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Rahm Emanuel Utters Stupidest Words of Year So Far

Ladies and gentlemen, a quote so vacuous and so blithely, blissfully immoral that it cuts through the armor one has against the nonsense of political expediency to take one aback with its brazeness.

Democrats moved to press Bush on another front, linking the sagging U.S. economy to escalating war costs. On a day when oil hit $112 a barrel for the first time, lawmakers said that energy-rich Iraq should be footing more of its own bills. “We’ve put about $45 billion into Iraq’s reconstruction . . . and they have not spent their own resources,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). “They have got to have some skin in the game.”

Black Ops, Black Budgets, and Black Cats

There’s a fascinating article about black-ops programs squirrelled away in the science section of tomorrow’s New York Times.

The article is about a book titled I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me by Trevor Paglen.  The book’s subject is, nominally, the uniform patches worn by members of various black ops.  

Maliki’s Wild Surge

This is a second diary (first here) in my attempt to understand the most farcical aspect of the current battle in Basra: Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s vow that he will personally stay in Basra until order is restored, and the Sadrists surrender their weapons.  Maliki originally laid down a 3-day deadline for the surrender of weapons — and then extended it to 10 days when the first deadline fell flat.  And he is still — rather hilariously — in Basra.

One of the reasons Maliki made his strange vow was, apparently, because earlier in the week Sadr asked Maliki to leave Basra as a way to reduce tensions.  It appears Maliki is taking lessons from Bush: the single best way to get Bush to do something is to tell him that doing the opposite would “reduce tensions.”  

The Fundamental Right to Gay Sex

“[I have] a problem with homosexual acts, as I would with what I would consider to be acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships . . . if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.” – Rick Santorum on gay sex, AP interview

I am not a lawyer.  That said, I think would be good for all of us non-lawyer progresives to understand the legal underpinnings for the slippery-slope argument against gay marraige.  It turns out that the slippery-slope argument has a basis in a 2003 Supreme Court case.  Further, this review will give us a better understanding of where we currently are in the fight for gay rights.

A Brief History of the Red Carpet


Time to roll out the red carpet: It’s Oscar Night!

Let’s have a look at the red carpet in history — it’s more interesting than you might think! — and then have a fun night watching the awards.

Turkish Forces “Storm Into” Northern Iraq (with Video)

My transcript from AlJazzeera English video (below).

Turkey had threatened this for months but it still caught everyone by surprise . . .

Turkey claimed 10,000 soldiers crossed the border into Iraq, though the Turkish authorities and the Iraqi government subsequently put the figure much lower.  Impossible to say who’s right since the area of fighting is sealed off.

Update 1:18 PM EST 2/23/08 by LithiumCola: CNN is calling this a “major escalation.”

Notes on Theodicy

Theodicy, or the problem of evil, can be stated in its classical form as a trilemma — a three-step dilemma.

(1)  God is all-powerful.

(2)  God is all-good.

(3)  Evil exists in the world.

The combination of (1), (2), and (3) is internally contradictory.  Logic demands that at least one of them be declared false.  Yet, for most of the history of Western thought, all of (1), (2) and (3) were regarded as plainly true.  Thus were philosophers and theologians – and pretty much anyone else who thought about it –  exercised.  

Afghanistan as Pretext for NATO Change: 2003 and Now

Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.  He reiterated Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent comments in London that NATO is at risk of collapse if member nations fail to meet their military obligations in Afghanistan.

In this diary we look back at the NATO takeover of leadership of (International Security Assistance Force) ISAF-Afghanistan in 2003, to see what US officials were saying at the time.  What we’re going to find is a continuing insistance from the US that the very viability of NATO depends on commitments to security in that non-NATO country.  Again and again, we see evidence that the real point of this near-hysterical rhetoric is to solidify a US-urged change in NATO’s mandate, from Eurpoean defense to world-wide interventionism.

Starting with Gates’ remarks today in Munich, we see a strange-seeming doomsdayism about the importance of NATO participation in Afghanistan.

Rice to NATO on Educating “Our Populations”

So I’m reading this story in the New York Times and something Rice said interested me.  

This essay has to do with the nature of democracy and the status of NATO.  Specifically, this has to do with what sorts of permanent changes the Bush Administration will manage to effect in the West . . . or what changes they have already completed.

Secretary Rice was in London today and took some questions on the topic of NATO involvment in Afghanistan, along with the British Foreign Secretary Miliband.  The populations of NATO countries don’t particularly want to commit more to troops to Afghanistan.  This constitutes a “test” for NATO, according to Rice.

A Vergence, You Say?

Entertainment Weekly doesn’t know from bad movie dialogue.

Right now EW has up their contenders for the 15 worst lines in movie history.  They include Tom Cruise’s line from Jerry Maguire: “You complete me.”  Clearly, they aren’t trying.

Here is some actual horrible dialogue from film.

NYRB on Blogging, Genre, and Professionalism

So there’s an article at New York Review of Books everyone here should read.  Not that everyone should agree with it or draw the same conclusions as does the author, Sarah Boxer — I don’t, for example — but it’s a nice musing on the nature of blog writing and heck, it’s in the New York Review of Books.

I’ll snip some as an incentive to read the whole thing and then offer my (rather lengthy) response, below.  

The View From Planet Earth

I suppose this is a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but do you remember Karen Hughes?  A Bush friend from his time as governor, she worked as counselor to the President in 2001 and 2002.  In 2005 Bush rehired her as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy.  

Bush’s idea was that Hughes would go around the world as a one-woman PR-circus for the Bush administration.  He thought, or seemed to think, that the main cause of negative world opinions of US policy was not US policy itself but the bad spin it got on, well, planet Earth.

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