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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Saddam Goes From Embarrassment to Martyrdom

Posted: 01/05/07 13:47, Edited: 05/26/13 11:25

By Christopher Truscott

President George W. Bush told reporters Thursday he wishes Saddam Hussein's execution had "gone in a more dignified way," but still declared a "horrific chapter in Iraqi history has been closed."

The president is barely half right ? sadly an improvement when compared to the rest of his record.

While the ex-Iraqi dictator's final moments were a far cry from dignified, the Butcher of Baghdad got in death what he didn't in the final years of his life: martyrdom.

During his brutal 24-year rule, Saddam fancied himself a fearless military hero ? the model for Arab nationalism. But when the monster was pulled from a hole more than three years ago, he was exposed to the world as the pathetic coward he really always was. Without his entourage of vicious thugs to do his bidding he was nothing more than a doddering old man completely at the mercy of the U.S. military he had vowed to destroy.

As images of Saddam being checked for lice flashed across televisions throughout Iraq and the Middle East the icon became an embarrassment. Too bad it didn't last.

Mocked by his Shiite executioners before his hanging last week, the Baath Party front-man became a hero again to Sunnis throughout Iraq the moment the trapdoor beneath his feet swung open and images recorded by a cell phone camera were beamed across the planet.

Bush and the Iraqi government he supports talk about unity ? a country where Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully. The manner in which Saddam was killed makes that an even more distant dream. That Saddam did much worse is absolutely true, but it doesn't matter.

As Iraq's Sunni-Shiite civil war continues, Saddam's execution provides another convenient excuse (as if they still need one) for more sectarian violence, effectively opening a new chapter in the sad history of what was once the cradle of civilization.

Meanwhile, more bloodshed in Iraq gives the Bush administration cover for sending additional troops and prolonging U.S. involvement in the war. The president will call it a "surge" or give it a grandiose title like "Operation Freedom's Thunder," but it's really insanity brought to us by an Iraqi government that wouldn't exist without the support of America's bravest soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.

In his heyday 16 years ago, the longest Saddam's military could last against American fire power was six weeks. In death he may put up a better fight.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. He thinks Saddam is probably playing checkers in hell with Hitler and Lenin right about now.
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Univ. of Minnesota is Sending the Wrong Message

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/04/07 13:10

by Dave Mindeman

A University of Minnesota student has to deal with a lot issues. Working toward a degree, and paying for it, is hard enough, but I don't think the University itself, is helping much lately.

A couple of recent developments have to be questioned.

First, the firing of Glen Mason. I am no Glen Mason fan but the timing of this move is pretty suspect. A year ago, the athletic director was hellbent on renegotiating Mason's contract and was "ecstatic" at the new extension. Now, one bowl game embarrassment later he is gone. The AD succumbed to the critical pressure from the ever present chorus of critics that will continue to be there no matter what coach is in charge.

But this move will cost the University financially. Mason's contract buyout and deferred compensation package runs a cool $3.6 million dollars. Then the necessity to hire a new coach capable of turning the program into something acceptable to the U's critics, could run upward of $6 to 9 million per year more.

That's a lot of money just to atone for an embarrassing, but certainly not an end of the world, loss.

But, another factor behind all this is the new stadium... which brings me to my second point. The University seesm to think that they can usher in some new golden sports era with this new facility. The right coach and program are critical to make this work. But now, in addition to that, the University is adding approximately $40 million more to the facility's cost before construction even starts. Most of these improvements are for wider seats, more women's toilet facilities (yes, ladies, you may applaud)... which are all well and good, but additionally, they want to add luxury boxes, a special coach's suite for recruiting, and outdoor boxes with waiter service. Not exactly essentials.

Now, granted, these improvements are not going to be financed by taxpayer money or another request for the legislature, but they still add to the debt structure of the University and there doesn't seem to be an actual donor base promoting it.

In a time when tuition is skyrocketing and Universtiy budgets are in need of new revenue from the state, the message being sent here is not the right one. When the U makes its new budget requests to the legislature, opponents will bring up this type of fiscal management. Asking the state coffers to provide more money for research or tuition relief or educator compensation will have to be offered against the backdrop of questionable spending decisions.

The opponents of increased University funding will most certainly be using this ammunition..... and you know what? They'd be right to do so.
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Fox News Cal Thomas Has A "Vernon Goode" Moment

Category: US Politics
Posted: 01/03/07 18:31, Edited: 01/03/07 18:33

by Dave Mindeman

A couple of days ago on the Fox News Channel, Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist and contributor to Fox News, was on the roundtable program called Fox News Watch as they were having their year end discussion of the media. During a topic about under reported stories, Cal Thomas put out the following:


Cal Thomas: Here is a story that is not just undercovered, it is not covered at all. And that is the political objectives of the Islamic Community in the US... it has succeeded in electing the first Muslim-American to Congress. He is going to take his oath on the Qu'ran... they are politically active in every state. Mosques are cropping up like Starbucks all over the country... most of the media are afraid to touch the subject for (fear of) being labeled an Islamophobe, a bigot, and all the rest. This is a major story... we are being infiltrated -- now, not all Muslims are terrorists -- I want to get that out on the table....however, surely this is a strategy that, if you were a terrorist, you would want to promote.

Eric Burns (moderator): So, you would cover these stories, not just for informational purposes, but as a warning?

Cal Thomas: I guess I think we have to find out what their objectives are -- they understand us better than we understand them -- again, not all of them are terrorists -- but how do we know? What is their ultimate intent? What are they after?

Now, in that conversation, the only example Thomas used as an illustration of some kind of Islamic political conspiracy was the election of the first Muslim to Congress... obviously a reference to Minnesota's 5th District Congressman Keith Ellison.

I can't recall any kind of emphasis being placed on Ellison's religion during the campaign. He didn't hide it... he spoke openly about it... but he certainly gave it little other significance outside of it being his personal religion.

Also, for Cal Thomas to extrapolate that into some kind of sinister conspiracy among Muslims in America is ludicrous. During that portion of the roundtable conversation.. 1) Thomas used the word terrorist 3 times; 2) He insinuated that Mosques "cropping up like Starbucks, all over the country" was somehow related to this "strategy"; 3) he used the word "infiltrated" as a reference to the Muslim community having an unknown but obviously sinister "strategy"; and 4) he somehow felt that by saying "not all Muslims are terrorists", he had given us an adequate disclaimer for his insinuations.

Now, I don't know how you could characterize that distorted litany any other way than as an "Islamophobic" rant. I don't think the media would have to be "fearful" of being called that, because it obviously qualifies as exactly that.

Rep. Ellison has already had a major impact on this country... merely by being elected in the first place. All of this underlying Islamic bigotry (you can add in Vernon Goode's ridiculous constituent letter) is rapidly coming to the surface and frankly, the discussion needs to be out in the open. Muslims, and particularly Arab American Muslims, are certainly part of this melting pot America... and their contributions are as valuable and unique as any other culture or religion.

Maybe Cal Thomas thinks this "story" is being under reported... but I would question the validity of any analysis that thinks their is some underlying issue in a Muslim being elected to any office. If taking your oath of office on the Qu'ran can cause this much controversy, then this country has some underlying bias problems that are more of a story than some made up elective Muslim conspiracy.

Because we battle extremists in this world does not mean we give in to our own extremist thoughts and prejudices.
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