Sunday, April 30, 2006

Iraqi troops protest after graduation parade

HABBANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Newly graduated Iraqi soldiers protested after a passing out parade on Sunday saying they were promised they would serve only in their hometowns ...

Some took off their shirts and threw them down in anger. Others yelled at their officers and threatened to quit. One officer yelled back, telling them to leave, witnesses said ...

Frank Rich: Bush of a Thousand Days

Like the hand that suddenly pops out of the grave at the end of "Carrie," the past keeps coming back to haunt the Bush White House.
Last week was no exception. No sooner did the Great Decider introduce the Fox News showman anointed to repackage the same old bad decisions than the spotlight shifted back to Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury room, where Karl Rove testified for a fifth time.

Nightfall brought the release of an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll with its record-low numbers for a lame-duck president with a thousand days to go and no way out.

The demons that keep rising up from the past to grab Mr. Bush are the fictional W.M.D. he wielded to take us into Iraq. They stalk him as relentlessly as Banquo's ghost did Macbeth. From that original sin, all else flows.

Mr. Rove wouldn't be in jeopardy if the White House hadn't hatched a clumsy plot to cover up its fictions.

Mr. Bush's poll numbers wouldn't be in the toilet if American blood was not being spilled daily because of his fictions.

By recruiting a practiced Fox News performer to better spin this history, the White House reveals that it has learned nothing.

Made-for-TV propaganda propelled the Bush presidency into its quagmire in the first place. At this late date only the truth, the whole and nothing but, can set it free.

All too fittingly, Tony Snow's appointment was announced just before May Day, a red-letter day twice over in the history of the Iraq war. It was on May 1 three years ago that Mr. Bush did his victory jig on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

It was May 1 last year that The Sunday Times of London published the so-called Downing Street memo. These events bracket all that has gone wrong and will keep going wrong for this president until he comes clean.

To mark the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion last month, the White House hyped something called Operation Swarmer, "the largest air assault" since the start of the war, complete with Pentagon-produced video suitable for the evening news. (What the operation actually accomplished as either warfare or P.R. remains a mystery.)

It will take nothing less than a replay of D-Day with the original cast to put a happy gloss on tomorrow's anniversary. Looking back at "Mission Accomplished" now is like playing that childhood game of "What's wrong with this picture?"

It wasn't just the banner or the "Top Gun" joyride or the declaration of the end of "major combat operations" that was bogus. Everything was fake except the troops.

"We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools," Mr. Bush said on that glorious day.

Three years later we know, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers, that our corrupt, Enron-like Iraq reconstruction effort has yielded at most 20 of those 142 promised hospitals.

But we did build a palace for ourselves. The only building project on time and on budget, USA Today reported, is a $592 million embassy complex in the Green Zone on acreage the size of 80 football fields.

Symbolically enough, it will have its own water-treatment plant and power generator to provide the basic services that we still have not restored to pre-invasion levels for the poor unwashed Iraqis beyond the American bunker.

Bush's bait-and-switch rhetoric

These days Mr. Bush seems to be hoping that we'll just forget every falsehood in his "Mission Accomplished" oration. Trying to deflect a citizen's hostile question about prewar intelligence claims, the president asserted at a public forum last month that he had never said "there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein."
But on May 1, 2003, as on countless other occasions, he repeatedly made that direct connection. "With those attacks the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States," he intoned then.

"And war is what they got." It was typical of the bait-and-switch rhetoric he used to substitute a war of choice against an enemy who did not attack us on 9/11 for the war against the non-Iraqi terrorists who did.

At the time, "Mission Accomplished" was cheered by the Beltway establishment. "This fellow's won a war," the dean of the capital's press corps, David Broder, announced on "Meet the Press" after complimenting the president on the "great sense of authority and command" he exhibited in a flight suit.

By contrast, the Washington grandees mostly ignored the Downing Street memo when it was first published in Britain, much as they initially underestimated the import of the Valerie Wilson leak investigation.

The Downing Street memo — minutes of a Tony Blair meeting with senior advisers in July 2002, nearly eight months before the war began — has proved as accurate as "Mission Accomplished" was fantasy.

Each week brings new confirmation that the White House, as the head of British intelligence put it, was determined to fix "the intelligence and facts" around its predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq.

Today Mr. Bush tries to pass the buck on the missing W.M.D. to "faulty intelligence," but his alibi is springing leaks faster than the White House and the C.I.A. can clamp down on them.

We now know the president knew that the intelligence he cherry-picked was faulty — and flogged it anyway to sell us the war.

The latest evidence that Mr. Bush knew that "uranium from Africa" was no slam-dunk when he brandished it in his 2003 State of the Union address was uncovered by The Washington Post: the coordinating council for the 15 American intelligence agencies had already informed the White House that the Niger story had no factual basis and should be dropped.

Last Sunday "60 Minutes" augmented this storyline and an earlier scoop by Lisa Myers of NBC News by reporting that the White House had deliberately ignored its most highly placed prewar informant, Saddam's final foreign minister, Naji Sabri, once he sent the word that Saddam's nuclear cupboard was bare.

"There was almost a concern we'd find something that would slow up the war," Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year C.I.A. veteran and an on-camera source for "60 Minutes," said when I interviewed him last week.

Since retiring from the C.I.A. in fall 2004, Mr. Drumheller has played an important role in revealing White House chicanery, including its dire hawking of Saddam's mobile biological weapons labs, which turned out to be fictitious.

Before Colin Powell's fateful U.N. presentation, Mr. Drumheller conveyed vociferous warnings that the sole human source on these nonexistent W.M.D. labs, an Iraqi émigré known as Curveball, was mentally unstable and a fabricator.

"The real tragedy of this," Mr. Drumheller says, "is if they had let the weapons inspectors play out, we could have had a Gulf War I-like coalition, which would have given us the [300,000] to 400,000 troops needed to secure the country after defeating the Iraqi Army."

Mr. Drumheller says that until the White House "comes to grips with why it did this" and stops "propping up the original rationale" for the war, it "will never get out of Iraq." He is right. But the White House clings to its discredited fictions even though their expiration date is fast arriving.

There are new Drumhellers seeking out reporters each day. The Fitzgerald investigation continues to yield revelations of administration W.M.D. subterfuge, president-authorized leaks included.

Should the Democrats retake either house of Congress in November, their subpoena power will liberate the investigation of the manipulation of prewar intelligence that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, has stalled for almost two years.

A new defense or press secretary changes nothing

Set against this reality, the debate about Donald Rumsfeld's future is as much of a sideshow as the installation of a slicker Fleischer-McClellan marketer in the White House press room.
The defense secretary's catastrophic mistakes in Iraq cannot be undone now, and any successor would still be beholden to the policy set from above.

Mr. Rumsfeld is merely a useful, even essential, scapegoat for the hawks in politics and punditland who are now embarrassed to have signed on to this fiasco. For conservative hawks, he's a convenient way to deflect blame from where it most belongs: with the commander in chief.

For liberal hawks, attacking Mr. Rumsfeld for his poor execution of the war means never having to say you're sorry for leaping on (and abetting) the blatant propaganda bandwagon that took us there. But their history can't be rewritten any more than Mr. Bush's can: the war's failures were manifestly foretold by the administration's arrogance and haste during the run-up.

A new defense or press secretary changes nothing. The only person who can try to save the administration from itself in Iraq is the president.

He can start telling the truth in the narrow window of time he has left and initiate a candid national conversation about our inevitable exit strategy. Or he can wait for events on the ground in Iraq and political realities at home to do it for him.

Iran to secede from IAEA if West keeps threatening

TEHRAN, April 30 (Itar-Tass) -- Tehran will respond to further threats with secession from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said on Sunday.

“If the West keeps threatening Iran, we will secede from the IAEA. Let them know that we will do that if the threats go on,” he said. “The ball is on the side of the West. They will make a decision, which will determine our reaction.”

The high-ranking official reaffirmed that Iran would not resume the uranium enrichment moratorium. “Don’t tell us about the moratorium, we rule it out,” he said.

Imposing Sanctions on Iran Illegal — Russian Diplomat

Moscow News

A former Russian Duma speaker said here Saturday that there was no legal basis for the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the UN Security Council, IRNA agency said Saturday.

Talking to IRNA, Ruslan Khazbulatov said Iran’s nuclear activities were being conducted within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the report of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the UN Security Council, he was of the view that the Security Council has “only the authority to ask Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and continue negotiations.” The Islamic Republic of Iran is an active member of both the IAEA and the UN, he said, and stressed that Tehran had repeatedly declared it had no intention of producing nuclear weapons.

Since Iran has not violated its obligations under the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), there is no ground for the imposition of sanctions on the country, the Russian diplomat stressed, and added that coercive measures will only damage the interests of countries, including the West and even the U.S.

Bush challenges hundreds of laws -- President cites powers of his office

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts. For the first five years of Bush's presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner-- President Does Not Seem Amused

WASHINGTON A blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.


Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”


As he walked from the podium, the president and First Lady gave Colbert quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately. E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting hear him felt the material was, perhaps, uncomfortably biting.

Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons.

Video at Crooks & Liars

Qatar halts trade talks with U.S.

DOHA, Qatar - Qatar has frozen bilateral free trade talks with the United States, saying Washington was imposing preconditions that were not in Doha's interest, a newspaper reported Saturday.

"The talks were not proceeding in the right direction. They were going nowhere. It was like two deaf people talking to each other. There was no sense in continuing with the dialogue," Al Khalifa said.

. . .

"We do not need a free trade agreement with the U.S.," Al Khalifa said.

Qatar, he said, already was a major destination of investment for U.S. companies because of favorable investment laws in the tiny Gulf nation.

Countries that are signing free trade deals with the U.S. are either getting financial support from Washington or want preferential treatment for their products in the U.S. markets, he said.

"As for Qatar, it needs none of these from America," said Al Khalifa.

Qatar's primary export is liquefied natural gas, for which there is a hungry worldwide market.

U.S.-trained Iraqis working both sides

HAWIJAH, Iraq, April 29 (UPI) -- U.S. troops training Iraqis in policing and security measures are encountering trainees who use their new skills to attack them, The Washington Post reports.

Most recently in the predominantly Sunni Muslim town of Hawijah, 175 miles north of Baghdad, a U.S. convoy discovered a fishing line strung across a road linked to an old Russian artillery shell. Not far off were four U.S.-trained Iraqi policemen who claimed they knew nothing about it, the report said.

"There's two kinds of Iraqis here, the ones who help us and the ones who shoot us, and there's an awful lot of them doing both," said Staff Sgt. Jason Hoover, 26. "Yes, it's frustrating. But we can't just stop working with them."

Last week, a raging fire erupted nearby from a sabotaged oil pipeline 50 feet from a police checkpoint. And earlier this month, a U.S. sniper team caught 14 policemen placing roadside bombs in the nearby town of Riyadh.

U.S. military police say more than 60 other police officers are on a watch list of suspected insurgent collaborators.

Mexicans call for gringo boycott

Saturday 29 April 2006

The protesters expressed solidarity with striking miners

A demonstration by thousands of Mexican workers to promote solidarity has turned into a protest against American influence on the country's economy.

Waving signs saying "Don't Buy Gringo Products. Long live the Boycott," about 3,000 workers with Mexico's state-owned electrical utility blocked traffic on a major highway and then marched 3km to a vast colonial plaza in the city's centre on Friday.

Many protesters said they would take part in a boycott of all things "gringo" next week. Gringo is a derogatory term for English-speakers.

The proposed boycott, known as the Nothing Gringo campaign, is timed to coincide with Monday's Day Without Immigrants protest in the United States aimed at pushing forward a proposal for immigration reform including legalisation for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants.

EU and US strike different tones on Iran

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States and the
European Union struck different tones on Saturday on how to respond to
Iran's nuclear defiance while insisting they were in full agreement.

Speaking at a transatlantic conference, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said no one was considering military action over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment and Europe did not want to join a "coalition of the willing" against Iran.

Influential U.S. Senator John McCain told the Brussels Forum in a speech on Friday night: "There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

He said the United States would not stand by and let Iran wipe out
Israel, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjenad had called for.

The Islamic republic, a major oil and gas producer, denies it aims to build a bomb and says its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes.

U.S. soldiers each cost $400,000 annually

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Congressional Research Service reports it costs an average of $361,000 to put a soldier, Marine, airman or sailor in Iraq or in the region.

Costs have risen almost 20 percent in 2006, making it likely the expense per service member has topped $400,000, the Houston Chronicle reported.

World War II, in which the United States deployed 75 times as many troops as in Iraq, cost the nation about $20,400 per soldier, adjusted for inflation, researchers said.

Investigators Focus on Limo Company: Cunningham Case


Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a California defense contractor arranged for a Washington area limousine company to provide prostitutes to convicted former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) and possibly other lawmakers, sources familiar with the probe said yesterday.

In recent weeks, investigators have focused on possible dealings between Christopher D. Baker, president of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc., and Brent R. Wilkes, a San Diego businessman who is under investigation for bribing Cunningham in return for millions of dollars in federal contracts, said one source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.


Baker (president of Shirlington Limousines) has a criminal record and has experienced financial difficulties, public records show. Last fall, his company was awarded a $21 million contract with the Department of Homeland Security to provide transportation, including limo service for senior officials. Baker and his lawyer declined to comment yesterday.

Fitzgerald to Seek Indictment of Rove

Jason Leopold

Despite vehement denials by his attorney who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week, sources knowledgeable about the probe said Friday afternoon.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was in Chicago Friday and did not meet with the grand jury.

Luskin was informed via a target letter that Fitzgerald is prepared to charge Rove for perjury and lying to investigators during Rove’s appearances before the grand jury in 2004 and in interviews with investigators in 2003 when he was asked how and when he discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, and whether he shared that information with the media.

Maureen Dowd: Say Uncle, Rummy

Even some State Department officials thought it was like watching a cranky, eccentric uncle with an efficient, energetic niece.
Rummy was ordered to go to Iraq by the president, but he clearly has no stomach for nation-building, or letting Condi run the show. He seemed under the weather after a rough overnight ride on a C-17 transport plane from Washington into Baghdad.

And Condi's aides were rolling their eyes at the less than respectful way the DefSec treated the SecState as she tried to be enthusiastic, in her cheerful automaton way, about what she considers the latest last chance for Iraq.

A reporter in Baghdad asked Rummy about the kerfuffle when Condi talked of "thousands" of tactical errors in Iraq. Rummy later noted that "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest" and that anyone who said that had "a lack of understanding" about warfare. She's just a silly girl, after all.

He could have taken the opportunity to be diplomatic about the diplomat, but he's incapable of that, so he just added more fuel to the fire.

"She's right here, and you can ask her," he said, pointing to Condi, who said she had not meant errors "in the military sense." She must have meant mismanagement in the civilians-mucking-up-the-military sense.

The former "Matinee Idol," as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror.

On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.

If the news is so good, why wasn't Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)

In further evidence of their astute connection with the Iraqi culture, the cabinet secretaries showed up there without even knowing the correct name of their latest puppet.

It turned out that Jawad al-Maliki, the new prime minister-designate, considered "Jawad" his exile name and had reverted to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

On the cusp of the third anniversary of "Mission Accomplished," Rummy was still in denial despite the civil war, with armed gangs of Shiites and Sunnis going out and killing each other and Balkanizing whole communities.

When a reporter asked him what the U.S. had to do to get the militias under control and stop the sectarian dueling, he answered bluntly:

"I guess the first thing I have to say is we don't, the Iraqis do. It's their country. It's a sovereign country. This is not a government that has an 'interim' in front of it or a 'transition' in front of it.

"It's a government that's in for a period of years and undoubtedly, unquestionably, will be addressing the question as to how they can best provide for the security of all of their people."

Yeah, let's leave it up to what's-his-name. We broke it. What's-his-name can fix it.

The assertions that Iraq is largely peaceful were belied yesterday by our own government. A State Department report on global terrorism counted 8,300 deaths of civilians in Iraq from insurgent attacks — more than half of all those killed by terrorists worldwide — and noted that violence is escalating.

The elections have clearly not quelled the violence, and terrorists are said to be trying to turn Iraq's Anbar province into a base for Al Qaeda and other militants. (And since it's our State Department, you've got to figure they're soft-peddling it.)

April was the most lethal month for U.S. soldiers this year; at least 67 died.

The Bush II hawks were determined to restore a Reaganesque muscular, "moral" foreign policy, as opposed to the realpolitik of Bush I.

But with no solution in sight, Congress is pressing for some realpolitik. With W.'s blessing, lawmakers are sending his father's old consigliere, James Baker, to Iraq to look for a way out.

As Iran vows to go ahead with its nuclear ambitions, the administration finds itself relying for help on the very people it steamrolled and undermined before the Iraq war: the U.N. and international arms inspectors.

"The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security, and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state," Condi said after a NATO meeting on Thursday.

Rummy may get prickly with his office niece, but who else but the automaton could make that threat with a straight face?

Brinkmanship by Iran continues

The Scotsman

IRAN'S showdown with the international community escalated sharply last night after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed that the Islamic republic had not only flouted a 30-day deadline to halt enriching uranium but had even accelerated the process.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also said that Iran was still stalling inquiries into its nuclear work. He also confirmed Iran's boast this month that it had mastered uranium enrichment to the low level suitable in power plants. His damning report was sent to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

George Bush, the US president, said he wanted peaceful persuasion to prevail in the confrontation.

"It's very important for the Iranians to understand there is a common desire by a lot of nations in this world to convince them, peacefully convince them, that they ought to give up their weapons ambitions," said Mr Bush, who added that he would keep consulting the United States' allies on the issue.


Iran, refusing to blink, oozed defiance. The country's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared hours before the report's release that the Islamic Republic would shun UN calls to limit its nuclear programme.

"Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their right should know that we do not give a damn about such resolutions," he told a rally in north-west Iran. Threats and "psychological warfare" against Iran would fail, he insisted. "Whether our enemies like it or not, Iran is a nuclear state. Obtaining nuclear technology is a national demand."

Iran has calculated that the Security Council is too divided to agree on punitive action, and that the US is too bogged down in Iraq to be a potent military threat, analysts believe.

Russia and China are opposed in particular to any so-called "Chapter 7 resolution" sought by the US that would designate Iran a threat to international security, a step that would open the door to sanctions and eventually even military action.

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is solely for generating electricity.

Galloway inquiry wants Saddam deputy to testify

The Times

BRITISH diplomats in Baghdad have asked Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, to help an investigation into allegations that George Galloway was given cash by Saddam Hussein under the Oil-for-Food programme.

The diplomats made the secret approach through Mr Aziz’s lawyer this week on behalf of Parliament’s so-called “sleaze buster”. The lawyer, Badie Izzat Arief, claimed that they offered to try and secure Mr Aziz immunity from prosecution on any charges arising from the Oil-for-Food scandal.

Embassy officials want to meet Mr Aziz, 70, in the US-run detention centre where he is held with other top members of Saddam’s regime to put a series of questions from Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Sir Philip is investigating claims that the MP for Bethnal Green & Bow took money under the UN Oil-for-Food programme — a charge that Mr Galloway strenuously denies and about which he has already successfully sued and won damages from one national newspaper.

Mr Arief told The Times that his client has been interrogated 312 times by the CIA and UN investigators since his arrest in April 2003, but this was the first British approach.“We were surprised to hear from the British, but let’s see what they want,” Mr Arief said.

“The main question I believe is whether money was paid by anyone in Iraq to Mr Galloway’s charity, the Mariam Appeal.”

He said that US officials had asked his client more than 100 detailed questions about Western politicians alleged to have received money from Saddam, but none about Mr Galloway.

“The CIA haven’t asked about Mr Galloway. They are obsessed with Jacques Chirac. Mr Aziz told them: ‘I find it strange you want revenge on Chirac. He is the respected President of France, so I regard the question as insulting.’ ”

Mr Aziz, who also served as Saddam’s Foreign Minister, spent a Christmas holiday with Mr Galloway, in Baghdad, in 1999. Mr Galloway described him as “an eminent diplomat and intellectual person”.

Musharraf Insists: I'm Not George Bush's Poodle

The Guardian

General Pervez Musharraf, facing a surge of anti-American sentiment, yesterday warned that covert US air strikes against al-Qaida inside Pakistan were an infringement of national sovereignty.

Admitting that his popularity was waning, the Pakistani president insisted he was "not a poodle" of George Bush and rejected accusations he was running a military dictatorship.

Speaking to the Guardian at Army House in Rawalpindi weeks after a tense visit by the US president that brought a torrent of domestic criticism, Gen Musharraf insisted he was his own man.

"When you are talking about fighting terrorism or extremism, I'm not doing that for the US or Britain. I'm doing it for Pakistan," he said. "It's not a question of being a poodle. I'm nobody's poodle. I have enough strength of my own to lead."

If necessary he had "teeth" to bite back, he added. "Yes sir, I personally do. A lot of teeth. Sometimes the teeth do not have to be shown. Pragmatism is required in international relations."

Gen Musharraf pledged to hold free and fair elections next year as urged by Mr Bush during his visit to Islamabad last month. Opposition parties fear the poll, which government officials claim will be the most open since Gen Musharraf seized power in 1999, will be rigged.

"It is ironic that I'm sitting in uniform talking of democracy ... but to bring democracy into Pakistan I thought I needed it," he said.

An American Predator drone fired Hellfire missiles at a house in Bajaur tribal agency in January, killing 18 people but missing their target, al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Lawmakers warn on reaction to Dubai deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers from both parties warned on Thursday against overreacting to a failed effort by a Dubai company to purchase U.S. port terminals, saying laws that discourage foreign investment in the United States could result.

"If Congress makes it too onerous to invest in this country, why would anyone in their right mind do business here?" said Mike Oxley, chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.

"Labor is cheap in China, resources are cheap in South America, markets are huge in Europe," the Ohio Republican told a subcommittee hearing on overhauling the way the U.S. government reviews foreign acquisitions.

House lawmakers are working on legislation to correct flaws in the way foreign takeovers are examined for national security concerns, following the recent uproar over the Bush administration's approval of the state-owned Dubai company's purchase of terminal operations in six U.S. ports. The furor over the acquisition caused the Dubai company to announce last month that it would drop the purchase.

The White House is expected to decide this week whether to approve another Dubai-owned company's $1.24 billion plan to buy Doncasters, a British engineering company with U.S. plants that supply military parts to the Pentagon. The inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) sent its confidential recommendation on the Dubai takeover of Doncasters to Bush on April 13.

The Senate Banking Committee already has produced a bill to make the CFIUS rules on reviews of foreign takeovers more stringent. Rep. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said on Thursday he would produce a House bill by the end of May.

But comments at the subcommittee hearing, chaired by Ohio Republican Deborah Pryce, suggested the House mood favored something more moderate than the Senate version, which was watered down after protests from the business community.

Oxley said U.S. investment in other countries was at stake, too, and asked members to think about what would happen if China, for example, shut out U.S. companies.

DOJ Will Assert Military and State Secrets Privilege and Request Dismissal of Lawsuit

San Francisco - The United States government filed a "Statement of Interest" Friday in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&T, announcing that the government would "assert the military and state secrets privilege" and "intervene to seek dismissal" of the case.

EFF's lawsuit accuses AT&T of collaborating with the National Security Agency in its massive surveillance program. EFF's evidence regarding AT&T's dragnet surveillance of its networks, currently filed under seal, includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, and several internal AT&T documents. This evidence was bolstered and explained by the expert opinion of J. Scott Marcus, who served as Senior Advisor for Internet Technology to the Federal Communications Commission from July 2001 until July 2005

Much of the evidence in the case is currently under seal, as AT&T claims public release of the documents would expose trade secrets. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 17th.

For the full Statement of Interest(pdf)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 04-28-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (353)

Place (105)

Show (32)

Out of the Money (93)


Maywood Park

Race # 5

Horse: MY BOY DAVID (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 2

Settlement Agreement Ends State Investigation of Rush Limbaugh

PALM BEACH, Fla., April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- In response to media and other inquiries, Roy Black, Rush Limbaugh's attorney, released the following statement today concerning a settlement agreement with the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office to end the investigation of Mr. Limbaugh:
"I am pleased to announce that the State Attorney's Office and Mr. Limbaugh have reached an agreement whereby a single count charge of doctor shopping filed today by the State Attorney will be dismissed in 18 months. As a primary condition of the dismissal, Mr. Limbaugh must continue to seek treatment from the doctor he has seen for the past two and one half years. This is the same doctor under whose care Mr. Limbaugh has remained free of his addiction without relapse.

"Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor shopping, and we continue to hold this position. Accordingly, we filed today with the Court a plea of 'Not Guilty' to the charge filed by the State.

"As part of this agreement, Mr. Limbaugh also has agreed to make a $30,000 payment to the State of Florida to defray the public cost of the investigation. The agreement also provides that he must refrain from violating the law during this 18 months, must pay $30 per month for the cost of "supervision" and comply with other similar provisions of the agreement.

"Mr. Limbaugh had intended to remain in treatment. Thus, we believe the outcome for him personally will be much as if he had fought the charge and won."

Source: Roy Black

More from another source .....

Limbaugh Arrested in Fla. on Drug Charges - Yahoo! News

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Rush Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges, law enforcement officials said.
Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the state attorney's office, said agency spokeswoman Teri Barbera.

The conservative radio commentator came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and was released an hour later on $3,000 bail, Barbera said.

The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription, Barbera said.

Mexico bill decriminalizes drugs

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Owning marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if the drugs are carried in small amounts for personal use, under legislation passed by the Congress.

Police will not penalise people for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, 25 milligrams of heroin or 500 milligrams of cocaine, under a bill passed by senators late on Thursday and earlier approved by the lower house.

Low Iraq Output Pushes Oil Prices Higher


The rickety Iraqi oil system has been damaged repeatedly by insurgent sabotage and attacks on maintenance crews. Corruption, theft of oil, and widespread mismanagement compound the problems, analysts say. Iraq also lacks laws that would protect foreign investment, and its government is still sorting out whether oil will be controlled by the central government or the provinces.

The result: Iraq is importing refined oil products at record high prices at a time that it should be boosting exports to take advantage of those prices to earn money for reconstruction.

In 2005, Iraq's exports averaged just 1.4 million barrels a day, which earned the country about $26 billion. This winter proved disastrous, with January exports failing to reach even 1 million barrels a day, said George Orwel, an analyst with Petroleum Intelligence Weekly in New York. "It's a mess," he said. "At some point Iraq is going to be back in the picture, but it's been a very bad couple of years. They're missing out."

In 1990, probably its peak production year, Iraq extracted about 3.5 million barrels a day. Restoring production to that level would require years and a $30 billion investment, Orwel said, even in the "best case scenario."


For instance, exports from Iraq's southern oil fields have been hampered by the decrepit tugboats needed to pilot tankers to Persian Gulf terminals. The tugs, so old that spare parts can't be bought, frequently broke down or weren't seaworthy enough to handle rough winter seas. As a result, charges from tankers forced to delay loading cost Iraq $50 million over the past year, which the oil ministry paid by giving away oil, Orwel said.

Insurgents have been so deft at shutting down the pipelines from the giant fields around the northern city of Kirkuk that Iraqi authorities tried to move crude by truck to its refineries and crude-burning power plants. But after insurgents attacked the trucks, drivers became difficult to recruit and the oil ministry was forced to cut production, Orwel said.

U.S. prepares to face UN on torture as Amnesty report blasts 'war crimes'


As the United States prepares a team of 30 to defend its record on torture before a U.N. committee, Amnesty International has made public a report blasting the United States for failing to take appropriate steps to eradicate use of torture at U.S. detention sites around the world, RAW STORY has learned.

U.S. compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be the topic of May 5 and 8 U.N. hearings in Geneva.

The United States last appeared before the Committee Against Torture in May, 2000. Amnesty claims that practices criticized by the Committee six years ago -- such as the use of electro-shock weapons and excessively harsh conditions in "super-maximum" security prisons -- have been used and exported by U.S. forces abroad.

The Amnesty report reviews several cases where U.S. detainees held in Afghanistan and Iraq have died as a result of torture. The group also lambasts U.S. use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in "super-max" security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system -- including sexual abuse by male guards, shackling while pregnant and even in labor.

O'Reilly failed his own "civics test"; will he deport himself to Canada?

On the same edition of his radio show in which he misidentified the energy secretary, Bill O'Reilly proposed a "bill" to deport to Canada "high school kids in this country [who] couldn't pass a civics test," because they "don't know what the House of Representatives is; they don't know what the judicial branch is." Read more

In "No-Spin News" segment, O'Reilly claimed former CIA officer McCarthy leaked information to NY Times

Bill O'Reilly asserted that The New York Times wrote a "glowing" article about Mary McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer who was recently fired by the CIA, because she "was leaking stuff to them." However, initial reports of McCarthy's dismissal from the CIA noted that she was fired because of her relationship with Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest and because she allegedly provided information to the press regarding secret CIA detention centers in Europe that was first published in the Post, not in the Times. No news reports have mentioned any relationship between McCarthy and The New York Times. Read more

Hannity asserted federal, state, local governments "take about 50 percent of our income"; anti-tax group refutes claim

Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed that "the federal government and the state and local governments take about 50 percent of our income." Hannity's claim is contradicted by the conservative Tax Foundation, which has calculated that Americans' total tax burden has never exceeded 33.6 percent of income in a given year. Read more

ABC's own report debunked Vargas's claim that Bush "unveil[ed] an ambitious plan to lower the cost of oil and gas"

On the April 25 edition of ABC's World News Tonight, co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas reported that President Bush "unveil[ed] an ambitious plan to lower the cost of oil and gas." Yet later in the same broadcast, ABC News chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz reported that the Bush administration "acknowledges that this plan will likely not bring down the price of gas anytime soon." Read more

Mission Accomplished: A look back at the media's fawning coverage of Bush's premature declaration of victory in Iraq

On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln aboard an S-3B Viking jet, emerged from the aircraft in full flight gear, and proceeded to "press[] flesh," as The Washington Post put it, as he shook hands and hugged crew members in front of the cameras. Later that day, Bush delivered a nationally televised speech from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in which he declared that "[m]ajor combat operations in Iraq have ended," all the while standing under a banner reading: "Mission Accomplished." Despite lingering questions over the continued violence in Iraq, the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction, and the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, as well as evidence that Bush may have shirked his responsibilities in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG) during the Vietnam War, the print and televised media fawned over Bush's "grand entrance" and the image of Bush as the "jet pilot" and the "Fighter Dog."

O'Reilly: "[S]mear merchants on the Internet ... cherry pick" Snow quotes to "try to make him look like a buffoon and a hypocrite"

Bill O'Reilly declared that Tony Snow is "under attack by the far left and Howard Dean" and that "smear merchants on the Internet" "cherry pick stuff" that Snow "wrote in his column and said on the Fox News Channel and try to make him look like a buffoon and a hypocrite," which "they do ... to me every day." Read more

Wash. Times' MacKinnon claimed that Pulitzer-winning NY Times reporters who exposed NSA spying "hurt the United States dramatically"

Washington Times columnist Douglas MacKinnon repeated his claim that the December 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning report by The New York Times on the National Security Agency warrantless domestic spying program "hurt the United States dramatically." In making the statement, MacKinnon assumed two things: 1) that the program had been effective before the Times article appeared, and 2) that suspected terrorists altered their conduct after the article. MacKinnon added: "I'm not convinced that if they [the Times reporters] didn't have the information for D-Day on June 6, 1944, they wouldn't have revealed that as well." Read more

Limbaugh returned to favorite mantra: Terrorists sound like Democrats

Rush Limbaugh remarked that a new videotape released by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the rumored leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, "is an excellent opportunity to remind all of you that it sounds just like the DNC [Democratic National Committee] is writing his scripts now." Limbaugh has previously accused the Democratic Party of sympathizing with Al Qaeda. Read more

Olbermann named O'Reilly "Worst Person" for establishing "Hall of Shame" for media that "smear" him

Keith Olbermann named Bill O'Reilly the winner of his nightly "Worst Person in the World" award for establishing the "Hall of Shame," a new segment on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor in which O'Reilly purportedly points out media outlets that engage in personal attacks and use "smear" tactics. Read more

In War Time: Personal Stories From Iraq

This Sunday in LA: Paul Rieckhoff will be speaking at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books about his powerful new memoir, Chasing Ghosts: A Soldier's Fight for America, From Baghdad to Washington. Chronicling Paul's tour in Iraq, the founding of IAVA, and his continuing battle for Troops and Veterans, Chasing Ghosts has been called, "the best reporting to come out of the Iraq War." You can attend the event - for free - by clicking here.

The festival is held on the UCLA campus, and Paul's panel, "In War Time: Personal Stories From Iraq" begins at 1:30. Paul will be joined by Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill, John Crawford, author of The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell. Click here for more info, and to get your ticket.

In War Time: Personal Stories From Iraq

Sunday, April 30th

UCLA Campus (map)1:30 pm

Commission Reprimands Ohio Congresswoman

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday reprimanded U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt for claiming on her Web site last year that she had two college degrees when she had only one.

The commission in a unanimous ruling said Schmidt had violated campaign law.

The Republican went to Congress last year in a special election to replace Rob Portman, whom President Bush appointed U.S. trade representative and is set to take over the White House budget office.

Schmidt obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati in 1974. The Web site said she also had received a bachelor's in education from Cincinnati in 1986.

After a media call to the university revealed she had not, she said she had completed the course work for an education degree but had not received one, said her lawyer, William Todd.

Todd said Schmidt wasn't involved in the creation of her Web site and did not know its contents.

Of Imperial Presidents and Congressional Cowards

Pat Buchanan

There is a reason the Founding Fathers separated the power to conduct war from the power to declare it. The reason is just such a ruler as George W. Bush, a man possessed of an ideology and sense of mission that are not necessarily coterminous with what is best for his country. Under our Constitution, it is Congress, not the president, who decides on war.

Many Democrats now concede they failed the nation when they took Bush at his word that Iraq was an intolerable threat that could be dealt with only by an invasion. Now, Bush and the War Party are telling us the same thing about Iran. And the Congress is conducting itself in the same contemptible and cowardly way.

It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense. Or, if they so conclude, Congress should share full responsibility by granting him that authority after it has held hearings and told the people why we have no other choice than another Mideast war, with a nation four times as large as Iraq.

If Congress lacks the courage to do its constitutional duty, it should stop whining about imperial presidents. Because, like the Roman Senate of Caesar's time, it will have invited them and it will deserve them.

Harness Racing Picks for 04-28-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (353)

Place (105)

Show (32)

Out of the Money (92)


Maywood Park

Race # 5


Post Position: # 2

Streaming now - Living with War - Neil Young

The Stream automatically plays the 10 songs on the Album.

Anyone who doesn't like this Album ……is a Fucking Commie


Pander at the Pump

NYT Editorial

The battle to see which political party can out-pander the other on the subject of gasoline prices is embarrassing. If American consumers are having sticker shock at the pumps, it's because of a series of policy failures that stretch back decades. The last thing the country needs now is another irresponsible quick fix.

Senate Republicans have proposed to assuage the pain of high gas prices by sending many taxpayers $100 apiece — enough for about two tanks of gas. Meanwhile, a cadre of Senate Democrats is carrying on about a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon, the same level it was in 1993. At best, the suspension would temporarily reduce prices a fraction, causing car owners to drive a little more. That rise in demand would send prices back up again.

Lawmakers from both houses and parties are calling for investigations into any price gouging or other rip-offs by oil companies and filling stations. It's perfectly all right to look into these things, but no one imagines that the result will be much more than a series of photo-ops.

Suspending environmental safeguards — as President Bush proposed in his energy speech earlier this week — might send prices down a bit, at the price of dirtier air. It's appalling that a generation after the first oil shock, in 1973, politicians are still reacting with such hysteria.

The main problem is not environmental regulations or even rapacious oil companies. It certainly isn't the fact that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been kept off limits for drilling. Americans' outsized demand for oil and gasoline pushes up prices, and now that the economies of huge countries like China and India have taken off, there will continue to be more competition for the world's available oil. There are policy solutions for the problem of excess demand, chief among them higher fuel economy standards. But more than five years into the Bush administration, there has been only a minuscule increase in mileage standards for S.U.V.'s and no increase for cars.

The oil companies' mind-boggling profits have produced calls for a windfall profits tax. It would not be too difficult to set up a system that would capture a percentage of the companies' extraordinary profits, and the money could be used for long-term solutions, like research into alternate fuels and mass transit. That would be fair. Oil companies are indeed profiting from events that have little to do with their efforts. If some of those profits were taxed and flowed into the public treasury, the money could go toward public purposes.

But critics who say such a tax discourages investment in exploration and drilling have a point. Though they invariably overstate their case, their opposition would make a windfall tax a heavy lift politically, thereby draining effort from other, more direct, solutions, like better mileage standards and ultimately — the hardest sell of all — a bolstered federal gas tax to encourage conservation.

It's important during this debate not to discount the genuine pain being felt by the poor and middle-class families who must drive long distances just to get to work and school. But their problem is more than gasoline prices. It's their vulnerability to the price increases, which results from stagnating wages and a lack of savings. If the Bush administration had devoted as much political capital in the past five years to wage and job growth initiatives as it has to cutting taxes for the wealthy, these struggling families would be better able to weather higher prices at the pump.

Congress's frantic gestures this week are, at bottom, an attempt to divert attention from its past failures to act, and its resulting inability to shield Americans from the burden of high prices at the pump. But the pain of high gas prices will only get worse unless Congress changes its priorities, now.


The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees.
There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.

That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck" — that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees ... had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."

But the report says nothing about what caused the qualified people to leave and who appointed unqualified people to take their place. There's no hint that, say, President Bush might have had any role. So those political appointees must have been installed by the Crony Fairy.

Rather than trying to fix FEMA, the report calls for replacing it with a new organization, the National Preparedness and Response Agency.

As far as I can tell, the new agency would have exactly the same responsibilities as FEMA. But "senior N.P.R.A. officials would be selected from the ranks of professionals with experience in crisis management."

I guess it's impossible to select qualified people to run FEMA; if you try, the Crony Fairy will spirit them away and replace them with Michael Brown. But she might not know her way to N.P.R.A.

O.K., enough sarcasm. Let's talk about the history of FEMA.

In the early 1990's, FEMA's reputation was as bad as it is today. It was a dumping ground for political cronies, headed by a man whose only apparent qualification for the job was that he was a close friend of the first President Bush's chief of staff.

FEMA's response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 perfectly foreshadowed Katrina: the agency took three days to arrive on the scene, and when it did, it proved utterly incompetent.

Many people thought that FEMA was a lost cause. But Bill Clinton proved them wrong. He appointed qualified people to lead the agency and gave them leeway to hire other qualified people, and within a year FEMA's morale and performance had soared. For the rest of the Clinton years, FEMA was among the most highly regarded agencies in the federal government.

What happened to that reputation? The answer, of course, is that the second President Bush returned to his father's practices.

Once again, FEMA became a dumping ground for cronies, and many of the good people who had come in during the Clinton years left. It took only a few years to transform one of the best agencies in the U.S. government into what Senator Susan Collins calls "a shambles and beyond repair."

In other words, the Crony Fairy is named George W. Bush.

So what's the point of creating a new agency to replace FEMA? The history of FEMA and other agencies during the Clinton years shows that a president who is serious about governing can rebuild effective government without renaming the boxes on the organizational chart.

On the other hand, the history of the Bush administration, from the botched reconstruction of Iraq to the botched start-up of the prescription drug program, shows that a president who isn't serious about governing, who prizes loyalty and personal connections over competence, can quickly reduce the government of the world's most powerful nation to third-world levels of ineffectiveness.

And bear in mind that Mr. Bush's pattern of cronyism didn't change after Katrina. For example, he appointed Julie Myers, the inexperienced niece of Gen. Richard Myers, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agency that, like FEMA, is supposed to protect us against terrorism as well as other threats.

Even at the C.I.A., the administration seems more interested in purging Democrats than in improving the quality of intelligence.

So let's skip the name change for FEMA, O.K.? The United States will regain effective government if and when it gets a president who cares more about serving the nation than about rewarding his friends and scoring political points. That's at least a thousand days away. Meanwhile, don't count on FEMA, or on any other government agency, to do its job.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 04-27-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (353)

Place (105)

Show (32)

Out of the Money (92)



Race # 13

Horse: HOOSIER BEST (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 8

Maywood Park

Race # 6

Horse: MS MACATA (Won)

Post Position: # 3

Bush to approve Dubai's takeover of nine US military plants


WASHINGTON — President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.

The officials, who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about something the president had not yet announced, said that the final details had not yet been set and that Bush might put conditions on the transaction to keep military technology in the United States.

But his action is almost certain to attract scrutiny in Congress, because of the political furor that erupted over the administration’s approval of a deal earlier this spring that would have given another Dubai-owned company, Dubai Ports World, leases to operate several American port terminals through its acquisition of a British company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.


Because the plants make turbine blades for tanks and aircraft, the deal was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which sent it on to Bush himself for a decision, a step used only when the potential security risks or political considerations are particularly acute.

Russia and China warn UN not to antagonise Iran

Financial Times

Russia and China on Thursday warned against escalating the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. The call came on the eve of an eagerly awaited report on whether the country has met United Nations demands. The US and the European Union believe Friday’s report by Mohamed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will set the stage for a UN Security Council resolution, since there is little chance that Tehran will meet the council’s demand for “full and sustained suspension” of uranium enrichment, which can produce weapons-grade material.

But on Thursday Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, warned against too great an intervention by the Security Council – a path Moscow feels could lead to confrontation. “We think that the IAEA must continue to play a key role and it must not shrug off its responsibilities to resolve such questions and shift them on to the UN Security Council,” he said at a summit with Angela Merkel, German chancellor.

European officials argue that, far from sidelining the IAEA, any action by the council would seek to bolster its
authority. The Chinese government also called for restraint. Moscow and Beijing, which have growing energy and economic links with Iran, fear that a UN resolution might be used to justify military action at a later stage. The US has stepped up efforts to assuage such concerns. “Forcible change of the Iranian regime is not the objective of American policy,” Philip Zelikow, a top adviser to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, told the Financial Times.

“Right now, we haven’t completed implementing a diplomatic strategy. That diplomatic strategy involves underscoring to the Iranian regime the costs of its behaviour.” US and EU diplomats hope to win Security Council backing for a resolution on Iran by mid-June. Such a resolution would not involve sanctions but would probably set out a new deadline for Iran to halt nuclear enrichment. Mr ElBaradei has been pushing Iran for a “technical break” in uranium enrichment to allow negotiations over the nuclear programme to resume.

Prosecutor Weighs Charges Against Rove in Leak Case


WASHINGTON, April 27 — Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges against Karl Rove, the powerful adviser to President Bush, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.

With the completion of Mr. Rove's fifth appearance before the grand jury on Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgerald is now believed to have assembled all of the facts necessary to determine whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Rove or drop the case.

Lawyers in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald would spend the coming days reviewing the transcript of Mr. Rove's three hours of testimony on Wednesday and weigh it against his previous statements to the grand jury as well as the testimony of others, including a sworn statement that Mr. Rove's lawyer gave to the prosecutor earlier this year. The lawyers were granted anonymity so they could speak about the internal legal deliberations in Mr. Rove's case.

A lawyer with knowledge of the case said that Mr. Rove had known for more than a month that he was likely to make another appearance before the grand jury, and that he had known since last fall that he would be subject to further questions from Mr. Fitzgerald before the prosecutor completed his inquiry....


Mr. Fitzgerald must specifically decide whether Mr. Rove misled the grand jury in testimony he gave in 2004 about his conversations with reporters about Valerie Wilson, the intelligence officer at the heart of the C.I.A. leak case....

Iraq cleric calls for disarmament


Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of Iraq's most senior Shia clerics, has called for the next government to dismantle militias operating in the country.
The grand ayatollah said only the government should have weapons, and its forces should be loyal to the nation - not to individual political parties.

Many Iraqis blame militias for a sharp rise in violence after the bombing of a Shia mosque in Samarra two months ago.

On Thursday, at least seven people died after insurgent attacks around Baquba.

According to Iraqi army sources, 21 insurgents were killed and 46 were captured after the insurgents stormed police stations and checkpoints near Baquba, 55km (35 miles) north-east of Baghdad.

In Ramadi, meanwhile, an insurgent stronghold 115km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, US jets fired two missiles at insurgents during fighting, American army officers said.

Iraq's new PM-designate has vowed to take action against the armed groups.

However, Nouri Maliki has not said whether he intends to incorporate them in Iraq's security forces, or try to have them disbanded.

MSNBC reports Rove believes he is in legal jeopardy



Karl Rove has described his three and a half hour fifth meeting with a grand jury as "hell," and is more worried about being prosecuted than ever, MSNBC is reporting.

The three and a half hour duration is considered highly unusual for a fifth appearance before a grand jury.

Also not boding well for Rove is the fact that the grand jury plans to meet tomorrow. Some are speculating that an indictment for Rove may come in tomorrow, though others have claimed such a turnaround time is unlikely.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman rebuffs attempts to interview Administration officials in pre-war Iraq probe

WASHINGTON – The Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has denied Democratic attempts to interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former CIA Director George Tenet and two former senior aides to erstwhile Secretary of State Colin Powell, RAW STORY has learned.

Intelligence Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) sought to interview Rice, Tenet and Powell's aides as part of a Senate inquiry into whether public statements by Administration officials about Iraq were corroborated by intelligence information. Recent reports – including one last Sunday from a former CIA chief in Europe – suggest that the Bush Administration was warned that Iraq did not have substantive weapons of mass destruction.

Rockefeller expressed his desire to interview roughly twenty Administration officials in a private letter to Sen. Roberts in January, though the names of the officials cited in the letter were not made public until today. In addition to Rice and Tenet, Rockefeller sought access to Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly Powell's chief of staff, and Richard Armitage, formerly Deputy Secretary of State.


Senate Intelligence Committee Staff Director Bill Duhnke, top aide to Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), said there was no need to interview Powell's former aides, saying the intelligence behind Powell's speech was already known.

Sen. Specter Threatens to Block NSA Funds

WASHINGTON - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday he is considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House.

"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter, R-Pa., told the panel. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."

Specter said he had informed President Bush about his intention and that he has attracted several potential co-sponsors. He said he's become increasingly frustrated in trying to elicit information about the program from senior White House officials at several public hearings.

Specter also agreed with Democrats who say that any of the bills to tighten guidelines for National Security Agency program and increase congressional oversight could be flatly ignored by an administration with a long history of acting alone in security matters.

Rice and Rumsfeld visit; Front-Line (Iraq) Troops. ** Troops: Who Care's

BALAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made their surprise visits to Baghdad on Wednesday, many of the troops stationed north of Baghdad, in Balad and Dujail, say either they didn't know about it or didn't care.

"I'd ask him for a plane ticket home to see my wife. I have barely seen her in the last two years," said a young sergeant, who did not want to be identified. Like many of the soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division, he is on his second deployment to Iraq.

Some joked that whenever VIP's come to visit they just go to the main bases and meet the "fobbits," the nickname given to troops who do not go outside the barbed wire.

"They have to get out to see the people that are doing the jobs they are making them do. If they didn't they would not be very good leaders," said Maj. Michael Humphreys, one of the few soldiers here willing to tell journalists some of his opinions on senior leadership.

Culture of Corruption: Bribery Case May Involve Prostitutes

Late last year we noted a possible sex scandal could be linked to the bribery scandal that brought down former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). Now, the Wall Street Journal confirms federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors supplied Cunningham "with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry."

The sudden hush you hear on Capitol Hill is because "investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services... Agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement."


"Why Media Matters: Progressive Voices and the Media"

On April 5, Media Matters for America hosted an all-star panel discussion on progressive voices and the media. The forum, held at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs in conjunction with Air America Radio's second anniversary, addressed questions about balance in news coverage and what consumers of news can do to ensure accurate and reliable reporting. The panelists highlighted -- and proposed solutions to -- the narrow spectrum of opinion represented in the media, from which liberal and progressive voices are often excluded.Read more

Ex-CIA Analyst Faults U.S. Policy

Seminary Hosts Teach-In On Torture

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war, told clergy members Wednesday that the United States' use of torture on prisoners in its custody amounts to war crimes.

"Let's not mince words - the U.S. has launched a war of aggression, which is a violation of international law," McGovern said at an interfaith "teach-in" at Hartford Seminary. "Rendering, kidnapping, all the deceit that has gone on with this war - it's far from rotten apples at the bottom of the barrel; these rotten apples are at the very top."

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, an interfaith group of clergy opposed to the war, invited McGovern to the teach-in, called "Torture is a Religious Issue." It was intended to help clergy devise a strategy to bring greater public awareness of torture against war prisoners.

The reported torture of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to countries that permit it, not only damages America's image and endangers American troops, McGovern said, but affects soldiers "physically, emotionally and psychologically - torture also brutalizes the torturer."

His talk was often as spiritual as it was political. "If we are true disciples of Jesus, we don't avoid evil, we confront it," he said.

Harness Racing Picks for 04-27-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (352)

Place (105)

Show (32)

Out of the Money (91)



Race # 13


Post Position: # 8

Maywood Park

Race # 6


Post Position: # 3

The Iraqi Oil Pipeline Fiasco

NYT Editorial

The Bush administration's promise that Iraq's reconstruction could be paid for with the country's own oil revenues was one of the many false assertions and assurances that ushered in the invasion. But unlike the predictions of weapons of mass destruction and streets filled with cheering Iraqis, this claim might have been at least partly true — if the administration had more carefully supervised the lucrative no-bid oil industry repair contract it awarded to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the firm formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Part of that contract involved repairing a crucial pipeline link that American bombing had severed in the course of the invasion. Had the repair been done right the first time, Iraq would have been able to export much more oil from its northern oil fields in the past few years, making it far less dependent on American reconstruction aid, which has amounted to about $30 billion so far.

How this costly and unnecessary failure came about was spelled out by James Glanz in a compelling investigative report in Tuesday's Times. He described the easily avoidable engineering errors that delayed the reopening of the crucial Fatah pipeline link while the contracted funds ran out and the security situation for reconstruction workers deteriorated drastically. It is instructive to recall the circumstances in which Halliburton was awarded this contract just prior to the Iraq invasion — with no competitive bidding. Later, when Democrats in Congress began raising questions, the Pentagon pointed to Halliburton's special expertise in oil-field management and its long experience working under Army Corps of Engineers' supervision.

But neither the expertise nor the supervision were much in evidence on the Fatah repair job. The Halliburton subsidiary managing the project ignored the clear warnings of its own consultants and let the drilling begin without any rigorous testing of the ground it needed to work in, which turned out to be a geological fault zone. As a result, drill bits repeatedly snapped and drill holes kept collapsing. It took an unconscionably long time for the corps to find out about the problems. By then, months had passed and almost all of the roughly $75 million allocated for the project had been spent.

There are crucial lessons to be learned here about the rarely justified practice of awarding no-bid contracts based on presumed special expertise. There are lessons as well for the Corps of Engineers, which is also supervising much of the Katrina rebuilding effort — some of the reconstruction work there is also being done by Halliburton.

On the Fatah pipeline crossing project, American taxpayers got a particularly raw deal. The repair work they originally paid for wasn't done. The government agency that was supposed to supervise the work did not do an effective job. And the oil exports that could have helped pay Iraq's reconstruction bills never made it through the pipeline.


If George W. Bush could have been removed from office for being a bad president, he would have been sent back to his ranch a long time ago.

If incompetence were a criminal offense, he'd be behind bars.

But that's just daydreaming. The reality is that there are more than two and a half years left in the long dark night of the Bush presidency — nearly as long as the entire time John Kennedy was in office.

The nation seems, very belatedly, to be catching on to the tragic failures and monumental ineptitude of its president. Mr. Bush's poll numbers are abysmal. Republicans up for re-election are running from him as if he were the bogyman.

Callers to conservative talk radio programs who were once ecstatic about the president and his policies are now deeply disillusioned.

The libertarian Cato Institute is about to release a study titled "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush."

It says, "Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power." While I disagree with parts of the study, I certainly agree with that particular comment.

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Sean Wilentz, a distinguished historian and the director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, takes a serious look at the possibility that Mr. Bush may be the worst president in the nation's history.

What in the world took so long? Some of us have known since the moment he hopped behind the wheel that this reckless president was driving the nation headlong toward a cliff.

The worst thing he did, of course, was to employ a massive campaign of deceit to lead the nation into a catastrophic war in Iraq — a war with no end in sight that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and inflicted scores of thousands of crippling injuries.

When he was a young man, Mr. Bush used the Air National Guard to hide out from the draft in a time of war. Then, as president, he's suddenly G. I. George, strutting around in a flight suit, threatening to wage war on all and sundry, and taunting the insurgents in Iraq with a cry of "bring them on."

When the nation needed leadership on the critical problem of global warming, Mr. Bush took his cues from the honchos in the oil and gasoline industry, the very people who were setting the planet on fire. Now he talks about overcoming the nation's addiction to oil!

This is amazing. Here's the president of the United States scaling the very heights of chutzpah. The Bush people and the oil people are indistinguishable. Condoleezza Rice, a former Chevron director, even had an oil tanker named after her.

Among the complaints in the Cato study is that the Bush administration has taken the position that despite validly enacted laws to the contrary, the president cannot be restrained "from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror."

This view has led to activities that I believe have brought great shame to the nation: the warrantless spying on Americans, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the creation of the C.I.A.'s network of secret prisons, extraordinary rendition and the barbaric encampment at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in which detainees are held, without regard to guilt or innocence, in a nightmarish no man's land beyond the reach of any reasonable judicial process.

The sins of the Bush administration are so extensive and so egregious, they could never be adequately addressed in a newspaper column. History will be the final judge. But I've no doubt about the ultimate verdict.

Remember the Clinton budget surplus?

It was the largest in American history. President Bush and his cronies went after it like vultures feasting in a field of carcasses. They didn't invest the surplus. They devoured it.

Remember how most of the world responded with an extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and support for America in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11?

Mr. Bush had no idea how to seize that golden opportunity to build new alliances and strengthen existing ones. Much of that solidarity with America has morphed into outright hostility.

Remember Katrina?

The major task of Congress and the voters for the remainder of the Bush presidency is to curtail the destructive impulses of this administration, and to learn the lessons that will prevent similar horrors from ever happening again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iraqi Officials Criticize Rice, Rumsfeld Visit


BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise visit to Baghdad on Wednesday to express support for Iraq's new leaders, but drew criticism from Iraqi politicians who said they feared the unannounced visit might do more harm than good.

"We didn't invite them," said Kamal Saadi, a Shiite legislator close to the new prime minister-designate, Nouri Maliki.

Saadi said Iraqi leaders had not been given advance notice of the visit, which came just days after Iraqi politicians broke through a months-long impasse on the selection of a prime minister.

"Maybe Rumsfeld's visit can be justified" because of American troop presence, "but I can't see a clear reason behind Rice's visit," Saadi said. "The crisis is over and negotiations are taking place."...


Some observers and Iraqi politicians speculated that the visit had more to do with the U.S. domestic audience than the creation of an inclusive and sustainable government in Iraq

Officials say former Miss Bolivia hired illegal immigrants

MESA, Ariz. A former Miss Bolivia being charged with immigration fraud and perjury is now being accused of hiring illegal immigrants to work as servants in her Paradise Valley mansion.

Agents with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Sonia Falcone's home and a condominium on February 18th.

Officials say she obtained a green card through marriage fraud and that she lied under oath on an application for citizenship.

Officials say the new allegations aren't charges, but the government wants to use the evidence against her at trial.


Her Republican husband:

The Arms Dealer Next Door
International billionaire, French prisoner, Angolan weapons broker, Arizona Republican. Who is Pierre Falcone?

The key player in a huge scandal that has tarnished some of France’s best-known politicians, Falcone is still expected to stand trial later this year for his role in the sale of half a billion dollars worth of Eastern European weapons to Angola. He obtained his release only after paying a $15 million bail, turning over his passport to the court, and accepting severe restrictions on his movements and activities.

Falcone was initially charged with illegal arms dealing because he allegedly brokered the Angola sales without authorization from the French government agency that reviews weapons exports, but prosecutors later dropped that count due to a legal technicality. He remains accused of bribing numerous prominent parties to further his arms business—most notably Jean-Christophe Mitterand, son of ex-President Francois Mitterand—and of failing to pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes on profits from the Angola deals, legal or not.

Though largely unreported, the man at the center of “Angolagate,” as the French press has dubbed the scandal, has extensive American ties. Falcone’s primary residence is a mammoth estate in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he and his wife, Sonia, a former Miss Bolivia International, are active in political and community affairs. Falcone’s American activities range from advising a major U.S. oil company to teaming with a Virginia-based arms dealer who has worked for both the CIA and Saddam Hussein. What’s more, a floundering health and beauty company run by Sonia Falcone made a controversial $100,000 donation to the Republican Party during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Squeal ..... or No Squeal?


Karl Rove, the senior counselor to President Bush, testified for several hours on Wednesday before the federal grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case, in an appearance that was a sign of renewed attention by the special prosecutor in a matter that has lingered unresolved for months. It was the fifth time Mr. Rove has appeared before a federal grand jury in the case.


On Wednesday, Mr. Rove spent about four hours inside the federal courthouse after entering through a side door shortly before 12:30 p.m. He emerged beaming as usual at the end of his testimony. He declined to comment, but his lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, issued a statement declaring that Mr. Rove had testified "voluntarily and unconditionally" about "a matter" that had arisen since Mr. Rove's last grand jury appearance. The unresolved matter appears to involve the testimony of Viveca Novak, a former reporter at Time magazine, who told Mr. Fitzgerald last fall that she may have unwittingly helped Mr. Rove by telling Mr. Luskin he had played a bigger role in the case than he had initially admitted.

Since Mr. Libby's indictment, Mr. Fitzgerald has summoned both Ms. Novak and Mr. Luskin to provide grand jury testimony about their conversations, and he also summoned Bob Woodward of The Washington Post to discuss conversations related to the C.I.A. leak matter with an administration official who has still not been publicly identified.
Mr. Rove's appearance suggests that Mr. Fitzgerald remains interested in learning more about why, in his initial testimony to the grand jury, in February 2004, Mr. Rove failed to disclose that he had ever discussed the issue of Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. operative, with any reporters.

More Than 600 Implicated in Detainee Abuse

(Washington, D.C., April 26, 2006) – Two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, new research shows that abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay has been widespread, and that the United States has taken only limited steps to investigate and punish implicated personnel.

A briefing paper issued today, “By the Numbers,” presents findings of the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, a joint project of New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First. The project is the first comprehensive accounting of credible allegations of torture and abuse in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

“Two years ago, U.S. officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice,” said Professor Meg Satterthwaite, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School. “Yet our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice.”

The project has collected hundreds of allegations of detainee abuse and torture occurring since late 2001 – allegations implicating more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel and involving more than 460 detainees.

CIA warns ex-agents over talking to media

The Central Intelligence Agency has warned former employees not to have unapproved contacts with reporters, as part of a mounting campaign by the administration to crack down on officials who leak information on national security issues.

A former official said the CIA recently warned several retired employees who have consulting contracts with the agency that they could lose their pensions by talking to reporters without permission. He added that while the threats might be legally "hollow," they were having a chilling effect on former employees.

The CIA called the allegations "rubbish". Jennifer Millerwise Dyke, spokeswoman for CIA director Porter Goss, said former employees with consulting deals could lose their contracts for violating the CIA secrecy agreement by having unauthorised conversations with reporters. But she stressed that under current law, "termination of a contract does not affect pensions".

The clampdown represents the latest move in what observers describe as the most aggressive government campaign against leaks in years. The Justice Department is investigating the disclosure to the media of secret overseas CIA prisons and a highly classified National Security Agency domestic spying programme authorised by President George W. Bush. Last week, the CIA fired Mary McCarthy, an intelligence officer, for allegedly leaking classified information and having undisclosed contacts with reporters.


U.S. seeks to keep evidence from 9/11 families

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Prosecutors asked a judge to rethink granting 9/11 families suing airlines access to evidence gathered for the criminal case against al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema's April 7 order requires prosecutors to provide copies of all unclassified aviation security documents to attorneys representing September 11 families in a civil lawsuit pending in New York.

Prosecutors called the order "unprecedented" and urged Brinkema to withdraw it. The motion was filed by Chuck Rosenberg, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Brinkema's order would allow the families' attorneys access to "highly sensitive" law enforcement documents and could compromise the continuing investigation into the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The inquiry is "the largest criminal investigation in our nation's history, which is still ongoing," the motion says.

Rove Meets with Fitz

Think Progress

CNN is told by three force sources familiar with the investigation that this morning Karl Rove, the president’s deputy chief of staff and top political adviser, is meeting with his attorney and is to meet this morning — if it is not already under way — with the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. According to sources, the goal of the meeting is for Karl to clear up some lingering questions about his role in a White House campaign to undermine Ambassador Joe Wilson — remember he was the the critic of the Bush administration case ever going to war in Iraq, his wife the CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose name was Outed.

18 rich families pay for campaign to kill estate taxes

Washington -- Eighteen of America's wealthiest families, including the Timkens of Canton, are bankrolling efforts to permanently repeal estate taxes that would save their families a total of $71.6 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by public interest groups.

Groups funded by the super-rich have engaged in a deceptive campaign to convince the public that estate taxes cause widespread problems for small businesses and family farms when they actually affect about one in 370 estates, said the report released by Public Citizen and Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.

This year, all assets under $2 million for individuals and under $4 million for couples are exempt from estate taxes. Current tax law will boost those exemptions to $3.5 million and $7 million in 2009, eliminate the estate tax in 2010, and reimpose it in 2011 with a $1 million exemption.

The House voted to permanently repeal the estate tax last year, but the measure stalled in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to override filibusters. Majority Leader Bill Frist says he will bring the bill up in May...