Archive for June 23rd, 2008

GEF @ 5:38 PM ST

Nicolas Sarkozy is accused of blackmail over EU Treaty

Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of putting the brakes on European Union expansion in a desperate attempt to salvage the Lisbon Treaty.

The Conservatives said the French president was “blackmailing” the rest of the EU by claiming that moves to bring more nations into the union – starting with Croatia – would have to be put on hold in the wake of this month’s “No” vote on the Treaty in the Irish referendum.

The Treaty, which seeks to abolish dozens of national vetoes, hand new powers to Brussels and create the post of EU president, cannot come into operation until all 27 member states have ratified it.

Britain, which is not holding a public vote, completed its parliamentary process last week. But its formal ratification of the Treaty has been postponed at the request of a High Court judge, who is hearing an application to force a referendum.

The French president, who came up with the idea of the Treaty, a watered-down version of the rejected EU constitution, said: “It is certain that as long as we have not solved the institutional problem, the question of enlargement is stopped de jure or de facto.”

Mark Francois, Tory shadow foreign affairs minister, said it was “crystal clear” that enlargement, supported by all three main political parties in Britain, could go ahead without Lisbon coming into force.

Charles Tannock, a Tory Euro-MP and his party’s spokesman on foreign affairs in the European Parliament, said: “This is just blackmail on the Irish and everyone else who wants enlargement. He wants to put pressure on the Irish, to make them feel guilty and to push them into a second vote.

“It’s complete nonsense. Mr Sarkozy is obviously very angry that the Irish have said ‘No’.”

The Croatian government last week sought assurances from the European Commission and Euro-MPs that its application to join in 2010 would not be affected by the Irish vote.

“This is a classical negotiating ploy by the French,” said the Tory Euro-MP Edward McMillan-Scott. “Britain and everyone else should just ignore this threat.”

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BAM!! GOPer Brand Loosing It’s Luster In Kentucky!

GEF @ 4:38 PM MST

McConnel Bush

Mitch McConnell’s Senate Seat Now In Jeopardy

While much of the media and political world has been focused on the race for the White House, another contest with leadership implications is quietly gaining steam on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was never expected to be challenged for his seat. A four-term incumbent from a deeply red state, his favorability ratings in Kentucky have stayed steadily over the 50 percent mark for much of the past year. But with the rapid disintegration of the Republican brand and with several self-made political missteps, McConnell now finds himself drawn into an electoral match-up once deemed an afterthought. A recent Survey USA poll had him beating his challenger Bruce Lunsford by a scant four percentage points: 50 percent to 46 percent.

“We have seen all along, even before there was a [Democratic[ candidate, that the voters of Kentucky want change, and at this point they are not getting it from their Senator,” said Chuck Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, when asked if picking off McConnell’s post was an honest possibility. “I think it’s the war — the voters of Kentucky want a change of course on the war, gas prices. People just don’t want the status quo.”

In some ways, McConnell’s political future is out of his hands. The congressional leader of the Republican Party, he’s been tasked with carrying the president’s water in defense of the Iraq war and as a legislative obstructionist. The part has not always suited him well. That his electoral prospects have grown dimmer in the process is one of the more poignant political developments of this election. Indeed, should McConnell ultimately lose his seat, it would mark a symbolic bookend to the president’s second term – a four year period that began with the defeat of the Democrats’ Senate leader (Tom Daschle) and a euphoric sense of conservative promise, only to fall apart with as much embarrassment as rapidity.

“I think the analogy is imperfect,” said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, when asked about the Daschle-McConnell comparison. “On two fronts: the first is Daschle was from basically a strongly Republican state and had managed to win in the House and Senate because of his personality… But when you get a different level of national viability as a majority leader, you are in a more precarious position, because there is a wave that can overcome affections. Could Mitch McConnell be caught in a wave? Yes. But it will have to be against the state’s natural tides.”

But it’s not just Bush that has weighed McConnell down. The Senator has made his own bed. Revelations that McConnell had pushed for $25 million in earmarked funds for a British defense contractor under criminal investigation caused an uproar in the local press. The Senator played a role in spreading bogus questions about the financial circumstances of a 12-year-old boy that the Democrats had made the poster-child for the passage of children’s health care. McConnell’s support for the Iraq War has caused frictions as well, as Kentuckians have soured on the Middle East venture.

“The national issues haven’t helped. Being the party leader for a party whose brand has been pretty damaged in the last year has taken some toll,” said Scott Lasley, professor of political science at Western Kentucky University. “Twenty-four years in D.C. is a long time and you see this thing were your popularity tends to peak in your 14th or so year.”

In the process, his influence back home has waned. Though not the most ardent of supporters, McConnell headlined three fundraisers for Kentucky GOP gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher in 2007, only to watch as the man he deemed “the best governor for Louisville” flopped on the ballot. And as coverage of McConnell grew more critical, the Senator began to publicly complain, penning letters to the editor “chuckling” about “none-too-subtle” biases.

And yet, despite these obvious problems, the consensus seems to be – at this point in time at least – that while McConnell surely could lose his reelection bid, the likelihood remains that he will serve another term. For starters, as the Senator’s office pointed out, a Voter-Consumer poll in late May 2008 had McConnell ahead of Lunsford 50 percent to 39.

“It appears that Bruce Lunsford has experienced the old ‘dead cat bounce’ since winning the May primary,” read the survey. “A majority of Kentuckians think Mitch McConnell is doing a good job, and they plan to support Sen. McConnell for reelection this November.”

Moreover, Kentucky Democrats will almost assuredly see a dip in turnout with Barack Obama on the ticket compared to Hillary Clinton (who won that state’s primary by 35 percentage points). And while Lunsford, a wealthy businessman from Louisville brings with him the benefits of self-finance, his political acumen leaves something to be desired: he lost the 2007 Democratic primary for governor with roughly 20 percent of the vote.

In the end, however, the race for Kentucky’s senate seat will likely be a referendum on Mitch McConnell and, by extension, George W. Bush. And it will be the political events that occur between now and the election that will determine whether the president’s second term will be marked by the loss of yet another Senate leadership post.

“I do think he can be beat,” said AEI’s Ornstein. “There have been experiences in the state suggesting that it is not reflexively Republican. Mitch has a base and is savvy, but he is not a warm and fuzzy guy and you can imagine a set of circumstances, including Bush’s low approval, the continued deterioration of the economy, a series of gaffes and fiascos that reverberate, and McCain’s candidacy kind of cradling, taking him under.”

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Bolton Continues His Drumbeat For War Against Iran…

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:05 PM MST

Bolton: Israel Will Attack Iran After U.S. Election But Before Inauguration, Arab States Will Be ‘Delighted’

Think Progress

By Faiz on Jun 22nd, 2008 at 12:38 pm

This morning [Sunday] on Fox News, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton continued his drumbeat for war against Iran. Adopting Bill Kristol’s argument, Bolton suggested that an attack on Iran depends on who Americans elect as the next President:

I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next President. I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor.

Bolton gamed out the fallout from an attack on Iran. He claimed that Iran’s options to retaliate after being attacked are actually “less broad than people think.” He suggested that Iran would not want to escalate a conflict because 1) it still needs to export oil, 2) it would worry about “an even greater response” from Israel, 3) and it would worry about the U.S.’s response.

Bolton then concluded that Arab states would be excited if the U.S. or Israel attacked Iran:

I don’t think you’d hear the Arab states say this publicly, but they would be delighted if the United States or Israel destroyed the Iranian nuclear weapons capability.

Watch it:

Bolton has said he is backing John McCain because he would handle the Iranian nuclear program in a “stronger” way than the Bush administration.

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Israeli troops accused of abuse

Sudhan @21:00 CET

BBC News, June 22, 2008

Blindfolded detainees are led by Israeli soldiers at a military base near the Gaza Strip (11 June)

Israel says it complies with laws governing the treatment of detainees

An Israeli human rights group has accused Israeli soldiers of routinely abusing bound Palestinian prisoners.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) said the army was indifferent to such mistreatment.

The organisation said its findings were based on 90 detailed accounts from Palestinians and soldiers who say they witnessed the abuse.

A military spokesman said the army viewed any violation of its ethical code with great concern.

The army says it set up a special unit to look into complaints of abuse in 1996, and since then there had been a rise in the number of soldiers reporting violence against detainees.

A military spokesman, quoted by AFP news agency, insisted that the armed forces “act in line with international and Israeli laws regarding the arrest of terrorist suspects”.

‘Serious injuries’

Israeli troops frequently round up prisoners during raids in Palestinian areas. They say their actions are aimed at preventing attacks on Israeli civilians by militants.

But the human rights group says that soldiers are often violent towards prisoners – even after they have been handcuffed and no longer pose a threat.

“On certain occasions, the ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent, resulting in serious injuries,” said the report, which covers the period from June 2006 to October 2007.

“Minors, who must be granted special protection under both Israeli and international law, are also victims of abuse,” the report said.

Earlier this year, the PCATI accused Israeli officials of using psychological torture against some Palestinian detainees by threatening action against their families if they did not co-operate.

The Israeli government has already said such interrogation tactics are illegal, and the internal security organisation, Shin Bet , denied the claims.

See also Jurist

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Afternoon Jukebox… You Dropped A Bomb On Me

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:00 PM MST

Gap Band- You Dropped A Bomb On Me

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By- Suzie-Q @ 9:15 AM MST

Kristol: Bush Might Bomb Iran If He ‘Thinks Senator Obama’s Going To Win’

Think Progress

By Matt on Jun 22nd, 2008 at 10:55 am

On Fox News Sunday this morning, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that President Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going to be elected.

However, “if the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” Kristol said, reinforcing the fact that McCain is offering a third Bush term on Iran.

“I do wonder with Senator Obama, if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think — does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy,” Kristol added. Host Chris Wallace then asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election:

WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama’s going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?

KRISTOL: I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t — it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.

Kristol also suggested that Obama’s election would tempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to think, “maybe we can use nuclear weapons.”

Watch it:

Kristol’s belief that Bush might attack Iran before leaving office is not new. In April, he told Bill Bennett that it wasn’t “out of the question” that Bush would consider such a strike because “people are overdoing how much of a lame duck the president is.”

The claim that Obama’s potential election could force Bush’s hand also isn’t new. Earlier this month, far-right pseudo scholar Daniel Pipes told National Review Online that “President Bush will do something” if the Democratic nominee won. “Should it be Mr. McCain that wins, he’ll punt,” said Pipes.

Both Kristol and Pipes apparently agree with President Bush’s claim in March that McCain’s “not going to change” his foreign policy.

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Happy Trails George Carlin & Thank’s for Being

by Geezer Power…8:32 am

George Carlin mourned as a counterculture hero

Envelope-pushing comedian died Sunday


LOS ANGELES — George Carlin, the frenzied performer whose routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, has died.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He was 71.

“He was a genius and I will miss him dearly,” Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin in the early 1960s, told The Associated Press.

Carlin’s jokes constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the “Seven Words” — all of which are taboo on TV and radio to this day.

When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government’s authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

“So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I’m perversely kind of proud of,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a television staple through the decades, serving as host of the “Saturday Night Live” debut in 1975 — noting on his website that he was “loaded on cocaine all week long” — and appearing some 130 times on “The Tonight Show.”

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” in 1989 — a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

“Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?” he once mused. “Are they afraid someone will clean them?”

He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album, and was nominated for five Emmy awards. On Tuesday, it was announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, “George was fairly conservative when I met him,” said Burns, describing himself as the more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in the early ’60s.

“We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were both blown away,” Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. “It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction.”

That direction would make Carlin as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years.


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By- Suzie-Q @ 7:00 AM MST

Sen. Lindsey Graham Flacks McCain, Offers Hysterical Histrionics On Meet The Press

June 22, 2008 02:54 PM

Huffington Post

Jason Linkins

We took note of this on this morning’s Sunday Morning liveblog, but Lindsey Graham’s hilariously operatic, garment-rending performance on Meet The Press this morning deserves a special mention of its own. Pressed into duty to defame Obama for opting to continue his own fundraising process in lieu of the public financing he agreed to take way before he had any idea that his own superior method of public financing would prove itself to be far more effective, Graham came to show with a pocketful of woe and a story of Barack’s broken promises. He quickly spun this into melodramatic gold, pretending to be stung and betrayed and emotionally out of tune over the matter.

It all culminated in this histrionic moment, where Graham appears to almost tear up and bemoan the waste of Obama’s “talent” and “potential” over this issue. It’s quite riveting! Mostly because it’s so utterly, hopelessly, transparently fake! This is like watching some kid break down and weep, “Say it isn’t so, Shoeless Joe!” because the White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series, except the kid is secretly a Reds fan and hates the White Sox and anyway wants to grow up to fix as many games for John McCain as possible. That’s the level if disingenuousness.

Anyway, consider this Graham’s audition reel for Days Of Our Lives, where he insists that “The reason John McCain is going to beat him is because John has put the country ahead of the desire to win for himself.”

You want a quick shorthand for how to tell if the candidate has put your needs ahead of his desire to be President? It’s really easy. You ask: Did the candidate offer us a gas tax holiday? If the answer is “Yes,” then NO HE JUST WANTS TO WIN, THE END.


GRAHAM: That’s news to everyone who listens to what he said and this is just really sad for the country. For somebody with this much ability, this much talent, to fall this far, this soon. The idea that we’re going to change this country and do things that are hard and tough and keep one’s word is music to the American people’s ears. Well, let me tell you, what he did by breaking his promise, is reinforce every bad thing wrong with politics and he can talk about it, Joe, till the cows come home. This guy wants to win, he’ll do anything to win. And the reason John McCain is going to beat him is because John has put the country ahead of the desire to win for himself and that’s going to be the defining issue in this election.

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British army used ‘vacuum’ bombs in Afghanistan

Sudhan @11:15 CET

June 22, 2008

British forces in Afghanistan have used one of the world’s most deadly and controversial missiles to fight the Taliban.

Apache attack helicopters have fired the thermobaric weapons against fighters in buildings and caves, to create a pressure wave which sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted to the use of the weapons, condemned by human rights groups as “brutal”, on several occasions, including against a cave complex.

The use of the Hellfire AGM-114N weapons has been deemed so successful they will now be fired from RAF Reaper unmanned drones controlled by “pilots” at Creech air force base in Nevada, an MoD spokesman added.

Thermobaric weapons, or vacuum bombs, were first combat-tested by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and their use by Russia against civilians in Chechnya in the 1990s was condemned worldwide.

The secret decision to buy the Hellfire AGM-114N missiles was made earlier this year following problems attacking Taliban fortified positions.

British Apache pilots complained that standard Hellfire antitank missiles were going straight through buildings and out of the other side. Even when they did explode, there were limited casualties among the Taliban inside, particularly when a building contained a number of rooms.

American Apache pilots overcame the problem in Iraq with the thermobaric Hellfire.

The weapons are so controversial that MoD weapons and legal experts spent 18 months debating whether British troops could use them without breaking international law.

Eventually, they decided to get round the ethical problems by redefining the weapons.

“We no longer accept the term thermobaric [for the AGM-114N] as there is no internationally agreed definition,” said an MoD spokesman. “We call it an enhanced blast weapon.”

The redefinition has allowed British forces to use the weapons legally, but is undermined by the publicity of their manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, which markets them as thermobaric.

When the American military bought them in 2005, President George W Bush said: “There are going to be some awfully surprised terrorists when the thermobaric Hellfire comes knocking.”

Despite the Bush rhetoric, it is unlikely anyone targeted by the missile would know much about it. The laser-guided missile has a warhead packed with fluorinated aluminium powder surrounding a small charge.

Continued . . .

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