Stop what you’re doing

And tell me who it was who uttered these remarkable words:

And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq… All of a sudden you’ve got a battle you’re fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques. Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq.

Was it John Kerry? Colin Powell? Sorry, but the answer is….Dick Cheney, the man who architected our McWar on Iraq! The man who helped make us think it was practical and necessary and easily doable. He of the famous flowers-and-chocolates myth. He who, when others raised similar points in 2003, sneered at them and called them weasels!

As my source says, “If John Edwards doesn’t use this in the debates, he’s nuts.”

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Ike’s son endorses John Kerry

And he does it very eloquently.

As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration’s decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance.

Read it all — it’s great.

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Should we boycott goods that are made in China?

The answer is a resounding No. Brad DeLong has a wonderful post about why that line of thinking is irrational, self-defeating and bad for everybody. Not bad — terrible. His article focuses on products made in India, but with every sentence — every word — I kept thinking about China. Read it and see why.

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John Kamm wins MacArthur prize for helping free Chinese dissidents

The MacArthur Foundation doles out these $500,000 prizes to very special people each year (they’re usually referred to as “genius awards,” as they often go to artists). That they’ve chosen John Kamm is unusual and inspiring.

Kamm, 53, was a successful businessman and a president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong when he suddenly veered off career course to become an unlikely, but highly successful, champion of Chinese political detainees.

Using business leverage and a non-confrontational approach, Kamm has succeeded in securing the release or improving the conditions of hundreds of jailed political activists, including some extremely high-profile dissidents.

Kamm’s conversion to human rights lobbyist was triggered by the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Beijing.

“Kamm found that approaching (Chinese officials) with dignity and respect facilitated their response to his enquiries and uncovered a wealth of information regarding the status and well being of thousands of prisoners,” the MacArthur Foundation said in its citation.

“He has demonstrated his approach as an effective means of addressing contentious human rights issues with Beijing,” it added.

In a statement, Kamm said he would use the 500,000 prize to further the lobbying work of his San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, of which he is executive director.

“Business people can contribute to the advance of human rights in ways previously thought not possible, notably by collecting information on political prisoners and advocating their release to officials of countries where they trade and invest,” Kamm said.

It always amazes me when “ordinary people” step up and do something unexpected, something extraordinary, something that makes a difference for the entire planet. I read about people like this and I feel renewed hope for the planet, even if the Republicans win the White House again.

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Crawford, TX newspaper endorses John Forbes Kerry

Last time The Iconoclast endorsed bush, and now they regret it. This is an extraordinary editorial, especially considering it’s in shrub’s hometown paper.

Kerry Will Restore American Dignity
2004 Iconoclast Presidential Endorsement

Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

– Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.

– Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans’ benefits and military pay.

– Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.

– Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.

– Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.

– Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and

– Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.
The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs…..

In those dark hours after the World Trade Center attacks, Americans rallied together with a new sense of patriotism. We were ready to follow Bush’s lead through any travail.

He let us down.

When he finally emerged from his hide-outs on remote military bases well after the first crucial hours following the attack, he gave sound-bytes instead of solutions….

Bush said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction trained on America. We believed him, just as we believed it when he reported that Iraq was the heart of terrorism. We trusted him.

The Iconoclast, the President’s hometown newspaper, took Bush on his word and editorialized in favor of the invasion. The newspaper’s publisher promoted Bush and the invasion of Iraq to Londoners in a BBC interview during the time that the administration was wooing the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Again, he let us down.

Once and for all, George Bush was President of the United States on that day. No one else. He had been President nine months, he had been officially warned of just such an attack a full month before it happened. As President, ultimately he and only he was responsible for our failure to avert those attacks.

We should expect that a sitting President would vacation less, if at all, and instead tend to the business of running the country, especially if he is, as he likes to boast, a “wartime president.” America is in service 365 days a year. We don’t need a part-time President who does not show up for duty as Commander-In-Chief until he is forced to, and who is in a constant state of blameless denial when things don’t get done…

Kerry’s four-point plan for Iraq is realistic, wise, strong, and correct. With the help from our European and Middle Eastern allies, his plan is to train Iraqi security forces, involve Iraqis in their rebuilding and constitution-writing processes, forgive Iraq’s multi-billion dollar debts, and convene a regional conference with Iraq’s neighbors in order to secure a pledge of respect for Iraq’s borders and non-interference in Iraq’s internal affairs…

The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.

Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.
That’s why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

Hopefully more endorsements will follow. Via DK.

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Say it isn’t so!

Beyond all comprehension, the CCP has released a dangerous criminal onto the streets of Beijing. According to this article, Ye Guozhu has actually been set free — who knows what he might do next?? I feel so stupid in light of my earlier post, congratulating the CCP for getting this ogre behind bars.

Seriously, it’s wonderful that they released him. But his arrest was unconscionable to begin with — there’s no reason to heap praise on them for letting him go, no doubt under pressure from the resulting outcry.

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Man without a conscience

Josh Marshall today points us to a superb article by Joshua Green in the Atlantic Monthly (subscription only) on how Karl Rove operates.

It’s a real shocker, even if you think you already know all about this sordid topic. I mean, it’s fine to be aggressive and fight to win. But there are traditional limits, even in US politics, and Rove has time and again proudly demonstrated a gleeful willingness to cross those limits and do the unthinkable.

In what Marshall describes as “one of the most lizardly passages in the article,” Green describes a Rove-orchestrated whisper campaign against Mark Kennedy, a sitting Alabama state Supreme Court Justice.

When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children. In the early 1980s he had helped to start the Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, and he later established the Corporate Foundation for Children, a private, nonprofit organization. At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove’s signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

Some of Kennedy’s campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children. “We were trying to counter the positives from that ad,” a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile. “It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information,” the staffer went on. “That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that’s one of the ways that Karl got the information out—he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out.” This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state. “What Rove does,” says Joe Perkins, “is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin’, tobacco-chewin’, pickup-drivin’ kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take.”

Sound familiar — hitting the opponent where he appears to be most strong? And blithely destroying the man’s life and reputation in the process? Tell me with a straight face that Rove wasn’t behind the Smear Boat Veterans.

UPDATE: Although it’s not on the Web, you can read it as a PDF here. If you think Rove is incapable of setting up and manipulating the entire CBS forgery scandal, you may think differently after reading it.

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The World’s Shortest Blog

In fact, it’s just one question. But oh, what a question.

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Tibet’s Buddhists simply adore the CCP!

Go read Phil’s post. Do they think anyone’s being fooled by this stunt?

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Billmon on the death of blogging

One of my very favorite bloggers, Billmon of the Whisky Bar, has written an obituary of the blogosphere we once knew and loved, maintaining it is fast being devoured by commercial interests and thus becoming “domesticated.”

But the piece won’t be found on the Whiskey Bar, which sadly appears to have closed indefinitely. Instead, it appears in today’s LA Times.

[A]s long as blogs remained on the commercial fringes, the playing field at least was relatively level. Audience was largely a function of reputation — for the frequency or quality or ideological appeal of the blogger’s posts. Costs were low, and few bloggers were trying to make a living at it, so money wasn’t an issue. It may not have been egalitarian, but it wasn’t strictly hierarchical, either.

That world of inspired amateurs still exists, but it’s rapidly being overshadowed by the blogosphere’s potential for niche marketing. Ad dollars are flowing into the blogosphere. And naturally, most are going to the A-list blogs. As media steer readers toward the top blogs, the temptation to sell out to the highest bidder could become irresistible, and the possibility of making it in the marketplace as an independent blogger increasingly theoretical.

I should have seen the writing on the wall earlier this year when the World Economic Forum, the ferociously trend-following CEO club, sponsored a panel session on blogging at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The discussion quickly turned to the commercial possibilities of blogging, leading one advertising executive to wonder why the big media companies didn’t swoop down and buy up the popular blogs while they were still cheap.

At the time, the idea of buying a blog struck me as funny, like trying to buy a conversation. Now, having seen blogs I admired mutate into glorified billboards, and having witnessed the emergence of the “sponsored” blog (in which the blogger is literally an employee of, or contractor to, a corporate owner), I can see who’s likely to have the last laugh.

I have mixed feelings about this theory, and I think Billmon may be exaggerating the magnitude of blog commercialization. I think it was simply inevitable. Once you have a place where a dedicated audience congregates and that audience is open to the suggestions of the host, the hawkers simply can’t resist trying to exploit that audience.

But I suspect (hope?) bloggers who have integrity won’t be corrupted by the BlogAds and the banners. And if they are, I think they’d rapidly lose their audience. Blog junkies tend to have a low tolerance for BS — they visit sites for perspective and information, not for commercial pitches. And if a major medium were to actually buy up popular blogs as Billmon predicts, I suspect (hope?) the readership would plummet, because it wouldn’t be a blog anymore.

Billmon makes another point, however, where I have no mixed feelings. I agree with it completely.

As blogs commercialize, they are tied ever closer to the mainstream media and its increasingly frivolous news agenda. The political blogosphere already has a bad habit of chasing the scandal du jour. This election season, that’s meant a laser-like focus on such profound matters as the mysteries of Bush’s National Guard service or whether John Kerry deserved his Vietnam War medals.

Meanwhile, more unsettling (and important) stories — like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or the great Iraq weapons-of-mass-destruction snipe hunt — quietly disappear down the media memory hole. And bloggers either can’t, or won’t, dig them back out again. As the convergence with big media continues, I suspect there will be progressively less interest in trying.

This is a major disappointment of mine. Blogs should be calling out the media for their worst trait, i.e., pack journalism, a process that focuses glaring light on a single issue, pursued by the entire press corps, that is dropped like a hot potato the instant the next super-story emerges. Then, as Billmon laments, the story sinks down the memory hole. Finis.

Instead of resisting pack journalism, many of the biggest blogs seem to be moving in parallel motion with the mass media, letting truly important stories die on the vine as they rush breathlessly on to the next scandalette du jour. A real shame.

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