Mugabe Cites U.S. Wiretapping as Justification for Oppression

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 11:11 AM EDT

We are a shining city on a hill.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday signed into law the controversial Interception of Communications Bill, which gives his government the authority to eavesdrop on phone and Internet communications and read physical mail...
Communications Minister Christopher Mushowe said Zimbabwe is not unique in the world in passing such legislation, citing electronic eavesdropping programs in the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa, among other countries.

When the brutal dictator of a failed state cites you as inspiration, you've really lived up to your ideals, wouldn't you say?

(H/T Think Progress)

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Dress Like a Dictator

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 10:55 AM EDT

It gives new meaning to the term "power suit." The son of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet has announced that he will be selling his late father's suits. A tailor's shop in central Santiago will handle the sales of several vintage suits worn by the leader of Chile's military junta from the 1980s until his death last year at the age of 91. They will retail for about $2,000 each. For those of you thinking the suits might useful for, say, reviewing a parade of tanks and missiles on your town's Main Street, think again. The dicator's son, Augusto Pinochet Hiriart, says the suits are meant for everyday use. As he told a reporter from Chile's La Tercera newspaper, "They are the best, modern suits that [my father] used at home or to go out for special activities, though not for special ceremonies."

What Will Bush's Brain Do Next?

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 10:03 AM EDT

It shouldn't come as any great surprise that Karl Rove is leaving the administration. His job is all about winning, and with Bush, there's nothing left to be won. (Though even on his way out the door, Rove can't keep himself from spinning, predicting that we'll turn a corner in Iraq and Bush's poll numbers will rise. But that's a sucker's game, and Rove himself wants no part of it.)

Rove has said he's going back to Texas to spend more time with his family. Awww, that's nice. But then what? I wouldn't expect him to stay out of politics for long. One only has to read a few sentences into "Revenge of the Nerds," our piece on high school policy debaters, to realize how deep and long standing is Rove's love of playing hardball:

It would have been the spring of 1969, the Vietnam War in full swing, when a scrawny 18-year-old in a suit and tie and horn-rimmed glasses pushed a handcart stacked with 10 boxes into a classroom at Olympus High School, on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Each shoebox was stuffed with four-by-six notecards pasted with evidence clipped from newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. As the young man and his partner unpacked their evidence on a small table at the front of the room, members of the other policy debate team looked on in horror. They'd only brought one shoebox.
What they didn't know was that 99 percent of the notecards in the Olympus team's 10 shoeboxes were just props. Even at 18, the scrawny kid with the horn-rims understood the power of intimidation."Rove didn't just want to win," James Moore and Wayne Slater write in their book Rove Exposed: How Bush's Brain Fooled America. "He wanted the opponents destroyed. His worldview was clear even then. There was his team and the other team, and he would make the other team pay."

This isn't a man that's going to be content going back to Texas and raising chickens. And though the 2006 rout of the RNC may taken the bloom off Rove's rose somewhat, "the architect" has still got to be a highly sought-after campaign consultant. Provided he can modernize his direct mail data mining/smear expertise to dovetail with the whole cell phone/social networking/video wave of the future. But let's assume he can.

So any bets as to where Rove will pop up? Fred Thompson seems to be running as the "most like Bush" candidate; could that strategy include Rove? Will Rove sit this election out entirely, perhaps scouting the next feckless son of a prominent politician?

Cheney Warns of Iraq Quagmire ... in 1994

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 9:40 AM EDT

Via Editor & Publisher, a video surfaces of Cheney warning at the American Enterprise Institute in 1994 of the consequences of a U.S. invasion of Iraq.


Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?
A: No.

Straw Poll Roundup: Man Down, Man Down!

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 9:26 AM EDT

Talking of quitters... We've now got a second candidate out of the Republican presidential race. Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore was the first to go (he dropped out in mid-July) and yesterday Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson followed him.

Thompson had more or less wagered everything on Iowa, and after finishing sixth in Saturday's straw poll he decided to call it quits. Here are the full results of the straw poll, which I remind you, aren't worth much. But nevertheless, take a good look at John McCain's numbers. He didn't campaign in the poll (nor did Giuliani or Fred Thompson), but heavens to Betsy:

- Mitt Romney 32% (bought his victory)
- Mike Huckabee 18% (he's funny!)
- Sam Brownback 15%
- Tom Tancredo 14%
- Ron Paul 9%
- Tommy Thompson 7% (see ya!)
- Fred Thompson 1% (now the lone Thompson)
- Rudy Giuliani 1%
- Duncan Hunter 1%
- John McCain <1% (101 of 14,302 votes cast)
- John Cox <1%

Karl Rove to Resign

| Mon Aug. 13, 2007 8:59 AM EDT

Yes, you read that right.

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Gay by Choice? Yeah, What If?

| Sat Aug. 11, 2007 6:00 PM EDT

Alright, so Bill Richardson was confused. He looked it in the gay rights' forum the other day when Melissa Etheridge asked him whether he thinks homosexuality is a choice. He said yes; she rephrased the question, and he said yes again. Then, yesterday Richardson spent the day backtracking. All of which has created quite a hubbub.

My question is, does the gay rights movement really want choice to be the nexus of the fight? Asking whether you think being gay is a choice is kind of like asking whether you think there's life in other galaxies. Asking for an opinion on science isn't so useful; scientifically we just don't know for sure yet. Whatever your answer is, it's your opinion, nothing more.

And if the answer to that question is indeed a proxy for belief in equal rights, as this hullabaloo suggests, then what happens if the science ends up showing there is choice involved in sexual preference?

Whether being gay is a choice, to me, isn't the crux of the issue. Yes, it would make the fight for equal rights much cleaner (and I believe it someday may), but I would rather see Etheridge ask Richardson whether he believes that people should be afforded differential treatment based on whom they love? Make that the platform, force humanity to the fore, and let science, if it turns out to show genetic predisposition, strengthen the argument.

Somehow the religious right has co-opted the gay-by-choice meme and owns this pro-choice movement. How about the left sticks to its right-to-choose guns here? That choosing whom we love, same sex or opposite, is a "lifestyle choice" regardless. I mean, where is the science proving we are born straight by default? The argument could be made that there are plenty of gay folks out there choosing to be straight, do they then have fewer rights in their straight relationships?

Think about it, and fire back.

First Listen: Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 7:23 PM EDT

mojo-cover-pinback.jpgAnticipation is high for the first new material from San Diego's Pinback since 2004's Summer In Abadon made them critical darlings. That album's single, "Fortress," combined delicately strummed guitar and barely-enunciated lyrics with an insistent drum machine to create an unlikely radio hit, such as it was. Their new album moves forward a season but retains the quiet intensity: "Good to Sea" uses the same casio drum machine beat as "Fortress," adding a simple keyboard melody, and the song's melancholy sneaks up on you, until they sing, quietly, "Oh no/I've hit rock bottom."

Pinback were known for slightly denser work on their first two albums, 1999's Pinback and 2001's Blue Screen Life, but got a little more polished and streamlined on Abadon. On Seraphs, they seem to slightly relax the insistence on catchiness that made Abadon a surprise hit, allowing more complex arrangements to sneak into tracks like "Blue Harvest:" syncopated drumming, surprising chord changes, layered vocals. But don't get me wrong: it's still catchy.

Even when Pinback speed it up, as on album opener "From Nothing to Nowhere," they're still reserved; this restraint is one of Pinback's greatest assets. Maybe it has something to do with multi-instrumentalist Rob Crow getting out his volume-knob jollies in joke-metal side project Goblin C***? Unlike, er, G.C., Seraphs wouldn't scare anybody at your nice dinner party, but I think it'll also reward closer attention.

Autumn of the Seraphs is out 9/11 on Touch & Go. Grab an mp3 from the Pinback website:

- Pinback – "From Nothing to Nowhere"

Giuliani Exposed: Terrorism Record Based on Lies

| Fri Aug. 10, 2007 3:22 PM EDT

Wayne Barrett's Village Voice article titled "Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11" ought to be required reading for anyone thinking about the GOP presidential primary.

Here are the facts: Giuliani focused little on terrorism while mayor of New York in advance of 9/11, failed to prepare the city for an attack in any significant way, prioritized his petty personal needs over the advice of experts when constructing an emergency response command center, and didn't supply first-responders with the equipment they needed — all of these facts from Barrett's article are supported by former Giuliani aides and members of his NYC administration. More importantly, all of these facts directly contradict the strongest-on-terrorism image Giuliani presents on the campaign trail. Terrorism is Giuliani's "best" issue, and he consistently lies about his record.

Barrett's article is a portrait of a man willing to accept illegitimate praise and eager to spread legitimate blame. As Barrett writes, "naked revisionism" is the name of Giuliani's game. Have a read.