Mojo - September 2006

Kurd to Saddam: "Congratulations! You Are in a Cage."

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 5:05 PM EDT

Without getting into whether it's "worth" all the blood that's been spent over the past three years, I do think it's pretty great that such a thing as this can happen (Los Angeles Times).

A Kurdish villager mocked Saddam Hussein in court Tuesday as the man recalled the disappearance of his relatives during a 1980s military campaign in northern Iraq.

"Congratulations! You are in a cage," said the witness, Ghafour Hassan Abdullah, addressing Hussein and his six codefendants seated behind metal grates in the courtroom.

Worth reading also for the nutball utterances of the former dictator himself. ("When I am right I cannot be scared, and I don't think there is a power on Earth that can shake even one hair of my mustache." etc. etc.)

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An Indictment of Our Long-Term Counterterror Strategy

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 3:35 PM EDT

Okay, so we've got a deadly spike in violence in Afghanistan, a terror attack in Syria and a deteriorating situation in western Iraq. Terror experts are saying this kind of thing:

Dan Benjamin, a national security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the surge of violence in Afghanistan shows a familiar pattern. "It is clearly the case that tactics pioneered elsewhere, such as Iraq, particularly suicide bombing, have been taken up in Afghanistan," he said.

"There is no question that there is a global circuit now. Technology and strategy and tactics are being shared among different groups in different theaters," Benjamin added.

Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, said episodes like the increase in violence in southern Afghanistan, western Iraq and the bombing attempt in Syria show things are getting worse, not better. "It's an indictment on our long-term counterterror strategy that we haven't had any great success in reducing the long-term trends toward more terrorism," he said. (AP)

And, as noted earlier, a new poll says the American people, who a week or so ago trusted the Democrats more to keep us safe, now, after an all-out fear-mongering offensive by the administration, have more faith in Republicans to fight terror. Right, then.

Texas Court to Reconsider DeLay Conspiracy Charge

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 3:05 PM EDT

AP reports that Texas's highest criminal appeals court said today it would consider reinstating a conspiracy charge against Tom DeLay, further delaying his felony money laundering trial. As a reminder:

Prosecutors accuse DeLay and the two consultants of violating state law by funneling $190,000 in illegal corporate money to the Republican National Committee, which then donated the same amount to Texas candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't be directly used for political campaigns.

DeLay and the consultants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, say the transaction was legal.

The dispute over the dismissed charge centers on whether the conspiracy statute applied to the state's election code in 2002. DeLay was accused of conspiring to violate the election code, but his attorneys say that transaction was not illegal at the time. DeGuerin says the dropped charge accuses DeLay of conspiring to violate the election code as it stood in 2003.

The other conspiracy count DeLay faces accuses him of conspiring to launder money.

ABC Poll: Public Trusts Republicans More on Terror

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 1:24 PM EDT

Via the Note. It would be nice if people weren't so...well, you know.

"Terrorism has inched up in importance in the 2006 midterm elections and Republicans have regained an edge in trust to handle it, helping George W. Bush's party move closer to the Democrats in congressional vote preference," writes ABC News' Polling Director Gary Langer.

"The Republicans lead the Democrats in trust to handle terrorism by 48-41 percent among registered voters in this ABC News poll, a flip from a seven-point Democratic advantage last month. And 16 percent now call terrorism the top issue in their vote, a slight five-point gain."

"The Republicans' edge on handling terrorism is still vastly below their 35-point lead on the issue heading into the 2002 midterm elections. But it's still their best issue, the one Bush rode to re-election. And part of their gain is among independents, the key swing voters in any election: They now split between the parties in trust to handle terrorism, after favoring the Democrats by nine points last month."

Bush's Great Awakening (And Great Smelling of Coffee)

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 4:15 AM EDT

Don't miss Peter Baker's story about Bush telling conservative reporters that the nation is going through a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion as a result of the war on terror. This will come as news to some historians who believe we're already due for the Fourth or the Fifth in the Great Awakenings series. Then again, there's Robert William Fogel, the University of Chicago Nobel laureate who maintains that we're witnessing the political consequences of the Fourth Great Awakening, the rise of charismatic, evangelical, and pentecostal expressions of faith in the second half of the 20th century. The thrust of this movement includes, according to Fogel, an "attack on materialist corruption; rise of pro-life, pro-family, and media reform movements; campaign for more value-oriented school curriculum; expansion of tax revolt; attack on entitlements; return to a belief in equality of opportunity." Among Fogel's devotees, it seems, is Karl Rove. Now for that "return to a belief in equality of opportunity" part...

Torture Insurance: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 3:50 AM EDT

CIA officers are getting--and the government is paying for--insurance to cover their legal costs and any civil judgments should they get sued by people alleging they were abused in secret agency prisons (or, presumably, not-so-secret facilities like Baghram and Abu Ghraib). Granted, so far the only CIA-related case along those lines was that of David Passaro, a private contractor found guilty of killing an Afghan detainee who died after being severely beaten with a flashlight. But many at Langley are worried, reports the Washington Post, that a Justice Department that encouraged them to stretch the law won't be there for them when the hammer comes down from the courts or Congress (something our own Jim Ridgeway suggests could happen on a number of scores).

"There are a lot of people who think that subpoenas could be coming" from Congress after the November elections or from federal prosecutors if Democrats capture the White House in 2008, said a retired senior intelligence officer who remains in contact with former colleagues in the agency's Directorate of Operations, which ran the secret prisons.

"People are worried about a pendulum swing" that could lead to accusations of wrongdoing, said another former CIA officer.

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Fun with Guns

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 8:04 PM EDT

University students in Michigan will have a chance to aim paint ball guns and BB guns at cardboard cut-outs of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, thanks to the Repaublican National Committee, which is funding Fun With Guns events for collegiate Republicans.

Think Fun with Guns isn't challenging enough? Then how about Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day? Penn State University dropped its plan to hold a Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day after there was an outcry over it. But the event has been held at other schools, including the University of North Texas.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has written a letter to Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, the text of which follows:

Dear Ken,

A troubling article today reported that a Republican National Committee-hired intern is planning events that can only be described as divisive, potentially dangerous, and discriminatory to promote the Republican Party's agenda at the University of Michigan.

Promoting "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day," which has been used by the Republican Party in other states including Pennsylvania and Texas, is not only offensive, it promotes discrimination for political gain. And an event titled "Fun with Guns" that encourages young Republicans to shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders further promotes intolerance and violence. These un-American activities cannot go unchallenged.

We'd read that the RNC would use its funds to engage in negative campaigning in a desperate attempt to hold on to power and mobilize Republican voters in November, but these un-American attacks and violent, inflammatory campaign tactics are beyond the pale. As Chairmen of America's two major political parties, we have a responsibility to elevate the political discourse in America. Whether this is directly an RNC funded activity or not, I ask that you not only order such events ceased but also denounce these types of campaign tactics that breed only hatred, division and fear.

You said yourself to a gathering of Hispanic elected officials that America is a "nation of immigrants.a nation united by ideas, not race, creed or place of origin." That same day you also acknowledged that "we are all held to account by a common rule of law," and that "respect for this basic concept is critical to an America where we are all treated the same." To demonstrate your commitment to these words and ideals you must immediately act to have these desperate, inappropriate attacks stopped. America's democracy can only continue to work if we respect each other, and uphold the values that have made our country great. I hope to hear back from you on this important matter promptly.

Best regards,

Howard Dean, Chairman Democratic National Committee

Are We Safer? (Are We Even Safe?) Does Congress Care?

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 6:45 PM EDT

The US Congress at its finest (AP):

WASHINGTON - Ports security legislation that most senators agree would make the country safer was stuck Tuesday in election-year politics as Republicans threatened to scrap it if Democrats forced in a wide range of provisions.

It was unclear when the Senate would vote — if ever — on the bill that as recently as last week was considered a sure thing.

The Democratic plan "will kill the bill," said Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska. "We have a bipartisan bill to start with. ... All these amendments are just coming out of the sewer right now. There's just too many of them, and they're just nothing but attempts to block this bill."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said his plan would also bolster security on trains and buses and at chemical plants, strengthen U.S. intelligence missions overseas and approve all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, half of which are still undone.

"Let's see if they'll vote against this," said Reid, D-Nev., hoisting a thick stack of white papers.

A timely reminder that, even though the midterms might turn on the issue of national security, that doesn't mean anything beneficial to national security will actually get done in the next couple of months.

Ben Bernanke's Hippie Roots

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 6:37 PM EDT

It turns out that the man whose very choice of words directly influences the fate of our economy long ago had a different sort of way with words. At his South Carolina high school Ben Bernanke authored a hippie dictionary; Bloomberg lists some of its content:

Bird - a lady as in "cute chick" or "henpecked"

Dig - to like, to enjoy, as "The hippie undertaker digs his work.''

Down trip - a drag

Drag - a down trip

Hang-up - a neurosis or fetish

In gear - the cat's pajamas

Lie-In - a form of peaceful protest that often fails when demonstrators go to sleep

Square - someone who stays home New Year's Eve to hear Guy Lombardo play "Auld Lang Syne''

Straight - as in "stiff'' (see "dig'')

Swing - what someone does who thinks Guy Lombardo is a football coach (see square)

Trip - a rocket flight without the rocket

You dig?

More US Troops Needed if Anbar Insurgency to be Defeated

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 3:39 PM EDT

Yesterday's Washington Post reported that Anbar province in western Iraq is all but lost to the insurgency (which is dominated, there, by Al Qaeda in Iraq). Today the senior commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq, seeking to counter that assessment, succeeds only in confirming it (AP).

"I've got the force levels I need right now," [Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C.] Zilmer said. "My mission out here, along with the rest of the force, is to develop the ISF (Iraqi security forces), and I think we have the appropriate force levels to do that. Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight — then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here."

Meaning he'd need more (American) troops--in addition to the 30,000 currently in Anbar. Does the US have the appetite for a military escalation there? Unlikely.