How whacked out can they be?

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David Weigel must have a strong stomach. He's dug into the story behind the people who keep insisting that Barack Obama is not a US citizen and hence, not qualified to become the next President of the United States. It strains credulity to see how far people will go. Kossack profmatt explained yesterday what will happen with the appeal that they've pushed to the Supreme Court.

The Slate story is important to read for one reason. So that all understand just how nuts these people are such that when they weigh in on any other topic, we'll all know their input should be disregarded.

Zimbabwe Imploding, South Africa Moving in

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This dkos post pulls together lots of disparate news sources and blogs to report on what's happening in Zimbabwe and it's not pretty.

Zimbabwe is in a condition of complete collapse. Cholera is spreading because the government is out of money to pay for water purification. Over 500 people have died. Troops went on a rampage in Harare yesterday when they couldn't get funds out of banks. People are starving.

Today, South Africa's president is announcing a plan for South Africa to go into Zimbabwe to deal with the crisis.

President Kgalema Motlanthe's cabinet will today unveil a plan for rescuing the country, which is buckling under the weight of a shattered economy, food shortages, a cholera outbreak and rioting soldiers.

South African government sources are saying that President Mugabe, who retained his office by force, has lost control.

A South African government official said: That is why we are moving in. To help some government institutions to provide basic services. Mugabe has lost control. He has lost power. It's just a matter of time before the country implodes. He cannot support his own people and that is a danger for the region.

Cholera has spread from Zimbabwe to South Africa. South Africa can no longer ignore the chaos is Zimbabwe because it threatens the whole region.

There's more. Go read.

Juan Cole on India, Pakistan and lessons learned from Bush-Cheney's 9/11 response

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Juan Cole has an articulate piece up on the implications of the Mumbai attacks and its implications for Pakistani and Indian relations. In particular he highlights its similarities to the US 9/11 attack and the lessons we learned there and a plea for the Indian and Pakistani governments not to repeat the mistakes of the Bush-Cheney administration in responding to this crisis.

Given Juan Cole's familiarity with that region of the world, the post is well worth the time to read it.

Why attack in Mumbai now?

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There's some interesting analysis in The Times UK about the motivation for the Mumbai terrorist attacks which posits that the attacks are designed to divert Pakistani attention away from Waziristan and al Qaeda and toward its rocky relationship with India, thus foiling the intent of the Obama administration in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Officials and analysts in the region believe that last week's atrocities were designed to provoke a crisis, or even a war, between the nuclear-armed neighbours, diverting Islamabad's attention from extremism in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and thus relieving pressure on al-Qaeda, Taleban and other militants based there.

One analyst even described the attacks as a "pre-emptive strike" against Barack Obama's strategy to put Pakistan and Afghanistan at the centre of US foreign policy.

The United States and its allies now face a balancing act in supporting India's efforts to investigate the Mumbai attacks, without jeopardizing Pakistan's crucial support for the Nato campaign in Afghanistan.

There's more history in the article about the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and al Qaeda.

The two groups were originally founded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency as deniable proxies to be sent to fight Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir. They have been blamed for numerous attacks on Indian targets.

However, Western intelligence agencies have recently perceived a growing nexus between these and other, militant groups such as the Pakistani Taleban and al Qaeda. In June, it was reported that some 300 militant leaders from a number groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad met in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi.

There they reportedly agreed that while the Kashmir struggle remained important, their primary focus should be the fight against international forces in Afghanistan.

Just a few weeks later, nine US soldiers were killed in an attack on a combat outpost at Wanat in the Afghan border province of Nuristan that displayed unusual military competence. Intelligence reports subsequently assessed that the assault included a significant Lashkar-e-Taiba element, as well as al Qaeda fighters.

The growing relationship between al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba may explain the scale and sophistication of the Bombay attacks, said Dr Kanchan Lakshman of the South Asia Terrorism Portal. "It would also suggest why they targeted Americans, British and Israelis," he said.

It's not clear what control, if any, the ISI has over the two groups at this time.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive

Fareed Zakaria: Wake-up call for India

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It seems Fareed Zakaria has some close personal connections to this week's events in Mumbai. Though I could wish that there not be attribution of sponsorship until a reliable investigation is complete, he does make one good point. It is terrorists that chose to carry out this attack and terrorists that must be condemned.

NYT's Journalism and Mumbai

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Glenn Greenwald holds the NYT responsible for its journalism, in this look back at how their reporting and editorializing about regime change in Venezuela has changed from 2002 to present. He goes onto to reflect on how we should keep that in mind in deciding how to respond to the terrorism in Mumbai. Thoughtful and interesting writing as usual from Mr. Greenwald. [via]

More on Netroots Development in the Middle East

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An observation by Brian Ullrich via Sully:

Early this evening I went to a panel on "Negotiating Community in the Arab Persian Gulf" which featured Fahad Bishara from Duke, Farah al-Nakib of London's School for Oriental and African Studies, UCLA'a Laith Ulaby, Leila De Vriese of Hamline University, and a chair/discussant whose name I did not catch...

[Leila De Vriese discussed] political activist blogging in Gulf countries, particularly Bahrain and Kuwait. She attributed the most efficacy to Bahrain's blogosphere, mentioning in particular the "Brain Farts" feature on the late, great Mahmood's Den. Overall, she credited the Bahraini blogosphere with generating a reconceptualization of Bahraini citizenship as part of an upsurge in grassroots political activism, particularly by Shi'ites. She also credited Kuwaiti blogs with playing a significant role in that country's 2006 Orange Revolution. [...]

... blogs have allowed women to participate openly in the same political sphere as men, even in highly segregated societies such as Saudi Arabia. ... In societies with high internet penetration, blogs can have a democratizing, community-building function. Although we've seen this in the United States, its occurrence in politically closed societies such as Bahrain is significant because of the nexus of people it can bring together in certain types of interactions. I don't know all the ramifications that the term "public sphere" has in political science, but it sounds like a local one may have emerged in certain Gulf states of a type that would have been unlikely prior to the internet.

Netroots in Iran

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Via Sully:

Per Mr. Aaron in the Vimeo comments, the graphics et al were inspired by the movie Persepolis.

Sounds like they may be looking for their Obama, just as the Palestinian journalist and blogger Daoud Kuttab noted in his post about Obama's impact on undemocratic Arab regimes.

Obama's "Change" and Egyptian Editorial Freedom

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It seems that some Egyptian editorial cartoonist got to thinking about the implications of Obama's election with regard to the political process of electing a president in his own country and included a little bit about it in his cartoon. And then he was forced to remove it after 150,000 copies were quickly withdrawn from the streets. And what were the seditious words that were removed? An "Arabic phrase uqbal inna, meaning 'may the same [change] happen to us.'" Here's the before and after cartoons courtesy of another Egyptian newspaper.


BoingBoing has the details from Daoud Kuttab.

"Serious people are coming back to power"

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Fred Kaplan reviews some of the people on the Obama national security transition team:

Looking over the list of top players on President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, one gets the sense that serious people are coming back to power. On the national-security team in particular, they're professional, thoughtful, cognizant of the world's complexities, engaged with cutting-edge ideas but not dogmatic about them. This may not sound exciting, but those who think it doesn't constitute "change" haven't paid enough attention to these last eight years of Jacobin zeal and blundering.

He goes onto briefly discuss a few of people including Sarah Sewall, Michèle Flournoy, Wendy Sherman, Rand Beers, Clark Kent Ervin and Judith "Jami" Miscik.

Thomas Jefferson had it right

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It's hard to believe that I'm quoting John Derbyshire on anything but have to agree with the point that he made below. Although I do think the word "Americans" should be substituted for "Conservatives".

Conservatives stand for liberty, and that includes liberty of belief. We have to stand by that; but it's not easy to do so -- well, I don't find it easy -- when you're bickering about the content of belief. Over to you, Tom:

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

                       -- Notes on Virginia

And there's many an issue to which that bit of wisdom should be applied.

Filling the Vacuum

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Steve Benen writes about Obama's roll-out of his economic team: the "leaks" on Friday, the appearances on Sunday chat shows, the press conference today, the press conference promised for tomorrow.

... this is Obama's way of improving investor confidence and settling the markets before he can take actual policy steps to improve investor confidence and settle the markets. ... no one's listening to Bush, who went to Peru over the weekend, and Paulson's credibility is shot -- and Obama is simply stepping to fill the void.

Exactly what we decided was happening at the dinner table tonight.

Bill Kristol: Fundamentally Wrong

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George Packer sums up Bill Kristol's column at the NY Times so well.

It's not just that he was fundamentally wrong at least every other week throughout the year (misattributing a quote in his first column, counting Clinton out after Iowa, placing Obama at a Jeremiah Wright sermon that Obama didn't attend, predicting the imminent return of a McCain adviser named Mike Murphy who ended up staying off the campaign, all but predicting a McCain victory, sort of predicting that McCain would oppose the bailout, praising McCain's "suspension" of his campaign as a smart move, preferring fake populism to professional excellence and Joe the Plumber to Horace the Poet, urging Ayers-Wright attack tactics as the way for McCain to win, basically telling McCain to ignore all the advice Kristol had given him throughout the year, but above all, vouching again and again and again, privately and publicly, for Palin as an excellent Vice-Presidential choice). What the hell--it was an unpredictable year.

The real grounds for firing Kristol are that he didn't take his column seriously. In his year on the Op-Ed page, not one memorable sentence, not one provocative thought, not one valuable piece of information appeared under his name. The prose was so limp ("Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term?") that you had the sense Kristol wrote his column during the commercial breaks of his gig on Fox News Sunday and gave it about the same amount of thought.

Short version for the NYT management: Save some money. Don't bother renewing his contract this time around. [via]

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics

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It seems that our elected officials know less than they should about our history and our government. [via]

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). [...]

The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

You can take the quiz yourself. I answered 31 out of 33 correctly for a score of 93.94 %.

After 63 years, vet learns of brother's death in Nazi slave camp

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This is an amazing story via CNN of two brothers who both fought in WW II and how one brother recently found out about his brother's death via an earlier CNN feature of yet another vet held in that same terrible Nazi slave camp.

Conservatives and Science

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An email sent to David Frum in which the author pretty much nails why the theo-cons et al are having so much trouble with science.

I find it astonishing that conservatives can discuss the election results and their path back to power without addressing the right wing's increasing estrangement from science. Religious conservatives have refused to acknowledge that evolution is the cornerstone of biological sciences and that the earth and universe are billions of years old, Free market enthusiasts have denied the efficacy and necessity of the Clean Air Act's protections of the environment and human health. They have also refused to acknowledge Reagan's leadership role in protecting the stratospheric ozone layer and the successes of the Montreal Protocol in addressing this global problem. It is genuinely difficult to find an adult discussion of climate change on any conservative web site. Conservatives find themselves arrayed against the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the Academies of Science of many countries.

Science was transformed into a partisan affair by Gingrich et al.. Prior to that time, many Republicans could be counted upon as realists concerning nature. Lincoln signed the legislation founding the National Academy of Science. T. Roosevelt established rule-making agencies that valued scientific expertise above political influence. Nixon founded the EPA and was important in passing the Clear Air Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. He appointed Ruckelshaus as EPA's initial director. The major steps to protect the stratospheric ozone layer were made with the conscious leadership of Reagan and Bush I. Now Republican candidates are required to nod in the direction of creationism and the young earth. McCain's brave stand acknowledging the reality of climate change cost him dearly among the most partisan Republicans. They stayed home. [...]

I was trained by conservative scientists who worked under a Republican administered EPA to establish the scientific foundations for the Clean Air Act regulations that have saved thousands of lives. I studied ozone depletion under Reagan. Now, practitioners who follow the data are slandered by Conservatives. 200 countries have ratified the Montreal Protocol. The world's turn away from the release of CFCs has clearly resulted in arresting the decreases in ozone that triggered the Protocol. Poor Rush and his minions are unable to acknowledge this fundamental fact. They use Montreal Protocol as a slur. The Right Wing is estranged from both science and reality. Educated Americans are increasingly seeing a Republican Party that will lie about science to satisfy dogmatists and ideologues. Increasingly science and technology are defining the environment within which the market and policy must succeed. You are losing those who understand this century. How can Republicans rebuild their winning coalition when they insist that its members deny physical reality?

James Charles Wilson
John Evans Professor
Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
University of Denver

Good question Professor Wilson. My guess is they going to wander in the wilderness for awhile. Especially if the leaders turn out to be Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, Eric Cantor, and John Boehner.


I wonder how much he paid her?

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Seriously, how much did Erick Ericksen pay Suzanne Smalley for this write-up in Newsweek? I get the feeling that Ms. Smalley doesn't understand the basics on blog traffic or just what pathetic shape is actually in financially ... at least based on their begging for supporters to give them money so they can upgrade the website to something like Daily Kos. And the reason that they have to beg for money is that the traffic on the website is so low that they can't make enough money from their ad stream to pay for it. Yeah, really influential there.

She'd have been better off featuring the people from The Next Right which though conservative, has some interesting thinking going on there.

Buddhist Temple Built from Beer Bottles

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This is unique and not unattractive. Via Sully, "Buddhist monks from Thailand's Sisaket province built the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple out of a million green Heineken and local brown beer bottles."

As the treehugger post noted: "...there is no such thing as garbage, just useful stuff in the wrong place."

Waxman Wins Chairmanship

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Henry Waxman has won his bid to replace John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Harold Meyerson wrote a piece at WaPo a couple days ago as to why this would be a good move.

Fundamentally, there are two reasons Waxman would be the better chairman of Energy and Commerce. First, he is probably the House's most accomplished legislator in three issue areas that are high on the agendas of the nation and President-elect Barack Obama: universal health care, global warming and enhanced consumer protections (no small matter with a steadily rising percentage of our food and medication ingredients coming from China). On environmental questions, Waxman offers a sharp contrast to Dingell, who has long been the primary opponent of stricter standards for auto emissions and fuel efficiency.

Second, Waxman is a legislative genius. Most of his legislative accomplishments came before the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, when he chaired the health and environment subcommittee of Energy and Commerce. Progressive legislating has been pretty much off the table since then, which is why he shifted focus to Congress's chief investigative committee. Those who have served in Congress for fewer than 14 years weren't around when Waxman greatly strengthened the Clean Air Act and authored the legislation that expanded Medicaid coverage to the poorest children (enlisting Republican abortion-foe Henry Hyde as his partner in the effort). They didn't see Waxman steer to passage the bills that gave rise to the generic drug industry, required uniform nutrition labels on food, heightened standards of care at nursing homes, created screening programs for breast and cervical cancer, provided health care for people with HIV/AIDS, or expanded Medicaid coverage to the working poor.

In the midst of the Reagan era's cutbacks, Waxman expanded the number of working poor eligible for Medicaid a stunning 24 times. He consistently won key Republican backing for these regulatory and programmatic expansions. In fact, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page ran a series of articles complaining of "the Waxman state," in which, horror of horrors, businesses were compelled to meet environmental and consumer protection standards. Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson once emerged from a marathon conference committee meeting and noted, "Henry Waxman is tougher than a boiled owl."

Some of Waxman's achievements were to keep bad things from happening. For virtually the entire 1980s, Waxman blocked Dingell and the Reagan administration from weakening auto emission standards.

Here is a clear reason why term limits are NOT a good idea.

Congratulations, Chairman Waxman.

Richard Clarke on Zawahri tape

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Via Democracy Arsenal and Sully, Richard Clarke sums up al-Zawahri's blurb:

"Obama's election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda's sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America's renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law. It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers.

"Obama's commitment to withdraw from Iraq also takes away an al Qaeda propaganda tenet: that the U.S. seeks to occupy oil rich Arab lands. His commitment to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan also challenges their plans. Most of all, by returning to American values the world admires, Obama sets al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas, the ideological struggle which determines whether al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world."

-Richard Clarke

The 25 Most Important Stories the Media Isn't Reporting

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Via dkos, Project Censored has released its list for 2009 of the top 25 most important stories that are not being covered by American media. It's a disturbing list.

Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)

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Via Spencer Ackerman at his Attackerman blog, more on the just-signed SOFA agreement with Iraq:

The good people at McClatchy have translated an Arabic text of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement into English. Check it out here. ... Here, for instance, is the money quote:

All U.S. forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, water and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011.

All U.S. combat forces are to withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and towns not later than the date that Iraqi forces assume complete responsibility of security in any Iraqi province. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from the above-mentioned places is on a date no later than the 30 June 2009. The withdrawing U.S. forces mentioned in item (2) above are to gather in the installations and areas agreed upon that are located outside of cities, villages and towns that will be determined by the Joint Military Operation Coordinating Committee (JMOCC) before the date determined in item (2) above.


Also, Leila Fadel, McClatchy's excellent Baghdad bureau chief, writes a great supplementary story about how the SOFA "is now called the withdrawal agreement" in Iraq because it, in her view, truly does provide "an ultimate end to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq." And she notes this new language in Article 27, inserted almost certainly to forstall a U.S. attack on Iran:

It is not permitted to use Iraqi land, water and airspace as a route or launching pad for attacks against other countries.

Guess that makes it pretty clear where the Iraqis stand. Wonder what will happen with the bases that the US has built / is building in Iraq.

Josh Dorner: NBC Confirms That "Clean Coal" is an Oxymoron

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Josh Dormer highlights an NBC report by Brian Williams and Anne Thompson that tells the truth about coal:

Brian Williams began with a remarkable lead-in:

"Coal. While you might have heard the phrase 'clean coal' during the presidential campaign, it's actually an oxymoron. Wishful thinking. Coal does not burn cleanly and it's hugely expensive to make it burn that way..."

Check out the video Josh included in the post.

Disastrous Health Crisis in Zimbabwe

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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and their Zimbabwean colleagues, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), are attempting to call attention to an immediate and severe health care crisis in Zimbabwe.

Per jhutson:

Zimbabwe's health system has failed: authorities have closed the country's main hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo, along with the maternity wards and a medical school. The country is paralyzed by drug shortages, insufficient medical supplies, dilapidated infrastructure, and equipment breakdown. Sick and injured people are being turned away without treatment. Birthing mothers and their infants are imperiled. On top of this, the country is threatened with a full-blown cholera epidemic that the government has failed to address.

He has more information, links and photos in this post.

Obama's message to governors' meeting: climate change

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By video link, President-Elect Barack Obama spoke to a gathering of governors and foreign officials in Los Angeles Tuesday, reiterating his stance on climate policy.


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