Blogs

Iraqi Parliament: U.S. Out of Iraq

| Wed May 9, 2007 6:49 PM EDT

In a comment to a previous blog post about the Baghdad Wall, a reader wrote:

The Iraqis don't want us out (at least not yet). If the Iraqis wanted us out now, they would communicate that to their representatives in the government, who would communicate it to us, and we would then leave. The fact is (as I saw during my time in Korea 30+ years ago), the Iraqis trust the Americans more than the trust fellow Iraqis. Thus, for now, they prefer we stay.

Even this reader must now concede that the Iraqis want us to get the hell out of Baghdad. Yesterday, a majority vote in the Iraqi parliament supported forcing the United States to set a timeline for withdrawal of troops.

So will we or will we not respect the budding Iraqi democracy? Reader poll in the comments section.

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Immigration Officials Drug Detainees

| Wed May 9, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Immigration agents drugged two men who were being wrongfully deported, according to the men and their lawyers. One man was in the country illegally and agents took him to the airport to deport him without notifying his wife or attorney. Before leaving, they asked him if he wanted a sedative and he said no. They then returned with an syringe, pulled down his pants, and injected him with one. When they arrived at the airport, they were ordered to return with the deportee because they had not followed proper notification procedures.

The other deportee had a legal stay or deportation, but was being "escorted" out of the country on a commercial jet. Agents had the man handcuffed, but when he asked to speak to the captain to explain what was happening to him, they took him to the ground and injected him with a sedative. The captain ordered them all off the plane.

The ICE officials' actions violated the agency's policies on sedating detainees as well as federal air regulations prohibiting the transport of drugged individuals. You have to question, too, whether it's not cruel and unusual punishment to deport people who may be persecuted in their native countries (as was the case with one of the men, a Chinese Christian) and then force-sedate them when they get upset about it.

Wildfire Tracker

| Wed May 9, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

Your MoJo weird weather watcher evaluates the weird-quotient for wildfires now burning in Southern California, Florida, and Minnesota on The Blue Marble.

Weird Weather Watch: SoCal, Florida and Minnesota Are Burning

| Wed May 9, 2007 5:10 PM EDT

Griffith Park, a park beloved by Angelenos, is experiencing a major brushfire. Animals from the nearby zoo have been moved indoors and 400 homes were evacuated. So far, only one man has been injured and firefighters expect to have the blaze contained shortly.

There are also major fires covering 130,000 acres along the Florida-Georgia border and 17,000 acres in Minnesota. Florida Department of Forestry documents [PDF] show that wildfires are not uncommon in May, but the present fires are among the biggest in Georgia history. I've got a call in to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but a quick look at their website suggests they are not at all accustomed to major fires, and the current fire is only 5 percent contained.

Air Traffic Controllers In Newark Call For Criminal Investigation Over Carbon Monoxide Incident

| Wed May 9, 2007 4:28 PM EDT

Last month, several air traffic controllers at the Newark Airport claimed they were forced to direct planes while they were suffering from dizziness, confusion, headaches, and disorientation brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning. It turns out that a test of the facility's backup generator sent exhaust fumes into the building's ventilation system, thus releasing the carbon monoxide fumes. The controllers also say that they were not allowed to leave the building, or even to leave their posts, and that management refused to call the fire department. Some of the employees said they would call the fire department to come and test the air, and that they were told by the operations manager that, 'If you make the call, I will not let them in the gate and I will refuse them entry into the control room."

Later, after the sleepy, confused and physically ill controllers directed hundreds of planes, some of them went to the hospital, where it was confirmed that significant levels of carbon monoxide was in their blood.

Now the air traffic controllers are calling for a criminal investigation of the incident. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has sent a letter to the FAA, asking for such an investigation. "We've sent a letter to the FAA today asking for a thorough investigation to what's happened," Schumer said, "and I have to tell you given my past experience here, the FAA does not have a good record."

WABC Eyewitness News has already done a series of reports on how staffing cutbacks have led to an increase in controller errors at the Newark Airport.

Murdoch Goes Green

| Wed May 9, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

Rupert Murdoch's speech this morning is a watershed in the history of climate change denial. Arguably the most powerful media mogul--and one of Bush's most powerful fans--has pledged to weave more global warming news into coverage.

"Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours," Murdoch told employees. "Imagine if we succeed in inspiring our audiences to reduce their own impacts on climate change by just 1 percent. That would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months." Grist has the story.

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If These Walls Could Talk, They'd Say the U.S. Army is Dumber than a Doornail

| Wed May 9, 2007 3:53 PM EDT

I blogged in late April that the Iraqi P.M. had vociferously opposed a U.S. military plan to wall off a particularly troublesome Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Despite their deep regard for Iraqi democracy, military commanders ignored the P.M.'s request and built the wall anyway.

Al-Maliki's opposition was echoed by both Sunnis and Shiites in the area. The military is now using that opposition as to argue that the wall has successfully improved security:

"At first I attributed [the decline in violence] to the American presence and the Iraqi presence," said Capt. Matthew Koehler…."I thought that was the extent of it, until I saw the insurgents trying to blow up those barriers."

That's right: If insurgents blow up the barriers, it must be because they're improving security. The gauge used to pronounce a decline in violence in the first place is the number of bodies dumped within the walled area—not how many deaths there are in the vicinity, but how many bodies are disposed of within the walled area. You have to wonder if even military spokesmen believe what they're saying.

Ninth Purged U.S. Attorney Found

| Wed May 9, 2007 1:05 PM EDT

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall thinks they've identified a ninth U.S. Attorney pushed out for being ideologically out of step with Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department. His name is Todd Graves and he was formerly a U.S. Attorney in Missouri. Graves was on the DOJ firing lists shortly before resigning, and while he hasn't said outright that he was purged for political reasons, he has given quotes to the media like, "When I first interviewed (with the Department)…I was asked to give the panel one attribute that describes me. I said independent. Apparently, that was the wrong attribute."

Further fueling speculation is evidence of nefarious meddling by Republican Senator Kit Bond and the fact that Graves' replacement, Bradley Schlozman, has a history that matches the priorities of the Gonzales DOJ. According to Josh, Schlozman's "entire tenure at DOJ has been dedicated to turning back the clock on minority voting rights in the United States and more broadly to suppressing Democratic vote turnout."

Gonzales and Scholzman are being brought before Congress to explain the situation later this month.

Popular Conservative Blog: "Rudy's Done"

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:48 PM EDT

Many people have wondered when conservatives would get past the Rudy Giuliani 9/11 hero worship and recognize that he's badly out of step with them on gays, guns, and abortion. Well, on abortion at least, it's happening.

Giuliani in Drag, and Leather, and Fur, and Pearls... A Compendium

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:09 PM EDT

This is horrifying but also kind of awesome. It's a Slate sideshow of all of Rudy Giuliani's moments playing dress up -- as a crack addict, a greaser, the beast from Beauty and the Beast, and most commonly, a woman. Check it out.

Combine all this with the also horrifying but kind of awesome "ferret moment" from Rudy's radio show and you get the sense that Rudy is a guy who either didn't intend to run for president before 9/11 vaulted him to the national stage, or he did intend to run for president but didn't give a damn and insisted on living his life the way he wanted to live it. Which is kind of refreshing. His current reversals on all the positions he staked out in that carefree period, however, are not so endearing.

Update: While you're over there at Slate, take a look at this detailed dissection of Rudy's truly disastrous private life (three marriages, ugly and public divorces, adultery, and multiple estranged kids -- that enough?). Writes Slate, "It's not only the religious or the uptight that can be put off by an utter lack of personal morality in a presidential candidate."

Late Update: I feel bad calling Rudy's private life "truly disastrous." Who am I to judge? What say you? Is judging candidates on their private lives part of presidential politics? A legitimate evaluation of a man or woman's character, or part of the sordid underbelly of our political system? Leave thoughts in the comments...