Daily Archives: March 22, 2007

Josh Marshall on Bush politicizing the Justice Department


It’s yet another example of how far this White House has gone in normalizing behavior that we’ve been raised to associate with third-world countries where democracy has never successfully taken root and the rule of law is unknown. At most points in our history the idea that an Attorney General could stay in office after having overseen such an effort would be unthinkable. The most telling part of this episode is that they’re not even really denying the wrongdoing. They’re ignoring the point or at least pleading ‘no contest’ and saying it’s okay.


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Filed under blogging, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Politics

Taste of Asia in San Francisco this weekend; Chinese food panned by health study

If you’ve got a couple hundred extra bucks, the Taste of Asia looks inviting, if your heart can take it:


This weekend, the Asian Art Museum introduces Taste of Asia, a three-day event featuring art, entertainment and delicious dining.

Festivities begin at 7 p.m. Friday with a Grand Tasting Gala, in which guests will sample signature dishes from some two dozen leading local Asian restaurants — all among the museum’s world-class exhibitions, accompanied by live music and dancing. On Saturday and Sunday, one-hour seminars beginning at 10:30 a.m. are the order of the day. Topics include chocolate, tea, Indian spices and Chinese medicinal herbs. Big-time experts, including chef Martin Yan (who will speak on “art of the knife”) and chef Ranjan Dey of New Delhi Restaurant, are among the presenters.

The event’s primary sponsor is Kikkoman International Inc., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in San Francisco.

Tickets to Friday’s tasting gala are $125; workshops cost $50. The museum is at 200 Larkin St. For more information, call (415) 581-3788 or visit www.asianart.org.

But Chinese food gets a D from health researchers:


A plate of General Tso’s chicken, for example, is loaded with about 40 percent more sodium and more than half the calories an average adult needs for an entire day.

The battered, fried chicken dish with vegetables has 1,300 calories, 3,200 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat.

That’s before the rice (200 calories a cup). And after the egg rolls (200 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium).

“I don’t want to put all the blame on Chinese food,” said Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which did a report released Tuesday.

“Across the board, American restaurants need to cut back on calories and salt, and in the meantime, people should think of each meal as not one, but two, and bring home half for tomorrow,” Liebman said.


In some ways, Liebman said, Italian and Mexican restaurants are worse for your health, because their food is higher in saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

It says there is no safe harbor from sodium on the Chinese restaurant menu, but it offers several tips for making a meal healthier:

Look for dishes that feature vegetables instead of meat or noodles.

Ask for extra broccoli, snow peas, or other veggies.

Steer clear of deep-fried meat, seafood, or tofu. Order it stir-fried or braised.

Avoid salt, which means steering clear of the duck sauce, hot mustard, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce.

Not to mention, of course, the issue of sodium glutamate, which sends us migrainers into orbit.

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Operator, give me KLondike 5……

Those of you who find some reality in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart probably saw Stewart place a fake phone call to presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin , in order to debunk some of the bullshit left on the set by John Bolton the previous night. Stewart used an old rotary phone from the 1930’s, and asked an operator for a number beginning with KLondike 5, which just broke me up…

Fictitious phone numbers [from Wikipedia]
The phone companies started encouraging the producers of television shows and movies to use the 555 prefix for fictional telephone numbers, roughly during the 1970s. One of the earliest uses of a 555 number can be seen in A Patch of Blue (1965), with 555-3268. In older television shows from the 1950s or 1960s, “KLondike 5” or “KLamath 5” was used, as at the time the telephone exchanges used letters. The Simpsons used a variation of this in some of their earlier seasons by having the phone number start out with KL5 (for example, Homer Simpson‘s Mr. Plow business used both KL5-3223 as the home number and KL5-3226 as the business number.

Barney Gumble‘s Plow King phone number was KL5-4796 in the commercial sung by Linda Ronstadt). On American telephone dial pads, K and L are found on the number-5 button. In Simpsons episode “Burns, Baby Burns,” character Chief Wiggum traces a phone number from the police station and reads it, saying, “5-5-5… Aw, geez, that’s gotta be phony.”


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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x minus 9 days: US seems satisfied but continues propaganda; Allawi option in Iraq goes public

It seems that the US is satisfied with the results of the enormous military pressure it has brought to bear on Iran. Basically, what we have seen is the Europeans and Russians agreeing to more or less isolate Iran, and add another round of sanctions, and the Russians withholding completion of the Bushehr plant.

In Washington, Bush administration officials urged patience with U.S. efforts to crack down on Iran as Democrats leveled fresh criticism of the government’s approach.

“Iran is a country very much on the defensive right now,” said R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department.

“The United States is committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the challenges posed by Iran. This will require patience and persistence,” he told the Senate Banking Committee.

Russia has said plans to supply fuel for Bushehr this month were called off because of Iranian payment.

Still, Burns spoke favorably of Russia’s decision, saying it was akin to telling Iran “this won’t be business as usual.”

That doesn’t mean the US anti-Iranian propaganda machine is taking a day off. A transparently manufactured story out of Baghdad, on the AP wire, makes something out of nothing, but gives the propaganda machine another chance to rehash the whole bogus story about Iran and the Quds being responsible for 170 American deaths, and perpetuate the story that Iran is training Shiite militias. The idea that Iraqis would try to cross into Iran for training and then have to come back again, is ridiculous, in the first place, and to suggest that the Mahdi army would do so is doubly ridiculous, as it is an Iraqi nationalist force. Note that when the story goes back to US soil or identified US sources for confirmation, the bullshit drops out pretty quickly; that is characteristic of propaganda.

The violent Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army is breaking into splinter groups, with up to 3,000 gunmen now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, adding a potentially even more deadly element to Iraq’s violent mix.

Two senior militia [which?] commanders
told The Associated Press that hundreds of these fighters have crossed into Iran for training by the elite Quds force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard thought to have trained Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Afghanistan.


At the Pentagon, a military official confirmed there were signs the Mahdi Army was splintering. Some were breaking away to attempt a more conciliatory approach to the Americans and the Iraqi government, others moving in a more extremist direction, the official said.

However, the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name on the topic, was not aware of direct Iranian recruitment and financing of Mahdi Army members.

The outlines of the fracture inside the Mahdi Army were confirmed by senior Iraqi government officials with access to intelligence reports prepared for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

These stories go out to the American people in newspapers and especially in television broadcasts without even a hint that they are lies; unsuspecting Americans and their kids gradually come to hate Iran, and become conditioned to the idea of war against them, having little or no idea what war means, what the human and financial costs are, and how futile it is. America has over 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world, not to mention the economic dominance it exerts. The idea that we are threatened by a country like Iran is pathetic, and attempts to pursuade our citizens to bomb them is just evil.

On the regional political (ie Iraq) front, the “Allawi option” that we have been discussing is now reaching the mass media. Certainly the Bush administration is behind this, looking to make al Maliki the fall guy for the massively catastrophic result of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Installing a new government would be used by Bush as another excuse to stall for time, and prevent the US Congress from stopping the occupation. As we have mentioned, the Kurds are the key players in legitimizing any such scheme. Bush will have to give them a lot of promises and guarantees of autonomy and protection from Turkey, as well as from the Baathists, for the Kurds to go along with a return to what they may see as the days of Saddam.

Even if the Kurds go along, the uproar from the Shiites will be massive, should Allawi be installed, even though he is nominally a Shiite. The current US anti-Iranian propaganda is an attempt to set the stage to blame Iran when the anti-Allawi and anti-US riots break out.


The Allawi Option: A Return to Non-Sectarian Politics in Iraq?
Nicholas M. Guariglia – 3/21/2007

Allawi realized in 2004 that only after agreeing upon the new parameters of a democratic Iraq should the native opponents of the new Iraq be allowed to join the political fray. This means targeting all assassins and revanchists, both Sunni and Shi’ite alike.

That strategy seems to be making a comeback. What does this mean for the current Iraqi leadership? It had been initially thought that a shift in the Iraqi body politic would be done to empower the ruling Maliki coalition. This has not happened. Although Mr. Maliki shuffles his cabinet and welcomes unity governance, he has not addressed the issue of excluding undemocratic polities (which are now included) and including disenfranchised individuals (which are now excluded). Allawi is a secularist and nonsectarian, yet he holds the unusual title of both Shi’ite and ex-Ba’athist. We must remember that de-Ba’athification, like de-Nazification in postwar Germany, ought to have remained solely at the party level. The problem vis-à-vis the Sunni-Shi’ite divide –– other than the obvious interference of the Iranians and Syrians –– is the complete opposite for each polity: Iraqi Sunni leaders like Vice President Hashemi must bring in ex-Ba’athist persons without championing Ba’athism, whereas Iraqi Shi’ite leaders must gently push out Sadrist theocracy without abandoning otherwise good Shi’ite individuals.

Can Nouri Maliki be the one to pull this off? He now has the time and space to attempt to do so, security-wise. But his bloc is not grabbing this torch of opportunity and running with it, hence the reemergence of Allawi. Iraqi newspapers such as al-Mada, Az-Zaman, and As-Sabah al Jadeed are already buzzing over the possibility of Allawi and a nonsectarian parliamentary bloc coming to power. The Al Fadhila party, a Shi’ite Islamist group, has withdrawn from the United Iraqi Alliance, leaving SCIRI and Dawa without their parliamentary backing. Al Fadhila’s spokesmen talked to Iraqi journalists of “escaping sectarianism,” joining a “patriotic project,” which will be “trans-sectarian” in its nature.

Photos of Dr. Allawi laughing it up with prominent Sunnis, Vice President Hashemi and MP Adnan al Dulaimi amongst them, and news that he is consolidating support from secularists, making the rounds with the two Kurdish parties, and luring Shi’ite parties like Al Fadhila away from the largest Shi’a bloc are interesting to say the least. Just as there was a split between indigenous Sunnis in Anbar, which turned on the foreign Wahhabis, so too we must work, in the aftermath of this security crackdown in Baghdad, for that “political solution” everyone speaks so highly of. And this means not rejecting political solutions once their wheels are in motion.

Never should the United States favor any one particular politician over another in Iraq. But we most certainly should lay out what our objectives for Iraq are –– unity, reconciliation, democratization, constitutionalism, parliamentarianism, and antiterrorism –– and should support the polities, whatever their sect may be, that humbly agree with these principles. Most Iraqi people are good at heart, and given the propensity of their neighbors to intermingle, warlords and militiamen promising safety, the threat of terrorist nihilist violence, a return to autocracy, the possibility of theocracy, and so forth, they have largely handled themselves with grace under pressure.

Blunt, tough, and nonsectarian Iraqi leadership is a much needed commodity. Nouri Maliki has been dealt a difficult hand of cards; he has even stated he would never take the job of prime minister again. If he cannot (or will not) survive the changing Iraqi political landscape, with the possibility of a new and consensual party bloc emerging, he may not be the man for the job.

And Iyad Allawi might be.

Previous posts in this series can be viewed by clicking on “countdown…” in the list of categories in the far right hand column.

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Filed under Countdown to attack on Iran, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Politics