The Return of ‘Lawful Access’

by matttbastard

Well, isn’t this lovely:

The Conservative government is preparing sweeping new eavesdropping legislation that will force Internet service providers to let police tap exchanges on their systems – but will likely reignite fear that Big Brother will be monitoring the private conversations of Canadians.

The goal of the move, which would require police to obtain court approval, is to close what has been described as digital “safe havens” for criminals, pedophiles and terrorists because current eavesdropping laws were written in a time before text messages, Facebook and voice-over-Internet phone lines.

The change is certain to please the RCMP and other police forces, who have sought it for some time. But it is expected to face resistance from industry players concerned about the cost and civil libertarians who warn the powers will effectively place Canadians under constant surveillance.

Constant surveillance–how so?

The concern of critics is that unlike a traditional wiretap that cannot commence without judicial approval, lawful-access legislation in other countries has forced Internet providers to routinely gather and store the electronic traffic of their clients. Those stored data can then be obtained by police via search warrant.

“That means we’re under surveillance, in some sense, all the time,” said Richard Rosenberg, president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “I think that changes the whole nature of how we view innocence in a democratic society.”

Um, yeah, just a li’l bit.

Oh, and, via Michael Geist, it seems our loyal opposition is also doing its part to represent the best interests of the nation by, um, once again proposing its own lawful access legislation–a bill even more odious than the government’s':

…Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has reintroduced her lawful access private member’s bill, called the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act.  The Jennings bill is a virtual copy of a failed Liberal lawful access bill that died in 2005.

[...]

[T]he Jennings bill would require ISPs to disclose customer name and address information to law enforcement without court oversight.

The Magical ConservaLiberal Unity Pony drops yet another stinking, steaming load on our heads; I love the smell of bipartisan turdblossoms in the morning.

Cough.  Anyway.

From what I can tell, the only substantive difference between Van Loan’s proposed piece of legislation and the one then-Public Safety Minister Stockboy Day tried to surreptitiously impose in 2007 without any public input (before backpeddling quicker than you can say ‘Ogopogo’) is the apparent requirement of judicial approval (which, as noted, may not provide much in the way of protection for a citizen’s private online information–and  Jennings’ PMB offers, um, none).  Otherwise, the state will, in essence, be forcing ISPs to fulfill the darkest fantasies of the tinfoil-adorned black helicopter set.

And, as Impolitical (h/t) notes:

The dangers of such powers being placed with law enforcement and the potential for abuses have been made abundantly clear by the experience Americans have had with the Bush administration and the revelations from whistleblowers in the last year.

Two examples:

Am in full agreement with Geist here:

…Van Loan should commit to active consultations with the privacy community before introducing the legislation; renew the government’s pledge for full court oversight (including for customer name and address information); and there must be full hearings on the bill that place the burden on law enforcement to demonstrate that there is a problem with the law as it currently stands.

Bottom line: this is not a path any purportedly ‘free’ society should hastily embark upon.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

A Special Note re: the Associated Press

This is Jennifer Palmieri, acting CEO of the Center for American Progess [sic] Action Fund.

Most readers know that the views expressed on matttbastard’s blog are his own and don’t always reflect the views of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Such is the case with regard to matttbastard’s comments about the Associated Press. Our institution has partnered with the Associated Press on a number of important projects and have a great deal of respect for their critical thinking and excellent work product (plus, we totally heart the donuts with sprinkles — thanks, Liz!) They are key leaders in the world of investigative journalism and we look forward to working with them in the future (especially if they remember to bring the donuts — Liz, you are a doll!)

In addition, we’d also like to extend our respectful admiration to the editors at Obsidian Wings and The Atlantic, with whom we hope to partner with on a number of important projects in the near future.

Also, ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO PALMIERI!

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A (Slightly) Less Glib Swipe at The Nascent Opus Dei Wing of the Conservative Party

by matttbastard

Rob Boston of Church & State Magazine:

Long the scourge of progressive Catholics, Opus Dei, with an estimated 80,000 members worldwide, has enjoyed a close relationship with the church’s conservative hierarchy, serving, as one writer put it in the mid 1980s, as a “holy mafia” to promote far-right views on “culture war” issues.

[...]

Opus Dei does not publish a directory of members but is known for its interest in targeting the rich and powerful. Over the years, rumors have surfaced that certain high-profile Catholics might be members. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito have been fingered as possibilities. There is no proof in either case, but Newsweek magazine reported in 2001 that Scalia’s wife has attended functions at the Catholic Information Center, and his son Paul, a Catholic priest, has spoken there.

[...]

[Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer]‘s critics were less than pleased with his fast-track to sainthood, noting that in 1958, Escriva had written a fawning letter to Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, congratulating him for extending official recognition to the Catholic Church.

The May 28, 1953, missive reads, “Although alien to any political activity, I cannot help but rejoice as a priest and Spaniard that the Chief of State’s authoritative voice should proclaim that, ‘The Spanish nation considers it a badge of honor to accept the law of God according to the one and true doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, inseparable faith of the national conscience which will inspire its legislation.'”

The letter asks God to bestow on Franco “abundant grace to carry out the grave mission entrusted to you.”

Opus Dei members subsequently ingratiated themselves into important positions in the repressive Franco government. Alberto Moncada, a Spanish journalist who has researched the period, says Opus Dei operatives were entrusted with turning around Spain’s anemic post-war economy, but the effort collapsed after numerous scandals.

The group also flourished under dictatorships in Chile and Argentina during the 1950s and ’60s.

Now, I don’t want to erroneously drop the other ‘F’ bomb on former Opus Dei spokesperson (and current “active” OD member) turned Conservative Party candidate Nicole Charbonneau Barron. But even someone normally allergic to tinfoil (such as yours truly) can recognize how some might say this ideological marriage of convenience between far-right-and-even-further-right positively screams “hidden agenda” (in a number of different languages, including Latin). Oh, and re: historical parallels between Franco and Harper: draw your own conclusions, true believers.

I just hope the phrase “holy mafioso” enters the Canadian political lexicon sometime before October 14th.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Pakistan Update: Of Gunfire, Grassy Knolls and Bumped Heads

by matttbastard

The word of the day is ‘conspiracy’. As in ‘conspiracy theories‘. Consider the waters thoroughly muddied:

An elusive Taliban leader with links to Al Qaeda is emerging as the key suspect in Thursday’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto, killed as she campaigned for a third term as Pakistan’s prime minister.

Intelligence services in Pakistan and the West yesterday identified Baitullah Mehsud, a 34-year-old pro-Taliban militant commander, as the man behind the plot to kill Bhutto, leader of the popular Pakistan Peoples Party, in the run-up to Jan. 8 elections in the nuclear-armed nation.

Yesterday, Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, cited an intercepted telephone conversation between Mehsud and one of his operatives as proof the terrorist organization was responsible.

“We have an intercept from this morning in which he congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act,” Cheema said.

“We have irrefutable evidence that Al Qaeda and its networks are trying to destabilize the government,” he added. “They have been systematically attacking our government, and now a political icon.”

“Irrefutable”, eh? Insert Inigo Montoya quote here:

The government released no audiotape of Mehsud’s purported conversation in the Pashto language with another militant, whom he called Maulvi Sahib, or religious leader. But, in a government-provided transcript, Mehsud is quoted congratulating Maulvi Sahib for the deadly work of the two men who were apparently directly involved in Bhutto’s assassination.

Unsurprisingly, the PPP has called “bullshit”:

The Pakistan Peoples Party rejected government claims that a Taliban commander linked to al-Qaeda was behind the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto, as the death toll from rioting rose to 32.

Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban commander linked to al-Qaeda, is suspected of plotting the Dec. 27 suicide attack that killed Bhutto, the Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told reporters yesterday. Mehsud denied the claim, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a spokesman.

The government “is trying to divert the investigations into Bhutto’s killing,” Farhatullah Babar, her spokesman, said in a phone interview today. “Mehsud had already denied he planned to assassinate Bhutto.”

[...]

“If the government had accepted our demand of holding an independent inquiry by overseas experts into the Oct. 19 bombing on Bhutto, this would not have happened,” Babar said.

Also, in an article examining the shifting explanation re: cause of death, The Star touches upon why Pakitsan’s gov’t is trying so desperately to establish the convoluted “bumped her head” narrative:

The question of whether she died of violence or an unfortunate accident is important because if she did not die because of foul play there is less chance that her death would be considered that of a martyr.

At this point, I would say their efforts aren’t succeeding. Unified in anger and frustration, Bhutto’s supporters continue to demonstratively express their emotions, as chaos threatens to engulf the nation:

Masked gunmen killed a supporter of Benazir Bhutto early on Saturday, while security forces shot dead two other party activists as a mob tried to force its way into an oilfield, police said.

The killings take the death toll since Bhutto’s assassination on Thursday to 40, including four policemen, and came as protesters torched shops, lorries, welfare centers and ambulances overnight as violence entered a third day.

A 27-year-old man wearing a tunic made from a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) flag had just shouted “Bhutto is great” when he was gunned down while returning from the mausoleum where Bhutto was buried on Friday, police said.

“Two gunmen were waiting in a vehicle, their faces covered, and they opened fire,” said Shaukat Ali Shah, deputy inspector general of police in the city of Hyderabad in Sindh.

Separately, up to 400 PPP activists carrying banners portraits of Bhutto and wielding bricks, tried to burst into an oilfield facility near Hyderabad before dawn, when security forces acted on orders to shoot violent protesters on sight.

“The mob was warned,” Shah said. “Two people were killed.”

Almost all of the deaths since Bhutto’s killing occurred in the southern province of Sindh, the PPP’s power base, where the Election Commission said several of its offices were set on fire and electoral rolls and ballot boxes destroyed.

VOA reports that Musharraf wants “firm action” to be taken against rioters, reportedly telling security officials “those looting and plundering cannot be allowed to damage lives and property in the guise of protest.” Cutting through the euphemistic fog, Pakistani blogger Inspirex reports that “[a]ccording to varios [sic] news reports, Sindh Rangers have been issued Shoot at Sight orders across the province.” Metroblogging Karachi has posted several personal accounts of the violence currently gripping the region.

Regardless, whether matryr status will have any lasting effect on events in Pakistan (other than inspiring protests and rehabilitating Bhutto’s spotty reputation) remains to be seen. As analyst Ayesha Siddiqa notes:

…”al-Qaida” is just a name which can be used to mean everything or nothing. It will now be difficult to find out who exactly killed Benazir – especially when the government made sure they washed away all forensic evidence in the twelve hours after the murder.

And it’s not like there isn’t historical precedence for the undertaking of extra-judicial measures on the part of the Pakistani security and intelligence apparatus. In a recently published LRB essay examining the the US-brokered “arranged marriage” between Bhutto and Musharraf, Tariq Ali recalls at length the assassination of Benazir Bhutto’s brother, Murtaza:

[I]n September 1996, as Murtaza and his entourage were returning home from a political meeting, they were ambushed, just outside their house, by some seventy armed policemen accompanied by four senior officers. A number of snipers were positioned in surrounding trees. The street lights had been switched off. Murtaza clearly understood what was happening and got out of his car with his hands raised; his bodyguards were instructed not to open fire. The police opened fire instead and seven men were killed, Murtaza among them. The fatal bullet had been fired at close range. The trap had been carefully laid, but as is the way in Pakistan, the crudeness of the operation – false entries in police logbooks, lost evidence, witnesses arrested and intimidated, the provincial PPP governor (regarded as untrustworthy) dispatched to a non-event in Egypt, a policeman killed who they feared might talk – made it obvious that the decision to execute the prime minister’s brother had been taken at a very high level.

As Robert Fisk, commenting on Ali’s essay, notes:

When Murtaza’s 14-year-old daughter, Fatima, rang her aunt Benazir to ask why witnesses were being arrested – rather than her father’s killers – she says Benazir told her: “Look, you’re very young. You don’t understand things.” Or so Tariq Ali’s exposé would have us believe. Over all this, however, looms the shocking power of Pakistan’s ISI, the Inter Services Intelligence.

This vast institution – corrupt, venal and brutal – works for Musharraf.

But it also worked – and still works – for the Taliban. It also works for the Americans. In fact, it works for everybody. But it is the key which Musharraf can use to open talks with America’s enemies when he feels threatened or wants to put pressure on Afghanistan or wants to appease the ” extremists” and “terrorists” who so oppress George Bush.

Speaking of George and Co., The Guardian reports that the US is scrambling for a Plan B:

US officials based in Pakistan were sounding out senior members of her opposition Pakistan People’s party about a possible successor. They were also in contact with members of the other main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League, led by Nawaz Sharif, even though the US had previously opposed his return to Pakistan because of links between his party and Islamist extremists.

President George Bush called for the election to go ahead, though he avoided mention of whether Pakistan should stick to the January 8 timetable. An announcement on whether to delay the election has been left until the end of the three days of mourning.Asked whether the US was confident that Pakistan could stage an election in January, the US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, said: “Well, we’re going to see what happens.”

The assassination of Bhutto has thrown into disarray Bush administration hopes of establishing a degree of security in Pakistan. Since 9/11, Bush has relied on the military-run government of President Pervez Musharraf as an ally in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida. With Musharraf’s loss of popularity, the administration placed its hopes on a return to democracy and the emergence of a Musharraf-Bhutto coalition.

US intelligence analysts warned that al-Qaida, which has a hold in Pakistan’s tribal areas – where the US believes Osama bin Laden is hiding – and in cities such as Karachi would be strengthened by the chaos in the aftermath of the assassination.

John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA, predicted that the chaos would last for weeks at least and that the capacity of Pakistan’s authorities to deal with al-Qaida during that time would be diminished.

WaPo has more:

President Bush held an emergency meeting of his top foreign policy aides yesterday to discuss the deepening crisis in Pakistan, as administration officials and others explored whether Thursday’s assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto marks the beginning of a new Islamic extremist offensive that could spread beyond Pakistan and undermine the U.S. war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials fear that a renewed campaign by Islamic militants aimed at the Pakistani government, and based along the border with Afghanistan, would complicate U.S. policy in the region by effectively merging the six-year-old war in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s growing turbulence.

“The fates of Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably tied,” said

J. Alexander Thier, a former United Nations official in Afghanistan who is now at the U.S. Institute for Peace.

[...]

How the United States responds will hinge largely on the actions of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in whom U.S. officials have mixed confidence. If there is indeed a new challenge by Islamic militants emerging in Pakistan, then the United States will have to do whatever it can to support Musharraf, the U.S. Army officer in Afghanistan said.

“Pakistan must take drastic action against the Taliban in its midst or we will face the prospect of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of al-Qaeda — a threat far more dangerous and real than Hussein’s arsenal ever was,” he said, referring to the deposed Saddam Hussein.

The same WaPo dispatch indicates that the US is running with the Interior Ministry’s al Qaeda/Taliban story (if not dictating it outright):

U.S. intelligence and Defense Department sources said there is increasing evidence that the assassination of Bhutto, a former Pakistani prime minister, was carried out by al-Qaeda or its allies inside Pakistan. The intelligence officials said that in recent weeks their colleagues had passed along warnings to the Pakistani government that al-Qaeda-related groups were planning suicide attacks on Pakistani politicians.

The U.S. and Pakistani governments are focusing on Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, as a possible suspect. A senior U.S. official said that the Bush administration is paying attention to a list provided by Pakistan’s interior ministry indicating that Mehsud’s targets include former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former interior minister Aftab Khan Sherpao, and several other cabinet officials and moderate Islamist leaders. “I wouldn’t exactly call it a hit list, but we take it very seriously,” the official said. “All moderates [in Pakistan] are now under threat from this terrorism.”

Mehsud told the BBC earlier this month that the Pakistani government’s actions forced him to react with a “defensive jihad.”

After signing a condolence book for Bhutto at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, Rice said the United States is in contact with “all” of the parties in Pakistan and stressed that the Jan. 8 elections should not be postponed. “Obviously, it’s just very important that the democratic process go forward,” she told reporters.

A quick “compare and contrast review: “Asked whether the US was confident that Pakistan could stage an election in January, the US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, said: “Well, we’re going to see what happens.”

Ok, let’s continue:

“We’ve really got a new situation here in western Pakistan,” said Army Col. Thomas F. Lynch III, who has served in Afghanistan and with Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for Pakistan and the Middle East. He said the assassination marks a “critical new phase” in jihadist operations in Pakistan and predicted that the coming months would bring concentrated attacks on other prominent Pakistanis.

Over at Bread and Roses, the ever-quotable skdadl made the following astute observation:

What is out of control in Pakistan is the military and intelligence elites. They aren’t unified, but the different factions are all very powerful, and any one of them could do something bananas at any time. Musharraf’s days are probably numbered.

I don’t know how this problem is addressed, but one thing I am sure of: Americans don’t know how to address it.

They certainly don’t, but someone forgot to inform the usual suspects of this all-too-apparent fact. I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Hanlon and Kagan’s preemptive strike option given greater consideration now that Plan Bhutto is no longer on the table.

(This also seems like the perfect time to post a link to Najum Mushtaq’s aptly titled The Neocons on Pakistan: Neat, Simple, and Dangerously Naïve.)

On the off chance that elections do happen to take place as scheduled, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is looking to fill the secular void left by Bhutto:

Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister who had brought a raft of corruption charges against Ms. Bhutto and her family, needs to forge an alliance with her currently leaderless political party to challenge the government of President Pervez Musharraf. On Saturday, he flew on a chartered plane to Moenjodaro, where South Asian civilization was born some 5,000 years ago, and from there he drove in a long, dusty convoy of cars to this ancestral village of Ms. Bhutto’s, where senior leaders of both their parties met briefly to condole and discuss the way forward.

Mr. Sharif has already said his party would boycott the polls, scheduled for next month. Aboard the plane to Moenjodaro, he said he hoped Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party would join the boycott.

The party was noncommittal. Farhatullah Babar, a party spokesman, said it was too early for his organization to make a decision about whether to go ahead and contest the elections. The party’s executive council is scheduled to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss its future plans, including “how the party will be led and by whom,” he said.

If Ms. Bhutto’s party does forge ahead with elections, it is unclear whether Mr. Sharif will be persuaded to drop the boycott and join the race. A Peoples Party spokeswoman, Sherry Rehman, said both parties shared the same goal: the restoration of democracy. “We had a very good meeting,” she said Saturday evening. “They were very deeply aggrieved by our loss. They said it’s their loss.”

As they say, developing…

Update: More in depth analysis from The Pakistan Policy Blog, Dave @ The Beav and Cernig @ The Newshoggers.

Update 2: The Pakistani Spectator makes note of the obvious parallel between the Kennedys and the Bhuttos.

Update 3: Bloomberg News updates its report from earlier today:

The [PPP] will name Bhutto’s successor tomorrow and may also decide on whether to participate in the elections or call for postponement, AAJ television channel reported, citing Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari. Bhutto has named a successor in her will, Zardari said.

Update 4: Sylvia @ Problem Chylde has compiled an exhaustive, must read collection of Bhutto-related links, including this unfortunate post from Moe @ Jezebel (yes, Jezebel *sigh*):

So, was Musharraf, who’d just grudgingly conceded to share power with Bhutto and give up his army leadership position, behind the hit? That’s what conspiracy theorists inside my kitchen seem to believe. But then you’ve gotta wonder how he did it. Did Mr. Enemy of Terrorism Musharraf contract out a suicide bomber from Al Qaeda Inc.? Or does the Pakistani Army have a top-secret suicide unit, and if so, what do you have to do to get yourself enlisted in that? Josh Foust, of Registan.net and “That’s So Jane’s!” columns of yore says the theory doesn’t make sense. “She works much better as an opponent than as a martyr” for Musharraf, he claims. CNN seems to be focused on the question of what happens next: will they invoke military rule? (Isn’t that what you would do?)

Ok, I don’t expect Foreign Affairs or Le Monde diplomatique to opine on Paris Hilton’s recent inheritance trouble. Methinks the folks @ Gawker Media should avoid attempts at serious foreign policy analysis (note: ZOMG Bhutto was gettin’ teh FAT!!111 doesn’t cut it) and stick to their area of expertise, ie, insubstantial celebrity panty-sniffing. To quote Ilyka Damen, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

I-35: NAFTA Highway Cures Teh Ghey!!11

by matttbastard

“Purity sieges,” Charismatic strip club raids and (now-former) “homosexuals” tripping on holy spirit acid (“FIRE!!!”). A-list material, that. Who needs The Daily Show when one still has The (always stranger than socialist fiction) 700 Club?

More from Right Wing Watch, Hatewatch, Pam’s House Blend and The General.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

A Sharp Reversal

by matttbastard

My, how things can change in 2 years (to say nothing of one monthnice try, Deadeye). With the most recent US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) now saying that Iran is not actively seeking a nuclear weapons program (as the Grey Lady puts it, “[r]ather than portraying Iran as a rogue, irrational country determined to join the club of nations that possess a nuclear bomb, the estimate says Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs”–ZOMG you mean they AIN’T CRAAZY?!!11), the foreign policy debate about dealing with the Supreme Council has been turned on its head:

The impact of the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion — that Iran had halted a military program in 2003, though it continues to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful uses — will be felt in endless ways at home and abroad.

It will certainly weaken international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, as a senior administration official grudgingly acknowledged. And it will raise questions, again, about the integrity of America’s beleaguered intelligence agencies, including whether what are now acknowledged to have been overstatements about Iran’s intentions in a 2005 assessment reflected poor tradecraft or political pressure.

Seldom do those agencies vindicate irascible foreign leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who several weeks ago said there was “no evidence” that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, dismissing the American claims as exaggerated.

The biggest change, though, could be its effect on President Bush’s last year in office, as well as on the campaign to replace him. Until Monday, 2008 seemed to be a year destined to be consumed, at least when it comes to foreign policy, by the prospects of confrontation with Iran.

There are still hawks in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney chief among them, who view Iran with deep suspicion. But for now at least, the main argument for a military conflict with Iran — widely rumored and feared, judging by antiwar protesters that often greet Mr. Bush during his travels — is off the table for the foreseeable future.

As Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, put it, the intelligence finding removes, “if nothing else, the urgency that we have to attack Iran, or knock out facilities.” He added: “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of this.”

[...]

Senator Hagel said he hoped that the administration might in its final year in office show the kind of diplomatic flexibility it did with North Korea over its nuclear weapons or with the conference in Annapolis, Md., last week on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has previously called for the United States to open direct and unconditional talks with Iran to end the state of enmity that has existed since 1979.

He said Iran’s halt of weapons activity had created an opening for such talks, indicating, as the assessment does, that Iran’s government may be more rational than the one that Mr. Bush said in August had threatened to put the entire region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”

“If we’re wise here, if we’re careful, I think we have some opportunities,” Mr. Hagel said.

As Senator Hagel says, perhaps it’s time to rethink the present (un)diplomatic approach on the part of Bush administration officials (ahem). Zbigniew Brzezinski (writing in an op-ed published prior to the release of the latest NIE) thinks China could prove to be an effective partner for negotiations with Iranif the US ratchets down the hawkish rhetoric and brinkmanship. Fat chance, sez an ever-defiant Dubya:

George Bush today ruled out a change in Washington’s Iran policy following the declassification yesterday of a US intelligence report that concluded Tehran had abandoned its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

The US president denied the national intelligence estimate (NIE) – which said Tehran’s determination to develop nuclear weapons “is less … than we have been judging” – had undercut his administration’s repeated assertions that Iran was building nuclear weapons.

“Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” Bush told his first White House press conference in nearly seven weeks.

He said the US would continue to work to “isolate” Iran, claiming the NIE was a “warning signal” to the international community.

“I think it is very important for the international community to recognise the fact that if Iran were to develop the knowledge that they could transfer to a clandestine program, it would create a danger of the world. “And so, I view this report as a warning signal that they had the programme, they halted the programme. The reason why it’s a warning signal is they could restart it.”

As recently as October, Bush was invoking the threat of a third world war in relation if Iran was not prevented from obtaining the necessary knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.

Asked if he had been “hyping” the threat from Iran, Bush said he was only made aware of the NIE last week and insisted it had changed nothing. “I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger. I think the NIE makes it clear that Iran needs to be taken seriously as a threat to peace. My opinion hasn’t changed.”

Of course, as noted by BBC News, despite the lack of repentance in the president’s still-bellicose rhetoric, the urgency has been muted, with the president having “gone from raising the spectre of World War III, to saying that Iran could be a danger to the world if it had the knowledge to develop nuclear weapons.

The most entertaining (if not at all unexpected) hawkish responses to the report come from Michael Ledeen (shorter: “they is TOO batshit crazy!!11″) and Norman Podhoretz, who at some point apparently purchased stock in a tinfoil manufacturer:

I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal.

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations. As the intelligence community must know, if he were to do so, it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding. How better, then, to stop Bush in his tracks than by telling him and the world that such pressures have already been effective and that keeping them up could well bring about “a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program”—especially if the negotiations and sanctions were combined with a goodly dose of appeasement or, in the NIE’s own euphemistic formulation, “with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways.”

Yes, how dare the (liberalcommieterrorist-appeasing) US intelligence community undermine the long-standing scheme to bomb bomb Iran by nefariously reporting that, despite the best efforts of the VP’s office, (half-assed) diplomatic measures have actually proven to be effective!

One hopes this nonsense still isn’t being whispered into the President’s ear.

Yeah, well, wish in one hand, shit in the other. As John Bolton puts it, “[w]hile I was in the administration, I saw intelligence march up the hill and down the hill in short periods of time with no reason for them to change their mind… . I’ve never based my view on this week’s intelligence.” In other words, diplomacy is dead–buy my new book! surrender is still not an option.

Last word goes to Glenn Greenwald:

In a minimally rational society, the Fred Hiatts and John Boltons and Norm Podhoretzs and Rudy Giulianis and Joe Liebermans would be considered laughingstocks. In light of this track record, what rational person would trust a single thing they say? Yet as always in our political culture, those hungry for American wars — both old and new — are, by definition, Serious and Respectable, and those who try to stop such wars (such as ElBaredei) are losers and “apologists” whose judgment and allegiances are equally suspect. Just compare the Very Serious Fred Hiatt’s fact-free, war-pursuing attacks on Mohamed ElBaradei in both 2002 and 2007 with the fact that ElBaradei — both times — was absolutely right on the most vital matters of the day, and one finds all one needs to know about how sad and broken our political establishment is.

More on the NIE fallout from Cernig, Dave @ the Beav, Steve Taylor, Eric Martin, Brad Plumer, Blake Hounshell and many, many more @ Memeorandum

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Slacker Friday: “Islamophobia Promotion Week”; Breast Cancer Is Sexier (And More Marketable) Than Domestic Violence UPDATED 10.27

by matttbastard

Earlier this year, the upstanding, freedom-loving folks at FrontPage magazine and the Terrorism Awareness Project proudly announced that, from Oct 22-28th, that ever-so-lovable wing-nutty Islamophobe modern-day Cassandra, David Horowitz, would valiantly and courageously shine the spotlight on the evil evilness of stupid neologismsIslamo-Fascism” in a surge of Islamophobic idiocy Horowitz cleverly dubbed Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Apparently this existentially-threatening scourge is being unwittingly enabled–nay, directly and deliberately aided and abetted–by *gasp* stateside liberalpinkosocialistfeminazi fifth columnists like Michael Moore (who is fat and Communist), in concert with “THE ANTI-AMERICAN CURRICULUM OF THE TENURED LEFT [sic] which teaches that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist “Great Satan” whose little Eichmanns deserve what they get at the hands of Medieval religious fanatics armed with the latest technologies of death.”

Be still my Merika-hatin’ heart.

According to Hatewatch, Horowitz has been “traveling to American university campuses to attack those who criticize the “War on Terror” and — parenthetically — those who see global warming as a major world threat.” Global Warming?! Yeah, betcha didn’t know Osama and Al Gore were homeboys; reportedly they bonded years ago over a shared interest in hatin’ ur Americaz and a deep, abiding affection for the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

(No word on whether BNP head honcho Nick Griffin’s recent campus speaking tour was at all affiliated with Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, nor whether Griffin also decided to throw in some superfluous anti-climate change propaganda just for the hell of it.)

Alas, as the folks at Sadly, No! pointed out back in late September, Horowitz has nagging issues reconciling paranoid bigotry and eliminationist rhetoric with the deadliest weapon in the fifth column’s arsenal: reality.

Goddamn facts – how maddeningly inconvenient.

More: Channelling Tom Lehrer, Kieren Healy of Crooked Timber has penned a tribute in verse to honour these brave warriorz 4 freedumz; Josh Marshall of TPM provides a tongue-in-cheek investigative video report on David Horowitz and Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Also check out this statement from Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, which accuses Horowitz and co. of adopting “a calculated strategy to inflame fear of Muslims and ultimately to soften up the American public to support the next assault in the “War on Terror:” war against Iran” (gee, ya think?) Oh, and you know this week-long exercise in excruciating eliminationist hysteria is a bust when even Uncle Jimbo sez Horowitz’s anti-Sharia sideshow “sucked Hoover.”

[Update: Oh hell no - he didn't just go there, did he? Watch the footage, then check this instant-classic post Mandolin wrote earlier this year. To paraphrase, criticism !=nooses.]

[Update 2 - 10.27: Chet Scoville believes that tactics like those utilized by the students @ Emory only play into the hands of professional martyrs like Horowitz:

...these sorts of protests worked well forty years ago, when neither the media nor political figures knew what to do about them. Now they know; they have the skill to spin them and fit them into their own narratives. The way to disrupt their message is to do something that doesn't fit their narratives -- like emptying the campus for a day and having them speak to an empty auditorium. Now that would have made for crappy footage, and it wouldn't have been shown.]

Related: In case y’all weren’t aware, some of the Islamophobes are apparently down with teh Belgian racist right, to the (dubiously admirable) consternation of LGF head honcho Charles Johnson, who isn’t quite ready to make a logical ideological progression. Still, good old fashioned non-Islamic fascism seems to be a-ok with Pamela Geller, Paul Weyrich and Co. (even Roger Scruton…? Jesus), as long as teh Brownshirts from Brussels feign mad love for teh j00s and pay lip-service to the Holocaust (oh, and most importantly, phear teh Muslims)

Talk about the ultimate marriage of convenience.

[Update 3 - 10.27: Oooo, the spat between Johnson and Geller is gettin' good /popcorn

To quoth D. Aristophanes, "When Johnson actually addressed a topic other than the latest truck backfiring in Damascus, it was as if he had suddenly ripped an IV from his arm that had been pumping 9/11 freakout juice into his veins for the past six years." Hell, Johnson unequivocally effing OWNS here.  And now I'm going to go wait for the inevitable collapse of the known universe.]

Elsewhere:

- Lucinda Marshall, founder of the indispensable, superlative Feminist Peace Network, has a must-read article up @ AlterNet detailing how women’s magazines use breast cancer as a cheap marketing ploy–while domestic violence against women receives little focus:

October means falling leaves, ghosts and goblins, and pink, lots of Pepto-Pink as we observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). From Campbell’s Soup to Breast Cancer Barbie, it seems as if just about everyone has jumped on the pinkified bandwagon. And although October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), we’d much rather be aware of breasts, even sick ones, than talk about black eyes and things that aren’t supposed to go on behind closed doors. That point is reflected in women’s magazines, which devote much more space in their October issues to breast cancer than they do to domestic violence.

Of nine publications that I recently found on a grocery store magazine rack, all of which advertised breast cancer articles on the covers of their October issues, only two also contained coverage of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and mentioned that on their covers).* And, what’s worse, of the coverage dedicated to breast cancer, much of it was offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong.

This year there is even called Beyond Breast Cancer that cheerfully proclaims that there are “10 Good Things About Breast Cancer.” Who knew? And just what are the pluses of getting this dreaded disease? According to the bubblegum-colored magazine, one perk is a pair of new boobs that “will face the horizon, not the South Pole.’ Better yet, they will be paid for by insurance. Oh, and you get lots of cards and flowers.

[...]

While it is questionable that additional awareness of breast cancer is useful, in the case of domestic violence, more coverage would be helpful. Domestic violence is the most common type of violence experienced by women both globally and in the United States. The Family Violence Prevention Fund reports that one out of every three women worldwide is “beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.” Here in the United States, the rate is one in four. In 2005 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 976 women in the United States were killed by by men that they knew. Yet because we tend to see this violence as a private, shameful issue, only 20 percent of rapes and 25 percent of physical assaults against women in this country are reported to the police.

Related:

stop_violence.jpg

  • Be bold, be brave, be red. Wear red on October 31, 2007. Take a picture or video of yourself and friends wearing red. Send it to: beboldbered@gmail.com. We’ll post it!
  • Take Your Red to the Streets! Know of a location where violence occurred against a woman of color? Have a public location where you feel women of color are often ignored? Make violence against women of color visible by decorating the space in red. Be sure to send us pictures and or video of your display!
  • Rally! Gather your friends, family, and community to rally. Check out the Document the Silence website for the litany we’re asking participants to read together on October 31st. Be sure to send us pictures and/or video of the event! You could even gather where you created a display!

More details on how you can participate @ Document the Silence.

(h/t FPN and The Thin Black Duke)

- Dana @ The Galloping Beaver on cognitive dissonance and Afghanistan:

At the same time Rickie is saying 10 more years and Stevie is saying 4 more years there is a former United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from Great Britain who says, “We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely.”

And on the same day Britain’s most senior armed forces leader, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup said: “There is a common misperception that the issues in Afghanistan, and indeed elsewhere around the world, can be dealt with by military means. That’s a false perception.”

Regardless of how long is deemed necessary to delay the inevitable (perhaps close to 40 years, according to Brigadier John Lorimer, commander of UK forces in Helmand), the wide gap between Hilliar’s estimate on how long it will take to train Afghan security forces and that of the PMO is indicative of just how desperate the effort to maintain the illusion of progress has become for the Stephen Harper Party.

Dave @ TGB:

The fact is, Hillier’s assessment is believable because it’s based on the current metrics. Whether the ANA kandaks being trained by the Canadian Army are, in fact, “top-notch” doesn’t really enter the picture. What is true is that it takes three years to train a single Afghan infantry battalion and we’re only half-way there. That doesn’t even take into account that the ANA has virtually nothing in the way of combat support and logistical support elements. Adding those in would make Hillier’s assessment optimistic.

Hillier has forwarded something which the Harperites know will cause Canadians to balk: the idea of war-without-end. If the ANA is unable to deal with security situation in Afghanistan on its own, the dismal picture being presented is that Canadian troops will continue to be involved in the same kind of asymmetrical warfare they are now engaged in and will continue to suffer losses – unless we can convince other allies to take on that part of the mission – even for a while.

- Antigone Magazine updates Uncle Steve’s ongoing war on the Canadian womens movement and offers the following defiant postscript:

After publishing this post I realized that there was something that I forgot to add. Ah, yes…. They can take away our funding but they can’t take away our feminisms! (and the political pie will wind up on their face!). That was my idea of a war cry. Let it reverberate through the blog0sphere!

PREACH!

- Last but definitely not least, please extend a warm welcome to the newest member of the bastard.logic family, the inimitable sassywho, who has graciously agreed to help expand our humble crime-fighting trio to a more-foreboding quartet. Check out her intro post and first three offerings and feel free to show her some comment love–or, conversely, level baseless accusations of hatin’ teh babiez. Hey, c’mon now – we here at bastard.logic absolutely adore pre-bornz – especially marinaded overnight in brown-sugar hickory sauce, grilled lightly on both sides and served on a bed of wild rice garnished with fresh cilantro.

On that note, dinner.

Happy Friday!

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