Voinovich’s Dissent: Keep it Honest

The rumbling of the walls of George Bush’s Jericho are deafening lately.  The latest Republican to publicly sound his intention to break with the White House is Senator Voinovich of of Ohio, and he’s done so in particularly florid fashion.

He’s not quite ready to go yet, because of course we all need to sit on our hands until the triumphant general of our Roman American Army returns and tells us what good wind blows.  But if the answer isn’t good, or if the White House doesn’t have a great exit strategy in September, Voinovich is gonna drop them like a bad habit:  

Helen Thomas Rocks

I decided to spend the brain cells and listen to the Bush speech on Iraq this morning.  I know, not a good use of resources, but I had little else to do.

One thing that struck me was when Bush said Iraq had gone through three phases.   I don’t remember what he said those phases were, but I did find it interesting that the benchmarks always look better in hindsight than they do going forward.  Bush is just making it up as he goes along and writing his own narrative to justify his actions.

As had already been widely reported, Bush stated that an interim report would indicate that eight benchmarks have been going swimmingly, eight are going not-so-swimmingly and two are “too close to call.”  What an amazing over-simplification that is!  Which eight are going well, and how well, and how related are they to the eight that aren’t going so well?  All benchmarks are not, I am thinking, created the same.  I suppose none of it really matters to the issue of our pulling out of Iraq, but at the same time, I’d like to think that there is some hope for Iraq to pull itself out of this mess.

But Helen Thomas had the question of the morning.  In fact, it was barely a question.  She asked, bluntly, “Don’t you understand that you have brought al-Qaeda to Iraq?”

And really, if he doesn’t get that, what’s the point of asking him anything else?  This being the first press conference I’ve had the fortitude to listen to entirely, I began to notice what causes the fatigue among beltway reporters: asking George Bush a question is like talking to one of those mechanical fortune teller women you used to see in Niagara Falls.  Any question you ask will be replied to with one of a set number of answers, regardless of whether or not it pertains to the question at all.

A Short History of World Politics

Asia Times Online turns a great piece in, describing a make-believe conversation between Vladimir Putin and George Bush.  Vladimir’s character pulls no punches in explaining to George (and by way of literary device, America) exactly what it’s like in places not owned by McDonald’s or McDonald-Douglass:

Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy – What they didn’t say at Kennebunkport

Bush: Vladimir, what you are saying is horrible. The American people will never see the world that way.

Putin: The American people don’t have to. They are sitting comfortably in their own continent and think it’s a great disaster when a few thousand people are killed in an office building. I’m not suggesting that you go out and explain to your voters that things might be very different in other parts of the world. But I am warning you: we have a tough enough job on our hands. Don’t make it harder for us, or you will be sorry.

A grim read, to be sure. But a view of reality that more Americans need to have.  A pity our media doesn’t provide it.

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How We Got Our Freedom

The D&C has a great article on the war protesters who’ve gotten louder and more numerous in Rochester over the last year.  I remember the war protest on East Ave being a small gathering of 50-somethings, shivering solitarily against the cold.  Now the protest stretches down the block and through generations.

But what interested me most in the article was the following passage covering the pro-war community’s response:

Anti-war voices turn up the volume || Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

Supporters of the war say that withdrawal of U.S. troops would lead to greater bloodshed in Iraq and that the war is a matter of American self-defense.

“I think people better understand how we got our freedom,” said the Rev. Carley Touchstone of Glad Tidings Church in Irondequoit, adding:

“Freedom came from defending ourselves against evil empires. Terrorism is one of those evil empires.”

Whoa.  I guess that whole “Glad Tidings” thing is subjective. . .

Actually, on this Flag Day I rather think a lesson in how we got our freedom would be very instructive, indeed.  

Tony Blair Says “Pretty Please, Mr. Russian President!”

Just in case you wondered how a sitting Prime Minister of the U.K. can be talked into a war any British historian could have told you he wouldn’t win, wonder no longer. Tony Blair negotiates like a girl getting her pigtails pulled.

Check out the latest from the G8: Tony Blair respectfully requests assurances from Putin that there will be no new Cold War:

Bloomberg.com: U.K.

“Many people are concerned about the direction Russia is heading,” Blair said in an interview on BBC News 24. While there is little danger of a new Cold War “it would be sensible for the Russians to give reassurance on that,” Blair said.

Tony Blair in the Role That Made Him FamousUm. Allow me to point out the obvious: Putin is making waves because he wants something, and his bargaining chip is a threat of a new Cold War. So, no, I don’t think Mr. Blair is going to get the “assurance” that he’s looking for, precisely because Mr. Putin is counting on the rest of the world believing he’s not “sensible” the way Tony Blair would like him to be.

By the way, does Tony Blair ever remind you of any other diplomatic robots with English accents? He does me.  Perhaps his real name is Anthony Daniels Blair?

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China Joins Russia in the Nuclear Footsie

The president is nearing the end of his term and the games are beginning in earnest already.  Russia’s Vladimir Putin is calling the missile defense system the U.S. government is planning on setting up in Eastern Europe a direct threat to Russia’s security.  He has made it clear that Russia plans to find retaliatory measures should the U.S. government not back down, including aiming missiles at European targets.

But now, just to add to the fun, China has decided to get into the act.  Sino-Russian relations have been improving over the last few years and it seems China is eager to help the Russians in their most recent dangerous game:

China warns US may set off arms race

China joined Russia on Tuesday in criticizing a US plan to build a missile defense system in Europe, saying the system could set off an arms race.
. . .
“China believes that the impact of a missile defense system on strategic defense and stability is not conducive to mutual trust of major nations and regional security,” she said. “It may also give rise to a proliferation problem.”

Just a couple of quick notes on the situation, in no particular order, below the fold. . .   

Eric Massa on Immigration

The Fighting 29th has a PDF of Eric Massa’s recent LTE in the Corning Leader, outlining his thoughts on immigration reform, assuming such a thing will ever happen in Congress.  I become increasingly doubtful of this notion.  In any event, Rottenchester points out that this position of Massa’s seems to “thread the needle” between two very vociferous constituencies:

Massa Threads the Needle on Immigration (The Fighting 29th)

Massa’s proposal satisfies two constituencies that have been vocal about reform. The first is the anti-amnesty group, which is enraged by the prospect of millions of illegal immigrants “jumping the line” and being granted citizenship. The second is farmers, who need temporary workers to harvest crops. Massa’s suggestion provides them with a stream of workers, and it also would do away with holding the farmers responsible for investigating the immigration status of workers they employ.

Thread the needle it may indeed, but I don’t think it’s a very workable suggestion.  Of course, no politically-viable option really does, which is why I sigh heavily every time immigration reform comes up.  

Bless the Gophers!/Lawyers Could be Worse

The Reuters “Oddly Enough” column is almost always good for some Friday chuckles.  Today is no exception, as Reuters turns in some doozies.

First up, Bosnia.  Count your blessings, American farmers, that the only potentially fatal landmark in most of your steer fields is a few gopher holes:

Bosnian in legal row over cow falling in mass grave | Oddly Enough | Reuters

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A Bosnian farmer is locked in a legal battle over the death of his cow, which he says drowned in a rain-filled mass grave from the 1992-95 war that authorities failed to refill after exhuming the bodies.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we only need to fear lawyers’ penchant for lawsuits.  But in other portions of the world, lawyers take the nuptials of their guild-mates quite seriously, indeed:

Indian lawyers tie man to tree, beat him | Oddly Enough | Reuters

LUCKNOW (Reuters) – Lawyers tied a young man to a tree and beat him outside a court in India for refusing to marry one of their relatives, an official said on Wednesday.

They rounded on the victim when he arrived at a court in the Taj Mahal town of Agra to settle a dispute over marrying the niece of one of the lawyers.

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All The Russian Dudes, Carry the News

A flurry of activity on the Dead Spook circuit, no doubt about that.

Since Lugovoi has been having his fun talking it up to the media, others just had to get into the act.  The Russian government is positively drooling over any opportunity to get Boris Berezovsky back into their hands, and thus at least one Russian official is trying to get a swap going between the Brits and the Ruskies.  Fat chance, that.  I don’t think Scotland Yard is into trading one revenge killing for another:

Russian legislator suggests swapping poisoning suspect for Berezovsky

MOSCOW (AP) – A high-ranking legislator appeared to suggest Monday that Russia could extradite the main suspect in the killing of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko to Britain in exchange for Boris Berezovsky, an exiled tycoon and Kremlin critic long sought by Russia. The office of Britain’s top prosecutor rejected the idea.

Meanwhile, Berezovsky, Russian oligarch turned exile cum camera hog cum political dissident, has decided to gab in front of the cameras once again:

‘Russian president was behind spy poisoning’ | the Daily Mail

Tycoon Boris Berezovsky today pointed the finger of blame for the murder of his friend Alexander Litvinenko at Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian oligarch said the sophisticated plot to kill the former spy with radioactive polonium could not have gone ahead without orders at the highest level.

{{Snip}}

Mr Berezovsky, 51, said he believed that former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi was responsible for carrying out the assassination.

He said: “I should accept that it’s 90 per cent probable that he’s the killer, maybe more. But on an emotional level, I’m not prepared to do that.”

Aww! How sweet and melancholy!  And how can he be so sure -in his heart of hearts- it was Lugovoi?  Well. . . :

Echoes of Dagestan, World and National Politics ~ DragonFlyEye.Net

In 2001, Litvinenko and fellow former FSB security agent Andrei Lugovoi participated in a jail break of Nikolai Glushkov, business partner of Boris Berezovsky in one of his first companies, Aeroflot. Lugovoi and Litvinenko had worked together in the past, guarding both Yegor Gaidar and Berezovsky as members of the FSB. Glushkov was currently serving time in the pokey for fraud. The attempt failed.

{{snip}}

November 1st, Litvinenko met with a few old friends before eventually succumbing to sickness due to a radioactive poisoning.

One was Andrei Lugovoi, his partner in jail breaking for Berezovsky. Lugovoi brought with him an associate by the name of Dmitry Kovtun and one other. It is believed by Scotland Yard that this was the moment of his intoxication. But Litvinenko also met with Boris Berezovsky himself.

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Russian Spies and Dubya’s Bro

I was just browsing through my Alexander Litvinenko article, refamiliarizing myself with the players, when I ran across this passage that I’d forgotten:

Echoes of Dagestan, World and National Politics ~ DragonFlyEye.Net

During this same time, Boris Berezovsky became an investor in Neil Bush’s Ignite! Learning company while living in London in exile, putting him in the same company as George Herbert Walker Bush and Sun Myung Moon, who together with other investors are paying the current Governor of Florida an extra $180,000 annually. In presidential politics elsewhere, Berezovsky was alleged to have participated illegally in funding the presidential candidacy of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, and a former president produced documents confirming it in 2005.

Keep that in mind on the off chance that the Bushies make another run for the presidency in 2012, which I’ll betcha they do.  Viktor Yushchenko, if you recall, was the presidential candidate most distinguished by being poisoned with Dioxin.

Lovely company our presidential family keeps, eh?

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The Litvinenko Spy-Poisoning Saga Continues

Like a story straight out of the pages of a Dostoevsky’s novel, Russian intrigues never really end; they only stay quiet long enough to increase the drama. I’ve been following this story since it’s most recent surfacing, the climatic moment of a mostly-unwritten novel where former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko dies in his British hotel room of Polonium 232 poisoning.

Now, in what seems like a belated and obvious statement, the UK government has signaled that the Litvinenko case is a legal matter. This from the overly-animated and annoying Forbes Magazine webpage. Not to be outdone, CNN picks up on the story:

Ex-KGB spy: UK tried to recruit me – CNN.com

“Britain is making me a scapegoat,” a confident and combative Lugovoi, himself a former KGB agent, told a packed news conference in Moscow Thursday, which was televised live on state-owned television.Lugovoi said he did not know for sure who killed Litvinenko with radioactive polonium in London last November but said there were three possible suspects: British intelligence, the mafia and Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire tycoon who fled Russia for London after falling out with President Vladimir Putin.

“The third theory looks the most likely to me. I am talking about Berezovsky, who is well known as an outstanding master of political intrigues,” Lugovoi said.

Now, this may seem strange to you, but CNN is making a big deal out of it’s own angle on the story for the sake of having any unique angle at all, and that angle is entirely stupid. More upon commencement of flippage. Flip.

Cowards

I seriously don’t want another four years, much less eight, of Republican rule.  But if the Democrats lose the upcoming elections, it will be because they are cowards, and American’s can’t help but notice.  And the Democrats will have earned that loss, to the shame and probably irreparable detriment of our nation, though it begins to seem obvious that the Democrats are not capable of leading, anyway.

We vote them in because we want an end to the war.  We vote in opinion polls saying that we want out, and that a majority of Americans are even willing to let Congress use it’s purse strings to do it.  And what do they do?  Bow down for the sake of a cushy Memorial Day weekend:

CONFLICT IN IRAQ / Dems bow to Bush on funds for war

Not wanting to leave town for
their weeklong Memorial Day break being accused of failing to support
the troops fighting in Iraq, the frustrated Democrats dropped any
withdrawal timeline from the final version of the bill. . .

. . . The new version of the spending bill is likely to gain Republican votes while it loses those of anti-war Democrats in both houses. It is expected to include benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet on political reconciliation and war efforts in order to receive about $5.7 billion in U.S. economic and reconstruction aid. The language proposed by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., however, would allow the president to provide the money even if the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fails to meet the performance goals.

Benchmarks!  What the hell are benchmarks except arbitrary road signs along a path?  What do they mean if no one’s compelled to take that path?  The Democrats have ceded to a meaningless acknowledgment of milestones instead of insisting on results.  If Republicans were in the same position, you can bet impeachment hearings would already have begun.  Fucking Democrats.

It’s like telling someone they need to quit smoking, then telling them that, “Well, you need to at least acknowledge that, if you do quit smoking at some point in the future, the rest of us will certainly be able to tell because you’ll be coughing less. . .”

It’s an unfortunate comparison being that more and more of Iraq is, quite literally, smoking, but the comparison is nonetheless apt for all that.

So, now I’m waiting for Representative Obey to explain how this was all a carefully-crafted plot to end the war much, much earlier.  Bullshit.  And, oh yeah, The Gavel is noticeably silent on this issue.  Big surprise, that.

I’m not happy.  You might have noticed.

Harumph.

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