Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I'm leaving tomorrow for Chicago, for the YearlyKos Convention, a gathering of bloggers affiliated with DailyKos.com. The gathering includes sessions with such obscure figures as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and more, plus some blasts from the past like Gary Hart, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale. Of course, right now I'm just focused on the practicalities of getting there, having spent hours and hours on various travel web sites, looking for the best flights, hotel deals, or flight-plus-hotel deals. I'll be blogging from the convention, or at least from my hotel during the convention; stay tuned for updates....

Technorati tags: , ,

Read More......

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Colbert, O'Reilly, and Daily Kos

On last night's Colbert Réport (Comedy Central), Stephen Colbert skewered Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly for his campaign to expose JetBlue's sponsorship of the "Yearly Kos" convention for DailyKos.com and other liberal bloggers. (I won't be flying on JetBlue this trip, but I am in fact going to the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago next week, where I will rub elbows with — in other words, hope to be in the same large room with — the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson.)

Here is the transcript. The main text is all Stephen Colbert; the doubly indented quotes are all Bill O'Reilly, clips from The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News.
Nation, I gotta be honest with you: I'm bored. Every day, it's the same thing: Iraq this, Iraq that. I don't want to talk about Iraq any more. It's too easy: "Oh, look, here's some breaking news — another thing blows up." I didn't even have to do any research; where's the challenge? Besides, all this war analysis is just spoilers. Hey New York Times, I didn't ruin Harry Potter for you; don't ruin this war for me. Can we all just wait until September when General Petraeus comes to Washington and tells us the ending? At least there's one place that understands this: Fox News. According to a recent study from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in the first quarter of this year, Fox spent less time covering the Iraq War than either CNN or MSNBC. Look, just because everyone else is reporting that the U.S. is jumping off a bridge in Iraq, that doesn't mean Fox should report it, too. They are focused on the homeland, like Bill O'Reilly who recently exposed trendy airline JetBlue for sponsoring a convention of bloggers from the far-left web-shite DailyKos.com. Now, before anyone accuses Papa Bear of just going after JetBlue for sponsoring liberals, I can assure you this is not an ideological issue, and O'Reilly can prove this isn't an ideological issue. How?
This isn't an ideological issue.
Okay? Let's put that idea to bed. He goes on:
If a company was sponsoring a David Duke convention, we'd do the same story.
For the record, the David Duke convention is being sponsored by Air Aryan, the airline with the most overhead arm room.™ See, Papa Bear is going after JetBlue's sponsorship here because Daily Kos is such a vicious hate site. Just listen to some of the comments he found on it.
"The pope is a primate." "Evangelicals are nut cases." "Better luck next time," after an assassination plot against Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan. ... It's like the Ku Klux Klan. It's like the Nazi Party.
Exactly. The Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis were both notorious for allowing peope to express unpopular views in an open and free forum. Yeah. Yes, yes! Applaud his courage. And it doesn't matter that these comments weren't written by Daily Kos management; if someone writes something on something you own, you automatically support that message. That is why I have stopped eating at the Outback Steak House on Route 3. I was appalled by their bathroom wall's stance on what amounts to "a good time." Shocking! And there was no answer at that phone number. You see, Bill and his median-age 71-year-old viewers know just how the Interwebs work.
Open forum is "bull," all right; you can regulate what's on your web site.
And Bill knows that for a fact, because his web site is a free and open forum; you just have to first pay $5/month to become a premium member. I think $5 is a small price to pay to agree wtih what Bill says. So do not go to DailyKos.com. Jimmy, put up the web address, so users know where not to go. There it is: Do. Not. Go. There.
Well, first of all, Billo, a little vocabulary lesson.
Primate, n., a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation. [Merriam-Webster]
That's the first definition listed, even before monkeys and apes and every single human being. So calling the Pope a Primate is neither false nor insulting. As to evangelical nut cases, a lot of evangelicals — though certainly not all of them — are nut cases. For example, if you don't think that Fred Phelps qualifies as an evangelical nut case, then you might be a nut case. As to the third quote, I sympathize with frustration over the direction that Dick Cheney has led this country, but I must underscore that, so long as anything even remotely resembling a democratic process exists, assassination is never the answer in America, whether you're talking about assassinating Cheney or Clinton or Reagan or Carter. All the same, Daily Kos makes that same distinction, and should not be tarred by one person's comment. Lastly, Billo clearly wins a "Godwin." Those of us with long experience on the Interwebs know that whoever first calls his opponent a Nazi almost always loses the argument, both on substance and on style.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter non-spoiler

I received my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (available at every bookstore in the known universe, and probably about half the plumbing supply stores) with this morning's owlpost, and I can now exclusively reveal this intriguing plot twist: Harry Potter survives at least the first two chapters of the book!! What a relief — I mean, I was expecting Lord Voldemort to finish him off on page three. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to read the whole book. Of course, I'm only reading it to find out how far off the mark — or how close — Keith Olbermann's predictions were.

Technorati tags:

Read More......

Friday, July 20, 2007

Michael Moore on The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert had two separate guests on Thursday night's program. The first, joining him at the anchor desk, was Michael Moore, the filmmaker who brought us Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and, most recently, Sicko. They talked about Moore's recent dust-up with CNN regarding their coverage of this film.

[video no longer available on ComedyCentral.com]

Here's the transcript: source material ©2007 Comedy Central
Stephen Colbert: Loyal viewers of the Report know that there's no love lost between me and CNN. They are worse than The New York Times, because I cannot line my bird cage with tapes of The Situation Room. I've tried: it's not absorbent. But I've recently discovered in my disdain for CNN, I have a strange bedfellow: Michael Moore, who for the past week has gone toe-to-toe with CNN over the facts of his new healthcare documentary Sicko. You see, CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta filed a report called "A Sicko Reality Check" in which he claimed Moore misrepresented the facts.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN: Moore asserts that the American healthcare system spends $7,000 per person on health, whereas Cuba spends $25 per person — not true!
Colbert: Ouch! nothing hurts box office like a thumbs down from Gupta. Of course, he is a doctor, so you really don't want a thumbs up. Anyway, it all came to a head a few days later when Moore met Sanjay mano-a-Gupta, in what I call the Thunderdome, but some call Larry King Live.
Michael Moore: They've known now, since June 28, that all their facts are wrong. I have the e-mail right here. Here it is, right here, here's to your producer.

Larry King: Okay, now hold it right there. I believe you. Hold on just a sec. I'm sure he's going to — hold on, Mike. Hold on! Hold on!
Colbert: Hold on! Hold it! Someone explain what e-mail is to Larry King; it frightens him. He thinks he's making a kinescope. Anyway, Moore demanded an apology; well, look at this statement from CNN: "In our original report, we made one mistake..." Whoo!! CNN admits it is a web of lies! Now, I'm no fan of Michael Moore; Fahrenheit 9/11 demoralized our troops, Roger & Me destroyed the auto industry. He is a mendacious, muckraking, loudmouth bully who pulls cheap stunts to publicly humiliate our country, and he is a terrible dresser. Joining me now is filmmaker Michael Moore. [applause] Thank you so much. [applause] [to audience:] Now, thank you, thank you, save some of the applause for the guests. It's no secret: I'm no fan, okay, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and you really kicked CNN in the Blitzer on this one. How did it feel to take 'em down?

Moore: Good.

Colbert: It felt really good?

Moore: Yeah, because they're not used to anybody standing up to them.

Colbert: No, they've got a stranglehold on that tiny slice of cable.

Moore: Right — well, they and you, so don't sell yourself short here.

Colbert: I wouldn't. You know, you are not exactly a fan of America's helathcare system; that's what I understand. I haven't seen the movie and I don't plan to.

Moore: Stay ignorant.

Colbert: But why not? Is it because it's a free-market system? Is that a problem for you?

Moore: Yes, that's exactly the problem. Profit should have no business in our healthcare system.

Colbert: But that's why it's called the medical business. You go to the doctor shop.

Moore: Exactly. Right. And the doctor, before the doctor can treat you, has to call an insurance man sitting in a cubicle a thousand miles away and ask for permission as to whether or not he can help you. That's a crazy system.

Colbert: You know, speaking of "a thousand miles away," I'm not comfortable being this close to you. Jimmy, can we put him via satellite instead? [switch to split screen, Moore on the left, Colbert on the right] All right.

Moore: Where am I?

Colbert: You're in Flint, Michigan right now. Actually, that's not far enough away; can we get him further? Okay, that's better: Flint, Brazil; Flint, Brazil. That's better. Now, you said this when you were on with [Wolf] Blitzer: "That report was so biased, I can't imagine what pharmaceutical companies' ads are coming up right after our break here." What's wrong with that? Should pharmaceutical companies not advertise? Do we not get to know what's going to cure our Restless Leg Syndrome?

Moore: It's — I —

Colbert: What's wrong with that, man?

Moore: I'm sorry; when you said "restless leg," I was thinking back to your endorsement of the penis enlargement pill.

Colbert: Very restless. Wandering — a wandering leg.

Moore: I understand.

Colbert: So, why can't we — this is a free-market economy. Why can't they advertise on CNN? What's so bad about that?

Moore: Well, they can; I just want people to realize that that network, like most of the news — not just CNN, but all the broadcast news — there's a drug ad, every other ad, every night, telling their story, pushing their product, and so they're funded by these people and they don't dare go against what they want to have happen, and so I come along with my film and, for a couple of hours I'm saying, "Here's the other side of the story that you're not being told on the nightly news."

Colbert: But a pharmaceutical company pays for the time of the nightly news. They get to own that time. They own Wolf Blitzer's ass for that period of time.

Moore: Yes, that is correct.

Colbert: I am proudly owned by my sponsors. (Yes.) I will never say one thing against the Pasta Pro™ pasta strainer.

Moore: Right. And that's why you'll have a long and successful career.

Colbert: Good.

Moore: And so, your point is ... ?

Colbert: That I have a healthy relationship with my sponsors. (Yes, and —) And that's how TV works.

Moore: In other words, it's not really about telling the truth.

Colbert: No, we are selling things.

Moore: Why didn't I get that memo?

Colbert: I don't know — 'cause you make films.

Moore: Oh. Maybe that's it.

Colbert: No, but you want to see everybody have healthcare, right?

Moore: Absolutely. Every American.

Colbert: 45 million Americans don't have healthcare right now — they don't have health insurance. (That's right.) But you're not going to make 45 million more doctors. The waiting rooms are going to be crammed with these people. How many hours of Highlights magazine am I supposed to read?

Moore: Right. That's why we don't have, maybe, as long of a wait that you have in other countries, because we've removed 45 million people from the line, and so those who have healthcare sometimes get in before those who don't, but —

Colbert: I think the people who have healthcare in America are just what I call "Premium Citizens."

Moore: Uh-huh, right, and a gold card.

Colbert: Exactly. You've got healthcare, right? I've got great healthcare.

Moore: We're union members.

Colbert: Yeah, we're both Premium Members.

Moore: Right, there you go.

Colbert: Wow! That is a long handshake, all the way from Brazil.

Moore: Well, that's the long reach of your show!

Colbert: One Premium Member to another: you went to Cuba, right?

Moore: Yes, sir.

Colbert: Well, that's illegal. Put him in jail, Jimmy. [prison bar graphic superimposed on Moore]

Moore: Aaah!

Colbert: Michael Moore, everybody; we'll be right back.
It's difficult to argue that America has the best possible healthcare system in the whole world when 45 million people have no coverage at all. By the way, Gupta's $25 number was completely bogus: in Sicko, Moore uses the figure of $251, which is correct. The $7,000 that Gupta disputed — claiming Moore should have used the figure of $5,700 — is actually $7,498, per the latest official stats.

Some other transcripts you might want to check out...

Inside Iraq
on Al Jazeera EnglishThe Daily Show with Jon StewartReal Time with Bill Maher

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Valerie Plame lawsuit dismissed

Valerie Plame, a covert C.I.A. operative, had her cover blown by White House officials for blatantly partisan political reasons: her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed criticizing Bush's State of the Union claim that Saddam Hussein sought to buy "yellowcake" (uranium ore) in Africa. The criminal investigation — and yes there was reason to believe there was an underlying crime in revealing the identity of a covert agent — was obstructed by Scooter Libby's perjury before a grand jury, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal agents. Scooter was convicted by a jury of his peers, but set free in an act of further obstruction of justice by the President himself. Ms. Plame filed a civil lawsuit against Vice President Cheney (who appears to have ordered the illegal disclosure of important national security secrets) and other officials. However, this afternoon a federal judge ruled that she failed to demonstrate that she had a case that belonged in federal court, in spite of the judge's declaration that the suit raises "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials."

I haven't yet seen an analysis of the judge's reasoning, besides which I'm not a lawyer, but it is disheartening that yet again an attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable has failed. Bush described the 2004 election as the "accountability moment" for his Presidency; it appears that it will be the only one. Eighteen months tomorrow. Eighteen months tomorrow. Eighteen months tomorrow.

Technorati tags: , ,

Read More......

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bush makes al Qaeda stronger

The National Intelligence Estimate contains some utterly damning facts that, to any honest reader, condemn the Bush Administration for its single-minded failure to effectively confront the terrorist threat against the United States. Al Qaeda has reconstituted and found a new base in Pakistan, just over the border from their old base in Afghanistan. Much like a patient who stops taking the antibiotics after a couple of days because he feels better, Bush now faces an al Qaeda that will be much more difficult to root out than the one we faced in 2001. Consider just for a moment the blow to the global jihadist movement if in the winter of 2001–2002, we had made the same commitment of resources to the hunt for bin Laden. But no, Bush wanted to go after the same enemy he had in mind well before 9/11, Saddam Hussein, who had absolutely zero to do with the terrorist threat against our nation.

Yesterday's Countdown on MSNBC led with this story, presenting video clips of the President, homeland security advisor Fran Townsend, and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, in which the administration claimed that up is down, black is white, and ignorance is bliss.

Al Qaeda is strong today, but they‘re not nearly as strong they were prior to September 11, 2001 and the reason why is, is because we've been working with the world to keep the pressure on, to stay on the offense, to bring 'em to justice, uh, uh, so they won't hurt us again. — President George W. Bush, 2007-07-17
But that is precisely the point, Mr. President: we have not kept the pressure on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. We shifted our focus to Iraq, very much at the expense of fighting the actual terrorists of 9/11 in Afghanistan. We haven't even stayed on the offense against al Qaeda, and it is absolutely certain that al Qaeda will hurt us again, precisely because you failed your nation.

Reports have recently been released, showing that the President was warned before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that the invasion would help, rather than hurt, al Qaeda, and that prediction has come true. The National Intelligence Estimate says that al Qaeda is as strong as it has been at any point since 9/11. The President says, in effect, "well, it didn't say al Qaeda was as strong as it was before 9/11!" but the reality is that it does say exactly that. The only difference in al Qaeda's operational strength from 9/11 to 9/12 was that they lost 19 people, none of them in the upper echelons of the organization. If they are as strong as they were on 9/12, then they are as strong as they were on 9/10. The next MSNBC clip showed the lengths to which the administration will go to deny the obvious:
Ed Henry, CNN Correspondent: The President was warned before the war that this was actually going to help al Qaeda gain influence and now you have a report suggesting that maybe it has gained influence from the war in Iraq. Isn‘t that something that the President ignored?

Fran Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor: But you're assuming this is a zero-sum game, which is what I don‘t understand. The fact is, we were harassing them in Afghanistan. We‘re harassing them in Iraq. We're harassing them in other ways, non-militarily, around the world.

And the answer is every time you poke the hornets' nest, they are bound to come back and push back on you. That doesn't suggest to me that we should not be doing it. It suggests — we hardly need to be warned that they‘re going to use this for propaganda purposes. They‘re going to.
First of all, we must not let our guard down against the insidious attempts by the Bushies to pretend that Iraq had something to do with al Qaeda before we invaded. In Ms. Townsend's terms, there was no "hornets' next" in Iraq before 2003. Therefore, we didn't poke a hornets' nest, we created a hornets' nest, all the while giving the original hornets breathing room to regroup and evolve their organization into something much more difficult to root out. But then there's the "zero-sum" comment. A zero-sum game is one in which one player's winnings must be matched by another player's losses — an ordinary game of poker, for example. The situation with regard to al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, is manifestly not a zero-sum game, and nothing in Ed Henry's question suggested that it is. In Iraq, in particular, the United States has lost far more than al Qaeda has gained. However, that doesn't change the fact that al Qaeda is considerably better off as a direct result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We created a safe haven for al Qaeda in Iraq, and we created a safe haven for them in Waziristan (the "tribal area" of western Pakistan). We gave them a steady stream of new recruits and a steady stream of financing. Our U.S. taxpayer dollars, sent to Iraq ostensibly to build a better life for the Iraqi people, have been siphoned off to the benefit of al Qaeda. Furthermore, nothing the United States has done in Iraq has harmed al Qaeda in any material way. Sure, we killed Zarqawi, but he was a bit player, and really an al Qaeda "franchisee" anyway; he was never part of the leadership of al Qaeda central. He had to bargain for the right to use the al Qaeda brand name.

Furthermore, Ms. Townsend inadvertently said something entirely truthful: she said that we were harassing them in Afghanistan. Then we pulled out a large part of our intelligence and military assets from Afghanistan, from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the senior leadership of al Qaeda, to go fight a war of choice against Saddam Hussein. As for "harrassing them in other ways, non-militarily, around the world," I'm sure they cry themselves to sleep every night. We've given them more recruits than they could have hoped for, not just one but two safe havens, and access to millions of dollars of untraceable cash money. The entire 9/11 plot cost less than $500,000 from start to finish. What could al Qaeda do with just 1% of the money that has "gone missing" in Iraq?

Press Secretary Tony Snow continued with the point-blank denial of the obvious:
[The N.I.E.] does not say that [al Qaeda] has a stronger hand; what it says it is going to try to exploit for political and also for recruiting purposes, anything it possibly can out of the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
Well, actually, Tony, yes, it does say that al Qaeda has a stronger hand as a result of our invasion of Iraq. If al Qaeda is stronger than it has been at any time since 9/11, then it is also stronger than it has been at any time since 2003-03-18, the day we invaded Iraq. Even one of Bush's own former staffers at the National Security Council said so:
Roger Cressey, NBC Terrorism Analyst, NSC counterterrorism staffer until Dec. 2003: [W]e took our eyes of the prize when in 2002 and 2003, we shifted our focus and emphasis to Iraq. We created the conditions that allowed al Qaeda to establish this de facto sanctuary inside Pakistan; that‘s one key part of it.

The other part of it is, this area on the Afghan border favors al Qaeda from a geography perspective, the tribal populations are sympathetic to al Qaeda, and we also have the bigger issue of President Musharraf and how limited he is in dealing with this problem on his own border. ... [E]ven if Iraq and al Qaeda magically disappeared, the real threat is al Qaeda central, which is based inside Pakistan right now. That is the main group that is trying to attack us. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a significant problem, but it‘s a local problem right now.
The right-wing talking heads are fond of asking "Don't you think that President Bush deserves some credit for the fact that we haven't had a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11?" No, I don't think so. Not in the least. President Bush has magnified the terrorist threat that America will face for decades, or perhaps even generations, as a result of his inept and staggeringly wrong-headed policies, as a result of his refusal to heed clear warnings, as a result of his pigheaded refusal to rethink a policy based primarily on his "gut feeling." He is not merely a little bit off the bullseye, he's not even aiming at the right target.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Beware the Scammer with a Thesaurus

I get a lot of spam in my e-mail, including all the usual ads for pills and porno and mail-order brides, pirated movies and software, offers of immediate wealth if I help the wife or son of some recently deceased despot liberate Daddy's blood money from a safe deposit box in Lagos or Accra, notifications of winnings in lotteries that don't exist, stock market "pump and dump" schemes, and every once in a while one that makes me laugh out loud. There are few things as dangerous as a person with a little knowledge, but in the case of a spam-scammer, there are few things as dangerous as a person with a thesaurus.
Dear Winner

We Apologies, for the delay of your payment and all the Inconveniences and Inflict that we might have indulge you through. However, we were having some minor problems with our payment system, which is Inexplicable,and have held us stranded and Indolent, not having the Aspiration to devote our 100% Assiduity in accrediting foreign payments.

We apologies once again from the Records of outstanding winners due for payment with (ONLINE CYBER PROMOTION) your name and particular was discovered as next on the list of the outstanding winners who haave not yet received their payments.

I wish to inform you now that the square peg is now in square hole and can be voguish for that your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this letter. Also note that from the record in our file, your outstanding winning payment is US$950.215.00(NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND,TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN DOLLARS).

Be inform Payment will be made to you in a certified bank draft or wire transfer into a nominated bank account of your choice, as soon as you get in touched with the Debt Reconciliation agent below.

Mr.James Van,
Manager Remittance Department
Government Accredited Licensed Claim Agent.
Information and Payment Bureau.
Europe Representative Office.
Tel: +229 93 694 736 [a cellphone in Benin, West Africa]
E-mail: mjamesvans@yahoo.es [free e-mail in Spain]

Provide him with the following details, as this will enable him to process and release of your cash prize without any delay.

Your Full Name:..............................................
Telephone and fax Numbers:...................................
Residental Address:..........................................
Your Age:....................................................
Your Occupation:.............................................

Your urgent reply Mr.James Van. via e-mail will effect the speedy release of your cash prize to you within 48hours.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs.Jean Walter.
Online Cyber Promotion.
Information Department.
Please contact Mr.James Van for your payment.
"Mawn Dew," as Kim Darby said in Better Off Dead; that's a pretty good one. I'm not even counting apologies (presumably a typo on the British spelling of apologise), or haave or residental (garden-variety typos). Fer cryin' out loud: I'm supposed to believe that you have nearly ONE MILLION U.S. DOLLARS waiting for me, but you can't even afford a spell-check, not to mention a cursory once-over by someone who actually speaks English fluently? Here's a rough translation of the letter into plain English:
Dear Sucker,

We apologize for the delay of your (non-existent) payment, and for all the inconveniences and suffering that we might have enjoyed causing you. However, we were having some computer problems which left us stupid and lazy, not bothering to devote our full care and attention to doing our (supposed) jobs. ...

I wish to inform you now that the trapezoidal peg is now in the hexagonal hole, so the idea of paying you is suddenly popular, or at least Madonna-ish. Please call our third-world cellphone immediately so that we can drain your nominated bank account(s) in order to make us once again Stranded and Indolent, preferably on a remote tropical island with lots of beer and hookers.

Your urgent reply within 48 hours will assist us in the speedy theft of your identity.
Your Full Name:
Telephone and fax numbers:
Home address:
Previous addresses for the last 10 years:
Social Security number:
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Mother's Maiden Name:
Childhood Pet's Name:
First School Attended:
E-mail password:
Bank routing no. and account no.:
ATM card number and PIN:
Current employer and salary:
Previous employers and salaries:
Deactivation code for your home alarm system:
Combination to the mini-safe you keep in the back of your bedroom closet:
Yours Sincerely,
Mafalda Hopkirk
You know, it really almost inspires me to do an infomercial to broadcast in West Africa:
¥OU could have untold Ri¢h€$!! Just slap together some inane drivel about WINNING THE LOTTO. Don't speak English fluently? Who cares?! You can buy English lessons after you make your millions. All you need to get started:
  • disposable cellphone
  • disposable e-mail account
  • Internet access (e.g., local Internet cafe)
  • list of sucker e-mail addresses
That's IT!! For only $299, we will e-mail you the cellphone. But wait — for just $49 extra, we will provide you with the free e-mail account. But the real bargain, at only $999, is our 127,652% guaranteed list of sucker e-mail addresses — if you can't get one of the first 1,000 names to buy your idiotic cover story, we promise to completely ignore your e-mail complaints!! This offer expires at midnight, a week ago Wednesday, so send your name and cash payment (U.S. paper money only) to our processing center:
Wealth Creation Solutions, Inc., PLC, GMBH, UNHCR
7412 Fly-by-night Avenue, PMB 425
Boca Raton, FL 33433
Please allow 4 to 6 centuries for processing.
It's really a shame I'm too stranded and indolent to pull it off. On the other hand, Benin is where the Vodun (voodoo) religion originated, so maybe there's an explanation for that....

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Libya Commutes Nurses' Death Sentences

The Libyan Judiciary Council decided earlier today to commute the death sentence given to five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with HIV. I emphasize the word "allegedly" because all six are incontrovertibly factually innocent. It is categorically impossible for these six individuals to have committed the crimes for which they were convicted, because clear medical evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that many of the children were already infected before the six defendants arrived in Libya. Unless these six brought a time machine with them, they couldn't have done it. Unfortunately, the Libyan government has at this point only commuted the sentence to life in prison, because, rather like the state of Georgia, the courts in Libya are unimpressed by proof of innocence. The whole affair has been a combination of pandering to a mob mentality and extorting blood money from Europe — plus covering up the inadequacy of Libya's own healthcare infrastructure.

Having just seen Michael Moore's Sicko, and watched the Scooter Libby commutation drama unfolding, this story is a harsh reminder that things can be far worse in both healthcare and jurisprudence.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Read More......

Josh Rushing on The Daily Show

Josh Rushing was a spokesperson for the U.S. military in the Middle East, where he worked with Arabic-language news media, including Al Jazeera. When Al Jazeera launched its English-language channel, Josh joined the team in the Washington broadcast center. (Al Jazeera English has broadcast centers in Washington; London; Kuala Lumpur; and Doha, Qatar.) Monday night, he was the featured guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, back from a two-week vacation. They discussed the philosophy of a news channel that doesn't begin with the premise that the entire universe revolves around the United States. (Seriously, if you want coverage of Africa, South America, most of Asia, or the Pacific Islands, the U.S. news media are completely outclassed by Al Jazeera English.)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,
original airdate 2007-07-16, ©2007 Comedy Central

Here is a transcript of the interview. Copyright ©2007 Comedy Central:
Jon Stewart: Welcome back; my guest tonight, a former Marine Corps media liaison for the U.S. Central Command, he is now a correspondent for Al Jazeera International. His new book is Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World. Ehh, Heroes stole that. Please welcome Josh Rushing. Josh! Have a seat, please. The book is Mission Al Jazeera; now, I first — I remember you from the film Control Room. (Yes.) You were the CENTCOM media liaison (Yes.) and there was so much U.S. media and Arab media, and you really — it was — you were such a great character in that — I loved your acting — no, it was great to watch you struggle with trying to bridge that divide. How do you end up from that to working with Al Jazeera?

Josh Rushing: Yeah, kind of a long question. You know, in the movie — it's kind of funny, you say "acting," the truth is, that's really not me. It was edited to look that way — edited very well, it's a good movie — what looked like a long conversation between me and the Al Jazeera producer that happened over months was actually one conversation, one complex conversation, where I was trying to hold the government line, which was my job to do: explain why we were there. Now, I was also trying to understand how they could see it, because in my mind we were there to liberate the Iraqi people, and this must be a good thing. To anyone who's sympathetic to Arabs or Iraqis, they must want them liberated from Saddam Hussein, so we must be doing a good thing, and yet they didn't see it that way, so I was trying to understand how they could see it that way. It's a complex [inaudible] involved.

Stewart: And watching you really struggle with the position? (Yes, yes.) Ultimately you came to the conclusion that perhaps it might be — you might be able to accomplish your goals better working with some of their news people.

Rushing: It was a long journey before then. The movie came out — I didn't know a movie had been made!

Stewart: Now, you didn't realize that the camera...?

Rushing: It was introduced to me as a couple of grad students from the American University in Cairo...

Stewart: Did you think you were auditioning for The Real World? Is that what this was?

Rushing: It felt a little bit like The Unreal World over there, Bizarro World. But, literally, it was introduced to me as these are grad students from the American University in Cairo doing a project on Al Jazeera, and so I never realized, like, this graduate project would one day be a film in theaters in America — that was a complete surprise to me — and I didn't find out until after it was released at the Sundance Film Festival, as a matter of fact.

Stewart: Were you concerned, because someone struggling with the nuance of your position, at that time in the country, was viewed as — "not good"?

Rushing: Well, it was a razor's edge, to be sure, to try to hold the government line, and yet understand the way they saw it, and try to understand how both worlds could be right, it was a razor's edge.

Stewart: To have empathy. It seems, though, to be — it seems exactly what you would want from a media liaison — someone who can understand where the United States government is coming from, but empathize with the Iraqi position. You actually talk about a very interesting story, where you're talking about the day that the Virginia Tech shootings occurred (Yeah!), when you were working for Al Jazeera, and that gives an example of perspectives, I think.

Rushing: I don't normally do news for Al Jazeera, but this was a big story, and I'm in the Washington broadcast center, so I went out to Blacksburg, Virginia, reported on it for 3 or 4 days, I think, live. One of the secrets of news is, when you're doing a live report, you don't realize, but there's all these live reporters standing shoulder to shoulder, because they don't want each other in their shot, so all the cameramen —

Stewart: It's as though it's some kind of Potemkin village, some sort of game they're playing.

Rushing: Yeah, you can hardly imagine something like that.

Stewart: Exactly — interesting.

Rushing: But — so, you stand shoulder to shoulder with all the other live reporters, and you end up doing your rpeorts kind of at the same time, so all the cameras are pointed at the same building in the background, you all do your reports at the top of the hour; well, the day that the report of Cho — he sent his videos and his writings to NBC News to show, went on — that was the #1 story in America by far, so I go out, and I'm standing shoulder to shoulder with all these other live reporters, doing the same thing, top of the hour hits and they all go on, and I'm waiting. They all start taking their microphone off and walking away, and I'm waiting. Well, for us that was about the fourth story in, because on that same day there were about 225 people died in Baghdad from 6 car bombings, the Nigerian presidential elections were getting started, and there was fighting in Mogadishu, and then four stories down, maybe it was, hey, Josh, what's going on at Virginia Tech today? That's a real difference in the way Al Jazeera reports the news. To say that —

Stewart: Well, they're reporting for their audience (From an international perspective.) — Exactly. So, what is the U.S. missing, then? What aren't we getting about the propaganda war or the news war or any of those?

Rushing: Well, you have to realize, on a week when the news hardly mentions anything but Anna Nicole Smith, there are events happening around the world.

Stewart: Are you suggesting that in, let's say, Mosul (الموصل) or Kirkuk (كركوك\كه‌ركوو) or Ramadi (الرمادي) , they don't want to know who is the baby daddy? (الذي يكون الأب من آنا نيكول سميثطفلة؟) Is that your suggestion?

Rushing: The truth is, I bet they wish they had a life where it mattered who the baby's daddy was. They don't have the luxury of wanting to know who Anna Nicole's baby daddy is. They don't have the luxury for caring about Paris Hilton and what her trials are in the jail saga. There are real things happening around the world.

Stewart: And you feel like right now, the Al Jazeera that you're working for — you know, because a lot of people look at that as a propaganda arm as well —

Rushing: Well, they haven't watched it, then. They just haven't watched it. There is a bias there, but the bias is simply from an international perspective. It's a bias that says what's happening in Africa may be just as important, if not more important, than what's happening in Hollywood.

Stewart: Ha! Good luck with that!

Rushing: I know, it's not a profit model. I know.

Stewart: Your report — and we check in with E! — it's a fascinating journey and a fascinating story. We really appreciate your being on the show. Mission Al Jazeera, on the bookshelves now; Josh Rushing!
If you live in the United States, you don't have Al Jazeera English on your cable or satellite system, unless you're one of the tiny tribe of people with the big satellite dishes, the size of a small car. That's because the right-wingers have so frightened the cable operators with the specter of being painted as colluding with an anti-American propaganda mill. Thing is, as Josh said, if that's what you think of Al Jazeera English, then you clearly haven't been watching. Anyone with a web browser can watch on the Internet; the free feed is even tolerable on a dialup line, although I recommend forking over the $7 to $10 per month (depending on which distributor you choose) for the high-quality feed if you have broadband. You can also watch a number of recent programs on Al Jazeera's YouTube™ page.

Every week, Al Jazeera English has a panel discussion on the situation in Iraq, Inside Iraq, which is required viewing for anyone who wants to get an unbiased view of events on the ground. Lest you think it's an anti-American tirade, the host previously worked as a translator for the U.S. State Department. He criticizes Bush and other U.S. officials, but he is equally blunt in criticizing Iraqi officials, Iranians, Syrians, and anyone else, especially if they're trying to throw spin or parrot a party line. It's what Meet the Press should be. I also recommend most of their other programming (well, except the sports news; I couldn't care less about my local teams, much less a soccer match between Mongolia and Mauritania), particularly People & Power, Witness, Everywoman, One on One, and occasionally Frost over the World. Their news hour is also top-notch. Watch this channel; the very survival of democracy as we know it depends on having a well-informed citizenry with access to more than just one point-of-view.

As news anchor Ghida Fakhry (a.k.a. "Peppermint Gomez") Barbara Serra says in one of their promos, "If it's newsworthy, it goes on air — whether it's Bush or Bin Laden." [corrected 2007-09-19]

Some other transcripts you might want to check out...

Inside Iraq
on Al Jazeera EnglishThe Daily Show with Jon StewartReal Time with Bill Maher

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Monday, July 16, 2007

Will Georgia Execute an Innocent Man?

The state of Georgia is scheduled to execute Troy Anthony Davis tomorrow for the crime of murdering a police officer. There's just one problem: there is substantial reason to believe that Davis is innocent. With zero physical evidence to tie Davis to the crime, the prosecution relied on the testimony of 9 eyewitnesses who identified Davis as the perpetrator. Seven of those nine have recanted their testimony, giving sworn affidavits that they were pressured into identifying Davis. Additional testimony has come to light from witnesses who heard another man — in fact, one of the 9 eyewitnesses — confess to the crime after Davis was convicted. However, in Georgia, mere proof of innocence is not enough to overturn a death penalty: Troy Davis received a "fair trial" by the standards of the state of Georgia, and therefore they intend to execute him, whether or not he actually committed a crime. It's not without precedent: in the late 1990's California Governor Pete Wilson said in a similar case, point-blank, he didn't care whether or not the condemned man had actually killed anyone; he received a "fair trial" and was sentenced to death, and that was that.

In general, I oppose the death penalty, with only the narrowest of exceptions: there are a tiny number of criminals in history who posed such a potent threat against society that no prison walls could contain it. The obvious examples are deposed dictators whose fanatical followers will stop at nothing to liberate their leader and allow him to continue his crimes against humanity. Saddam Hussein is a clear case in point, as was Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania in 1989. Murder is a heinous crime, and murder of a police officer is especially heinous, but it does not pose an ongoing threat that cannot be contained by prison walls. There is only one civilian murderer whose death penalty I supported, and that is Clarence Allen: even though he was a crippled, empty shell of a man when he was finally executed, he reached out from prison to execute witnesses to his earlier murder (for which he was imprisoned for life without parole) in an effort to have his conviction overturned.

Troy Anthony Davis poses no such threat to society. If he poses any threat at all, it is entirely contained within the walls of Jackson State Prison. The evidence that his defense counsel was incompetent is overwhelming: one of his court-appointed lawyers was subsequently disbarred! The evidence that the eyewitness testimony is at least highly suspect is also overwhelming. But we mustn't appear "soft on crime," even if it means having the state murder an innocent man without even giving him a truly fair hearing. It is wrong for the state to wreak vengeance, but it is all the more tragic for the state to wreak vengeance on the wrong person.

Technorati tags: , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Saturday, July 14, 2007

World Can't Wait

"The World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Régime!" It's the rallying cry of a group of activists who believe that the excesses of the Bush-Cheney administration in eroding civil liberties, politicizing justice, abrogating treaties, and ignoring fundamental principals of both national and international law, are more than sufficient grounds for demanding that Bush and Cheney be removed from office before 2009-01-20. They feel, as do I, that our national soul is in grave danger from the neoconservative cabal that has brought us the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo (Guantánamo Bay), waterboarding, the USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, unfettered and unlimited detention without trial or even access to legal representation, the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, and scandal after horror after brazen betrayal of our nation and our founding principles.

WCW is wrapping up a month of town meetings tomorrow, 2007-07-15, with the San Francisco chapter gathering at the Koret Auditorium at the downtown library, 30 Grove Street near McAllister between Hyde and Larkin, at Civic Center BART, 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. Scheduled speakers include Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., Sunsara Taylor, and Dennis Bernstein from KPFA.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Read More......

Making a Killing

It's summer (by the calendar, at least!) in the San Francisco Bay Area, which means it's time for the San Francisco Mime Troupe to put on another satirical, highly political musical theatre production. This year's play is called "Making a Killing," exploring the ways the Cheney-Bush administration exploits the war for the profits of its friends, all the while diminishing our national security. Ed Holmes, who plays Dick Cheney, is perfect for the role, and the crowd enthusiastically embraced the music and the story of a muckraking newspaper reporter who has been activated in the Reserves and assigned to write "feel-good" stories from Iraq. He discovers some stories that don't feel so good, and struggles with his conscience about whether to tell them, finally finding himself in the defendant's chair in a military courtroom. (The play begins with the courtroom, so I'm not giving any spoilers; everything else is in flashback scenes.)

"Making a Killing" will be playing at various parks and other venues around Northern California through the end of September. Most performances are free. If you live in or near Berkeley, Oakland, Ukiah, Point Arena, Palo Alto, Sebastopol, Sacramento, Davis, Grass Valley, Chico, Bakersfield, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Hayward, Sonoma, or Bolinas, you should check out the SFMT Schedule for a performance near you. (By the way, SF Mime Troupe is not pantomime in the sense of silent performers in whiteface. It's mime in the sense of "mimic" or "satirize," with sets, costumes, spoken lines, and songs.)

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Read More......

Friday, July 13, 2007

Inside Iraq, 2007-07-13

On today's Inside Iraq program on Al Jazeera English, host Jasim Azzawi spoke to three guests (one American, one European, and one Arab) about the future of U.S. and British military involvement in Iraq. The American was the former U.S. ambassador to Jordan, now a senior advisor to the Secretary of State and the coordinator for Iraq policy, David M. Satterfield — who used the current administration talking point phrase "fair and balanced" to describe the process by which General Petraeus' mid-September progress report will be judged. (It's nice to know, by the way, that somebody at MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann is keeping an eye on Al Jazeera.) Satterfield also invented a new word, "precipitive."

The European was Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour M.P. from central London, and the Arab was Dr. Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations. Only the American, a loyal Bushie to the core, has any illusion that there is a future for the American military presence or any hope of meaningful progress resulting from the current troop surge.

Here is the full transcript of the program: copyright ©2007, Al Jazeera English

Jasim Azzawi: Hello and welcome to Inside Iraq. I'm Jasim Azzawi. Republican support for President Bush is crumbling. A signal of a total meltdown or a painful jolt to change the Iraq policy? In the eyes of his people, Al-Maliki has lost all credibility; can President Bush afford to ditch him to forestall more defections? The watershed September testimony is approaching fast. How will Congress react if General Petraeus paints a bleak picture and asks for more time? Seb Walker reports.
President Bush: What's realistic, as well, is to understand the consequences of what will happen if we fail in Iraq. In other words....
Sebastian Walker: George Bush under pressure. The U.S. President is facing unprecedented dissent over a perceived lack of progress with his Iraq strategy.
reporter: Given the mixed report that you present today, how do you persuade Republicans to stick with you as they look ahead to the next elections?

Bush: Um, a couple of things: first of all, I respect those Republicans that you're referring to — I presume you're referring to friends of mine like Lugar — Senator Lugar, Domenici. These are good, honorable people. I've spoken to them and I listened very carefully to what they have to say. Um, first of all, they share my concern that a precipitous withdrawal would embolden Al Qaeda.
Walker: But even as Bush outlined what he described as "measurable progress" in Iraq, the U.S. military there announced its latest fatality. U.S. soldiers in Iraq are dying at a faster rate than ever — a result of raising troop levels in a last-ditch effort to stabilize the country. Amid little sign either of violence diminishing or of Iraq's political factions uniting, it now looks like Bush's last pillars of support in Washington are starting to fall away.
Senator Richard Lugar (R–IN): The United States has violated some basic national security precepts during our military engagement in Iraq.
Walker: Key Republican Senators have deserted the cause. They include Richard Lugar, who worked with the White House at the outset of the war. The military is due to present its report of progress on the ground in the middle of September, but the verdict of Washington's top commander, David Petraeus, could just be that he needs more time. The worry for Bush is that without fast results and soon, patience could already have run out by then. Sebastian Walker for Inside Iraq.
Azzawi: To examine how events might unfold in the next 6 to 12 months, and their impact on Iraq and the U.S., we shall attempt to provide 3 different perspectives: an American, European, and an Arab. First, to understand how the U.S. government views the latest development, I'm joined from Washington by Ambassador David Satterfield, senior advisor to the Secretary of State and coordinator for Iraq. Ambassador, welcome to Inside Iraq. Perhaps we can start with the revolt of the 4 senators, if we can call it that. Was that born out of frustration of the execution of the policy, or they have a deep reservation about the policy itself?

Ambassador David Satterfield: You would have to ask those members of Congress to explain their own positions. With respect, though, to the administration, the President has made clear we understand the concerns of Americans, the concerns of their representatives, about the pace of progress in Iraq. The report which was submitted yesterday, the President discussed, is a very sober, very frank assessment of where progress is being made and where it is not, and we acknowledge much more needs to be done by Iraqis in terms of the pursuit of national reconciliation — and that is the fundamental requirement for lasting stability and lasting security in that country.

Azzawi: That report you refer to was a mixed bag. There was some positive aspects on the security, on the military aspect, and there were some negative things regarding the benchmarks that the Iraqi government has not come through yet. Why would a few months make any difference?

Satterfield: Our commander in the field, General Petraeus, our ambassador, Ryan Crocker, have said that the next 60 days will be important to them as they assess the true impact of the full operational staffing of the surge, as they assess their ability to help support the government of Iraq, the leaderships of Iraq, as we hope they move forward on a national reconciliation agenda that they themselves have embraced, that they themselves have endorsed. Ambassador Crocker, General Petraeus in September will be reporting to the President, to the Congress, on their assessment of the situation, and also on their view of consequences of various ways ahead.

Azzawi: One is almost tempted to ask, what if the report is not very clear, or even a negative one?

Satterfield: Well, we don't speculate on "what if's." We look at the situation as we find it today. We work with our Iraqi partners, the partners in the region and the international community, to try to improve the circumstances. We will make a fair and balanced assessment in September.

Azzawi: One entity in the United States made "what if": the House of Representatives yesterday passed, if you like, the first part of a legislation to say it is time to pull the troops, perhaps in 120 days, and later on some time in April 2008.

Satterfield: We don't believe that setting a fixed deadline for precipitive [sic] withdrawal of forces, or for a terminal date for the engagement of our forces in operations in Iraq, is productive. We think it has quite a negative impact on the situation. It undercuts General Petraeus and what he is trying to do.

Azzawi: That's exactly what Ryan Crocker said, just a few days ago, to the New York Times. He said it is, perhaps, it is going to be a very, very horrendous slaughter if we ever contemplate the fact of to withdraw. Is that was born out of events on the ground that really, even the reduction of American forces is going to have enormous negative consequences on the population in Iraq?

Satterfield: We believe that a precipitive [sic] withdrawal of U.S. forces would have an extraordinarily negative consequence. It would produce not only the real possibility of significant humanitarian suffering in Iraq, it would undoubtedly add to the presence of Al Qaeda and extremists of all types in that country. It would not be positive from any perspective. But Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus in September would provide again their assessment of the situation, their assessment of different courses ahead and their consequences.

Azzawi: Ambassador Satterfield, perhaps the genesis of this problem lies in the limited number of troops that went into Iraq. The warning by [General] Eric Shinseki back in 2002 was not heeded. Is there enough U.S. forces and Iraqi forces to stem the violence?

Satterfield: The number of U.S. forces applied to the surge in Baghdad, the overall level of our forces and their posture in Iraq, and the number of Iraqi forces that currently exist are the product of the best assessments of our generals on the ground and Iraq's commanders on what is necessary to take on this task. With respect to Iraqi force size, we are engaged in discussions with Prime Minister Maliki, with his government, with his security officials, on how best to grow and in what direction to grow the Iraqi armed forces, but again, the troop levels on the ground and their deployment is a decision of the generals.

Azzawi: Since you mentioned Al-Maliki, pretty much, he has lost a lot of credibility in the eyes of Iraqis. They don't look at him as prime minister of all Iraqis, but rather to a limited segment of Iraqi political body.

Satterfield: Well, I would let the Iraqi people speak for themselves on what they do or do not assess the government to be or the government to represent, rather than making observations from a third country, many miles distance from Iraq. We believe that Prime Minister Maliki and his government do need the support of all of Iraq's communities, of all of Iraq's political leaderships — plural — in order to succeed. The task, the challenges in front of this government, in front of any government of Iraq, are very considerable, and we don't underestimate the magnitude of those challenges, but what is required here is a common national vision, a common national will, to move forward, to move forward on security for all Iraqis, economic opportunity for all Iraqis, and above all, a national reconciliation process that makes of Iraq a true unitary state.

Azzawi: You just mentioned the magical figure, the magical word if you like, "national reconciliation." He's been in power for almost a year and 4 months right now, and that national reconciliation is far, far in the distance.

Satterfield: We have acknowledged that the pursuit of real national reconciliation, a common national vision, is still something on which progress is very much needed and needed urgently — for the sake of Iraq, not just for the sake of the United States. That is going to require compromise, it's going to require consensus among Iraq's leaders, but I want to draw attention to the fact this is not the issue of one man, the prime minister, or even this particular government. It is a question of whether all of Iraq's political leaderships can come together, can, if you will, submerge their party, sectarian, ethnic, or individual agendas for the sake of an Iraqi national agenda.

Azzawi: Pretty much you summed up the leaked memo by Stephen Hadley, way back a few months ago, when he cast a lot of doubt on the ability of the man or on his sincerity.

Satterfield: We are not challenging the sincerity or the dedication of Prime Minister Maliki to pursuit of national Iraqi goals, but we would note that it requires more than a single man's leadership. It requires a consensus amongst all of Iraq's political leaderships and all of Iraq's communities to make the prime minister a success.

Azzawi: Ambassador David Satterfield, principal advisor to Secretary of State and coordinator of Iraq, thank you very much for being a guest on Inside Iraq.

Satterfield: Thank you.

Azzawi: We will take a short break now, and when we come back we will be joined by two more politicians, a European and an Arab. Stay with us.
anonymous senior U.S. security official: September 15th now looks like an end point for the debate, not a starting point. The President has got to get out ahead of this train.

[commercial break]

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker: You look at those who say we could have bases elsewhere in the country. There's the prospect of American forces looking on while civilians are being slaughtered.
Azzawi: Welcome back. I am joined now by Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, and by British MP Jeremy Corbyn. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq. Ambassador Ja'afari, American withdrawal from Iraq, some people say, is almost inevitable, whether it's either in its entirety or a big chunk of that force has to go, but can you imagine the Americans willing to leave Iraq to Al Qaeda, to the militias, and to Iran?

Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, Syrian amb. to the U.N.: Well, thank you very much, Jasim, at the beginning, for having me with you, and I say hello to your guest in London. Actually, answering your question would require from me the following comment: First of all, the solution to the Iraqi crisis is a political solution; it's not a military one. The invasion of Iraq by the American and the British troops created this chaos and mess in Iraq. Before the occupation and invasion, Iraq used to be, more or less, a stable country in the area, in spite of what happened in the previous years, but politically speaking there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the invasion, there were no fanatic groups before the invasion, and there were no dissension — sectarian dissension among the Iraqis themselves before the invasion, so I would think that it would be rather more fair to say that it's not up to Petraeus to decide for the future of Iraq, it would be up to the Iraqis themselves to decide for their own future. The North-South Development Monitoring Report, which is issued in New York, has published just two days ago an astonishing report saying that Iraq — the country that has the two great rivers, namely the Tigris and the Euphrates, is running dry, and the Iraqi people get only 2 hours of electricity per day, and that 70% of the Iraqi people have no access to safe drinking water, and that 19% of the Iraqis have access to sewage, so it is a shame that Iraq is thirsty right now while it has the two biggest rivers in the Mesopotamia.

Azzawi: The Americans would argue, Mr. Corbyn, that the purpose of this political, the purpose of this military surge is to create the political conditions for the Iraqis themselves to come together and solve their problem. Do you see the wisdom of creating those conditions?

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, M.P. (Labour – North Islington, London): The wisdom of creating conditions where there can be a political settlement would obviously be a good idea, but the "surge" by the United States seems to me to be a last-gasp throw of the dice. There are too many Iraqis in exile — internally or exiled. There are over half a million dead. There are now nearly 4,000 U.S. troops dead, plus British and other troops dead, and they think this surge is going to bring about a political settlement. What it's done is created the greatest animosity towards the occupying forces, and the United States knows that when General Petraeus' report comes in September, it's going to paint a very grim picture indeed. Bush has lost support in Congress. The troops are only there because of the power of the Presidential veto. I think we're seeing the endgame of the U.S. in Iraq. Obviously, there then has to be some kind of political settlement, political reckoning, after the point at which U.S. troops withdraw, but, as the ambassador says, it's very clear that before the invasion, Al Qaeda were not in Iraq. There were not the degree of sectarian differences there are now. All this has been promoted by that presence. I suspect the people of Iraq will continue to suffer for some time, but the withdrawal of the occupying forces will at least give an opportunity for all those forces to come together and shape the kind of Iraq the people of Iraq want, rather than shape the kind of Iraq that George Bush has in mind for them.

Azzawi: If anything, Ambassador Ja'afari, this surge or this current condition is slightly and perhaps surely is bringing the administration to adopt the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, and that is to open up to the regional countries and perhaps pull a little bit of the American troops and create the conditions for national reconciliation.

Ja'afari: Well, actually many countries, including my own, Syria, felt optimistic when the Baker-Hamilton report appeared. We were optimistic for a while, but then the disappointment came soon because we felt that the American administration, rather than starting setting up a schedule for pulling out of Iraq, pulling the troops out of Iraq, it started a new surge of the troops. The administration has increased the number of troops in Iraq, thinking that, by increasing the number of troops, they would put an end to the instability in Iraq. I think the current American administration did not get the lesson from what happened in the last five years, since the occupation of Iraq started in the year 2003. The main lesson that the American administration should get from this dramatic experience in Iraq is that, as long as there is a foreign occupation of a country, you should expect a very strong resistance, #1, and you should expect some kind of chaos and mess in this occupied country, because there is no centralized government, strong government — strong, centralized government in Iraq. The report of today has shown us that only in the couple hours this morning, 36 rockets landed in the Green Zone, which is heavily protected by the American troops.

Azzawi: Let me get a response from you, Dr. Bashar. The interim report yesterday that was unveiled at the White House mentioned that 80% of the suicide bombers are Arabs, 50 – 60% of those pass through a network in Syria. Could you comment on that, please?

Ja'afari: Well, I think this is a kind of a way out for the current impasse facing and challenging the American troops in Iraq. It wouldn't be possible for Syria to orient or to guide all these national Iraqi resistance, which is diverse and multiplied, as you know. Even the Americans themselves don't know who they are fighting. One day they say Al Qaeda, the other day they say Takfiri (تكفيري : roughly, "excommunicators," Wahhabi or Salafi Muslim extremists who consider mainstream Muslims to be infidels or apostates; or specifically certain splinter groups from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood), the other day they say the Ba'athists. They don't know who they are fighting. They are fighting the whole Iraqi people, actually, because they are occupying another land. They are trying to dictate their will on another people. Through this kind of mechanism, they should expect resistance.

Azzawi: Mr. Corbyn, the junior partner of this American enterprise in Iraq, the U.K., primarily Mr. Blair, is gone. The new occupant of 10 Downing Street just issued some perhaps new guidelines. First of all, Parliament should declare war, and second, that British foreign policy should be based on morality as well as on legality. Are these signals that perhaps in a few months time the 5,500 British troops right now in Basra will be pulled out?

Corbyn: I think these are quite important signals. Gordon Brown, our new prime minister's, first statement was that Parliament will have warmaking powers. I hope those also include powers about the significant deployment of troops, because that is clearly a factor, and secondly, yesterday Douglas Alexander, our new international development secretary, made a speech in the United States in which he said that the policy in future should be directed by international law and by the United Nations, adherence to U.N. resolutions. That is all very promising.

Azzawi: Since you mention international development, Mr. Corbyn, Iraq is pretty much approaching a failed state, almost Somalia; the country is in chaos. Is there a moral, legal, and political ground on which Iraq could seek compensation at minimum from Britain and the U.S.?

Corbyn: The first thing has got to be the withdrawal of British and American forces; they're the occupying forces in Iraq. They are the ones that are the cause of the trouble, and it's unbelievable that Bush should blame Syria, Iran, Al Qaeda — anybody. The reality is they're occupying forces and they shouldn't be there. Secondly, Iraq is in a desperate situation. I mentioned earlier all the people in exile. There's also the health crisis, there's the cancer crisis, there's the depleted uranium crisis, there's the unexploded cluster bomb crisis, there's the lack of water, electricity, and all those things, so yes, Iraq is going to need a great deal of international help and support.

Azzawi: Dr. Ja'afari, what happens if Iraq implodes? If Iraq becomes a second Somalia?

Ja'afari: Actually, Syria, as all the neighboring countries of Iraq, is highly interested in protecting itself from the bad side effects of this American-British occupation of Iraq. We have a great interest in playing a positive role in Iraq, because we believe in this, in what we call the contagious proximity, so we would be affected by any instability, either in Iraq or in Lebanon or elsewhere. This is why we are highly interested in seeing the whole region in full stability, in full peace, in full development. We don't need foreign troops in our area, we need peace.

Azzawi: Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, gentlemen, thank you for being guests on Inside Iraq. To access the show and to send us your comments, please go to AlJazeera.net/English. We have reached the end of this show; join me next week when we take another look Inside Iraq. Good bye.
Where do I begin? Well, of course, there's that "fair and balanced" phrase again. We will make a "fair and balanced" assessment of the progress of the surge, but not until September. Yes, the U.S. government should be run like Fox News. Maybe we should amend the Constitution not to allow Ahnold to be Prez, but to allow Rupert Murdoch that honour. There is also the obvious point that we don't need to wait until September to have a fair idea of how well (or how poorly) the surge is working. We've been ramping up since January, and violence has only increased. Also, the President is downright delusional if he thinks the American people will stand for maintaining a six-figure troop presence in Iraq. We need to be planning an orderly exit strategy instead of burying our heads in the hot sands of the Iraqi desert. Also noteworthy, though, is the advice that Ambassador Satterfield gave to the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki: "[W]hat is required here is a common national vision, a common national will, to move forward, to move forward on security for all Iraqis, economic opportunity for all Iraqis, and above all, a national reconciliation process that makes of Iraq a true unitary state. ... It is a question of whether all of Iraq's political leaderships can come together, can, if you will, submerge their party, sectarian, ethnic, or individual agendas for the sake of an Iraqi national agenda." Substitute America for Iraq, and you can point that advice right back at your own administration. President Bush has consistently placed his own "party, sectarian, and individual agenda" above the national interests of the United States. He has sown division and discord rather than seeking compromise and consensus. He has tried to substitute his own individual leadership for the will of the people. He has isolated himself inside a bubble of unreality in which his own fervent wishing will somehow make everything turn out all right.

The figures quoted by Dr. Ja'afari — that only 30% of the Iraqi people have any access at all to safe drinking water, and only 19% have access to sanitary sewers — should be shocking to the conscience. I don't want to sound like an apologist for Saddam, but how can we possibly say that the average Iraqi citizen is better off under those conditions than under the previous régime? Flush toilets aren't just a convenience, they are a necessity for dense urban populations. Tally up yet another ticking time bomb for the health and welfare of Iraq. Mr. Corbyn's comments, as a member of the ruling Labour Party in the British Parliament, foreshadow a rift between the U.S. and the U.K. over Iraq policy if the U.S. doesn't change course drastically and soon. In particular, Nouri Al-Maliki [MAH-lee-kee] doesn't have the confidence of the Iraqi people; if he doesn't — or can't — regain it, there can be no political progress towards a political solution, making the military surge irrelevant in the long run, except of course to the fallen soldiers and their families.

Dr. Ja'afari put it quite well: "[A]s long as there is a foreign occupation of a country, you should expect a very strong resistance, and you should expect some kind of chaos and mess in this occupied country." Bush is fond of speaking of politicians who he claims have "not learned the lessons of 9/11," but Bush is missing some major post-9/11 lessons. We cannot ever fully stabilize Iraq by military force; it is an intrinsically impossible task for an occupying power. We need to get out and do what we can to minimize, and as much as possible reverse, the damage we've caused to Iraq.

Some other transcripts you might want to check out...

Inside Iraq
on Al Jazeera EnglishThe Daily Show with Jon StewartReal Time with Bill Maher
Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Premiering Tonight

There are two important premières tonight. As just about everyone this side of Little Whinging, Surrey, can tell you that tonight (just after midnight) the new Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, opens in theatres. I'm not seeing it until tomorrow afternoon, though, 'cause the midnight IMAX show was already sold out and I'm not up for a 3 a.m. screening. (Yes, they really are having a screening at 2:59 a.m.) The other première, though, is one that many of you haven't heard a word about: Rick & Steve: the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World will debut on the Logo cable channel (included in the basic cable package on many systems). If you thought Will & Grace was about as gay as television could get, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Order of the Phoenix is the fifth of the Harry Potter films, based on the book that came out in 2003. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the main characters, are 15 years old, so they are beginning to take a more active role in the wizarding world's struggle against the evil Lord Voldemort. The story is darker and more complex than the earlier books, and we meet quite a few more of the wizards who are taking Dumbledore's side. In the film, we get to see Harry flying on his broomstick right up the Thames, past Parliament and Big Ben. We also get to see Harry wrestle with his desire for revenge, in a less structured temptation by the Dark Side than Luke Skywalker faced. The IMAX version is at least partly in 3-D, which should make for (literally) eye-popping special effects. Sadly, there isn't a quidditch game; it would be fun (downright "magical") to have the Golden Snitch fly right out of the screen and buzz around the audience. Next Saturday, the final book of the Harry Potter series (HP and the Deathly Hallows) hits shelves, with quite a few bookstores staying open late Friday night to hand out copies at the stroke of midnight ("the witching hour"?). The sixth film, HP and the Half-Blood Prince, is due out in November 2008, and the principal cast has already signed on for the 7th film.

Rick & Steve: the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World is an animated series using what appear to be little Lego® people. Rick and Steve live in West Lahunga Beach with their cat Pussy and their many gay neighbors, including Chuck & Evan, Kirsten & Dana, and Condie Ling. The voice talent is a veritable openly gay Who's Who: Wilson Cruz, Peter Paige, Alan Cumming, Margaret Cho, and many more. It's laugh-out-loud funny, so much so that some of the punchlines were drowned out in the theatre by the audience laughter at the set-up. I've written recently about the distinction between racial humor and racist humor; Rick & Steve illustrates the distinction between gay humor and gay-bashing humor: it plays with many of the stereotypes (and the partial truths behind the stereotypes) without demeaning the people involved. Warning: if you are offended by puppet-on-puppet sex — a sort of Team America meets Brokeback Mountain kind of thing, only funnier — you probably shouldn't watch Rick & Steve.

The first episode airs on Logo at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, 9 p.m. Central. Each episode will be available on iTunes shortly after the broadcast, and the DVD of Season 1 (and there had better be a Season 2, Logo!) is scheduled for release on August 28.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......