White House official accuses Barack Obama of “intellectual laziness.”
Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji is circulating an open letter on the occasion of the UN session starting this week regarding the situation facing his country. It comes with key endorsements (Saad Eddin Ibrahim! Kwame Anthony Appiah! Henry Louis Gates, Jr! Michael Lerner! Juan Cole!) and seems very compelling to me. Here’s the beginning:
To His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
The people of Iran are experiencing difficult times both internationally and domestically. Internationally, they face the threat of a military attack from the US and the imposition of extensive sanctions by the UN Security Council. Domestically, a despotic state has – through constant and organized repression – imprisoned them in a life and death situation.
Far from helping the development of democracy, US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran. The 1953 coup against the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the unwavering support for the despotic regime of the Shah, who acted as America’s gendarme in the Persian Gulf, are just two examples of these flawed policies. More recently the confrontation between various US Administrations and the Iranian state over the past three decades has made internal conditions very difficult for the proponents of freedom and human rights in Iran. Exploiting the danger posed by the US, the Iranian regime has put military-security forces in charge of the government, shut down all independent domestic media, and is imprisoning human rights activists on the pretext that they are all agents of a foreign enemy. The Bush Administration, for its part, by approving a fund for democracy assistance in Iran, which has in fact being largely spent on official institutions and media affiliated with the US government, has made it easy for the Iranian regime to describe its opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity. At the same time, even speaking about “the possibility” of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran. No Iranian wants to see what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan repeated in Iran. Iranian democrats also watch with deep concern the support in some American circles for separatist movements in Iran. Preserving Iran’s territorial integrity is important to all those who struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. We want democracy for Iran and for all Iranians. We also believe that the dismemberment of Middle Eastern countries will fuel widespread and prolonged conflict in the region. In order to help the process of democratization in the Middle East, the US can best help by promoting a just peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and pave the way for the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. A just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state would inflict the heaviest blow on the forces of fundamentalism and terrorism in the Middle East.
The rest is below the fold:
Last week, President Bush invited members of DC chapter of the right-wing website FreeRepublic.com, along with other conservative groups, to the White House for a picnic. According to a posting about the event on Free Republic, “President spent what seemed like two hours meeting with everyone who wanted to speak with him.” More pictures HERE.
Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly said in July that the comments on the site are “vile, hateful stuff.”
Bush may be hosting a climate summit this week, but “what he will not do, officials said, is chart any shift in policies.” Specifically, the Washington Post reports:
Top Bush administration officials said the president is not planning to alter his opposition to mandatory limits on greenhouse gases or to stray from his emphasis on promoting new technologies, especially for nuclear power and for the storage of carbon dioxide produced by coal plants.
Bush is no climate magician. He will not be pulling a rabbit out of a hat this week. Bush has nothing up his sleeve — you can’t solve the climate problem without mandatory limits.
James Connaughton, head of the president’s Council on Environmental Quality, said Bush’s goal is to aim for a “solid handoff to the next president, regardless of party.” Yeah, just like Iraq. Run out the clock.
The article did offer one (bizarre) new line of argument — why the administration opposes a cap-and-trade system:
Senior Iraqi officials “repeatedly complained to U.S. officials about Blackwater USA’s alleged involvement in the deaths of numerous Iraqis, but the Americans took little action to regulate the private security firm until 11 Iraqis were shot dead last Sunday.” Iraqi officials note that the complaints go beyond security, to Iraqis’ dignity:
[Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Hussein] Kamal said addressing Blackwater’s alleged actions was also a matter of preserving Iraq’s dignity and honor. Seated in his spacious office, he recalled an incident two months ago when Blackwater guards threw a water bottle at a traffic policeman. The officer was so furious that he submitted his resignation, but his superiors turned it down, Kamal said.
“This is a flagrant violation of the law,” Kamal said. “This guy is an officer with a rank of a brigadier general. He was standing in the street doing his job, regulating traffic. He represents the state and the law, and yet this happened.”
So Joe Biden’s pollster, Celinda Lake, did some push polling about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, then leaked it to The Washington Post which produced this story:
Conventional wisdom dictates that Democratic voters are thrilled with their choices for president, bursting at the seams to rally behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) or whoever gets the party’s nod next year.
A recent survey by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, however, showed Clinton and Obama trailing former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) in the 31 Democratic-held House districts regarded as most imperiled in 2008, and even potentially serving as a drag on those lawmakers’ reelection chances. [...]
“Some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and will support her liberal agenda of big government and higher taxes if she becomes president,” the poll stated, before asking respondents whether they would still vote for their incumbent or choose a Republican candidate.
Whether the question named Clinton or Obama, the Democratic incumbent’s lead shrank to an average of six points: 47 percent to 41 percent with Clinton leading the ticket, 44 percent to 38 percent with Obama as the nominee.
But now here’s the catch: the Post writers don’t identify Lake as Biden’s pollster, or even characterize the poll as the push-poll it was. This prompts some of the usual media criticism from Atrios, which is spot-on, but also limited in perspective.
After all, Washington Post aside, why did Lake do this? Surely she didn’t do it because she thinks she’s going to put Joe Biden in the White House. Surely she knows she’ll lose, and she’ll continue to make a living as a public opinion consultant for Democratic candidates and progressive non-profit groups. Thus, she must realize that her future depends, in large part, on obtaining good will from progressive circles. Under the circumstances, her willingness to engage in dirty pool against the front-runners is remarkable. You have tons of reports of unions who favor John Edwards on the merits but who don’t want to alienate Hillary Clinton by saying so publicly. But then you have — frequently — pollsters and other sorts of consultants who don’t seem to fear the wrath of elected officials at all.
It tells you a lot about the actual structure of power in Washington. Above a certain level, the consultants aren’t afraid of anyone.
Bad news: train breakdown. Good news: train breakdown in range of a free wifi network!
The U.S. attorney in Minnesota, Rachel Paulose, is under federal investigation for using racist epithets against an employee, mishandling classified information, and retaliating against staffers. Today, the Washington Post reports that “an internal Justice Department audit completed last month said her employees gave her very low marks. … Her performance review was so poor that Kenneth E. Melson, head of the department’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, took the unusual step of meeting with her in Minnesota several weeks ago.”
In an interview with al Jazeera television, CentCom Commander Admiral William Fallon warned that constant talk of bombing Iran is not hepful. “This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me which is not helpful and not useful,” he said. “I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for,” said Fallon. “It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions.”