Political MoJo

Iraqi Shi'ites Stone Shi'ite Prime Minister

| Sun Nov. 26, 2006 10:26 PM EST

You know things are really getting bad when Shi'ite mobs seem ready to kill their own prime minister. As Reuters reports:

The motorcade of Iraq's Prime Minister was pelted with stones yesterday by fellow Shiites in a Baghdad slum when he paid respects to some of the 200 who died there last week in the deadliest attack since the US invasion...."It's all your fault!" one man shouted as, in unprecedented scenes, a hostile crowd began to surge around Al Maliki. Men and youths then jeered and jostled as his armoured convoy edged through the throng away from a mourning ceremony for one of the 202 victims of Thursday's multiple car bomb attack in Sadr City.

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Outsourcing Meth

| Sun Nov. 26, 2006 10:15 PM EST

America's methamphetamine manufacturers are the latest entrepreneurs to discover the advantages of moving their factories to the Third World. Spurred by a crackdown on rural labs and the sale of ingredients used to make crystal meth in the U.S., savvy speed producers have relocated to Mexico. Authorities there recently shut down the biggest meth factory ever found in the Americas. And it's not just a North American issue - like everything else, the crystal trade is global. Mexican meth makers are apparently importing their ingredients from China and India, via Hong Kong. Their number one market, of course, is still the U.S.

Sen. Chuck Hagel Advocates Phased Withdrawal

| Sun Nov. 26, 2006 3:21 PM EST

Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who recently joined General Abizaid in shooting down John McCain's "20,000 More Troops" plan for Iraq, has published his thoughts on the desert quagmire in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Hagel has been a harsh critic of the Bush Administration at times, and he pulls no punches here. Highlights:

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans.

...

The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

Plenty Of Troops To Fight Against the War On Christmas

| Fri Nov. 24, 2006 1:51 PM EST

Signing up to fight the "War on Christmas" may be more popular these days than signing up to fight that other war. Between Bill O'Reilly's ranting and John Gibson's writing, publicity about the non-existent war on Christmas hit a peak last holiday season.

Alliance Defense Fund Attorney Mike Johnson says that "About this time every year, our phones start to ring off the hook from people reporting cases of discrimination." According to Johnson, ADF received 400 phone calls last year about incidents that included possible discrimination against Christians.

This year, the ADF will once again focus on keeping Christmas in the schools and in public spaces. Over 930 attorneys are available "to combat any improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property." According to the ADF, the organization's major function is to point out what is legal in cases in which institutions "censor" Christmas. For example (from the ADF website):

* The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that public schools must ban the singing of religious Christmas carols or prohibit the distribution of candy canes or Christmas cards.

* School officials do not violate the Constitution by closing on religious holidays such as Christmas and Good Friday.

* School officials are not legally obligated to recognize all other religious holidays simply because they officially recognize Thanksgiving or Christmas.

* School officials may use "Christmas Vacation" to refer to the December holiday break without offending the Constitution.

* Government-sponsored Christmas displays are not banned as some people believe. When faced with the question of whether a Christmas display is constitutional, a court simply asks, "Is the government celebrating the holiday or promoting religion?" Often, the "Three Reindeer Rule" is used by courts, whereby a judge reasons that having a sufficient number of secular objects in close enough proximity to the Christmas item (such as a crèche) renders the overall display as a constitutional community observance of the holiday.

This year, the ADF has support from Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, Coral Ridge Ministries, and the majority of the nation's state-based family policy councils.

Recently, Wal-Mart changed it's policy on holiday greetings. Wal-Mart staff will no longer say "Happy Holidays" to customers, but will instead say "Merry Christmas." The "Happy Holiday" policy led to protests and calls for a boycott from conservative religious groups.

Thanksgiving for the Bush Family

| Fri Nov. 24, 2006 12:41 PM EST

President Bush celebrated Thanksgiving at Camp David with relatives and good friends like Condoleeza Rice. This week, George Bush Sr. was with a much less welcoming crowd in Abu Dhabi—defending his son's record on the war.

In a story that did not make the headlines in American media over the holidays, Bush Sr. was jeered by a crowd after giving a key note address to young business leaders in the United Arab Emirates.

After a woman audience member told Bush Sr. "We do not respect your son. We do not respect the work he's doing all over the world," the crowd whooped.

Due to the presence of journalists, Bush Sr. would not say what advice he gives George W. on the war. But he displayed unfailing family loyalty, saying that his son was "an honest man" who was working for peace.

"When your son's under attack, it hurts," Bush Sr. told the audience. "You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can."

--Caroline Dobuzinskis

Marine Gets Less than Two Years for Executing Iraqi Civilian

| Wed Nov. 22, 2006 5:51 PM EST

In his final speech before the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush pronounced that "unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty."

Liberty meaning that you won't be dragged from your home and shot point-blank in the head by a group of soldiers?

That's what happened to Hashim Ibrahim Awad last April, and the soldiers were American. Seven Marines and a Navy corpsman dragged Awad from his home in Hamdaniyah, west of Baghdad. They bound his hands and feet, though Awad is lame, and forced him outside. Four of them then shot him in the face. Afterwards, the soldiers placed a shovel and an AK-47 by Awad's body to make it look like he was an insurgent digging a hole for a roadside bomb. The real motive for the killing remains unknown.

Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. was one of the shooters. He was sentenced yesterday to 21 months in jail. That's significantly less than the five-year federal minimum sentence for growing a single marijuana plant. None of Shumate's co-conspirators has received a longer sentence (though some have yet to be tried).

An Iraqi life is worth less than a victimless crime. How much is saving these young soldiers' asses really worth to the military?

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Iraqi Students Want Saddam Back

| Wed Nov. 22, 2006 4:27 PM EST

At least so a Baghdad University professor told a conference in Boston. Among the war's less-famous casualties is Iraq's higher education system: Over 200 professors have been assassinated since 2003, thousands have fled the country and the rest are terrified of saying anything that might raise the murderous ire of one militia or another. Classes are cancelled more often than they are taught.

"The students are disappointed in America and they say it now openly, even on the television: 'Bring back Saddam and we will apologize and he will restore order to the country,'" said Dr. Saad Jawad, professor of political science at Baghdad University.

Be Thankful for Complainers

| Wed Nov. 22, 2006 4:14 PM EST

Tomorrow, be thankful for complainers. Just when you thought you were the only one who had really boring dreams and always used the one stall that was out of toilet paper, a Finnish choir group has come along to express solidarity with all those suffering from these minor disturbances.

The Complaints Choir of Helsinki, singing beautifully in Finnish, has made public appearances in its Scandinavian homeland, and recently online through blogs and YouTube.

There is something to be said for a multitude of ringing voices singing their gripes and grievances about everything from the mundane ("Reference numbers are too long" and "The battery on my mobile is always going flat") to the more sublime protests ("Bullshitters get on too well in life" and "People have no time for fair trade goods, but rush to where they grow"). Sometimes it's a combination of both ("I can't escape the headlines of the tabloids").

I would love to have this choir sing their refrain of "Christmas season starts earlier every year" at a Starbucks, where they start playing carols and peddling snowflake-adorned coffee paraphernalia the day after Halloween. It drives me crazy.

Of course, I guess I could stop going to Starbucks. But then I couldn't complain. And what would be the beauty in that?

--Caroline Dobuzinskis


NYPD Watches From Above

| Wed Nov. 22, 2006 4:09 PM EST

New York City has set up a two-storey "patrol tower" equipped with spotlight, sensors and cameras to literally oversee a Harlem neighborhood. According to NY1 News, local residents sick of the area's crime are pleased, as are folks in a Brooklyn neighborhood that also hosts one of the towers. I don't doubt that, but surely I'm not the only one to find the idea of cops surveillling the public from on high more than a bit creepy.

Teen Birth Rate at a Record Low

| Wed Nov. 22, 2006 12:25 PM EST

The CDC released data yesterday showing that last year the birth rate in the U.S. for women aged 15 to 19 declined to a record low of 40.4 births per 1,000, down from 41.1 in 2004 (a 2% decrease). For some perspective, the rate back in 1991 was 68.1 births per 1,000 women. The decline was most pronounced among 15-17 year-olds, for whom the birth rate fell 3%, to 21.4 births per 1,000. The rate for this age group has dropped fully 45 percent since 1991.

Now, folks at the the National Abstinence Clearinghouse will laud these results as directly stemming from their abstinence-only education efforts, though there is no evidence that such education works, and plenty that the curricula is false and misleading. (Still abstinence-only ed shops have received a billion dollars in federal funding since Bush came to office.)

Choicers will be equally proud of the low rate, which they'll point out is an outgrowth of proper access to birth control and, thus, fewer unwanted pregnancies. Still, while we'll be hearing about the record low, coverage likely won't focus on the flip side, that there were nearly half a million (421,123) children born to girls under 20 last year.

There is more work to be done for sure to protect women's right to choose -- whether they want to have an abortion, or take a pill, or have sex before marriage -- and though there was lots of good news out of this month's election, repro rights are still in jeopardy. The Nation's Katha Pollitt points out that of the 22 pro-choice Dems who ran for Congress only two won, and every anti-choice woman incumbent prevailed.