Saturday, July 30, 2005

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Calls Guantanamo a Disgrace

There's a reason why Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize: his decency, common sense and love of peace.....three attributes entirely missing from the Bush Administration.

Carter: Guantanamo Detentions Disgraceful by CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, Associated Press

Former President Carter said Saturday the detention of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base was an embarrassment and had given extremists an excuse to attack the United States.

Carter also criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "unnecessary and unjust."

"I think what's going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.," he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance's centenary conference in Birmingham, England. "I wouldn't say it's the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts."

Carter said, however, that terrorist acts could not be justified, and that while Guantanamo "may be an aggravating factor ... it's not the basis of terrorism."

Critics of President Bush's administration have long accused the U.S. government of unjustly detaining terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the southeastern tip of Cuba. Hundreds of men have been held indefinitely at the prison, without charge or access to lawyers.

"What has happened at Guantanamo Bay ... does not represent the will of the American people," Carter said Saturday. "I'm embarrassed about it, I think its wrong. I think it does give terrorists an unwarranted excuse to use the despicable means to hurt innocent people."

Earlier this month, Carter called for the Guantanamo prison to be shut down, saying reports of abuses there were an embarassment to the United States. He also said that the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that all are told the charges against them.

Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.
"I thought then, and I think now, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust. And I think the premises on which it was launched were false," he said Saturday.

The Baptist World Alliance, comprising more than 200 Baptist unions around the world, was formed in London in 1905. The headquarters of the alliance, which meets in a different location every five years, moved to the United States in 1947.

An estimated 12,700 delegates gathered in the city of Birmingham in central England for the conference. Carter, a Sunday school teacher in his hometown of Plains, Ga., was due to lead a Bible study lesson during the conference.

He praised British police and intelligence services for the swift arrests in connection with the July 21 failed bombing attempts on London's transit system. "I'm very proud to be in a nation that stands so stalwart against terrorism with us," he said. "The people of my country have united our hearts and sympathy for the tragedy that you have suffered from terrorism."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hard, Cold Truth: It's About the Oil, Stupid

New York Times Op-Ed today......Bob Hebert is absolutely correct. It is, and always, about the oil. Nothing more.

Oil and Blood by BOB HERBERT

It is now generally understood that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has become a debacle. Nevertheless, Iraqis are supposed to have their constitution ratified and a permanent government elected by the end of the year. It's a logical escape hatch for George W. Bush. He could declare victory, as a senator once suggested to Lyndon Johnson in the early years of Vietnam, and bring the troops home as quickly as possible.

His mantra would be: There's a government in place. We won. We're out of there.
But don't count on it. The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington's budget.

A wiser leader would begin to cut some of these losses. But the whole point of this war, it seems, was to establish a long-term military presence in Iraq to ensure American domination of the Middle East and its precious oil reserves, which have been described, the author Daniel Yergin tells us, as "the greatest single prize in all history."

You can run through all the wildly varying rationales for this war: the weapons of mass destruction (that were never found), the need to remove the unmitigated evil of Saddam (whom we had once cozied up to), the connection to Al Qaeda (which was bogus), and, one of President Bush's favorites, the need to fight the terrorists "over there" so we won't have to fight them here at home.

All the rationales have to genuflect before "The Prize," the title of Mr. Yergin's Pulitzer-Prize-winning book.

It's the oil, stupid.

What has so often gotten lost in all the talk about terror and weapons of mass destruction is the fact that for so many of the most influential members of the Bush administration, the obsessive desire to invade Iraq preceded the Sept. 11 attacks. It preceded the Bush administration. The neoconservatives were beating the war drums on Iraq as far back as the late 1990's.

Iraq was supposed to be a first step. Iran was also in the neoconservatives' sights. The neocons envisaged U.S. control of the region (and its oil), to be followed inevitably by the realization of their ultimate dream, a global American empire. Of course it sounds like madness, which is why we should have been paying closer attention from the beginning.

The madness took a Dr. Strangelovian turn in the summer of 2002, before the war with Iraq was launched. As The Washington Post first reported, an influential Pentagon advisory board was given a briefing prepared by a Rand Corporation analyst who said the U.S. should consider seizing the oil fields and financial assets of Saudi Arabia if it did not stop its support of terrorism.

Mercifully the briefing went nowhere. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it did not represent the "dominant opinion" within the administration.

The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration.

But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour.

Lyndon Johnson ignored the unsolicited advice of Senator George Aiken of Vermont - to declare victory in Vietnam in 1966. The war continued for nearly a decade. Many high-level government figures believe that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for a minimum of 5 more years, and perhaps 10.

That should be understood by the people who think that the formation of a permanent Iraqi government will lead to the withdrawal of American troops.

There is no real withdrawal plan. The fighting and the dying will continue indefinitely.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

McCain-Kennedy Immigration Bill vs. Bush Ideas to Exploit Immigrants

I don't pretend to have the answers to US immigration dilemmas. As a lifelong Southern California resident, I understand the unresolved questions. We live just a few miles north of the US city with the most illegal immigrants.

On one hand, the schools and hospitals, courts and welfare agencies, police and fire services, are all overwhelmed by millions who pay no taxes. And yet, these millions are part of society's fabric, with families. And they're here because US employers illegally hire them for less than minimum wages, and offer no benefits whatsoever. Illegal immigrants are shamelessly and callously exploited in Southern California by corporate farms, the apparel industry and most manufacturers.

And then President Bush comes up with a plan to offend and ignore all sides, liberals and conservatives alike, and to exploit immigrants even more. The only group rewarded by and supportive of the President's Guest Worker Plan is the business community. Of course.
From the Center for American Progress....

For years, President Bush has stated the need to reform our nation’s immigration laws; something lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recognize is important. But instead of showing real leadership on the issue, Bush fails to push for real reform. Today the Senate Judiciary committee is holding a bi-partisan hearing on comprehensive immigration reform, and the administration withdrew its two witnesses, continuing their silence on the subject.

Given the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the implications for our national security, it is troubling that the Bush administration will not participate in today’s hearing. In the absence of leadership from the Bush White House, several lawmakers have put forth their own ideas and bills on immigration.

Removing all illegal immigrants is not the answer. The Center for American Progress today released "the first-ever estimate of costs associated with arresting, detaining, prosecuting and removing immigrants who have entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas.” The report estimates the costs to be at least $206 billion over give years or $41.2 billion a year. That is more than the 2006 budget for the Department of Homeland Security and more than double the cost of our military operations in Afghanistan.

The McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill has broad bi-partisan support. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that allows for illegal immigrants who clear criminal background checks to apply for temporary work permits, and after 11 years, they could apply for full citizenship after completing other requirements. While critics like Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) attacked the bill, others have praised it as being an “orderly, human and compassionate immigration policy.”

The Cornyn-Kyl and Tancredo immigration bills fall short on realism. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced a bill that addresses “border security and interior enforcement, employer accountability, and reform that addresses temporary workers and the current illegal population.” But the bill also requires all undocumented people to sign a paper of admission to breaking the law and then leave the US before applying for legal status, leaving some to call the bill slightly past far-fetched. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-CO) bill would penalize children of illegal immigrants and force hospitals to turn away patients unless they report citizenship information to the Department of Homeland Security.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hell Freezes Over: I Agree With Hugh Hewitt

Hell must have frozen over, because I agree wholeheartedly with excitable conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt in his lead post today....

Tancredo's Crusade and its Costs

"Congressman Tom Tancredo takes to the pages of the Denver Post today in an effort to resurrect his reputation. He fails because he doubles down on his absurd insistence that "bombing Mecca" ought to be "on the table." No serious politician in the country has come to Tancredo's defense, and indeed I have not seen any credible authority on war or religion endorse this foolishness.

No serious Christian theologian can endorse what is obviously an immoral threat against another faith. Tancredo is drawing encouragment from the small percentage of Americans who have fallen into the erroneous belief that all of Islam is arrayed against the West....

Serious leaders in the West refuse to indulge the hatred for a different religion that is implicit in Tancredo's frothings....

Tancredo then quotes a couple of extremist Islamists and/or apologists for such extremist Islamists before finishing with....a libel on every Muslim who has indeed condemned terror and especially on the between 5,000 and 10,000 Muslims serving in the American military...."

And here's final proof that hell has, indeed, frozen over hard and solid.....a link to Hugh Hewitt's site with the remainder of this astute post.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Cheney Lobbies FOR Cruel & Degrading Behavior

From the Washington Post today.....

"The Bush administration in recent days has been lobbying to block legislation supported by Republican senators that would bar the U.S. military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual.

Vice President Cheney met Thursday evening with three senior Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to press the administration's case that legislation on these matters would usurp the president's authority and -- in the words of a White House official -- interfere with his ability 'to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack.' " (Read the rest of the article here.)

Huh? Is this America, land of the free and home of the brave? A country that pledges liberty and justice for all?

This is immoral and evil, pure and simple.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Karen Hughes, Political Mother to the President?

Top Bush aide and close-confidant Karen Hughes is a dead-ringer for the President's mother in personal and communication styles and even in her appearance.

Hughes freaks me out, though, with her over-the-top partisanship and obviously biased view of.....well, everything George Bush. It's sort of like she's....George's political mother. She's all loyalty, and shamelessly without a shred of objectivity, rather like the more rabid Little League and soccer moms.

From the Center for American Progress....

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will take up the nomination of Karen Hughes to become Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. At a time when the United States ' reputation in the international community is eroding, it is vital that our public diplomacy efforts meet the highest levels of credibility. The Senate needs to pay keen attention to her role in very questionable ethical practices by the White House message machine over the past four years. As Hughes played such an important role in the White House, there are some important issues that need to be discussed before the Senate votes on her nomination.

Karen Hughes needs to clarify her involvement in the Valerie Plame scandal. The New York Times reports this morning that Hughes has been interviewed by the federal prosecutor investigating the leak of former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. In her book, Ten Minutes From Normal, Hughes discussed the leak, calling it "wrong" and "unfair." Hughes earlier said the leak was "disruptive to democracy." Given what we know about Karl Rove's involvement in the leak, how does Hughes respond to her previous comments that she knew Rove wasn't involved in the leak because "Karl has said he was not involved."

Hughes must accept accountability for the manipulation of Iraq intelligence. Hughes took a leading role in crafting Bush's statements to convince the American people of the Iraqi threat. Bush made a number of misleading statements, including saying that Saddam wanted to "use al-Qaeda as a forward army." The most famous of these statements was that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa , a claim made in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. Hughes was involved in drafting that speech, and should be asked if she concedes that these statements were exaggerations.

Finally, Hughes should be asked about her role in smearing critics of the White House. Former Bush counter-terrorism Chief Richard Clarke publicly criticized the White house about its counter-terrorism strategies, and they struck back with a vengeance. The New York Times reported that Hughes "was an advocate of the howitzer treatment" of Clarke. The White House released classified information that cast Clarke in a negative light, but refused Clarke's request to declassify his correspondence with Rice prior to 9/11.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Roberts Played Key Role in 2000 Florida "Recounts"

In case you missed this story here. From the Miami Herald, via Common Dreams.....

Roberts Gave GOP Advice in 2000 RecountJohn G. Roberts- President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, played a role in the chaotic, 36-day period following the disputed 2000 presidential election. by Gary Fineout and Mary Ellen Klas

U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts provided legal advice to Gov. Jeb Bush in the weeks following the November 2000 election as part of the effort to make sure the governor's brother won the disputed presidential vote.

Roberts, at the time a private attorney in Washington, D.C., came to Tallahassee to advise the state's Republican administration as it was trying to prevent a Democratic end-run that the GOP feared might give the election to Al Gore, sources told The Herald.

The maneuver, which the Democrats never attempted, might have kept the state from sending its list of official ''electors'' -- the Electoral College members who actually cast the votes that count -- to Congress and the National Archives.

If the names were not forwarded to Washington in a timely fashion, Republicans feared, Gore might be declared the winner because Florida's 25 electoral votes wouldn't be counted -- and the Democrat had garnered more electoral votes than George W. Bush in the rest of the country.

Roberts, himself a noted constitutional lawyer, and an unnamed law professor spent between 30 and 40 minutes talking to Bush in the governor's conference room, sources told The Herald.
Roberts' perceived partisanship during the recount has been enough for some Democrats to suggest that his nomination should be rejected by the U.S. Senate.

A spokesman for the governor confirmed Wednesday that Bush met with Roberts during the recount.

Roberts was ''one of several experts who came to Florida to share their ideas,'' said spokesman Jacob DiPietre. Roberts came ``at his own expense and met with Gov. Bush to share what he believed the governor's responsibilities were under federal law after a presidential election and a presidential election under dispute.''

The reason that Roberts was tapped: His connection to Dean Colson, a lawyer with the Miami firm of Colson Hicks Eidson. Colson had been a clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist at the same time as Roberts in 1980 and was best man at Roberts' wedding. Brian Yablonski, who was then a top aide to the governor, worked at the Colson law firm before he went to work with Bush.

Since the recount, the ties between the firm where Roberts worked at the time, Hogan & Hartson, and Florida's government has grown deeper, as Hogan & Hartson has taken on several high-profile legal jobs in the state. The firm, for which Roberts worked from 1986 to 1989 and again from 1993 to 2003, represents and lobbies the Legislature for the Scripps Research Institute, which was given $500 million by state and local governments to set up an operation in Florida.

When Roberts came to Tallahassee in November 2000, he outlined for the governor the formal process that needed to be followed once the Florida popular vote was certified for Bush. At least one book documenting the period, Too Close to Call by journalist Jeffrey Toobin, said Bush strategists feared Gore attorneys would try to block the state from sending the ''certificate of ascertainment'' -- the list of electors -- to the National Archives. That book documents the elaborate lengths to which the governor's staff went to ensure that the certificate -- which said Bush had won -- was not subpoenaed by Democrats and stopped in its tracks.

DiPietre refused to answer questions on Roberts' role during the recount or why the governor talked to the attorney after his vow to recuse himself from the dispute.

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Boca Raton Democrat, seized on Roberts' participation in the 2000 recount and suggested it should be grounds for rejecting his nomination. Wexler suggested the nomination ``threw salt on the wounds of the thousands of Floridians whose voting rights were disenfranchised during the 2000 election.

''Judge Roberts worked to ensure that George Bush would become president -- regardless of what the courts might decide,'' Wexler said, relying on news accounts that suggested Roberts gave the governor advice on how the state Legislature could name Bush the winner. ``And now he is being rewarded for that partisan service by being appointed to the nation's highest court.''

U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, an Oviedo Republican who was state House Speaker during the tumultuous recount period, shot back that involvement in the recount effort would automatically disqualify a lot of lawyers.

That viewpoint was echoed by Benjamin Ginsberg, who was chief counsel for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.

Roberts ''was not part of the Bush-Cheney operation,'' Ginsberg said. ``What's cool about that time in Florida is it attracted a lot of constitutional lawyers and they were brought in as fast as possible. It was Woodstock for constitutional lawyers.''

Both Feeney and one of the top lawyers for the Florida House of Representatives said Wednesday that the idea of having the GOP-controlled Legislature intervene in the recount controversy arose in the chamber itself, and that outside lawyers actually frowned on the notion.

Since the recount, the ties between Hogan & Hartson have deepened with Gov. Bush's administration. Carol Licko, the governor's first general counsel, became a partner with Hogan & Hartson after her Miami firm was acquired by the bigger Washington firm.

Hogan & Hartson, which didn't open its first Florida office until 2000, has handled several high profile cases for the state of Florida in the past five years, including representing the state in a water-rights dispute against Georgia and Alabama.

Hogan & Hartson also represented the state in a court fight against Coastal Petroleum, a company that held leases to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this summer the state reached a settlement to buy back the leases from Coastal.

Jewish Leaders Comment on Roberts Nomination

An interesting perspectivie, from the National Jewish Defense Council....

NJDC Comments on John Roberts' Nomination

Tuesday night's announcement by President Bush that he has nominated Judge John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor marks the end of the President's role in this constitutional process -- but it does not end the process designed by the Founding Fathers.

"The Senate must fulfill its constitutional obligations and ensure that Judge John Roberts' vision of the separation of church and state is appropriate and consistent with the Constitution, especially since he is being considered for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land," said National Jewish Democratic Council National Chairman Amb. Arthur Schechter. "

All Americans, especially religious minorities, have a large stake in this nomination -- just as we have a large stake in the outcome of key Supreme Court cases on matters of church and state. Our system of law has protected us as American Jews, despite our status as a religious minority. Indeed, nowhere else in the world has all religion flourished so much or so diversely -- and this is true precisely because of the separation of church and state in America. Our Founders, though religious, understood the need to have no state religion.

"The U.S. Constitution does not grant the President alone, or even preeminently, the power to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court; instead, the Constitution says as plainly as possible that presidents can appoint justices only 'by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.' The Constitution in no way suggests that the Senate is limited in what characteristics it should consider when satisfying this constitutional obligation. To be sure, there is no textual basis for suggesting that the Senate must 'defer' to the President's suggestion, nor that it must limit its inquiry to issues of character and temperament.

"Unfortunately," Amb. Schechter continued, "the separation of church and state that guarantees every American's religious freedom is endangered. Under Justice Thomas' reading of the Constitution, for example, sectarian prayer in public schools would be fine. The Senate is obligated to determine whether Judge John Roberts would be a Justice in the mold of Justice Thomas, because more Justices like Clarence Thomas could easily bring about unthinkable changes that would imperil every American's religious liberty.

"As Alan Dershowitz wrote to NJDC supporters, any Justice of the Supreme Court must embrace key ecumenical principles: That the religious liberty protected by the First Amendment includes strong protections for the practices of even unpopular minorities; that such religious liberty is undermined if the government uses its coercive power and resources to compel people to support religious belief and practice to which they do not adhere; that an overwhelming majority of American Jews understand that a woman's reproductive decisions are personal ones between her, her mate, and her chosen spiritual and medical advisers; and that our Constitution reflects the principle that the federal government has the power, and even the obligation, to intervene in various aspects of economic life on behalf of the weak and the destitute.

"The vast majority of American Jews join most Americans in supporting these key principles," Amb. Schechter added. "The Senate has every obligation to explore Judge John Roberts' positions on these key constitutional principles, and to weigh his positions as senators provide their advice and consent."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Burn Baby Burn" Now Name of Black Panther Hot Sauce

Here's the political story of the day of a serious civil rights movement, and famed incident of violence and destruction, turned to triviality, from the Chicago Sun-Times.....

Former Black Panthers to sell hot sauce as fund-raiser

Former Black Panthers are hoping the phrase ''Burn Baby Burn'' will help their nonprofit organization market a new product -- hot sauce.

The Huey P. Newton Foundation, named for the 1960s militant group's co-founder, is seeking to trademark the phrase that for many brings to mind the r1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles that left more than 30 people dead.

The foundation also plans to produce its own salsa.

The Bush Boat Is Leaking, & George Is Mad....Or Not

"We can't have leaks of classified information. It's not in our nation's interest. But we're now in extraordinary times...I see in the media that somebody, or somebodies, feel that they should be able to talk about classified information. And that's just is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk." -- President Bush, 10/9/01


"Key political advisers to President George Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney were named yesterday as sources in the leaking of the name of a CIA operative." -- The Guardian, 7/18/05

Monday, July 18, 2005

Aaron Brown: Bush Change Lets Rove Breathe Easier

Today, from Aaron Brown of CNN in his nightly newsletter, on Karl Rove...

"The president made an important, if subtle, shift in his view of the matter. He had earlier said anyone involved in the matter would be fired. Today, he said anyone convicted of a crime would be fired. Mr. Rove, if he was sweating it out and we have no reason to believe he was, can breathe easier. "

Of course. You expected differently?

Iraq Slips Into Civil War, Per London Times

I read a number of foreign newspaper online because, frankly, they tell far more of the unvarnished truth than do our Bush-intimidated US media.....

Current status of the Iraq War, from the venerable Times of London. (This is an excerpt. Read the entire article here.)

Weekend of slaughter propels Iraq towards all-out civil war from James Hider in Baghdad

IRAQ is slipping into all-out civil war, a Shia leader declared yesterday, as a devastating onslaught of suicide bombers slaughtered more than 150 people, most of them Shias, around the capital at the weekend.

One bomber killed almost 100 people when he blew up a fuel tanker south of Baghdad, an attack aimed at snapping Shia patience and triggering the full-blown sectarian war that al-Qaeda has been trying to foment for almost two years.

Iraq’s security forces have been overwhelmed by the scale of the suicide bombings — 11 on Friday alone and many more over the weekend — ordered by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

“What is truly happening, and what shall happen, is clear: a war against the Shias,” Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a prominent Shia cleric and MP, told the Iraqi parliament.

Sheikh al-Saghir is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the supreme Shia spiritual leader and moderate who has so far managed to restrain powerful Shia militias from undertaking any outright attack on Sunni insurgents. His warning suggests that the Shia leadership may be losing its grip over Shias who in private often call for an armed backlash against their Sunni assailants.

The sheikh also cautioned Sunni clerics supporting the insurgency against American forces and the Shia-Kurdish Government elected in January. “I am very keen to preserve the Sunni blood that would be shed due to the irrational acts of some of their leaders, who do not see that they are leading the country into civil war,” he told the national assembly.

On the streets of Baghdad, al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda organisation in Iraq unleashed one suicide bomber after another and promised no respite.

“The Hassan Ibrahim al-Zaidi attack continues for the second day in a row, with rigged cars, martyrdom attacks and clashes,” an al-Qaeda internet statement said. “We warn the enemies of God of more to come.” One of the suicide bombers, a Libyan, was arrested at the mass funerals of 32 Shia children killed last week by a car bomber.

But the worst attack occurred in the mixed town of Musaib, in the area south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death, when a fuel tanker blew up in a crowded market near a mosque on Saturday evening. The death toll rose to 98 yesterday, making it one the deadliest attacks yet.

Relatives searched the shattered market for the body parts of missing loved ones. “I saw a lot of burnt bodies after the explosion and many people throwing their children from the windows and balconies because the buildings were on fire,” Ammar al-Qaragouli said.

Iraqi soldiers have set up checkpoints to try to rein in the bombers, only to become sitting ducks. Two dozen more people died yesterday in four suicide bombings targeting US and Iraqi security forces.

At least one desperate parliamentarian called for the population to form local militias to defend their neighbourhoods — a move that many see as prelude to a sectarian war. (Read the rest of the article here.... )

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Warmongers as Venture Capitalists

Be sure to visit War Profiteers after reading this from Common Dreams....

War and Venture Capitalism by Norman Solomon

During the Vietnam War, one of the peace movement's more sardonic slogans was: "War is good business. Invest your son."

In recent years, some eminent pundits and top government officials have become brazen about praising war as a good investment.

Thomas Friedman's 1999 book "
The Lexus and the Olive Tree" summed up a key function of the USA's high-tech arsenal. "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist," he wrote. "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

On Sept. 12, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke this way as he defended the U.S. military occupation of Iraq: "Since the United States and its coalition partners have invested a great deal of political capital, as well as financial resources, as well as the lives of our young men and women -- and we have a large force there now -- we can't be expected to suddenly just step aside." He was voicing the terminology and logic of a major capitalist investor.

And so, it was fitting when the New York Times reported days ago that Powell will soon be (in the words of the headline) "Taking a Role in Venture Capitalism." The article explained that Powell is becoming a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a renowned Silicon Valley venture firm: "Mr. Powell acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that he has had any number of tempting job offers since leaving the State Department in January, but that the chance to work as a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins seemed too enticing to turn down."

Writ large, the balance-sheet outlook of venture capitalism is being widely applied to the current war in Iraq -- even while defenders of the war are apt to indignantly reject any claim that it's driven by zeal for massive profits. But let's take the corporate firms at their own words.

Last year, I went through the latest annual reports from some American firms with Pentagon contracts. Those reports acknowledged, as a matter of fact, the basic corporate reliance on the warfare state.

Orbit International Corp., a small business making high-tech products for use by the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marines, had increased its net sales by nearly $2.4 million during the previous two years, to about $17.1 million -- and the war future was bright. "Looking ahead," CEO Dennis Sunshine reported, "Orbit's Electronics and Power Unit Segments expect to continue to benefit from the expanding military/defense and homeland security marketplace."

In its yearly report to federal regulators, Orbit International acknowledged: "We are heavily dependent upon military spending as a source of revenues and income. Accordingly, any substantial future reductions in overall military spending by the U.S. government could have a material adverse effect on our sales and earnings."

A much larger corporation, Engineered Support Systems, Inc., had quadrupled its net revenues between 1999 and 2003, when they reached $572.7 million. For the report covering 2003, the firm's top officers signed a statement that declared: "As we have always said, rapid deployment of our armed forces drives our business." The company's president, Jerry Potthoff, assured investors: "Our nation's military is deployed in over 130 countries, so our products and personnel are deployed, as well. As long as America remains the world's policeman, our products and services will help them complete their missions."

The gigantic Northrop Grumman firm, while noting that its revenues totaled $26.2 billion in 2003, boasted: "In terms of the portfolio, Northrop Grumman is situated in the 'sweet spot' of U.S. defense and national security spending."
War. How sweet it can be.

This article is adapted from Norman Solomon's new book "
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For information, go to:

Friday, July 15, 2005

Anonymous Message on Rove: "This One Will Stick"

In doing my gig as guide/editor of US Liberal Politics at, owned by the New York Times, I very occasionally get anonymous/fake name emails. Several were parties trying to appear innocuous while snooping around about my sources for an article.....which is curious, to say the least. (Two come to clearly feeling out how much I knew about the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert "gay escort in the White House press corps" story, and one wanting to know my sources for details of Medicaid spending.)

Last night, I got a cryptic message from an anonymous sender in response to my blog post about the whole Rove leak affair. All it said was this....."This one is going to stick."

There's a theory that someone needs to be the scapegoat for the public perception of the Bush Administration as dishonest and untruthful. And that control-freak Dick Cheney has selected the powerful (rival?) Karl Rove, newly installed in a White House office suite, as the goat.

Under that theory, I guess that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice believe that public perception of trustworthiness will be restored to their team once Karl Rove is excised from its ranks. And maybe....just maybe...they can blame the entire Iraq War debacle on Rove.

And, of course, underground rumors have swirled for ages about skeletons in Rove's closet. Perhaps the administration wishes to avert more Rove scandal that could be coming.....It is fascinating that two days ago, President Bush and uber-politico Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, both evangelical Christians, shied away from overt support of Mr. Rove.

It's intriguing, juicy stuff, worthy of potboiler novels and made-for TV movies, and it could all be a lot of hot-air paranoia and hooey. Today, it does appear that conservative pundit-leaker Robert Novak and Mighty Mouse Karl Rove may take each other down in a nasty "he said/he said" act of mutual political cannibalization. (Now, those cross-allegations would be sensational.)

This much I know is real.....I get a few strange, anonymous emails in direct response to to the subject matter I write on at And the message yesterday was odd.


Meanwhile, from the Center for American Progress....

In August 2004, Karl Rove told CNN, "I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name," referring to then-covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame. The New York Times reveals this morning that Rove was not truthful on both counts: "Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist [Robert Novak] the name of the C.I.A. officer" and confirmed that she was employed at the CIA. Rove told Novak upon hearing of Plame's identity and occupation, "I heard that, too." Lost in all the details of “who-talked-to-whom-when” is a disturbing conclusion: a senior White House official willfully undermined U.S. security in an effort to tar a critic of the administration’s case for war in Iraq and continues to have top level oversight of national security policy today.

Karl Rove spoke with columnist Robert Novak a week prior to publication of Novak's column outing undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame. According to the Times, Novak called Rove shortly after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, published an editorial in the New York Times which concluded that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." In that 7/8/03 conversation, Novak brought up Plame's role at the CIA, and Rove confirmed for the reporter that Plame did indeed work at the CIA. On July 14, 2003, Novak reported that "two senior administration officials" confirmed that Plame worked for the CIA as "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

This means that Rove was complicit in undermining our national security for political purposes. Despite White House claims that Rove’s involvement in this matter was “ridiculous,” Americans now know Rove was at the center of an orchestrated White House effort to out a covert CIA operative as retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Rove continues to have full access to our national security decision making today.

The burden is now on President Bush: he must show Americans that he will not tolerate or cover-up any threats to national security within his own administration. This is no longer just about Rove and summer political intrigue in the nation’s capital. President Bush promised Americans that he would uncover those responsible for the outing and fire anyone involved in the episode. Rove is now proven to have been directly responsible for the matter and the president should honor his word and commitment to the American people.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Privacy, Equal Protection & Presidential Powers: Selecting a New Justice O'Connor

Here's my two-and-a-half cents on Roe v. Wade and selecting new Supreme Court Justices. I don't believe there should be a litmus test of whether or not a potential jurist supports or opposes abortion. Such a position would be a personal stance, not relevant to faithfully upholding the Constitution.

When Roe somehow, some way comes up for review...and it will...I will devote space here to dissecting my take on overturning or staying that 1973 ruling.

However, ideology is extremely relevant in reviewing potential justices, as eloquently stated by the Center for American Progress....

The White House is already trying to limit the scope of evaluation of its Supreme Court nominees to little more than a test of basic character and behavior. Trying to rewrite more than 200 years of judicial history, the White House line ignores the critical and proper need to evaluate the judicial and constitutional philosophy of potential justices.

Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will join with the Center for American Progress in releasing a letter signed by more than 100 legal scholars that explains the need for senators to "undertake a searching inquiry" into a nominee's judicial philosophy. The public has a right to know answers to some of the most important judicial questions today, including:

Are legal protections based on race or sex guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment? The Equal Protection Clause denies states the ability to discriminate against anyone and is the basis for protecting almost all civil rights. As the letter states: “The Supreme Court has established a framework for determining when certain classes of people are protected by the Equal Protection Clause. For instance, when the government makes classifications based upon characteristics such as race and sex, those classifications are subject to heightened scrutiny and more likely to be found unconstitutional. Classifications based on economic distinctions, on the other hand, have been subjected to only limited judicial scrutiny.” Americans need to know a nominee’s view of these distinctions in order to assess their commitment to basic civil rights protections.

Is there is a constitutionally protected right to privacy? The Supreme Court has declared that the constitution does protect the right to privacy, which is the underpinning of most reproductive rights and freedoms in the U.S including contraception. Americans deserve to know whether a nominee agrees with this right to privacy and under what circumstances it applies.

Is the president above the law, even during a time of war? As the letter states, “The attacks of September 11 have prompted a constitutional debate over the limits of government power and the scope of presidential authority in a time of national crisis.” The public needs to know a nominee’s view of these developments and what judicial checks and balances they believe apply during these difficult times.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Be Yourself, Bushies...Stonewall and Stubbornly Deny

Just like I hope Bush keeps having his photo taken standing and grinning with corrupt Tom DeLay, I fervently hope the White House keeps publicly and stubbornly stonewalling about Karl Rove's role in breaching national security by leaking the name of a CIA operative. Even more, a few Republicans have been on talk shows explaining why...just maybe, what Karl did wasn't that bad....

Does the administration know how bad it makes them look? It's a public relations disaster....a political tsunami of gigantic proportions. They look crooked and deceitful in ways the Democrats have never succeeded in portraying them.

I hope Bush and team keep right on doing what they're doing. Just be yourselves, Bushies. Have at it.
From the Center for American Progress....

During yesterday’s daily briefing with White House reporters, Press Secretary Scott McClellan learned how difficult it can be to defend the indefensible. McClellan was given countless opportunities to clear up previous White House statements regarding the involvement of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove in the outing of an undercover CIA agent. McClellan instead dodged all questions regarding the scandal, frustrating the White House press corps and causing NBC White House news correspondent David Gregory to exclaim, “this is ridiculous.” It is indeed ridiculous that the White House is not being forthcoming about a possible breach of national security and criminal activity that involves one of its highest ranking staffers.

McClellan’s excuse for his silence doesn’t hold up when compared to his past actions. During yesterday’s briefing McClellan noted 23 times that he could not comment because there was an “ongoing investigation.” That did not stop McClellan from previously talking about Karl Rove and his role in the scandal. On October 1, 2003, McClellan said, “There is an investigation going on ... you brought up Karl's name. Let's be very clear. I thought – I said it was a ridiculous suggestion, I said it's simply not true that he was involved in leaking classified information, and – nor, did he condone that kind of activity." So it was OK for McClellan to talk about Rove and the scandal in 2003 but not yesterday?

With each “no comment,” the White House is losing credibility with the American people. Even if Rove is not found to have committed any crime, the fact that he leaked Plame’s identity to Time magazine when the White House previously denied any involvement is damaging to the White House and the president. The fact that the White House seems unwilling to even stand by bland assertions that the leak is a "serious matter" (which McClellan did not say yesterday) or that the White House wants to find out the "truth" (which also wasn't stated) indicates how this matter has become one of credibility for the Bush White House. The inability to stand behind those statements yields little confidence that Bush will hold to his pledge to fire anybody who leaked the agent's name.

The president, known to speak up for his friends, has been noticeably silent on Karl Rove. When right-wing conservatives started attacking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, President Bush was quick to come to his defense. Since it was revealed that Rove was Matt Cooper’s source, President Bush has not said a word about Rove’s involvement in Plamegate, nor has he issued a statement of support. President Bush knows he can put an end to all these questions by demanding that Karl Rove himself come forward and tell all that he knows.

Of Dress-Up, Fantasy and Failure

A brief, brilliant excerpt from Boy President in a Failed World: How the president's fantasy version of the world is driving events (and us) in unnerving directions by Tom Engelhardt.... Make the time to read the entirety here.
More than anything else, as I watched him that morning in Gleneagles, Scotland, I was filled with a sense of sadness that we had reached such a perilous moment with such a man, or really -- for here is my deepest suspicion -- such a man-child in power. Yes, he genuinely believes in his war on terror, even as he and his advisors use it to his own advantage. And yes, he's good at being, or rather enacting with all his being, the role of the War on Terror President.

And yet there's something so painfully childlike in the spectacle of him. Here, after all, is a 59 year-old who loves to appear in front of massed troops, saying gloriously encouraging and pugnacious things while being hoo-ah-ed -- and almost invariably he makes such appearances dressed in some custom-made military jacket with "commander in chief" specially stitched across his heart, just as he landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003 in a Navy pilot's outfit. Who could imagine Abe himself, that most civilian of wartime presidents, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Dwight D. Eisenhower, a real general, wearing such G.I. Joe-style play outfits?

Let's face it. George Bush likes dress-up. What a video game is to a teenager, the Presidency seems to be to this man. It's a free pass to the movies with him playing that brave warrior part. All in all, I'm afraid to say, it must be fun. When he so cavalierly said, "Bring ?em on," he was surely simply carried away by the spirit of the game. What it wasn't, of course, was the statement of a mature human being, an adult.

I don't usually say such things, but there's something unbelievably stunted about all this. He and his top officials seem almost completely divorced from any sense of the actual consequences of their various acts and decisions. They live in some kind of dream world offshore of reality, which would perhaps not be so disturbing if they didn't also control the levers of power in what, not so long ago, was regularly referred to as the "lone" or "last superpower" or the globe's only "hyperpower." (Even in their own terms, it's a sign of their failed stewardship that almost no one uses such phrases any more or, say, Pax Americana, another commonplace of 2002 and 2003.)

It may be that nations deserve the leaders they get and perhaps it's no mistake that George Bush ended up as our leader -- twice no less -- in a period that otherwise seemed to cry out for having your basic set of grown-ups in power, or that his Secretary of Defense likes to play stand-up comic at his news conferences, or that his first Attorney General just loved to sing songs of his own creation to his staff, or that none of them can get it through their heads that it's not just the terrorists who, in our world, have been taking "the lives of the innocent."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Church Set Afire, Defaced with Anti-Gay Graffiti

The KKK rises again, only this time about sexual preference, not skin color?
From the Staunton News Leader on July 9,2005, located in Virginia's Central Shenandoah Valley

Middlebrook church set fire; anti-gay messages by Jonathan D. Jones/staff

A small fire was set in St. John’s Reformed United Church of Christ this morning and anti-gay graffiti was painted on the side of the building.

The outside of the church was vandalized with anti-gay messages and a declaration that United Church of Christ members were sinners. The graffiti’s message appeared to be a reference to the national church’s decision earlier this week to endorse gay and lesbian marriages.

The United Church of Christ’s General Synod voted Monday in Atlanta to approve a resolution that is accepting of gay and lesbian marriages but is not binding on local congregations.

A member of the congregation discovered the graffiti Saturday morning when he stopped by to mow the grass. He went into the church building, and when he opened the sanctuary there was still a small fire.

The Middlebrook Volunteer Fire Company responded, and it only took a few minutes to put the fire out, Lt. Tim McCray said. He deferred any questions about the cause of the fire to police investigators.

A Virginia State Police fire investigator was on the scene Saturday afternoon, but declined to comment. The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office initially responded and a deputy was there assisting.

Firefighters removed a stack of burned hymnals. Police cordoned off the sanctuary, but through the windows a portion of the choir loft and a pew that had been damaged by the fire were visible.

Smoke damage will keep the congregation out of its sanctuary, but members still intend to have a 225th anniversary celebration tomorrow. They’ll move it onto the front lawn and use tents, Pastor Darcas Lohr said.

It’s the second time in the last 30 years that St. John’s has caught fire. Four people, three juveniles and a Staunton man in his 20s, were arrested on arson charges after an Aug. 1, 1978, blaze destroyed most of the church’s sanctuary.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Karl Did It and Lied About It....Of Course

In case you've been lolling on a beach, enjoying some summer vacation...the "news" today is that Karl Rove's attorney admits that his client, indeed, was Newsweek report Matt Cooper's source (i.e. illegal national security breach) for his story revealing the name of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative.

No big surprise. It was logical and obvious. Who else would have the knowledge, ego and pettiness to do something so vindictively treasonous?

Now don't get all excited yet, dreaming of long-time admitted dirty trickster Karl Rove in handcuffs being marched off to a life in some dark, foreboding federal prison. Don't forget...Karl's a clever guy, and he likely has some interesting technicality that will keep him residing comfortably in wealthy suburbia.
Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice has an interesting take on potential legalities of the whole "attorney says Karl did it" thing.

But here's my dream about it all: that in a million-to-one shot, Bush turns on Rove, and lets him take the rap. And then Rove squeals the WHOLE TRUTH like a stuck pig. Now that, my friends, would be divine and precious retribution. But sadly, it's merely an improbable pipe dream.....

(I have a theory as to why Robert Novak has mysteriously never been charged in the Valerie Plame fiasco, when he, just like Matt Cooper and Judith Miller, reported her name. Perhaps he's on the Bush Administration payroll, and he's not being legally pursued to keep that horribly awkward fact from being revealed?)
In case in you've been on that beach all last week, here's a bit of background from the Center for American Progress earlier this week.....

In recent days, the media has focused a lot of attention on Time reporter Matt Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller and their fight to stay out of jail over Plamegate. What the media hasn’t covered is Karl Rove’s growing role in this scandal. The White House press corps has not asked Press Secretary Scott McClellan about Rove’s role since his own lawyer admitted that Rove was one of Cooper’s sources. There are key questions that the media isn’t asking the president’s closest advisor about the CIA scandal.

Karl Rove’s lawyer’s carefully worded statements need to be further examined. According to his lawyer, Rove did not “tell” any reporter that Plame worked for the CIA. But did he perhaps confirm to a reporter that Plame worked for the CIA? Or maybe he just told Cooper and columnist Bob Novak that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent but didn't give her name?

It is still unknown whether Karl Rove released classified information. On several occasions, Rove’s attorney has stated that Rove never “knowingly” disclosed classified information. The use of the word “knowingly” is very important – to violate the law, Rove had to tell Cooper about Plame knowing that the U.S. was trying to keep her identity secret. And why would his lawyer say this unless Rove did in fact disclose classified information?

Karl Rove could put an end to the speculation by telling what he knows. Lost in all of the back and forth is the fact that Karl Rove himself holds the answer to these questions. He can tell the American people exactly what his conversations with Matt Cooper were. And if he is not the source of the leak, he can publicly demand that whoever leaked Plame’s name step forward immediately.

Neocons, Osama bin Laden and Oil

A thought to chew on, from blogger ABetterWorld....

"While the Neoconservatives share with Osama bin Laden a desire for democracy in the Middle East, bin Laden wants democracy for all middle eastern countries, while the neocons of the Bush administration want democracy only for those totalitarian regimes that won't play ball with US oil interests. "

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Turning Historic Opportunity Into Diplomatic Mush

In case you missed it, the New York Times lead editorial today, summarizing the dismal reluctance of George Bush that singlehandedly caused the recent G8 meeting to fall short of its goals.

George Bush characteristically kicked dirt in the eye his only remaining international friend, Tony Blair. As we knew he would.
Tony Blair's Summit Meeting

Prime Minister Tony Blair called the outcome of the summit meeting in Scotland an "alternative to the hatred" manifested by the terrorist bombings in London - an apt description. The leaders of eight of the world's richest countries agreed on a package of measures to help the world's poorest, including, prominently, a doubling of their aid to Africa, to $50 billion a year by 2010 from $25 billion, the current level.

The sizable increase in aid to depressed countries, including the African pledge, was the most important and heartening achievement of a meeting whose successes owed much to the generous, disciplined agenda set by Mr. Blair, the conference chairman, and his willingness to see it through to the end despite the distraction of the awful events in London.

Yet the meeting fell short of Mr. Blair's expectations - indeed, of the world's expectations - in important ways. Sad to say, the foot-dragging of the United States, particularly on the issue of global warming but also on aid, was largely responsible for most of these shortcomings.

In addition to doubling the dollars committed to Africa, the conference members agreed to cancel the debts of many countries, to do more to fight diseases like AIDS and malaria, and, in terms that were regrettably vague, to reduce trade barriers. They also pledged as much as $3 billion a year to help the Palestinians after Israel withdraws later this summer from Gaza and parts of the West Bank - a gesture that could be enormously important as long as the United States and others make sure that both sides honor their commitments.

The conference fell well short, however, of ending the agricultural subsidies that help keep farmers in developing nations in poverty. And Mr. Blair was not successful in his broader effort to persuade the United States to set a timetable for increasing its overall foreign aid to a level equal to 0.7 percent of national income by 2015. That step would require a much larger contribution by the United States, which currently provides 0.16 percent, the smallest percentage of any of the Group of 8 countries. Europe agreed to a timetable, but Mr. Bush would not.

The summit meeting's biggest disappointment involved global warming, an issue that Mr. Blair had elevated above all others except foreign aid. In what will stand as a testament to America's influence but not, unfortunately, to its intelligence or courage, the White House succeeded in turning what might have been a powerful commitment by the industrialized nations to confront global warming into diplomatic mush.

The communiqué acknowledges that climate change is a serious "long term" challenge, though "immediate" challenge would have been more to the point. The 1998 G-8 communiqué, by contrast, described climate change as "the greatest environmental threat to our future prosperity."

The new communiqué further commits all eight nations to work together and in partnership with major developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It does not dispute - as Mr. Bush's administration has done so often - the mainstream scientific view that warming is occurring and that humans and human industrial activity are largely responsible. And perhaps most important, it promises to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels that will prevent environmental catastrophe.

But these goals are vaguely stated, and, worse, there is nothing approaching a road map for achieving them. Mr. Blair had hoped for much more: mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, like those already in effect in Europe; a trading system to mitigate compliance costs; concrete financial commitments to new technologies; specific targets for energy efficiency. But the White House would have none of it, clinging instead to Mr. Bush's approach of asking industry for voluntary reductions.

The net result is that little has changed on the warming issue. The rest of the industrialized nations are moving forward, honoring, however imperfectly, their commitments to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and its goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. America's state governments and its mayors are devising emission-reduction plans of their own. Even the United States Senate has committed itself, on paper, to a program of mandatory reductions, with hearings to begin later this month.

And Mr. Bush? Isolated, a wallflower at the dance, and apparently content to be one.

Friday, July 08, 2005

War in Iraq Crushes US, Not Terrorism

Violence begats violence, war begats more war. It's that simple. War never begats peace. It never has and it will never will. As Jesus preached, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." ---Matthew 5:9.

The Bush Administration's $300 billion, bloody and violent, hawkish approach to "peace making" in the Middle East is a total and complete failure.

In fact, the War in Iraq has crushed the US in reputation, in international friendships, in solvency, in its unity and in its very soul. But it has not crushed has caused it to flourish.

From the Center for American Progress.....

Yesterday’s tragic bombings in London that left at least 50 people dead and another 700 wounded reaffirmed the world's resolve to defeat global terrorist networks. But the attacks also underscore that the world remains unsafe and that our current approach to fighting terrorism is at a minimum insufficient. While America remains committed to defeating terrorists, many are asking a legitimate question: are our policies making us safer?

The numbers don’t lie: global terrorist acts have increased steadily since 2001. By objective measures, the problem of international terrorism is worse now than it was in 2001. According to State Department data, the number of international terrorist attacks tripled to 650 in 2004. (The number of international terrorist attacks in 2003, 175, was a 20 year high.)

This week, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)—part of the intelligence reforms pushed by the 9/11 Commission—revealed that those numbers dramatically understate the scope of the problem. Broadening the definition to include attacks that “deliberately hit civilians or non-combatants” the NCTC found that 3,192 incidents of international terrorism occurred last year, resulting in the "deaths, injury or kidnapping of almost 28,500 people."

Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks continue to operate and threaten our way of life. The attacks in London illustrated the changing nature of the threat from al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. As The Washington Post reports, it has long been Osama Bin Laden's goal to evolve al-Qaeda from "headquarters-planned conspiracies toward diffuse ideological incitement and tactical support." Over the last 18 months, Bin Laden in his top deputies "have persuaded dozens of like-minded young men, operating independently of the core al Qaeda leadership, to assemble and deliver suicide or conventional bombs in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Spain, Egypt and now apparently London." Thus, despite the President's rhetoric, the threat cannot be defeated "abroad before they attack us at home." Al-Qaeda brand terrorists can emerge anywhere at anytime.

The Bush administration’s incompetence in Iraq has only fueled the terrorist fire. In the face of an al-Qaeda threat that is global, diverse and diffuse, President Bush continues to defend sinking over $200 billion and 138,000 troops into Iraq to fight an insurgency that seems to produce more terrorists than it eliminates. As yesterday’s attacks prove, our enemies are nimble and adaptive yet the conservative leadership in our country remains stubborn and inflexible.

American security will continue to suffer until our leaders discard the “stay the course” strategy and start implementing a smarter plan that addresses the real—and changing—nature of global terrorism. President Bush’s mantra that we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here is now becoming part of the problem not the solution.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Londoner's Plea for Peace

An intriguing British voice, pleading for an end to violence.....and she's correct: Violence and killing only begets more violence and killing, not peace. Never peace.

The Cat's Dream blog, by Gabriele Zamparini

Let's Not Let Them Win

London, the city where I live, has been attacked. Ordinary people are paying the prize, once again.

Killing innocent people is an infamous act, never legitimate. Never justified. Never. But if we want to understand what's going on without hysteria, we must look at the full picture. Again, not to apologize. But to understand. And hopefully to do something to build a better world.

I was living in New York when the September 11th attacks happened. I saw the people of New York meeting spontaneously in the streets and the squares of Downtown Manhattan. Staying together. Talking and singing for peace. Not revenge.

I witnessed how the power used those events for its own agenda. I remember the manipulation of the events by the media, that corporate media that was beating the drums for war. And I feared the rise of a totalitarian regime. There are still many questions on what exactly happened that day.

But since, Afghanistan has been bombed and innocent people there, people like you and me, are still dying because of our Governments' actions. Iraq has been invaded and occupied. No connections whatsoever linked Iraq to the September 11th attacks. And none of the alleged reasons given by our ruthless leaders were true.

More than 100,000 Iraqi innocent civilians have been murdered, most of them women and children. Many young boys and girls from the United States, the United Kingdom, from Italy and many other countries lost their lives. Young boys and girls who didn't even start their lives were sent to kill other people, people who did nothing to them or to their own country. They were sent far away from home, through a brain washing process that involves complicity and unity by all sides of the establishment.

And then the massive human rights violation at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib... All this and much more, we were told, was necessary to fight the "War on Terror". But war IS terror. All this and much more, we were told, was necessary to keep our cities safe. Then Madrid and now London. All this and much more, we were told, was necessary to build democracy in Iraq. Yet, no Iraqi wants foreign occupation.

In this day of sorrow, our solidarity and our thoughts must go to the innocent victims of these cruel and infamous acts in London. But our love for these brothers and sisters must not be an empty and hypocritical gesture of circumstance or convenience. This is a time for reason, honesty and open discussion.

Those who target innocent civilians are infamous terrorists who deserve our contempt and must be held accountable. Always. Doesn't matter if they terrorize innocent civilians with a bomb placed on a bus or with much more expensive and sophisticated weaponry paid for by our tax money. Let's not them win.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Free Market Capitalism Is Dead Under Bush and Cheney

Read an astonishing idea a few days ago that depressed me so, I stopped writing for a few days. MIT professor and respected writer and thinker Noam Chomsky wrote at his blog, "An End to Capitalism? The state-corporate system is quite remote from anything that might be called "capitalism" or a "market system," though it has elements of both." Read his article here....

He's right. This is no longer capitalism at all. It's complete control by the much-feared industrial (corporate)-military (state) complex. Free market capitalism, which is neither helped nor hindered by government, is dead under the Bush Administration. All hail the mighty and impenetrable US corporate-state partnership.

Play ball with the big boys....Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice....or you essentially don't play ball at all. And consumers...the American public...are the big losers, left to eventually pay the tab.

Don't believe me? Then please do me this favor: after reading the Reuters article below, go to War Profiteers and read about Halliburton.


From Reuters, via Yahoo News, this afternoon.....

Army gives $5 billion of work to Halliburton by Sue Pleming (Wed Jul 6, 6:04 PM ET )

The U.S. military has signed on Halliburton (NYSE:HAL - news) to do nearly $5 billion in new work in Iraq under a giant logistics contract that has so far earned the Texas-based firm $9.1 billion, the Army said on Wednesday.

Linda Theis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Illinois, said the military signed the work order with Halliburton unit Kellogg Brown and Root in May.

The new deal, worth $4.97 billion over the next year, was not made public when it was signed because the Army did not consider such an announcement necessary, she said.

"We did not announce this task order as this is really not something we ever really thought about doing," said Theis.

Halliburton, which was run by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000, has been under scrutiny for its contracts in Iraq and several U.S. government agencies are looking into whether it overcharged for some work.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the new spending package was approved by the Army after the company submitted estimated costs for the year based on services requested.

The $4.97 billion figure represented the maximum under the contract, and the actual amount could be lower since the Army doled out the work on an incremental basis, she said.
The new contract is about $1 billion more than the company earned under last year's services contract.

In March, a former KBR employee and a Kuwaiti citizen were indicted for defrauding the U.S. government of more than $3.5 million by inflating the cost of fuel tankers.

The new work order, called Task Order 89, is valid until April 30, 2006, and went ahead despite critical military audits released last week by Democratic opponents of KBR's Iraq work.

A top U.S. Army procurement official said last week Halliburton's deals in Iraq were the worst example of contract abuse she had ever seen, a claim KBR strongly rejected as "political rhetoric."

KBR was awarded the logistical contract with the military in December 2001, covering tasks from feeding U.S. troops to delivering mail, doing laundry and building barracks.

U.S. Senate critics of Halliburton were quick to denounce the new deal. "At this point, why don't we just hand Halliburton the keys to the U.S. Treasury and tell them to turn off the lights when they are done," Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg said in a statement.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

California Dreaming.....

A bit of California Dreaming to while away the Bush years. From the San Francisco Chronicle today, via Common Dreams....

Liberal Legislative Caucus Envisions Post-Bush Era by Edward Epstein

If the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is probably the closest thing Bay Area liberal Democrats have to a government in waiting, were to take over in Washington, these would become national policy:

Access to affordable, high-quality health care would be universal. Social Security benefits would be protected, along with private pensions. The minimum wage would be raised, and workers' rights to form unions would be protected. Expiring sections of the Patriot Act wouldn't be renewed, and Congress would fight media consolidation.

U.S. troops would be brought home from Iraq "as soon as possible,'' and the government would work to "restore international respect for American power and influence.''

All these points are part of the "Progressive Promise,'' an effort by the 59-member caucus of liberal House Democrats and one independent to reinvigorate the 15-year-old organization and make it more of a player in a capital city where conservative Republicans are solidly in charge.

The effort also includes hiring the caucus' first full-time staff member, veteran congressional aide Bill Goold, and reaching out to a variety of groups for support.

Behind the attempt to revitalize the organization is the feeling, also reflected in the election of the outspoken former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as Democratic national chairman, that the party must provide a sharp alternative to President Bush and the Republican Congress.

"This is a reinvigoration. It shows our understanding of where the country is," said one of the caucus' two co-chairs, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D- Petaluma. "Democrats are hungry to hear their voice.''

Her co-chair, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said the "Progressive Promise, " which consists of three main themes and about 20 specific pledges, is a serious document. "It is a blueprint for a progressive governing majority, and a vision for what a progressive America can and will accomplish," she said.

"Never have I seen our caucus so united," Lee said. "It gives us the space to be as prominent as any other caucus."

The document was made public last week in a sweltering, jammed basement meeting room in the Rayburn House Office Building. A few hundred people picked at trays of cheese, crackers and melon, sipping wine and soft drinks as they listened to a long list of speakers lay out the caucus' issues and lambaste the Republicans.

The event was sponsored by a swarm of liberal groups eager to take on conservatives. They included, the Nation magazine, the American Civil Liberties Union, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Americans for Democratic Action, the Human Rights Campaign, Peace Action and Hip Hop Caucus, and a host of others.

It was clear they are all hungry for action. "We like it when someone says no to George Bush,'' John Nichols, the Nation's Washington correspondent, told the throng. "Caucuses are beginnings. ... Caucuses can change the country, '' he said.

The Progressive Caucus began trying to change things when it was founded in 1990 by Rep. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont. It says it's the largest single caucus among House Democrats, who now number 202 in the 109th Congress, and is one of dozens of caucuses boosting all kinds of causes and concerns, from wine and hunting to the Balkans and African Americans.

In addition to Woolsey and Lee, Bay Area members of the caucus include Democratic Reps. Sam Farr of Carmel, Tom Lantos of San Mateo, George Miller of Martinez and Pete Stark of Fremont.
The House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, has been a longtime caucus member. But as leader of all House Democrats, she has a policy of not belonging to any individual caucuses. Rather, she says she is concentrating on unifying Democrats of all stripes in their effort to take back the House, which Republicans won in 1994.

Other Bay Area Democrats affiliate with different caucuses. Rep. Mike Thompson D-St. Helena, and Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, belong to the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 35 moderate to conservative Democrats.

The progressives are way behind their conservative rivals and even other liberal caucuses in terms of organization.

Goold works out of Woolsey's office and is paid from funds kicked in by caucus members' office budgets. He said that after just three weeks on the job, he's swamped. "I can't answer all the calls and e-mails I get each day,'' Goold said.

The group's Web site, which like other congressional caucus pages is reachable only through members' Web sites, hasn't been updated in about four years. "We need to address basic communication functions,'' Goold said.

In contrast, the big caucus of more than 100 conservative House Republicans, called the Republican Study Committee, maintains an elaborate Web site, has long had a paid executive director, and provides a center for members to issue press releases and statements on issues.

The group also reports about Congress' actions in supporting conservative values on such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, gambling and abstinence.

The progressives also lag behind the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus, which has maintained a foundation that conducts research on issues of concern to members since 1976. Goold said creation of a similar foundation might be a long-term goal for the progressives.

Woolsey said the progressives will make a small number of issues their immediate priorities.
"We are working on progressive responses to the Patriot Act, the budget and trade deficits, media consolidation and the war. ... That's a plateful,'' she said.