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.)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dean, the Dems, and the Liberal "netroots"

Just got done reading Howard Dean's address to the Canadian Liberal party. I wasn't expecting the guy to switch into French.

Very nice speech, too, focusing on that key thing that the Dems seem to be finally acknowledging (if grudgingly) and the Liberals are having trouble with: the importants of grassroots participation in government. Ideology aside, the Liberals have demonstrated consistently that they really need to work harder to build up grassroots support. (Hell, the unpopularity of the "nation" motion demonstrates THAT.)

Then again, I think the progressive blogospheres in the two countries demonstrate it, too. The American progressive/liberal movement online has developed an impressive sense of self- Kos, Atrios, et al have built up a "netroots" that not only helps to represent a point of view, but a consistent community. It's not about supporting individual candidates or even ideologies- it's about the party as a whole, and ensuring the health of the party.

Sadly, I haven't seen much of that north of the border. By and large, Canadian liberal bloggers have been apologists for various leadership candidates, both overtly and covertly. What positions they take, what beliefs they espouse, what they see as forgiveable or beyond the pale... all is dependent on who they're backing, and there seems to be little sense of community beyond that. You're either with Iggy, or with Rae, or with Dion, or with Kennedy. Even though that will end after Saturday, what bothers me is the possibility (if not likelihood) that all they'll do is just turn into apologists for the leader.

That's not what a progressive movement is supposed to be about. Conservatives, sure: until he self-destructed Bush was fawned over this way, and every self-described conservative in Canada with a weblog fawns over Stephen Harper.

Not progressives, though. Not when there's such a better, more vital model out there, one that gets things done and makes things work. (And raises a little money, too.)

Here's hoping that Saturday serves as an end to the factional BS, and the real northern netroots start growing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

SotH was still a good book...

But yeesh, what the hell is OSC trying to pull with this silliness? A fantasy about rock-ribbed Republicans blowing up evil power-tripping LIEberals?

What, was he getting jealous of the Tom Clancy oeuvre?

(Then again, were I to start this thing nowadays, I probably would have leaned towards "The Forever War".

(Once again, this here little blog claims absolutely no affinity to OSC or his work. Go here to find out the story of why I'm who I am and why this place is what it is. Funny how times change, huh?)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Even Defter?

I have to admit, I'm starting to waver on the implications of that motion that Canadian PM Stephen Harper made to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. While some of the arguments in favor of it have been strong, others against it have been equally so; especially over that issue of what the resolution means in French vs. English. (I had, when I wrote that earlier piece, forgotten that Canada must publish everything in both official languages. That can lead to difficulty. It certainly does here.)

Still, there was pretty much a consensus that the motion was going to pass; even ardent federalists like Liberal leadership candidate Stephane Dion were backing it, and defending it. (Dion wrote a smart letter to the Toronto Star defending it, saying that such resolutions could be written for any of the many nationalities that make up Canada. Fair enough, although most of them don't want to leave.

Thing is, it didn't really matter, because clearly there was a consensus backing Harper's motion. Now, though, that consensus is gone, as fellow Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy has come out in opposition of the motion.

Kennedy believes the motion raises expectations of eventual constitutional entrenchment of Quebec nationhood without defining what is meant by the word nation. Moreover, he is worried that the motion will deepen divisions in the country, the source said.

Kennedy, a former Ontario education minister, does not have a seat in the Commons but is issuing his statement in advance of the vote on Harper's motion, expected late Monday.

Kennedy's decision could give him a boost at this week's leadership convention among Liberals who are adamantly opposed to recognizing Quebec nationhood but have no other outlet for their concern.
This is smart, smart politics; Kennedy has now placed himself in the position of the "outsider speaking truth to power", echoing the beliefs of a lot of Liberals and the majority of Canadians outside Quebec.

Everybody and his dog knows that the motivation for all of this has been strictly political: Harper wants to regain Quebec support, Ignatieff wanted to reorient Quebec opinion of his leadership away from his disastrous foreign policy, Dion was (until the Harper resolution) using the nation issue as a bludgeon to beat Ignatieff, and Rae was happy to let everybody do it, so long as he didn't get sucked in. Some of these strategies were working (Dion) and some weren't (Ignatieff), but things had gone badly enough that when Harper brought out his cute little dodge, everybody hung on, policy and consequences be damned.

Except, now, for Kennedy. That's why it's smart politics for him. His profile is instantly raised, and nobody had been paying attention to him previously. He knows that his support in Quebec is weak, but (assuming the deal with Dion is in place) will scoop up Dion's supporters if Dion bails out anyway. The harder of the Quebec nationalists will be with Ignatieff, and they'd be impossible for Kennedy to gain, thanks to his weak french and weaker Quebec operation. Where his operation IS strong, (Toronto and the Canadian West) he's likely to get a good reaction from the delegates, as the latter group opposes giving Quebec special status, and the former group lives in a region of so many nationalities that recognizing one would be, well, silly.

People concerned about the Harper proposal may end up shifting to Kennedy from Ignatieff and Dion; if the deal is in place, that would put Kennedy comfortably ahead of Dion, allowing him to absorb Dion's votes and get crucial momentum. If it ends up with him ahead of Rae, and Ignatieff doesn't have his 50%, it's probably over and Kennedy walks away with the prize. If he's behind Rae, he gets Rae to come out against the motion (or at least raise questions), hands his votes to Rae, and Kennedy walks away the kingmaker and THE man to beat after Rae.

Plus, he's now going to be the absolute darling of the growing number of pundits who are opposed to the motion; not the least of which whatzisname, who had no time for Kennedy before and now is praising him to the high heavens. He'll get that badly needed press.

(Not only pundits; every conservative who hates Harper's move to placate Quebecois nationalism is going to take a good hard look at Kennedy. SOMEBODY is going to think "Sure, he might raise taxes, but at least he believes in one nation.")

(That said, there are bunches of people commenting that this will be a disaster. Here, for example, where the prevailing belief is that this will make him a pariah. Perhaps. I don't think so, though. There are simply too many anti-nation Liberals out there for the movers-and-shakers to visibly marginalize them. We'll see, I guess.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

For the Record:

If you want to know about global warming, just go here.

(Especially if you don't understand the difference between blackbody albedo and the albedo of the ball we're all sitting on.)

They know their stuff, and are very good at breaking down the apologists' claims.

The Kiddy Porn Angle

Maybe this is what whatzisname over at the Post meant when he was blathering on about shutting down the Internet:

Canada's biggest Internet service providers have agreed to block hundreds of offending websites in an effort to stamp out child pornography.

Telecom companies such as Bell Canada, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Telus, Videotron and MTS Allstream are partnering with to launch "Project Cleanfeed Canada" that will block between 500 and 800 offending websites., a national child sexual exploitation hotline, will provide the names of sites to be blocked. The hotline relies mostly on tips from the public.

The list of websites will be updated daily and will prevent both intentional and accidental viewing of the sites, according to Lianna McDonald, executive director of

Details of how the automated technical system will work and help filter the sites can't be described for security reasons.
This bothers me. Not the "anti-kiddy porn" aspect, which I imagine most non-NAMBLA types would support, but the underlying philosophy. Canada has had, in its past, some rather draconian laws about erotica; booksellers in Toronto who specialize in the gay market still complain about their shipments being interdicted at the border by over-enthusiastic Moral Guardians. The Internet has been a welcome countering influence to that kind of nonsense, yet I can definitely see it being the next direction that such things go in.

(Not that the US is that much different, as this comparative piece shows, although the US focuses more on prosecution.)

My real concern, though, is that this could extend beyond the boundaries of sexuality. Take the infamous fight between McDonalds and protestors, as seen in this excerpt from No Logo. McDonalds attempted to shut down protestors using libel claims, and the whole thing wound up in court. In that particular case, the courts sided with the protesters, but as we've seen numerous times in the past, the courts can make utterly wrongheaded decisions that end up being reversed shortly thereafter by a saner court. The problem, of course, is that trying to shut down free speech like this is difficult-at-best on the Internet, for all those reasons that I'm not going to belabour. That's a strength, not a weakness.

This ruling provides a new avenue for shutting down free speech, by blocking people at the ISP level. Previously ISPs wouldn't really do this; they wanted to be seen as "common carriers", not responsible for what they carry. (Hosting is different, but we're not talking about hosting here). Now, of course, that's pretty much out the window, and ISPs have implicitly claimed responsibility for what they carry and the ability to block it.

Of course, it's unlikely that protester sites would be blocked right now. A clear path from point "A" to point "B" can be laid out, though. It starts with kiddy porn. It then moves to other objectionable kinds of porn- that disturbing "Max Hardcore" degradation stuff, which is (as far as I know) technically illegal in Canada. Having established that blocking has little to do with kiddy porn but the illicit nature of the material, the next target is everybody's favorite whipping boy: the pirates, as the Canadian equivalents of the RIAA and MPAA rush to have all those nasty torrent sites blocked.

(Since you can't block bittorrent traffic nowadays, thanks to the legitimate users, you have to target the sites.)

After that, the "illicit information" angle is clear, and the blocking extends to both "hate sites" (a favorite target of censor-happy folks, thanks to their odiousness), and then, as night follows day, unacceptably radical political speech, just as soon as the lawsuit hits the air.

Not that any of this is new, of course. This is the reason WHY ISPs want common carrier status, and why it's important for them to have it. The thing is, since child pornography is so terrible, it's easy to lose sight of that in the rush to protect, and soon enough the race is on to block Greenpeace from Canadian ISPs.

The problem, though, is that doing something like this isn't going to prevent child pornography. There's simply no way to block all those sites, and no way to block other channels (like, say, Freenet) which are legally and technically designed to evade such blocking. The only possible way that this can work is exactly what I mentioned earlier- a "whitelist" of sites that you CAN go to, with everything else blocked.

That would be disastrous.

I was right, and still am right, about the pointlessness of a group like the CRTC or FCC (or, for that matter, the cable companies) trying to regulate and filter the Internet as a whole. It's going to screw with fundamental freedoms while only slightly inconveniencing the real bad guys, who should be pursued with tools (like criminal investigation and prosecution of big child porn producers and distributors) far more effective and appropriate to the task.

Apparently, though, that's not going to stop them from trying.


I must say, my lowering interest in Canadian politics (now that the Liberal leadership race appears to have about as much to do with the future of modern liberalism as Nancy Pelosi's choice of breakfast muffin) has somewhat rekindled over the marvelously deft move that the current Canadian PM, Stephen Harper, made over the issue of whether the province of Quebec is a "nation".

To forestall further embarrassment, and quite possibly save Michael Ignatieff's hide, he put forward a motion stating that Canada recognizes "the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada."

VERY deft. Why? First, look at the word in question: it says "Quebecois", not either "Quebeckers" or "Quebec" itself. That's important- in English, a distinction is drawn between the sociological group "Quebecois" and those who simply live in the province of Quebec. Certainly the French speaking (and predominantly Roman Catholic) group known as the Quebecois count as a nation- they've got rather a lot of history and cultural distinctiveness to support that. Thing is, that doesn't make them different or special, as there are other nations within the province of Quebec that fit that bill too, including many native nations whose claim to the land predates even the oldest "Quebecois" settlers. Of course, in French Quebecois is more akin to the english "Quebeckers", implying simply those who live in Quebec, but the resolution is in english, and the term "nation" tends to mean "sociological nation" in French anyway, and even the most ardent seperatist isn't going to claim that, say, the Cree Indians are part of the sociological group "Quebecois".

It also doesn't provide much room for grounding seperation, thanks to that "united Canada" line. It reiterates that the Quebecois are a part of Canada, not something seperate from it. I imagine most federalist Quebecois would accept that definition, even if the seperatists loathe it.

It still would have been better had this sideshow not reared its ugly head, and Ignatieff is still likely to be punished for doing so. Still, I will admit that Harper managed to thread that needle rather well.

If only he were anywhere near as competent at, say, foreign policy.

Edit to forestall an objection: Paul Wells complained that Harper's preference for "in Caanda" is meaningless- a nation is a nation no matter where it is. Well, yes, and were the Quebecois willing to seperate without the lands held by the Cree and without Montreal, there might be something to that. As it is, though, any attempt to use this to justify seperation can be easily responded to with a simple "what about the nations that don't want to leave?"

Recognizing one nation does not preclude the existence of others. Indeed, considering the natives are referred to as "first nations" in Canada, there's already an implicit recognition there.

Seriously Odd

I've gone on about the guy before, but even more than his inability to create permalinks, this really does cement Warren Kinsella as the oddest blogger I've come across.

Yes, odder than Steven Den Beste, with his apocalyptic visions of cultural warfare. Read on.

This piece is about the CRTC- the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. Roughly similar to the FCC. It's on his National Post blog, instead of his regular one, so I can be reasonably sure the permalink will work. Here's what he said:

This writer, who still regards himself as a liberal if not a federal Liberal, intensely dislikes the CRTC. With the Internet awash in child pornography and hate propaganda – with the Internet facilitating the daily doings of stalkers, perverts, and the likes of al-Qaeda – this writer and other na├»ve liberals had clung to the primitive notion that the CRTC (which has the mandate to regulate Canadian telecommunications services) would have regulated, um, the Internet (a telecommunications service found here and there in Canada).

In May 1999, the CRTC declined to do so, claiming that “Canadian laws, industry self-regulation, content filtering software, and increased media awareness” would do the trick. Ask any Canadian parent, teacher or librarian how that one worked out.
The rest is a complaint about regulation of VoIP- I'll save you, and just get to the last bit.

For those of us with an historical antipathy to the CRTC, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys and gals. Could the private sector do better in limiting access to child pornography, hate propaganda and other such filth? It certainly could not do worse than the CRTC has done, in recent years.
Catch the problem? Yeah, me too. It can be summed up in one simple sentence:

How in the name of GOD is the CRTC supposed to regulate and police the INTERNET?

No, really, how? China can't do it, and they're a communist dictatorship. Is the CRTC supposed to erect some kind of firewall around all of Canada, and keep out all the nasty pornography and hate propaganda and Islamists and whatnot? Should they just run a "whitelist" of sites that Canadians are allowed to visit?

This is manifestly impossible and everybody knows it. Except Warren, for some bizarre reason, who missed all that folderol from the 1990s about how the Internet "interprets censorship as damage and reroutes around it." Sure, it never quite worked that way, but it's a good rule of thumb. Ought Implies Can, which is why anybody saying that the CRTC or FCC or whoever ought to censor the nasty stuff on the Internet is usually laughed out of the room.

(Maybe he was too busy being all punk to read an issue of Wired back in the day.)

Hell, I'll do you folks one better. Notice that Kinsella seemed to think that Al Qaeda being on the Internet is one of the reasons it should be censored. Yet the facilitation of the "daily doings of... the likes of Al-Qaeda" would happen even if Canada had some sort of Chinese-style "Golden Shield" surrounding it. They don't operate in Canada, or at least not solely in Canada. What, exactly, is the CRTC supposed to do about THAT? Are they supposed to reach out their mighty Canadian arm and swat Al Qaeda from the whole international Internet? Apparently so.

Admittedly, he could just believe that Canadians shouldn't be permitted to see and hear anything Al Qaeda says or writes. Honestly, I think I prefer the "long arm of the Mounties" theory, though. It's just bizarre, instead of terrifying.

Like I said, seriously odd.

(Then again, considering his ignorance of the tradition of pseudonymity on the Internet, maybe it's not surprising that he still doesn't understand the medium too well. I'd love to introduce him to a Cyperpunk sometime. After five minutes with someone who takes Internet privacy really seriously, I expect his head would explode.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"I'm Not Saying They're Traitors"...

Governments may come, and governments may go...

...but wingnuts' eliminationist attempts to call liberals treasonous for disagreeing with them?

That's forever.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Word of Advice to Dems

As always, don't listen to conservatives proffering advice, as people like Brooks had absolutely nothing to do with your victory.

And, honestly, what's sadder than a conservative babbling about how this is all "a win for the centrists", in a desperate attempt to try to save the ideology that is his bread and butter?

Yes, some conservative Dems won. No, it wasn't all conservatives, and some were pretty damned liberal. Yes, Lieberman won. No, Lieberman's victory wasn't a victory against Kos. it was an embrace of the Republican party without the "R" to bring him down.

Hell, Brooks (along with many other pundits) doesn't even get that Kos doesn't care about ideology, and never has. He just dislikes Lieberman because he takes shots at his own party to get ahead. It works for Joe, but harms the party, and thus can't be held up as an example to Dems pretty much by definition.

I'm quite aware that this whole thing is just a way of setting the groundwork for battering Democrats as "out of the mainstream" again when the actually try to get something done. It was inevitable, and all things considered, it's pretty weak.

I just hope Nancy and Harry know it as well.

Who Gets Credit, Rahm Or Netroots? Neither.

Over at TPMCafe, they're doing a roundup of "who won: Rahm Emmanuel or the netroots"? Leaving aside nonsense about Lieberman winning (he won because of Republicans due to a weak Republican candidate, nothing more)...

...neither won. Howard Dean won the election.

Why? Well, two reasons, really. One I already mentioned earlier: Dean's "fifty state strategy" ensured that there was already at least the beginnings of Democratic organizations in states that the Powers That Be had pretty much given up on. While that wasn't intrinsic to the success in many of the races, it was successful in bleeding Republican cash away from tight races so that they could defend safe seats, especially in situations like this one where "safe" is a relative term at best. This election shows that you have to at least make an effort to compete everywhere, because every race you leave uncontested is a race that they don't have to spend a dime to win, and incumbents tend to spend disproportionately.

The second reason is more ephemeral, but more important. Dean was anti-war. That isn't to say that an anti-war stance would have won in 2004--it wasn't tried--but what it did do is cement a connection between an anti-war position and at least part of the Democratic party. That matters, because if the Dems had had absolutely no anti-war candidates in the primary, we would have almost certainly seen alienation between the party and those who disliked the war. I'm not sure if they would have fled to, say, the Green party, but they may well have sat 2004 out, and been too disconnected from the triangulating Dems to really bother with 2006.

That they did find a candidate in Dean, though, means that they were forced to develop all those nice "netroots" tools that helped so much in 2006. The meetups, the online fundraising, the network of mutually supportive and resolutely partisan blogs that went beyond conservative-style repetition of talking points, the willingness to blend on-the-net and on-the-ground activism... all these things that the "netroots" contributed in 2006 were developed in 2004.

Without Dean, none of that would have happened. Without Dean, the Dems would probably just be happy right now with having reduced the Republican majority. Without Dean, there would probably be a divided left right now in the United States, just as there is in so many other countries. Without Dean, people would still think that Instapundit actually speaks for the blogger community.

So sorry, folks, but this is Howard Dean's party, and we're all just living in it. To our great good luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Netroots Victory?

Very good piece on the media's misinterpretation of the Democratic victory by your hero and mine, digby.

Imagine my surprise this morning, twelve years later, as Democrats come back into the majority in the House with a huge, decisive victory and the Senate is poised to tip as well and the press seems to be interpreting this election as a .... repudiation of the soft and squishy hated liberals. (Again, they are taking their cues from Rush Limbaugh who is also spinning the election as a loss for liberals.) The narrative is suspended in amber.

It's wrong, of course, just as the earlier one was. This election proves that the Democrats are the mainstream political party. We just elected a socialist from Vermont and a former Reagan official from Virginia to the US Senate. We elected a number of Red State conservatives, true, but we are also going to have a Speaker of the House from San Francisco. We cover a broad swathe, ranging from sea to shining sea with only the most conservative old south remaining firmly in the hands of the Republican party. The idea that this is some sort of affirmation of conservatism is laughable. It's an affirmation of mainstream American values and a rejection of the Republican radicalism this country has been in the grips of for the last 12 years.

And I'm sorry to have to inform all the kewl kidz and insiders, but this is largely due to the re-emergence of an active, vital, progressive base. Despite the fact that we aren't goosestepping around shouting about our Victory For The Homeland the way the Gingrich Jugend did in 1994, a revolution --- not of ideology, but necessity --- is underway.
He then extensively quotes Rick Perlstein at TNR, who points out that while the hand-picked DCCC candidates were defeated as often as not, the "netroots" was pretty thoroughly successful, and the successful candidates were often hardly the "Conservative Democrats" that the media seems to pretend they are. Best example is right here:

It was a pattern repeated across the country. New Hampshire's 1st District delivered Carol Shea-Porter, a former social worker who got kicked out of a 2005 Presidential appearance for wearing a T-shirt that said turn your back on bush. That might have been her fifteen minutes of fame--if, last night, she hadn't defeated two-term Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. For the chance to face him, however, she had to win a primary against the DCCC's preferred candidate, Jim Craig--whom Rahm Emanuel liked so much he made the unusual move of contributing $5000 to his primary campaign. Shea-Porter dominated Craig by 20 points--and then was shut out by the DCCC for general election funds.
Digby's basic point is absolutely valid- that this shouldn't be considered a victory for the "New Democrats", or "Centrist Democrats" or whatever label they're trying to haul out. To be blunt, they didn't do a damned thing.

It was, first and foremost, a loss by the Republicans. The Dems kind of backed into this victory, which was handed to them by a party so absolutely unable to govern properly that even a deathgrip on the public discourse, a huge cash advantage, and well-worn talking points couldn't support them. The Republicans lost, and nobody can forget that for a second, because they're going to be much more effective now that their weakness at governance isn't an issue.

(Paradoxical, but true.)

It was also victory for Howard Dean and the netroots. Yes, Holy Joe won; incumbency and massive Republican support gave him the edge. The netroots still helped get people elected, though, by funnelling money and support to candidates that needed it, who had a shot, and didn't have the imprimitur of the Powers That Be. Howard Dean, on the other hand, provided the 50 state initiative, which ensured that the Dems had the support to compete in states that they would have been completely helpless in only a year ago. If anything this election was a vindication of Dean's strategy. If anything, this is his victory.

It's going to take more than one election victory, however, to get the media to change its tune. This was just a first step. Welcome though it is, there's a lot more to do.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RUMSFELD'S OUT! (and Bush is dying on the vine)

It's on CNN. Bush is employing his best turd-polishing skills in a speech to that effect right now.

Hoo Nelly, what a bodyblow to the neocons. Wolfowitz is over at the World Bank, Rumsfeld is out on his ear, Iraq is synonymous with disaster, the Republicans got walloped in the election...

...and it's all thanks to the "let's go kick some ass so Americans will feel nifty about themselves" crew. They're punching bags for the next two years, at least.

Kinda like with Saddam, couldn't have happened to nicer guys.

Edit: Bush's press conference is going about as well as the war he's defending. He's not just a lame duck, he's a duck with a thousand knives poised to carve him up and serve him out. He knows it too.

On some abstract level, I think I should feel sorry for him. I don't. I probably never will.

Dems Win, to Varying Degrees

From worst to first:

Worst: Connecticut, where Lieberman did indeed pull it out. Over on Kos it was attributed to a simple problem:

Despite all the blogosphere opinion, Nutmeggers saw this race as between two Democrats, and Lamont's inability to change that perception and counter Lieberman's bipartisan sales pitch was why he lost. He could not compete in the suburban areas that gave him the primary win.
I don't like this, obviously, but it's the logical analysis. Iraq was front-and-center in this election, but Lieberman couldn't really get swept up in the anti-Republican wave thanks to his insulating "D", so the moderate Democratic support and fairly enthusiastic Republican support got him the seat.

It may be academic: the Dems haven't won the Senate. Or they have. We're not sure yet, thanks to Virginia and Montana, where Webb and Tester are leading their Republican counterparts by razor-thin margins and where both seats are necessary for the Dems to pull off the 50 seats they need.

(No, I'm not lumping Lieberman in there, "caucus with Dems" or otherwise. His time as a Democrat is over.)

So they may not have the Senate. Of course, at 50-50 they don't necessarily need it- all they need to do is sway one Republican for important votes and they're set, and every Republican in the Senate knows which way the wind is blowing. I've heard speculation about party switching; although I find that unlikely, bringing people over for votes will prove far easier.

The good news, though? The house is won. The Dems (leaving aside recounts and the like) have 231 seats and Pelosi will be speaker. This is great, great news, both for the country and for progressivism. Hell, it's good news for the Democratic process itself- around a year ago nobody was expecting the Dems to retake the House until, what, 2010? Maybe? With the Republicans' history and the incumbency protection that the House enjoys, it's quite likely that it'll remain in Democratic hands at least until then, if not longer.

Most importantly, the Dems now have a chance to uproot the Mighty Wurlitzer of the conservative echo chamber, and start getting a progressive voice heard. While the DLC types might take solace from Lieberman, the fact remains that the issue that they cringed from and avoided, Iraq, was the one that handed the Democrats the House and quite possibly the Senate. "It's the Economy Stupid" and all that triangulation nonsense about foreign policy is dead.

In any case, congratulations and good luck, Democratic Party of America.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Early, Vote Often: 2006

Welp, here we are again. Election day in the U.S.A. I'm sure every blog even remotely concerned with American politics is saying "go vote", so I won't worry about it.

What I will say is that it's a very different election than the last bunch. For the first time in a long while, it looks like the Democrats are poised to kick some ass and take the House at the very least. It's quite possible that they'll take the Senate as well, depending on how things shake out.

And yet. I can't help but feel a little unease about all of this. I feel like the Dems aren't in the great position that they think they're in.

The first and most easily apparent reason is Holy Joe, the quasi-Dem. To be blunt, he should have dropped out after the primary, even though I was pretty certain he wouldn't. He's putting his party in an impossible position if he wins. If he doesn't hold the balance of power, then no big deal; the Dems can caucus with him or not as they wish. Sucks, but they can always say "sorry, but you aren't actually a Dem."

It's quite possible that he will hold the balance of power, though, and that raises the question: where do the Democrats draw the line? I'm not talking about Joe's foreign policy positions, naive and untenable as they are. I'm talking about the impact on the party itself when it is made obvious that they can't say "boo" to Joe without handing votes to Cheney to tie-break. Joe will become incredibly powerful, and everybody will know it, and the Dems will be at the mercy of a man who has been about as loyal to his party as Guy Fawkes was to his country.

(To use a relatively topical non-American reference for this time of year.)

If they play ball with the man and let him play Democrat, it'll be a message to everybody in the party that says "we don't care about what you think, or who you pick. Primaries are a fiction, and you might as well not bother." The party is supposed to choose its own representatives, and the whole point of primaries is that you choose your own representatives directly. Letting Joe run the show will be a big neon sign to everybody watching saying that the Democrats are exactly as weak and unprincipled as everybody believes they are.

Yet, the other alternative is a Republican Senate propped up by the New Zell. That's also untenable. That's why Lieberman should have quit. Even if he hasn't, though, it's the reason why Lieberman can't have the "D" beside his name, and why the Dems need to make it clear that they're in the driver's seat, not Joe.

The other issue that bothers me is the reason why the Dems are poised to make these gains. To be blunt, they haven't been that inspiring. No, really, they haven't. Their campaigning has been competent, but the Republicans have demonstrated through both fair means and foul that they're still the better campaigners and still have the national discourse by the jugular. The only reason why the Republicans are slated to lose is because of their incompetence at governance and because of the perfect storm of the Foley scandal. The Dems haven't really sorted through their issues; the brewing storm between the "Democratic wing" and the "New Democrats" hasn't gone anywhere.

Even if they win, those divisions are going to loom large, especially with the large number of somewhat conservative newbie Dems likely to join the House. They'll be acutely aware that Iraq and Foley will not get them reelected. They'll also know that the gerrymandering and discourse control that kept the Republicans in power is going to work against them. They could easily do what Dems so often do, and freeze, hoping that the bad Republicans will just go away if they act really quiet and still, just like a little mouse.

Case in point: the investigation issue. Already the Republicans are setting the groundwork for loud exhortations for Democrats to leave the past alone, and that any attempt to investigate the Republicans' many and sundry sins of governance would be partisan witchhunts. The Democrats' first instinct is naturally to deny that any such thing will take place; that is also exactly the wrong thing to do. Far from being politically unwise, congressional investigations are the best tool the Dems have to hammer home just how bad the Republicans have been, why "bipartisanship" with such a crowd is a quixotic goal, and why they shouldn't be given the tiller again for a good long time.

Yes, the usual suspects will shout and rave, but they're not the ones that need to be convinced. Hell, they shouldn't even be listened to. No Democrat should ever base their decisionmaking on what people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Ledeen, and Robert Novak think, no matter how big or influential an audience they seem to command.

What's important is that Americans will finally start hearing some truth, and the truth is the last thing the Republicans or their mouthpieces want to get out.

The Democrats have been lucky, and have known enough to exploit that. There's been little indication that they've grown that spine. If they haven't, if they don't, this will be a short-lived victory at best. We'll see, I suppose.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam Will Hang

Unsurprising. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but I still think (like most of the western world) that the death penalty is a throwback and best discarded as such. Somewhere in Iran, a mullah is telling a scientist to redouble his efforts.

As for the fallout in Iraq... well, I'd say that there's a danger the country could fall into chaos, but Bush 'n co seem to have done a bang-up job on that without any help from Saddam.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

North Korea Back to Table

Not really a big surprise; China's clearly been putting on pressure, and North Korea really exists on China's sufference. The DPRK probably knows that they're in a better negotiation position than they were before, too- promises of a "hard line" by the U.S. and Japan will run right into the reality that North Korea has a lot more chips than they used to, chips that the Koreans will almost certainly used to gain concessions.

Still, I think at this point that there's only one concession that really means anything to Kim Jong-Il- the assurance of non-hostility and security by the United States. This whole mess started because (among other reasons) the United States has waffled back and forth between killing time until the DPRK falls and threatening to do the job itself. I'm sure that Kim is looking for some proof that his regime is safe; everything else, including the economic concessions, is secondary.

For its part, though, the U.S. may not be willing to offer this pledge. After all, if Kim cheats, the United States could see North Korea end up with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, and clearly they don't want that and will preempt it if they can. Yet it's that fondness for preemption that helped create this mess in the first place, and they can't simply set aside Kim's concerns.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rove: Not As Confident As Advertised?

Over at Crooks and Liars, we see this piece (drawn from Raw Story) on Karl Rove's confidence about the upcoming election:

During a National Public Radio interview, White House Deputy Chief of Staff "duked it out" with the host over polling data[..].

After midterm election interviewer Robert Siegel stated that "many might consider you on the optimistic end of realism" regarding Republican hopes to retain both Houses in November, Rove suggested that the NPR host was biased.

"Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that," Rove said. "You're just making a comment."

"I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day," Seigel responded

"No you're not!" Rove exclaimed.'

How many times do we got to tell you, Karl? Reality has a liberal bias.
Good points, but there's a deeper story here. Check out this later exchange from the Raw Story piece:

MR. SIEGEL: How then do you read -- or how then do you look ahead to the election in terms of Iraq policy? If the Republicans maintain majorities on the Hill it's a ratification of the Iraq policy?

MR. ROVE: Well, I think Iraq and the economy play a role in virtually every race, but there are also local considerations in the local contests between two individuals that at the end of the day matters for a great deal of the contest.

It's not a -- and there's a natural human desire to simplify everything to one big thing. You know, Curley's (sp) line from the movie, "One thing." But that's not the way politics really is. Politics is a complex equation which voters are going to be examining a variety of issues and a variety of characteristics as they arrive at their decision.
Bolding mine. Notice it? Rove is subtly yet clearly acknowledging that, nationally, Republicans are weak. This focus on "local contests" and "local considerations" only makes sense if he knows that the broader issues don't favor his party. Otherwise, he'd simply say that the Dems are wrong on the issues and wrong on character and leave it at that. On a facile level he's right of course- American elections are very localized affairs. As the chief political strategist for the president, however, Rove shouldn't be focusing on that, as it says that his man is weak and his party is weak.

Even IF he is right and there are different local situations that favor the Republicans, a broad trend is a broad trend, and everybody's going to know the direction of that trend. That trend doesn't favor the Republicans at all, and for Rove to even hint at acknowledging that is more "reality based" than I would have suspected.

Rove's dream of a persistent Republican majority is coming down around his ears, and he knows it. Now he's just trying to survive this election, so that he can maybe snatch that long-term victory from the jaws of defeat. His bluster aside, his failure is pretty good news for the Dems and, to be honest, good news for America.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm "Sucking Up" Again

Maybe, maybe not, but either way Wells gets to the fundamental problem with the whole Quebec seperation issue: that Quebec is assumed to be inviolate and indivisable, whereas Canada is not.

That the Cree Indians have long maintained that they would not accept annexation of their lands by a Quebecois government is never quite discussed or acknowledged. That's worrisome, because if they don't want to leave Canada, isn't it the duty of the Canadian government to defend them?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Riverbend and The Lancet

And with one post, any remaining doubts I had on the "600,000 dead" figure on Iraq from a Lancet study gets knocked away.


The latest horror is the study published in the Lancet Journal concluding that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war. Reading about it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded like a reasonable figure. It wasn't at all surprising. On the other hand, I so wanted it to be wrong. But... who to believe? Who to believe....? American politicians... or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?

The responses were typical- war supporters said the number was nonsense because, of course, who would want to admit that an action they so heartily supported led to the deaths of 600,000 people (even if they were just crazy Iraqis…)? Admitting a number like that would be the equivalent of admitting they had endorsed, say, a tsunami, or an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, or the occupation of a developing country by a ruthless superpower… oh wait- that one actually happened. Is the number really that preposterous? Thousands of Iraqis are dying every month- that is undeniable. And yes, they are dying as a direct result of the war and occupation (very few of them are actually dying of bliss, as war-supporters and Puppets would have you believe).

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.
I thought that the objections to the original Lancet study (the 100,000 one) were fishy, borne out of the twin desires to minimize the damage and ignore any research that doesn't follow a specific Platonic Form of structure and design in a situation where that is impossible. I can understand both instincts, but at some point you have to face up to the truth, and the truth is that America (and, more specifically, the Republican party and its sympathizers and agents) has been directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people over the course of about 4 and a half years. That's 200 9/11s, based on the only metric of casualties that the Usual Suspects seem to care about.

Billmon asks "what more should I have done."

I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans...

...It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.

But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were.

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.

But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.
I understand this sentiment, but let's be honest here- self-flagellation is counterproductive, because those who actually are responsible for the creation and continuation of this travesty are precisely those who deny that they've even done anything wrong, let alone are culpable for mistakes.

Yelling "I could have done more" doesn't make sense, because he really couldn't have done more. Getting himself arrested by trying to put his "body" into it wouldn't have changed a damned thing. In fact, it would have empowered the supporters, who are the ones letting this travesty go on and started it in the first place.

If you want someone to blame, look towards them. Whether in the media, in government, or in the "heartland", look towards them. Look towards the conservative "movement", its horrifying track record, and the damaged little cultists that it's raising in those creepy "conservative leadership training retreats" that were in this month's Harpers. Look towards the "reasonable Liberals" that enable it, too, and remind them of what they sat back and let happen, for no electoral gain whatsoever, because they let the Republicans' tools and enablers convince them that they had to be trembling cowards in the face of Republican talking points.

But most of all, look towards the President, because shit flows uphill and he's at the top of the pyramid for a reason.

There will be no insurrection; no violent revolution. Change has to happen within the system. Throw your body into that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Atrios liked this comment on Feministe about attempts to "out" one of the bloggers there. I did too, so I'll reproduce it and Atrios' response. Feministe in italics.

Yeah, that’s probably true, but it leads to a different interpretation. AB’s argument is that pseudonymity is bad because it gives people license to do things for which they would be held responsible if they were posting under their real names. But even posting under her real name, AB is pretty much immune from consequences. She can behave like a batshit loon and not worry about losing her job. The bothersome effect of pseudonymity is that it gives the rest of us the privilege that AB takes for granted. And that’s the real problem: not that it gives others impunity, but that it creates a situation where impunity ceases to be her special privilege.

This is absolutely correct. The ability to participate in the public discourse is something which previously was available only to a select few, and is now open to everyone. Part of what allows that is the ability of people to not attach their name to everything they write. People who have job and income stability (say, tenured professors) take for granted that they can say just about anything in a public space (such as the internets) without fear of consequence. Many other people, not so much.

The only reason to care about the identity of the person at the other end of the internet is to allow for real world consequences for online activity, consequences that some people are largely shielded from.

There's no reason people should worry that their boss is going to get called if they make some whiny asshole upset on the internet, or that their phone number will get posted, or their children brought into the discussion. But there are assholes on the internet who happily do such things on a regular basis, and it's perfectly sensible to hide a real world identity which has nothing to do with what goes on in the virtual world.

If I'd blogged under the name "Roger Smith" instead of "Atrios" no one would have been the wiser. Knowing what they believed to be a real name would they have been entitled to know all of my personal details? Of course not. And, if not, a name really confers no meaningful information.

Certainly anonymity lets people be bigger assholes than they might otherwise be, but for the most part who cares. It's the internets.
In fact, that latter bit about "Roger Smith" and "Atrios" is why I chose such an obvious pseudonym- because if you are using one, it is fair (I think) to make it apparent. Aside from that, I'll just add that I believe the same thing now that I did in 2002- that there's a tradition of pseudonymity and anonymity online that goes back further than the Internet, and the reason is simply because it's not supposed to matter who you are, where you are, or what your background is. All that matters is what you write.

Yes, it means that you have the same kind of impunity that "opinion journalists" generally enjoy (at least those that are patriotically correct), but the tradeoff is that you can't rely on your background for validation either. You could have a doctorate or never have finished high school. You could be a captain of industry or the lowliest worker. You could, as the saying goes, "be a dog". If the dog has something to say, more power to him.

One thing I do disagree with, though; the whole "it's the Internet, nobody cares" thing is growing passe. Newspaper editors wouldn't be wetting themselves at their circulation stats were that still the case. This isn't 1997, or even 2002, when I started this damned thing. Things have changed.

(Among other things? Libertarianism isn't anywhere near as dominant as it was, and the conservative bloggers are nowhere near as important as their liberal counterparts. There is still a hegemonic conservative discourse out there, but it's not the same world it was. Maybe I'll make OSC happy and change the site name to something more appropriate.)

(A GRRM title maybe? His books are pretty damned good too.)

In any case, the internets DO matter. And, thus, so does the tradition of pseudonymity.

Friday, October 20, 2006

“There is no state in the city right now”

The Mahdi army has taken over the city of Amara in Iraq.

A Shiite militia that has been accused of a wave of sectarian attacks on Iraq’s Sunni minority has seized control of the city of Amara in southeastern Iraq, attacking police stations and erecting checkpoints, witnesses in the city said today. At least 15 people have been killed, health officials said.

The takeover of Amara by the militia, the Mahdi Army, was a broad act of defiance against the authority of the central government, which has been trying to impose order and curb sectarian violence. The incident also raised questions about whether Iraq’s militias can be reined in....

Sheik Abdul Kareem al-Muhammadawi, a prominent tribal leader, said in an interview by telephone today that the Mahdi Army responded [to an attack on Shiites in the city] by deploying its troops in the city. He said the police were outgunned, with insufficient weapons and ammunition.
He followed with the quote in the title.

To be fair, a British commander pointed out that this was unlikely to have been intended- they didn't go in expecting to take over the city, but did it in response to the violence. This is not conquest. What is striking for me, however, is that the Mahdi Army appears to be successfully following in Hezbollah's footsteps of providing a Shiite alternate military that is capable of checking--and even defeating--the state's forces. Even if they have no designs on seizing power, this localized power makes an enormous difference.

Two thoughts immediately arise:

1) This is a boon for Iran. Every quasi-military Shiite organization in the region is a bonus for them, even if they have no designs on regional dominance. It makes it that much more likely that the "Shiite crescent" will become a de facto reality.

2) The United States is both more likely to attack Iran and less likely to succeed. DoD will want to prevent Iran from gaining a solid hold on the region, but the hold they already have will allow Iran lots of opportunity to cause havok.

Neither of these ideas are new, of course. They still bear repeating.

As for Amara, I hope that this is a temporary state of affairs at best. Having a city be militia-held is a recipe for further instability. A presence is probably inevitable, but Mahdi should relinquish control as soon as possible.

This post was written with Internet Explorer 7, by the way, which has the dubious distinction of feeling just enough like Firefox that I really feel the absence of my various Firefox extensions. Tabbed browsing without mouse gestures just feels...wrong. No other way to explain it.

Nice browser otherwise.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The October Surprise

Voter purges, apparently.

According to this Daily Kos diary, the same Republican-friendly firms that purged the Florida voter rolls of reliable Democratic voters (read: blacks) are doing the same thing to reliable Democratic voters in Ohio (read: the poor.)

Supposedly the purge was deliberately set up to catch as many Dems as possible, and the "please confirm" letters were deliberately made to look like simple information, when they had an (obscured) action element that required people to go register or they wouldn't be able to vote on election day.

(Well, wouldn't be able to vote without provisional ballots. Guess which districts aren't going to be given enough of those? If you guessed "Republicans", you'd be wrong!)

That's why Rove is so confident. Sure, the polls aren't helping him, but if this is widespread, what do polls matter? He'll win anyway. Sure, people might complain, but he just needs to trot out a few pissant cases of voter fraud and he'll be able to innoculate himself against the charge of widespread voter suppression.

Yet another reason why I've developed a healthy respect of the Canadians. At least their system works.

So Much for "Empire Lite"

Looks like Iggy is harshly critical of the United States, its president, and its foreign policy, according to this Lawrence Martin piece in the Globe and Mail.

Sure he's critical! This week. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

(Seriously, I'm not going to criticize him for taking a stand against Bush. Everybody's doing it these days. It's just that this would have had more credibility had it not smacked of damage control. Seems like Ignatieff's busier putting out fires than Joe Volpe and Dennis Hastert these days.)

A Latest Example of Charity

As found on Cerberus, Ignatieff is absolutely right to say that he doesn't support "ballistic missile defense or the weaponization of space":

''I do not support ballistic missile defence or the weaponization of space,'' Ignatieff, a freshman Toronto MP, said Monday in a statement to CanWest News Service.

''We should not participate in these measures. Canada must continue to work with our international partners and allies to ensure that our sovereignty is respected and that our national interests are represented in any multilateral discussions regarding continental security.'' [...]

Rae's comment that talks on the matter should not be a current government priority appeared to endorse the status quo. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has promised a free vote in the Commons should negotiations take place, said in the summer that he was not reopening the issue. [...]

Gerard Kennedy, fourth-ranking candidate in the leadership race, declined comment until he has had time to study McKenna's submission.
Quote is from here.

Rae seemed to be taking much the same position, albeit with (unfortunately) somewhat weaker language. Kennedy I'm somewhat more disappointed in- McKenna's position (that Canada should join America BMD to mollify Americans', and by that I mean Republicans', irrational fears) is untenable on its face, so why hold off? Ignatieff certainly didn't. He deserves some credit for that.

(Here's hoping certain parties don't think I'm just saying this to ingratiate myself or suck up or whateverthehell. Credit where credit's due.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So much for Conventional Wisdom

Apparently the Liberal leadership candidate best suited for taking on Harper (whose numbers are drooping badly) is the warmed over social democrat.

The Muscular Liberal Hawk finishes well behind, especially in the province of Ontario, where Bob Rae is supposed to be a liability.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Larry Craig is apparently gay. More power to him, except that he's yet another one of those guys with an "R" beside his name and an "FU" for those who share his orientation.

I'm not a huge fan of "outing", never have been, but considering this congress seems to have had little trouble poking into other people's bedrooms, well...

Went to go see An Incovenient Truth again

With a friend. The quote from Mark Twain about "what we need to fear isn't what we don't know, it's what we know that just ain't true" thus rang in my mind when I read this piece by Digby about the hideously flawed books that the right uses as sources for their foreign and military policies. Of particular interest are wild frothing tomes about Saddam being responsible for the 1994 WTC bombing, and a lovely text called "the Arab mind" which purports to show that Arabs "only understand force, and...that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation." It's about as popular as polio with academics, yet is a widely-referenced text in both the conservative movement and high-level segments of the US military.

I'm starting to understand both why Iraq was such a disaster, and why the people on the ground were so flabbergasted at the reactions of their higher-ups. If you have an expectation of behavior, it'll affect your decisionmaking- if it's wrong, then it'll be disastrous.

Thus I, kinda like Twain, almost wish that they had gone in there completely ignorant. Maybe they could have learned themselves some reality, instead of a racist fantasy.

For the Record:

BMD is a horrible idea, the Canadians were right to stay out of it, and Frank McKenna is just as wrong about it now as he was in 2004.

As for whether McKenna would be condemned for taking the same positions as Ignatieff is now... possibly? He didn't let the Liberals find out.

A Little Bit of Confusion

Props for Paul Wells, as mentioned below, for correctly calling the debate (with the exception of that continuing insistence that non-Iggy candidates will be able to control the bleeding if they try to throw to Mr. "Four positions, one week".

Warren Kinsella, well, not so much. I know I harp on the guy a lot, but he illustrates something amusing. First, this quote:

Okay, I think I’ve got it all figured out. Call it my pre-Halloween Political Analysis©. After attending the Liberal leadership thing in Toronto – and after reading the learned assessments of the punditocracy, wherein you will find as many opinions as there were journos in attendance...
See, that's the interesting part, especially for those of us who are interested in damage control. There really only seems to be two interpretations out there of the debate on Sunday.

The first is that Bob Rae won the debate. Even if it doesn't help his position, pretty much everybody in every camp and most of the journos I've read have said as much.

(Don't have much personal contact, so maybe Warren is up on me that way. He's the experienced insider, as he so often reminds us.)

He not only won it, but Ignatieff lost it, and badly, thanks to that foolish little whinge on foreign policy that Wells highlighted.

The other interpretation? You can see it over here on Redtory's site, but Warren provides a pithier version: "Who won? Beats me." Thing is, the only people who I've read this from are outspoken Ignatieff supporters like Red Tory. I suppose Warren is in that camp now, too.

Except the TRULY odd thing is that atop of that little "yawn" spin, we read this:

[Liberals are afraid]

-That Michael Ignatieff is too right wing, like Turner or Martin, or too academic, like Kim Campbell;

-That Gerard Kennedy is too bland, like Al Gore, or too incapable of French, like Preston Manning or John Crosbie;

-That Stephane Dion is too French, like Gerard Kennedy is too English;

-That Bob Rae is too much like an NDP Premier who lengthened and deepened a recession, laid off thousands of nurses, oversaw countless businesses shutting down, caused massive economic and social dislocation, seemed indifferent to one of the most scandal-plagued administrations in Ontario history, and only tore up his NDP membership card when it had taken his ambition as far as it could reasonably go. You know, that Bob Rae is, um, still Bob Rae.
Ok, now let's look at the rest of that other comment:

Went to the Liberal leadership forum thingie at Roy Thomson Hall. I walked in with Ignatieff's convention co-chair, stood with the Dionistas and loitered with the media.
Notice who's missing? That's right! Kennedy and Rae. The clear appeal to impartiality falls down, and were Kinsella backing Dion, he wouldn't be pulling that ridiculous "beats me" stunt or trying to assert that there wasn't a clear consensus. After all, the consensus isn't just that Rae won, but that Dion put in a pretty fine performance, yet we see not a word of that on Mr. K's little site.

What we do see is a loud invective against Bob Rae, blaming him for a recession which, according to pretty much everything I've read about Ontario's economy, has more to do with soft American demand for Canadian manufactures than anything else. Rae was in the unfortunate position of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; kind of like Kinsella's nemesis Paul Martin, who was left to clean up the dirty laundry that Kinsella's boss left behind.

I mean, were Kinsella at all inclined towards critiquing Ignatieff, he wouldn't have tried to play the "ambition" card against Rae, of all people. Ignatieff is the one most vulnerable to that charge; the only way this sort of ploy makes sense is as a kind of Rovian innoculation against criticism by going after the other guy for the same thing. Nice, although I doubt it'll stick in this case.

So what causes that "little bit of confusion"? Well, this last bit here:

The problem is that Stephen Harper doesn’t really scare Canadians anymore, or possibly never did. That’s the Grits’ problem.
That latter assertion is just silly. Yes, the Liberals did successfully paint Harper as scary in 2004, and that fear of an "agenda" is probably a major reason why Harpers' minority is as utterly weak as it is. That's not what's confusing, though. What's confusing is that this is yet another indicator that Kinsella's true loyalty is to Harper, as (as is always the case) he never wastes a breath that could be used praising Steve to the high hills.

So he's, apparently, cryptically supporting Ignatieff (the most right-wing Liberal candidate) while at the same time talking up Harper, and going after Rae for daring to have once been a Social Democrat during a recession. He certainly claims to be a "Calgary communist" and a small "l" liberal, yet appears to be doing his best to make sure that the Conservatives retain power and the Liberals shift in a conservative direction.

So I guess that leads to the big question: am I confused about his liberalism, or is he?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Props Where it's Due:

Great bit by Paul Wells:on the latest Canadian Liberal Party debate:

Then came the clip of the night. Iggy, MHF and Rae on Afghanistan. The question might as well have been, "Please tear each other to shreds over Afghanistan," because that's what they did. Ignatieff said he doesn't know where Rae stands on the file. Rae was, uh, kind of ready for that one: "For a guy who's changed his mind three times in a week..."

Ignatieff was furious. "You know that's not true. You've known me for 40 years." Ineffectual as a debating point, Ignatieff's response got to the heart of the most interesting human dynamic in this leadership race: precisely the deterioration of the relationship between these old UofT roommates. There's a Russian novel in there somewhere.
Considering the Dems still seem to be winning by default, the Canadian Liberal race is remaining a very interesting affair.

(Somewhat Apropo: I can't wait until Blair goes down. For many reasons, but partially because Labour may have to go through the same sort of trial, especially if Brown remains as relatively weak as he is now.)

By the Way

I haven't been doing much on the American congressional elections. Not much to say- it's going to be a bloodbath of biblical proportions. For the skinny, you should already know to go Here.

One thing I WILL say, though: this election worries me, because the Dems aren't going to win for anything they've done, really. There is no "contract with America" this time. There's no consistent message. There's just "we ain't Republicans", with a Republican party bad enough that that actually WORKS. Foley was a gift (as well as a tragedy) but that doesn't have anything to do with the Democrats.

We still don't really know what a Democratic Congress will actually DO.

The promised post on the DPRK

(That's the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or "North Korea" for the rest of the planet.)

I had promised a post, but I probably don't need to make it long. Here's the short of it: Kim Jong Il isn't crazy, and isn't likely to start raining bombs down on either his Asian neighbours or the United States.

(Forget the silly ploy of saying that the US might commit an "act of war" for a moment)

He has nukes for two reasons. First, because he pretty much depends on not being ignored, for both political and economic reasons. He needs aid to have his country stay afloat, and needs the threat of the dissolution of his regime to carry enough of a penalty that other actors in the region will keep it from happening. That means South Korea and China. As long as he continues getting at least some support, he's gold. Hence the "act of war" comment- it's to keep attention.

Second, because of Iraq and Iran. He knows full well that the United States has never attacked a nuclear-armed country, no matter how belligerent they've been. As long as there's easier targets, the United States won't do so, either. This gives him a level of certainty and predictability in his negotiations that hadn't been there before- without the short- to medium-term threat of an American-led invasion of the North, he can start aiming his foreign policy towards long-term goals (whatever those might be.

There are other reasons, like personal prestige, but I think those two are the most important. They're why he won't give them up easily, and why (oddly enough for most people's understanding of warfare) he's not particularly dangerous right now. (Since he's not going to worry about a strike, he won't preempt it.)

Not that the situation shouldn't be watched, particularly for the Japanese reaction, but it's not as dire as you'd initially believe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bloggers and Parties

Henry Farrell has a very strong analysis of the "netroots" in the Boston Review; particularly the tension between liberal bloggers' attempts to be "non-ideological" and their constant citing of the Goldwater Republicans as a model, whose success was built on a ideological foundation.

It's actually quite ironic. Described as ideologues by their opponents, the one thing that high profile bloggers like Markos Moulitsas seem to agree on is that the drive to win should be non-ideological. Markos is quite well known for being quite impatient with policy and ideological discussions, and is laser-focused simply on having the Dems be more forthright in expressing their views, whatever those views might be. Farrell is right, though, when he points out that that can only go so far- there needs to be an underlying core of belief in order for any mass movement or political party to operate, and it must be more than a belief in "the people" or "the grassroots" or some other nostrum.

(After all, you can't please all of the people all of the time. You need to know where the big tent stands so you can figure out who doesn't belong in it, and you need to know that to know who does.)

Look: the Foley thing is a gift, no doubt. It'll probably give the House to the Dems. What it doesn't do is give the Democratic party its raison d'etre- that bedrock of belief that sustains the organization. A lot of that is because the Republicans have successfully pushed the discourse to the right, and the traditional Democratic bedrock beliefs go against that discourse. Moving the party clearly doesn't work; at this point, the mountain needs to come to Mohammed. Foley's follies have given the Dems the opportunity- now that they're within striking distance of finally having an official voice again, they need to use it for something.

As the Canadians can attest, a liberal party that doesn't govern as a liberal party just isn't going to be able to keep things going, no matter how weak the opposition.