular, moderate tolerance and intolerant theocrats. No "Islam" or "Judaism" or "Buddhism" or "Shinto" or whatever; theocracy knows no single faith. The problem isn't just theocrats themselves, though; I doubt this guy is even that faithful. It's those who exploit it to their own political ends that are the most dangerous, because they'll overcompensate and be more extreme than the true believers ever would.

Nothing new in that, of course, but it's worth remembering.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Best Damned Thing on the Internet Right Now...

Go read Goodbye to Comics by Occasional Superheroine, a female comics writer who is "theoretically" telling the story of how and why she decided to leave the industry, what it had done to her, and the kind of people she had to deal with. I'm working through it now; even aside from the subject matter, it's powerful stuff.

(It came out about a month ago; I only came across it now. If you have read it, great; if you're like me and had missed it, I'd highly recommend it.)

Friday, December 15, 2006


Quoted from Captain Eponymous:

How nice! Norman "Norm" Spector suggests that I am a "cancer" on Canadian politics and journalism. I would have preferred being called a bitch, but Norm's used that one already.
A terrible attack, if true.

But, um...

here's the Spector piece in its entirety:


--The cancer in Canadian journalism (and politics)

The viral Campaign Against Stephane Dion (Kinsella)

That's what viral campaigns are conceived to do, and what the anti-Dion campaign did well. It smeared a man who, truly, did not deserve it….

Whatever side of the argument you favoured -- and this writer remains decidedly in the corner of Dion, Turner and the rest -- on one point we can all agree: the anti-Dion viral campaigners did their job well….

The Stephane Dion dual citizenship story first appeared immediately after the conclusion of the Liberal leadership convention. My friend Ezra Levant, a long-time conservative (and Conservative) activist, revealed the "news.”

--Here's Lawrence Martin on Dion, the column I wish I'd written.
Notice something? The "cancer" comment doesn't appear to have had anything to do with Kinsella! It was a comment on the subject matter of Kinsella's piece, agreeing with him!

Like I said, funny.

Speaking of said Kinsella article about viral campaigning, the man seems to have a huge beef with Youtube and Wikipedia for their role in 2006. Odd, considering that they helped the Dems regain congress (something he supports) and they're pretty intimately tied with blogging nowadays. He also seems to have a lot of "friends" who are, well, dicks. Yes, your "friend" Ezra was acting the crackpot and Pierre Bourque was aiding and abetting- why were you taking oblique shots at Youtube and marketers and not nailing your "friends'" asses to the wall?

Why? Because they're friends, and you don't act badly towards friends! Ah, the punditry. One great, big, happy family.

(Except maybe for Spector and Kinsella.)

Canadian and American pundits: BFF?

With the liberal leadership race done (more on that in a future post), I'm probably going to be writing less on Canada. One point of interesting correspondence between the two neighbours, though, is the "literati".

Look at this piece by Paul Wells.

(Enormous fan of this here blog that he is.)

But why is it that, on the very existential questions that cut closest to the distinctive hearts of Quebecers, Quebec's homegrown pundit class is so consistently wildly wrong about the reactions of ordinary Quebecers?

And is there not a stitch of introspection about this state of affairs?
Well, I'd answer, but instead I'd just point him over here, one of a series of pieces where Digby rips into the pundit class. The same thing that Wells is noticing in Quebec on unity issues, where the pundits' pronouncements are both forthright and totally unconnected to reality, is the case in the United States on Iraq. Both feature a body of writers that are as sure of their conclusions as they are, inexoriably, wrong.

Which raises a point. The worst part of the American situation is that even if you are wrong, if you're wrong the "right way", you'll be fine. You're allowed to say that Iraq is wrong now, but only if you were for the war back then, because you still aren't allowed to question the assumptions that got the pundits to where they are. Anybody who questioned things back when it mattered, noting that (for instance) the Americans' predominance in the intelligence community and intelligence-sharing agreements made that whole "everybody agreed on WMDs" argument worthless, is still considered beyond the pale.

Will the Canadians end up the same way? Even if the nation issue doesn't resonate, are Quebecois pundits (whatever that means) going to keep pretending that it is? Are the Canadian pundits still going to laud Stephen Harper's transcendent brilliance for passing that motion? Are they going to keep pretending something was true, so that they don't embarrass their fellows, no matter the cost?

If this trend keeps up? I'd say it's pretty damned likely.

Edit: Oh cripes, and here comes the Pundit's Refrain from Well's site, attacking Stephane Dion.

"Why do all those nasty liberals have to be so mean to the conservatives? It's so wretchedly partisan! They should get along and make government work!

"Oh, yes, those are my Bill O'Reilly books. I love him, sticking it to the godless LIEberals all the time. what of it?"

Wells was just quoting a letter writer, of course, but didn't exactly strenuously disagree. Guess what? He should. It's bullshit, and he knows better. It wasn't a liberal who said that bipartisanship was "date rape".

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ok, I think I see the problem

Over on Media Matters, they're looking at a typically braindead O'Reilly comment:

On the December 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly dismissed scientific research on same-sex parenting to assert that "[n]ature dictates that a dad and a mom is the optimum" form of child-rearing. O'Reilly asked "why," if children suffer no psychosocial deficit from being raised by same-sex parents, "wouldn't nature then make it that anybody could get pregnant by eating a cupcake?" O'Reilly declared that by arguing in favor of same-sex couples' right to raise children, "you're taking Mother Nature and you're throwing it right out the window, and I just think it's crazy." In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, here, and here), studies have consistently found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents suffer no adverse effects in their psychosocial development.
Now, clearly this doesn't make any sense. Normally, anyway.

However, it DOES make sense if you stop and think "why 'mother nature'"? There's no such person, of course, and if he were trying to say that need a mother and father because of evolution, he'd invite a request asking for ANY proof of this supposition. After all, just because something has been done doesn't mean it MUST be done. It's silly, and I'm sure O'Reilly knows it.

Thing is, if you attribute this to some supernatural being, you're fine. So, yeah, O'Reilly said "mother nature", but you and I both know he was really using a code word for "God". Just like with Bush's cryptic comments during the debates, it's a way of making an argument on the sly that you could never make in public, as he'd be rightly and quickly called out for saying "God sez so" in any serious debate.

Which is kind of too bad. If he were honest, it might actually be a reasonable discussion, if a very different one. Instead, he just sounds like an idiot: a complete and utter tool.

Not that I'm going to lose any sleep over O'Reilly's reputation, but it'd be nice if Fox 'n Co. made an honest point for a change.

Paging Ice-T, Paging Ice-T...

Bodycount, bodycount!

Bodycount, bodycount!

Yep, the Bush administration is resurrecting the old Vietnam canard of hauling out enemy bodycounts in order to prove, somehow, that Iraq is winnable/being won/has been won/whatever.

Fortunately, as the Think Progress link points out, the White House press corps are keenly aware that relative bodycounts are pretty damned meaningless. When deaths can spur fresh violence and there are a whole heck of a lot more of "them" than there are of "us".

Snow's whinge about how "the insurgents haven't won a single battle" isn't much better. Insurgents don't win setpiece battles. The point is to avoid them, and to disappear as soon as the textbook scenario comes to pass. You don't win an insurgency war battle by battle, but by a slow inexorable erosion.

(Kind of like Bush's popularity.)

More on Johnson

Apparently he IS ill, having congenital arteriovenous malformation. He had surgery and is apparently recovering, but the recovery may be a slow process.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tim Johnson in hospital

Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has been hospitalized, quite probably because of a stroke. Aside from the personal tragedy it would be if anything happened to the senator, the governor of the state is a Republican, making it likely that were a new senator to be appointed, the balance of power in the Senate would return to the Republicans.


Meanwhile, the Kool Kidz are at it again- saying "jokes" about Barack Obama's background and dress that will turn into accepted (yet idiotic) truisms for his opponents soon enough. Digby raises the important question: why, exactly, are supposed "serious" reporters seem so eager to mock Dems when the same treatment of a Republican would be roundly condemned as unconscionable?

Edit: looks like Johnson's ok. Good to hear.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton's out

Well, Looks like Chafee is going out like a mensch:

``To confirm Mr. Bolton to the position of UN ambassador would fly in the face of the clear consensus of the country that a new direction is called for'' on foreign policy, Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, said two days after losing to a Democrat in the election.

Bolton couldn't win the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without Chafee's vote, and Republican leaders signaled Bolton didn't have enough support to get his nomination to the whole Senate for a vote.
Bye bye, John. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Called It

..and have been calling it (that is, Stephane Dion winning the Canadian Liberal leadership race) for a little while now. (My biggest mistake, I have to admit, was thinking that everything would be sorted out before the convention. It happened on the floor.)

I still believe now what I did then: that Canadians (like Americans) rejected Ignatieff becaused they "want a candidate who represents progressive, non-Americanized foreign policy- Ignatieff's other policies simply don't differ enough from his counterparts to explain it." Dion could not have won if Ignatieff hadn't had weaknesses... and Ignatieff's weaknesses were all about his foreign policy. Dion's focus on green issues was a nice touch and probably helped vault him over Rae, but it wasn't Dion who had Harper shake his hand over Afghanistan.

It's funny that the coverage is largely about Quebec issues and the environment, considering the salience of foreign policy, but c'est la vie, as the new leader would probably say.

As for the campaign, I'll actually throw it over to Warren, who seems pretty happy about the whole thing, and also called it for Dion:

That all said, Dion clearly knows how to catch his opponents off guard: After all, he has just beaten the entire Liberal party establishment on a shoestring budget, and with a tiny band of fearless advisors.
He may be wrongheaded about pseudonymity-newcomer pundits to these here Internets often are-but he's nailed this as a rebuke to the "backroom boys" backing the Ignatieff and Rae camps. There are a lot of smoke-filled rooms with a lot of worried faces right now. They'll have to rethink a few things.

Maybe that's the "renewal" that the Liberals keep talking about?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dear Josh:

A significant part of the DC press corps will do whatever Bush wants, because they're terrified of losing viewers in the poorly-understood "heartland".

This is largely because they spend all their time with people who are deliberately trying to convince them that they're evil liberals, and that liberals are evil in the first place. Liberals would do the same thing, but they're not big enough assholes to get away with it.

So when they start railing about how America's enemies are heartened by the Democratic victory and people who didn't vote for Bush are cowardly, just remember that these poor bastards are massaged like Kobe beef. At this point, they don't know which way is up, let alone that yelling "clap harder!" doesn't work when everybody's already left the theatre in disgust.

Hugs and Kisses,


(And, naturally, Digby.)