Monday, July 31, 2006

Dolphins' Saban Snubs Bush for Dinner

DAVIE, Fla. - When the White House called with an invitation to dine with President Bush, Dan Marino took it. But the coach of his former team said no.

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban said Monday that his obligations at training camp took priority over a chance to meet the president.

"It was really a tough decision," Saban said. "I feel like my first responsibility is our team. That in no way disrespects the importance of the opportunity I would have loved to have had to spend dinner with the President."

The invitation was for dinner with Bush on Sunday night at Joe's Stone Crabs, a landmark Miami Beach restaurant. Marino, a former Dolphins quarterback and an NFL Hall of Famer, did attend, Bush said in a speech Monday.

Several Dolphins players said they weren't surprised that Saban put his team ahead of the president.

"We all know Nick is serious about what we're doing here and is committed to it," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

Frist Fails to Disclose Foundation Role

WASHINGTON - Majority Leader Bill Frist hasn't been following all the Senate's rules when it comes to disclosing details about his finances.

Frist and his wife are the sole trustees in charge of a family foundation bearing the senator's name, according to Internal Revenue Service forms. However, he has not been listing that position on his Senate disclosure forms, which are made public every year.

Annual forms detailing lawmakers' personal finances are supposed to list all positions members of Congress hold outside government. Those include unpaid posts such as serving as a director or trustee of a nonprofit.

When asked about the discrepancy by The Associated Press, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said the senator's office was unaware of the omission.

"It was recently discovered that Senator Frist's Senate financial disclosure forms may contain some inadvertent errors which are under review and will be promptly corrected by amending his financial disclosure," Stevenson said.

The family foundation had more than $2 million in assets in 2004, the last year for which a tax form was available........

Iraqi Interior Minister Faces Criticism

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's interior minister faced calls for his dismissal Monday because of the security crisis in Baghdad and surrounding towns, with the violence blamed mostly on sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. An Iraqi vice president said Monday that Cabinet changes would be made soon but did not specify which ministers would be replaced.

Gunmen in military uniforms kidnapped dozens of people in an upscale, mostly Shiite Baghdad neighborhood Monday, and shooting and bombings across the country killed at least 19 people, including four Iraqi soldiers.

The kidnapping was carried out by gunmen in military fatigues who drove to the main shopping area of Karradah in 15 vehicles and split into two groups. One went into a mobile phone shop and the other into the office next door of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, said police Lt. Thair Mahmoud.

More Hearings, More Stalling, Say Democrats

They argue that House Republicans are using their new set of sessions on immigration to put off talks with the Senate and help reelection bids.


WASHINGTON — When Republican House leaders announced a new round of nationwide immigration hearings last week, it triggered a wave of eye-rolling among Democrats and immigrant advocates.

Critics see the hearings, which began almost a month ago, as GOP-produced political theater — a diversion from hunkering down for talks with the Senate on rewriting immigration policy.

The sessions have featured some posturing, snarky exchanges and odd scenes, such as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) assembling a self-made wooden model of the 13.5-foot-high concrete wall he would like to see built along the U.S.-Mexico border....


House Republicans continue to bet that their push for enforcement-only legislation is more appealing to voters than the Senate formula, which would combine bolstered border security with a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Reflecting that belief, the upcoming House hearings are scheduled not only in states struggling with illegal immigration, such as California, but in states such as Indiana, where several Republican House members are struggling to get reelected....

Republican Party revoked support for Harris Senate campaign

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- As Gov. Jeb Bush was trying to get House Speaker Allan Bense into the U.S. Senate race, the Republican Party of Florida was trying to force Katherine Harris out.

Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan bluntly told Harris in a May 7 letter that she couldn't win and that the party wouldn't support her campaign. The letter was also signed by national committeewoman Sharon Day and national committeeman Paul Senft.

"Katherine, though it causes us much anguish, we have determined that your campaign faces irreparable damage," said the confidential letter, obtained Monday by The Associated Press. "We feel that we have no other choice but to revoke our support."

The letter was written the day before Harris turned in paperwork to get her name on the Republican primary ballot for the seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson. Bense announced later that week that he would not enter the race despite the urging of Bush and others.

The Harris campaign didn't immediately return a phone message seeking comment Monday.

Iraq's Vice President Criticizes Israel

(AP) BAGHDAD Iraq's vice president on Monday accused Israel of carrying out "massacres" in Lebanon, the strongest criticism yet of the Jewish state by a top official of the U.S-backed Iraqi government.

Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, singled out Sunday's Israeli airstrike that killed at least 56 Lebanese, mostly women and children, in the village of Qana. The deadliest attack in nearly three weeks of fighting has triggered an international uproar.

"What happened in Qana is a repetition to these crimes that happened to our nation decades ago. It's time for this nation to stand up and stop this aggression and all forms of aggression that could affect any of its parts," Abdul-Mahdi said.

"These horrible massacres carried out by the Israeli aggression, incites in us the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity," he said in a speech attended by Iraq's president, the prime minister and other top government officials.

Baghdad gunmen kidnap 25 people


Gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms have kidnapped 25 people in a commercial district in central Baghdad, interior ministry officials said.
The gunmen pulled up in 15 vehicles and rounded up staff and customers of a firm on a shopping street in Arasat.

There are reports that the offices belong to the Iraqi-American chamber of commerce, while others say it was a mobile phone shop.

Mass kidnappings have become a feature of the sectarian violence across Iraq.

It is not known who might be behind this incident.

One witness told the Reuters news agency they saw gunmen handcuff and blindfold the victims.

Police say the head of the chamber of commerce and 11 of his employees are among those kidnapped, Reuters have reported.

A guard standing across the street said the kidnappers arrived in police cars without number plates.

"They separated the women from the men and took only men," he told the AFP news agency.

Fooling the Voters

NYT Editorial

The two bills passed by the House last Friday and Saturday reflect a single Republican electoral strategy. Representatives want to appear to have accomplished something when they face voters during their five-week summer break, which starts today, and at the same time keep campaign donations flowing from special-interest constituents who are well aware that a great deal was left to do.

One of the bills was a pension reform measure. The other was a grab bag that contains three main items: an extension of the expired tax credit for corporate research; a $2.10 an hour increase in the minimum wage, to be phased in over three years; and a multibillion-dollar estate-tax cut. That’s the deal House Republicans are really offering — a few more dollars for 6.6 million working Americans; billions more for some 8,000 of the wealthiest families.

It is cynical in the extreme. Extending the research tax credit is noncontroversial, yet pressing. A minimum wage increase is compelling — morally, politically and financially — but Republicans generally oppose it. And the estate-tax cut has already failed to pass the Senate twice this summer. So House Republicans linked it to the research credit and the minimum wage, hoping to flip a handful of senators from both parties who have voted against estate-tax cuts in the past. Democrats who vote against the estate tax, Republicans think, can be painted as voting against a higher minimum wage.

This is an attempt at extortion. There is no way to justify providing yet another enormous tax shelter to the nation’s wealthiest heirs in the face of huge budget deficits, growing income inequality and looming government obligations for Social Security and Medicare.

As for the House’s pension bill, it is not the overhaul that Congress has long been promising. The promised bill would have meshed House and Senate versions of pension reform into a single bill that would have almost certainly passed each chamber. But the conference was fatally derailed last Thursday when House Republican negotiators, including the majority leader, John Boehner, refused to attend a meeting called by Senate Republicans to settle a few remaining differences. Mr. Boehner and his followers avoided having to vote — and lose — on items that other negotiators wanted in the final bill.

Once they had scuttled the talks, House leaders acted unilaterally, presenting a new pension bill on Friday. They said the new bill contained the provisions that had previously been agreed upon. But that remains to be seen, since the 900-page tome was passed within hours. It will be up to the senators to vet the bill. If they see fit to amend it, the negotiations will have to start all over again.

The Senate has one week before its summer recess. As the senators struggle to produce decent legislation from the House’s sham bills, Americans will see the truth: their representatives in the House went on vacation without doing their job.

Kerry calls for health insurance for all by 2012

BOSTON --Sen. John Kerry on Monday proposed requiring all Americans to have health insurance by 2012, "with the federal government guaranteeing they have the means to afford it."

The Massachusetts Democrat, his party's 2004 presidential nominee, repeated his campaign call for expanding the federal Medicaid program to cover children; creating a program to cover catastrophic cases so an employer providing insurance doesn't have to pass the cost to his other workers, and; offering Americans the ability to buy into the same insurance program used by federal workers such as members of Congress.

Kerry proposes to pay for the program by repealing tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration that benefit those earning over $200,000 annually. He did not immediately elaborate on how he would enact his insurance mandate.

"One of my biggest regrets is that fear talk trumped the health care walk, and that we are less safe abroad and less healthy at home because of that," said the prepared text of a speech Kerry planned to deliver at midday at Faneuil Hall. The senator has already delivered two other speeches at the Revolutionary War meeting house laying the ground work for a second presidential campaign.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Michael Moore Says Gets Lots of Republican Hugs


TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (Reuters) - Michael Moore -- gadfly filmmaker, liberal activist and political lightning rod -- says he finds himself being hugged by a lot of Republicans these days.

On the streets of Traverse City, where Moore is working on last-minute preparations for a bigger-and-better sequel to the film festival he launched last year in his home state, the Oscar-winning director says he is approached all the time by conservatives ready to make peace.

"If you were to hang out with me here it won't be five or 10 minutes before you see a Republican hug me. That is almost as entertaining as some of the films,'' Moore said in an interview.

Moore has not budged from the central claim of his 2004 documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11'' -- that the Bush administration misled the American public about the reasons for war in Iraq -- but he says that more people have come around to his view.

"That's the shift that I'm seeing in the past year or so in the country, and as it relates to me,'' he said....

PAUL KRUGMAN: Shock and Awe

For Americans who care deeply about Israel, one of the truly nightmarish things about the war in Lebanon has been watching Israel repeat the same mistakes the United States made in Iraq. It’s as if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been possessed by the deranged spirit of Donald Rumsfeld.

Yes, I know that there are big differences in the origins of the two wars. There’s no question of this war having been sold on false pretenses; unlike America in Iraq, Israel is clearly acting in self-defense.

But both Clausewitz and Sherman were right: war is both a continuation of policy by other means, and all hell. It’s a terrible mistake to start a major military operation, regardless of the moral justification, unless you have very good reason to believe that the action will improve matters.

The most compelling argument against an invasion of Iraq wasn’t the suspicion many of us had, which turned out to be correct, that the administration’s case for war was fraudulent. It was the fact that the real reason government officials and many pundits wanted a war — their belief that if the United States used its military might to “hit someone” in the Arab world, never mind exactly who, it would shock and awe Islamic radicals into giving up terrorism — was, all too obviously, a childish fantasy.

And the results of going to war on the basis of that fantasy were predictably disastrous: the fiasco in Iraq has ended up demonstrating the limits of U.S. power, strengthening radical Islam — especially radical Shiites allied with Iran, a group that includes Hezbollah — and losing America the moral high ground.

What I never expected was that Israel — a nation that has unfortunately had plenty of experience with both war and insurgency — would be susceptible to similar fantasies. Yet that’s what seems to have happened.

There is a case for a full-scale Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah. It may yet come to that, if Israel can’t find any other way to protect itself. There is also a case for restraint — limited counterstrikes combined with diplomacy, an effort to get other players to rein Hezbollah in, with the option of that full-scale offensive always in the background.

But the actual course Israel has chosen — a bombing campaign that clearly isn’t crippling Hezbollah, but is destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure and killing lots of civilians — achieves the worst of both worlds. Presumably there were people in the Israeli government who assured the political leadership that a rain of smart bombs would smash and/or intimidate Hezbollah into submission. Those people should be fired.

Israel’s decision to rely on shock and awe rather than either diplomacy or boots on the ground, like the U.S. decision to order the U.N. inspectors out and invade Iraq without sufficient troops or a plan to stabilize the country, is having the opposite of its intended effect. Hezbollah has acquired heroic status, while Israel has both damaged its reputation as a regional superpower and made itself a villain in the eyes of the world.

Complaining that this is unfair does no good, just as repeating “but Saddam was evil” does nothing to improve the situation in Iraq. What Israel needs now is a way out of the quagmire. And since Israel doesn’t appear ready to reoccupy southern Lebanon, that means doing what it should have done from the beginning: try restraint and diplomacy. And Israel will negotiate from a far weaker position than seemed possible just three weeks ago.

And what about the role of the United States, which should be trying to contain the crisis? Our response has been both hapless and malign.

For the moment, U.S. policy seems to be to stall and divert efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as long as possible, so as to give Israel a chance to dig its hole even deeper. Also, we aren’t talking to Syria, which might hold the key to resolving the crisis, because President Bush doesn’t believe in talking to bad people, and anyway that’s the kind of thing Bill Clinton did. Did I mention that these people are childish?

Again, Israel has the right to protect itself. If all-out war with Hezbollah becomes impossible to avoid, so be it. But bombing Lebanon isn’t making Israel more secure.

As this column was going to press, Israel — responding to the horror at Qana, where missiles killed dozens of civilians, many of them children — announced a 48-hour suspension of aerial bombardment. But why resume that bombardment when the 48 hours are up? The hard truth is that Israel needs, for its own sake, to stop a bombing campaign that is making its enemies stronger, not weaker.

BOB HERBERT: A World Gone Mad

As if the war in Iraq and the battles between Israel and its neighbors were not frightening enough, now comes word of a development in Pakistan that may well be the harbinger of a much greater catastrophe.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has been hard at work building a powerful new plutonium reactor that when completed will be able to produce enough fuel to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

This is happening at the same time that the Bush administration is pushing hard for final Congressional approval of a nonmilitary nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan’s rival, India, that would in fact enhance India’s bomb-making capacity. The deal would enable India to free up its own stocks of nuclear fuel to the extent that it could expand its nuclear weapons production from about seven warheads a year to perhaps 50.

Yes, Virginia, the world is going mad.

Pakistan’s initiative, which in a few years could increase its bomb-making capacity twentyfold, was first reported last week by The Washington Post. Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security, after analyzing the program, concluded that “South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons or, at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material.”

There is no way to overstate the potential danger of an accelerated nuclear arms race in South Asia. Breeding nukes willy-nilly is an invitation to Armageddon. Pakistan, for those who need to be reminded, is where Osama bin Laden and his henchmen are thought to be hiding. It’s also the home of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the pied piper of proliferation (now under house arrest) who provided crucial nuclear materials and expertise to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Representative Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who led the opposition to the deal with India, told me he was surprised by the subdued reaction to the news about Pakistan’s reactor.

“You would have thought that a firestorm would break out,” he said. “As a nation, we should be very afraid if Pakistan can come up with a twentyfold increase in the amount of nuclear weapons materials that it can manufacture. The greatest fear we have is of a bomb slipping into the hands of a terrorist group — and we know that Al Qaeda is in Pakistan — and then having it moved toward the Middle East, or put on a ship headed to an American port.”

Mr. Markey, who is co-chairman of a bipartisan House task force on nonproliferation, noted that the White House had long been aware of Pakistan’s plutonium-production reactor but had kept that knowledge from Congress and the American public. Why? To what end? Does the administration not understand the truly horrifying stakes involved in this deplorable spread of nuclear adventurism?

“This is not just about Pakistan, or Pakistan and India,” said Mr. Markey. “What impact will this have on China, which is looking at what India might do? What impact will it have on Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, being put on trial at the U.N., with sanctions being asked by the United States?”

(Neither India nor Pakistan are signers of the treaty.)

Common sense should tell you that thundering along the road to ever more nuclear weapons in ever shakier hands is madness, the global equivalent to driving drunk at ever higher speeds. Does anyone think China will sit quietly by as India and Pakistan develop the capacity to outpace it in the production of nukes?

Does anyone doubt that at some point, if the spread of nuclear weapons is not vigorously suppressed, a bomb will end up in the hands of a freak who has no other intention in the world than to use it?

John F. Kennedy, in a televised address to the nation in July 1963, said: “I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament.”

There was a time when the top leaders of the United States understood that we should be moving toward fewer nukes on the planet, not an exponential, suicidal increase in these worst of all weapons.

Bush's New Bill Permits Gov To Throw US Citizens In Jail Forever Without Trial UPDATED


U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill. A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the Pentagon's tribunal system, established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.......

You can read the whole Document Text here (pdf)

"Killing people is like squashing an ant:" former US soldier (Pfc. Green)

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former US soldier accused of raping and murdering an Iraqi girl compared killing people in Iraq to "squashing an ant," in an interview with a reporter about a month before the attack.

Steven Green, 21, a former private with the 101st Airborne Division, is under arrest in Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted of the March 12 murders of the Iraqi girl and three of her relatives.

Writing in Sunday's editions of The Washington Post, Andrew Tilghman, a former correspondent for the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said he interviewed Green several times in February at his unit south of Baghdad.

"I came over here because I wanted to kill people," he quoted Green as saying. "The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be.

"I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience," Green was quoted as saying. "And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.'

"I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," Green was quoted as saying. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant.

"I mean, you kill somebody and it's like, 'All right, let's go get some pizza.'"

Dozens killed in Lebanon air raid --- Angry protesters are attacking the UN building


More than 40 people, including many children, have been killed in an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese town of Qana.
Displaced families had been sheltering in the basement of a site which was crushed after a direct hit.

The US secretary of state has cancelled a visit to Beirut as the Lebanese prime minister says he will only discuss a full and immediate ceasefire.

Hundreds of protesters are staging a violent demonstration in Beirut.

Angry protesters are attacking the UN building, chanting slogans in support of Hezbollah.
Israel said the Shia militant group was responsible for the Qana strike, by using the town to launch rockets.

But Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora denounced Israel's "heinous crimes against civilians", and said there was "no room on this sad morning" for talks until Israel had halted its attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier that Israel was not in a hurry to agree to a ceasefire until it achieved its goals in the area.

Before the Qana attack, the UN said some 600 people - about a third of them children - had been killed by Israeli action in Lebanon since their operations began 19 days ago.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rice visit cancelled after deadly raids

The Australian

"LEBANON told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today it could not meet with her before a ceasefire ends a 19-day-old Israeli offensive.

Lebanese officials said Dr Rice, who was due in Beirut later in the day, was told of the Lebanese position after an Israeli air strike killed at least 51 civilians in southern Lebanon.

They said Dr Rice's visit to Beirut had been cancelled.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora denounced the deadly raids as a "war crime", vowing there was no place for talks until Israel ceased its attacks.

"There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Mr Siniora said at a press conference."

FRANK RICH : The Peculiar Disappearance of the War in Iraq

AS America fell into the quagmire of Vietnam, the comedian Milton Berle joked that the fastest way to end the war would be to put it on the last-place network, ABC, where it was certain to be canceled. Berle’s gallows humor lives on in the quagmire in Iraq. Americans want this war canceled too, and first- and last-place networks alike are more than happy to oblige.

CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war — now branded as Crisis in the Middle East — but you won’t catch anyone saying it’s Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks’ evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60 percent between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a “shame on you” e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined. When Nouri al-Maliki, the latest Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington last week to address Congress, he too got short TV shrift — a mere five sentences about the speech on ABC’s “World News.” The networks know a rerun when they see it. Only 22 months earlier, one of Mr. Maliki’s short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi, had come to town during the 2004 campaign to give a similarly empty Congressional address laced with White House-scripted talking points about the war’s progress. Propaganda stunts, unlike “Law & Order” episodes, don’t hold up on a second viewing.

The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn’t happenstance. It’s a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer. “It is depressing to pay attention to this war on terror,” said Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on July 18. “I mean, it’s summertime.” Americans don’t like to lose, whatever the season. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality.

The specter of defeat is not the only reason Americans have switched off Iraq. The larger issue is that we don’t know what we — or, more specifically, 135,000 brave and vulnerable American troops — are fighting for. In contrast to the Israel-Hezbollah war, where the stakes for the combatants and American interests are clear, the war in Iraq has no rationale to keep it afloat on television or anywhere else. It’s a big, nightmarish story, all right, but one that lacks the thread of a coherent plot.

Certainly there has been no shortage of retrofitted explanations for the war in the three-plus years since the administration’s initial casus belli, to fend off Saddam’s mushroom clouds and vanquish Al Qaeda, proved to be frauds. We’ve been told that the war would promote democracy in the Arab world. And make the region safer for Israel. And secure the flow of cheap oil. If any of these justifications retained any credibility, they have been obliterated by Crisis in the Middle East. The new war is a grueling daily object lesson in just how much the American blunders in Iraq have undermined the one robust democracy that already existed in the region, Israel, while emboldening terrorists and strengthening the hand of Iran.

But it’s the collapse of the one remaining (and unassailable) motivation that still might justify staying the course in Iraq — as a humanitarian mission on behalf of the Iraqi people — that is most revealing of what a moral catastrophe this misadventure has been for our country. The sad truth is that the war’s architects always cared more about their own grandiose political and ideological ambitions than they did about the Iraqis, and they communicated that indifference from the start to Iraqis and Americans alike. The legacy of that attitude is that the American public cannot be rallied to the Iraqi cause today, as the war reaches its treacherous endgame.

The Bush administration constantly congratulates itself for liberating Iraq from Saddam’s genocidal regime. But regime change was never billed as a primary motivation for the war; the White House instead appealed to American fears and narcissism — we had to be saved from Saddam’s W.M.D. From “Shock and Awe” on, the fate of Iraqis was an afterthought. They would greet our troops with flowers and go about their business.

Donald Rumsfeld boasted that “the care” and “the humanity” that went into our precision assaults on military targets would minimize any civilian deaths. Such casualties were merely “collateral damage,” unworthy of quantification. “We don’t do body counts,” said Gen. Tommy Franks. President Bush at last started counting those Iraqi bodies publicly — with an estimate of 30,000 — some seven months ago. (More recently, The Los Angeles Times put the figure at, conservatively, 50,000.) By then, Americans had tuned out.

The contempt our government showed for Iraqis was not just to be found in our cavalier stance toward their casualties, or in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. There was a cultural condescension toward the Iraqi people from the get-go as well, as if they were schoolchildren in a compassionate-conservatism campaign ad. This attitude was epitomized by Mr. Rumsfeld’s “stuff happens” response to the looting of Baghdad at the dawn of the American occupation. In “Fiasco,” his stunning new book about the American failure in Iraq, Thomas E. Ricks, The Washington Post’s senior Pentagon correspondent, captures the meaning of that pivotal moment perfectly: “The message sent to Iraqis was far more troubling than Americans understood. It was that the U.S. government didn’t care — or, even more troubling for the future security of Iraq, that it did care but was incapable of acting effectively.”

As it turned out, it was the worst of both worlds: we didn’t care, and we were incapable of acting effectively. Nowhere is this seen more explicitly than in the subsequent American failure to follow through on our promise to reconstruct the Iraqi infrastructure we helped to smash. “There’s some little part of my brain that simply doesn’t understand how the most powerful country on earth just can’t get electricity back in Baghdad,” said Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile and prominent proponent of the war, in a recent Washington Post interview.

The simple answer is that the war planners didn’t care enough to provide the number of troops needed to secure the country so that reconstruction could proceed. The coalition authority isolated in its Green Zone bubble didn’t care enough to police the cronyism and corruption that squandered billions of dollars on abandoned projects. The latest monument to this humanitarian disaster was reported by James Glanz of The New York Times on Friday: a high-tech children’s hospital planned for Basra, repeatedly publicized by Laura Bush and Condi Rice, is now in serious jeopardy because of cost overruns and delays.

This history can’t be undone; there’s neither the American money nor the manpower to fulfill the mission left unaccomplished. The Iraqi people, whose collateral damage was so successfully hidden for so long by the Rumsfeld war plan, remain a sentimental abstraction to most Americans. Whether they are seen in agony after another Baghdad bombing or waving their inked fingers after an election or being used as props to frame Mrs. Bush during the State of the Union address, they have little more specificity than movie extras. Chalabi, Allawi, Jaafari, Maliki come and go, all graced with the same indistinguishable praise from the American president, all blurring into an endless loop of instability and crisis. We feel badly ... and change the channel.

Given that the violence in Iraq has only increased in the weeks since the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist portrayed by the White House as the fount of Iraqi troubles, any Americans still paying attention to the war must now confront the reality that the administration is desperately trying to hide. “The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists,” President Bush said in December when branding Zarqawi Public Enemy No. 1. But Iraq’s exploding sectarian warfare cannot be pinned on Al Qaeda or Baathist dead-enders.

The most dangerous figure in Iraq, the home-grown radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is an acolyte of neither Osama bin Laden nor Saddam but an ally of Iran who has sworn solidarity to both Hezbollah and Hamas. He commands more than 30 seats in Mr. Maliki’s governing coalition in Parliament and 5 cabinet positions. He is also linked to death squads that have slaughtered Iraqis and Americans with impunity since the April 2004 uprising that killed, among others, Cindy Sheehan’s son, Casey. Since then, Mr. Sadr’s power has only grown, enabled by Iraqi “democracy.”

That the latest American plan for victory is to reposition our forces by putting more of them in the crossfire of Baghdad’s civil war is tantamount to treating our troops as if they were deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if the networks led with the story every night, what Americans would have the stomach to watch?

Pentagon keeps eye on war videos


The Pentagon is keeping a close eye on what its troops post online, with special attention being paid to videos that show the aftermath of combat.

There is no specific policy that bans troops from posting graphic material.

But troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are hearing the message that they should consider carefully what videos they upload to the web.

Sites such as YouTube and have hundreds or thousands of clips from soldiers, some set to rock music.

At their most graphic, they show the aftermath of suicide bombings and gunfights between coalition forces and insurgents.

Many include troops using foul language.

One soldier who served in Iraq in 2005 told the BBC there was "a tight watch" being kept on video and pictures posted to MySpace, with civilian contractors monitoring the internet on behalf of the Pentagon. .....

Dean Says Democrats Will End Iraq Problem

ABC News

July 29, 2006 — As he campaigned for Republicans running for Congress in West Virginia, President George W. Bush confidently predicted that his party will retain control of Congress — but with his approval ratings mired in the 30s, gas prices topping $3, war spreading in the Middle East and Iraq in turmoil, some in the GOP are nervous.

"Realistic Republicans know the storm is coming," said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "The question is: How big is it going to be, and can they brace themselves enough to keep the majorities in the House and Senate?"

But even with the weakness of President Bush and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, Democrats still face problems of perception among voters that could prevent them from taking advantage of the golden opportunity this year's elections afford. For instance, an ABC News poll taken last month found that 71 percent of Americans do not think the Democrats have a clear plan on what to do about Iraq.

Democratic leaders, however, say that they would bring an end to the U.S. presence in the war-torn nation.

Iran stops students travelling to join Hezbollah

TEHERAN - Iranian authorities have stopped at the border a group of hardline students who on Wednesday left Teheran to join Hezbollah’s war against Israeli forces in Lebanon, the students said on Saturday.

The student group representing the 200 who left overland for Lebanon sent a fax to Reuters saying they had been stopped at the Turkish border on Thursday evening.

The students were staging a sit-down protest at the border but police were refusing to give them food or water.

Iranian hardliners have made great public show of recruiting volunteers for “martyrdom-seeking operations” in recent years. But there is no record of any of these Iranian volunteers taking part in attacks in Iraq or Israel.

Audit Finds U.S. Hid Actual Cost of Iraq Projects


BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 29 — The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects in Iraq and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress and the Pentagon.

Called the United States Agency for International Development, or USAid, the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.

The report by the inspector general’s office does not give a full accounting of all projects financed by the agency’s $1.4 billion budget, but cites several examples.

The findings appeared in an audit of a children’s hospital in Basra, but they referred to the wider reconstruction activities of the development agency in Iraq. American and Iraqi officials reported this week that the State Department planned to drop Bechtel, its contractor on that project, as signs of budget and scheduling problems began to surface.

Late Show - Clinton's reply to Ann Coulter


MSNBC's Geist: CNN has "doomsday on the brain"

On the "Beat the Press" segment of the July 27 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, MSNBC producer Willie Geist discussed a segment of the July 26 edition of CNN's Live From ... in which anchor Kyra Phillips talked about the Apocalypse and the Middle East with Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Joel C. Rosenberg -- who share the view that the Rapture is nigh. As Media Matters for America noted, Phillips asked Jenkins and Rosenberg if we are "living in the last days" and whether she needed "to start taking care of unfinished business and telling people that I love them and I'm sorry for all the evil things I've done." Geist also mentioned a segment from the July 24 edition of Paula Zahn Now in which, as Media Matters noted, onscreen text read "End of the World?" Geist stated that Phillips "is getting a little nervous" and that CNN "certainly seem[s] to have doomsday on the brain." He concluded that CNN should "lighten up a little bit." Read more

AP - "[s]ome Southern lawmakers rebelled" against Voting Rights Act extension, didn't mention that almost all of those lawmakers were Republicans

An Associated Press article on President Bush's signing of a 25-year extension of certain provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act described those in Congress who "rebelled" against the renewal as "[s]ome Southern lawmakers," without mentioning that the vast majority of those lawmakers were Republicans. Fox News' Brit Hume, meanwhile, completely glossed over House Republicans' efforts to derail the act's renewal. Read more

MAUREEN DOWD: Fetch, Heel, Stall

Oops, they did it again. That pesky microphone problem that plagued George W. Bush and Tony Blair in St. Petersburg struck again at their White House news conference yesterday. The president told technicians to make sure his real thoughts would not be overheard this time, but somehow someone forgot to turn off the feed to my office. As a public service, I’d like to reprint the candid under-their-breath mutterings they exchanged in between their public utterances.

THE PRESIDENT: “The prime minister and I have committed our governments to a plan to make every effort to achieve a lasting peace out of this crisis.”

“Actually, we talked about our plan to keep using fancy phrases like ‘lasting peace’ and ‘sustainable cease-fire,’ so we don’t actually have to cease the fire. Condi had a great one! Didya hear it, Tony? She said, ‘The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires.’ Man, can she talk, and she plays piano, too!”

THE PRIME MINISTER: “The question is now how to get it stopped and get it stopped with the urgency that the situation demands. ... I welcome very much the fact that Secretary Rice will go back to the region tomorrow. She will have with her the package of proposals in order to get agreement both from the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon on what is necessary to happen in order for this crisis to stop.”

“I thought it was quite clever, George, to stall by sending Condi to Kuala Lumpur for that imminently skippable meeting of marginal Asian powers. And her decision to tickle the ivories while Beirut burns was inspired. The Asians love a good Brahms sonata. And she called it a ‘prayer for peace’! Just brilliant. But her idea of a series of Rachmaninoff concerts at every layover on the way to the Middle East could look too conspicuously like dawdling.”

THE PRESIDENT: “Hezbollah’s not a state. They’re a, you know, supposed political party that happens to be armed. Now what kind of state is it that’s got a political party that has got a militia?”

“Uh-oh! I mean, besides all those Shiite leaders we set up in Iraq who have THEIR own militias. Oh, man, this is complicated. What about those Republican Minutemen patrolling the Mexican border? Or Vice on a hunting trip?”

THE PRIME MINISTER: “Of course the U.N. resolution, the passing of it, the agreeing of it, can be the occasion for the end of hostilities if it’s acted upon, and agreed upon. And that requires not just the government of Israel and the government of Lebanon, obviously, to abide by it, but also for the whole of the international community to exert the necessary pressure so that there is the cessation of hostilities on both sides.”

“And the whole of the cosmos! We can call for an intergalactic study group to act upon and agree upon and adjudicate — George, I can keep the verbs, adjectives and conditional phrases going until these reporters keel over.”

THE PRESIDENT: “My message is, give up your nuclear weapon and your nuclear weapon ambitions. That’s my message to Syria — I mean, to Iran. And my message to Syria is, you know, become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace.”

“It’s so hard to keep all these countries straight! And which ones are in the Axis? I hate it when Condi leaves town. Tony Baloney, just blink twice when I mention a bad country and once when I mention one we like and sell arms to. And while you’re at it, heel, poodle! Har-har. Play dead! You crack me up.”

THE PRIME MINISTER: “I’ve spoken to President Chirac, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, the president of the European Union, the prime minister of Finland and many, many others.”

“See? I’m no poodle. I’m here to keep the names of our allies straight. And I can stand up straight. Bush, old boy, that’s not posture. That’s Paleolithic Man.”

THE PRESIDENT: “And so what you’re seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles. For example, you know, you know, the, the, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge — emerge — scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, and those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them, and so they respond. They’ve always been violent. ... There’s this kind of almost, you know, kind of weird kind of elitism that says: well, maybe — maybe — certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn’t be free.”

“Tony, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Friday, July 28, 2006

John Dean knocks ‘imperial presidency’

Watergate whistle-blower asks if U.S. ‘is on the road to fascism' in book

LOS ANGELES - John Dean, the White House lawyer who famously helped blow the whistle on the Watergate scandal that drove Richard Nixon from office, says the country has returned to an "imperial presidency" that is putting the United States and the world at risk.

In his new book, "Conservatives Without Conscience," Dean looks at Republican-controlled Washington and sees a bullying, manipulative, prejudiced leadership edging the nation toward a dark era.

"Are we on the road to fascism?" he writes. "Clearly, we are not on that road yet. But it would not take much more misguided authoritarian leadership, or thoughtless following of such leaders, to find ourselves there.

"I am not sure which is more frightening," he adds, "another major terror attack or the response of authoritarian conservatives to that attack."


Government Begins its Witch Hunt Targeting Whistleblowers

On Wednesday, July 26, Russell Tice, former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst and a member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), was approached outside his home by two FBI agents who served him with a subpoena to testify in front of a federal grand jury. NSWBC has obtained a copy of the subpoena issued for Mr. Tice’s testimony and is releasing it to the public for the first time. The subpoena directs Mr. Tice to appear before the jury on August 2, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. in the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Tice “will be asked to testify and answer questions concerning possible violations of federal criminal law." .

In response to the subpoena, Mr. Tice issued the following statement: “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.” He continued: “To this date I have pursued all the appropriate channels to report unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I served as an intelligence officer with the NSA and DIA. It was with my oath as a US intelligence officer to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution weighing heavy on my mind that I reported acts that I know to be unlawful and unconstitutional. The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.”

On December 22, 2005, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition made public a request by Tice to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts by the government while he was an intelligence officer with NSA and DIA. In a press release, NSWBC urged the congress to hold hearings and let Mr. Tice testify. Mr. Tice, a responsible veteran intelligence officer, tried to use the so-called appropriate channels, including the United States Congress, to responsibly and lawfully disclose government wrongdoing. .

“What we are seeing here is a government desperate to cover up its criminal and unconstitutional conduct. They now are going beyond the usual retaliation against whistleblowers who courageously come forward to report cases of government fraud, waste, abuse, and in some cases such as this one, criminal actions. Their old tactics of intimidation, gag orders, and firing, have not stopped an unprecedented number of whistleblowers from coming forward and doing the right thing. Desperate to prevent the public’s right to know, they now are getting engaged in a witch hunt targeting these patriotic truth tellers.” stated Sibel Edmonds, the Director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

In addition, the timing of the subpoena appears to be more than a little suspect. On July 25, 2006, Judge Matthew Kennelly upheld the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege in Terkel v. AT&T. The crucial issue in the case was whether or not the government’s program of surveillance had been publicly acknowledged, and Kennelly wrote "the focus should be on information that bears persuasive indication of reliability." If there were reliable public reports of the program then the fact of the program’s existence could not be a state secret. Kennelly found that there were no reliable sources of public information about the contested program’s existence sufficient to thwart the government’s need for secrecy. In other words, the existence of the program had not been conclusively established, and the government therefore had a right to prevent probing into the matter. This stops a case that represented a serious threat to the Bush administration.

Professor William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor, stated: “Russ Tice is the only publicly identified NSA employee connected to the New York Times in its December 2005 story publicizing warrantless Bush-ordered surveillance. Tice is also publicly perceived as someone who could authoritatively establish the existence of the program at issue in Terkel; Tice could remedy the defect in the plaintiff’s case cited by Kennelly that allowed the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege to be successful. Later, on the same day Kennelly’s opinion was filed, the Department of Justice sent out Tice’s subpoena. The date on the subpoena is July 20th, before Kennelly’s decision was filed, but the issue in the Terkel case was so pregnant that it would be easy for the government to anticipate the ruling and only issue the subpoena to Tice if necessary. It has now become necessary, and the government seems to be moving to put pressure on Tice not to reveal information that would confirm the electronic surveillance program at issue in Terkel by threatening him with investigation and possible indictment.”

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation’s security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation’s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct. The NSWBC is dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers through a variety of methods, including advocacy of governmental and legal reform, educating the public concerning whistleblowing activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other public interest organizations to affect goals defined in the NSWBC mission statement. For more on NSWBC visit

House Republicans Tie Minimum Wage Hike to Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Republicans in the House are willing to put through a minimum wage increase for the first time in nearly 10 years, but there’s a catch — the minimum was increase would be “coupled with a cut in future inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates.” The Senate would take a vote on the measure next week before Congress leaves on a monthlong recess.


Report: First contacts made between Israel, Hizbullah

Al-Hayat reports that Germany, Red Cross mediated initial contacts between Israel and Hizbullah aiming towards agreement to end fighting in north and exchange prisoners. Hizbullah still refuses to reveal details on welfare of hostages

First contacts were made betweenIsrael and Hizbullah via German mediators and the Red Cross, it was reported Friday in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

According to the report, the contacts took place Wednesday and were intended to set the stage for a prisoner exchange as part of the comprehensive solution sought between the sides to end the fighting in Lebanon.

Lebanese sources reported that the contacts were still at initial stages and that they were being carried out indirectly. The report noted that as of yet the talks did not include details of an agreement but rather addressed general principles on which to base a successful agreement.

US 'outrage' over Israeli claims


The US state department has dismissed as "outrageous" a suggestion by Israel that it has been authorised by the world to continue bombing Lebanon.
"The US is sparing no efforts to bring a durable and lasting end to this conflict," said spokesman Adam Ereli.

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon made the suggestion after powers meeting in Rome refrained from demanding an immediate ceasefire.

UK PM Tony Blair has arrived in Washington for talks on the crisis.

His meeting with US President George W Bush comes amid growing pressure for the UK and US to join calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israel has carried out dozens of fresh strikes on Lebanon. Estimates of the number of people killed range from three to 13.

Two mortar rounds have hit a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians escaping the violence in southern Lebanon.

The BBC's Jim Muir, who was with the convoy, said two people - a driver and a television cameraman in a German television car - were wounded when the rounds exploded next to their vehicle.

The convoy, organised by the Australian embassy, was returning to the port city of Tyre from the border village of Rmeish, where hundreds of people have been trapped by the Israeli offensive.

Our correspondent says the cars were clearly marked as a press and civilian convoy, and that individual journalists had been in contact with the Israelis who knew about the journey.

A BBC security adviser travelling in a car behind the German television car said he believed the mortar rounds had been fired from the Israeli side. .......

Hardball, Fox & Friends hosted "Middle East analyst" whose chief experience is in "prophecy"

The July 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, as well as the July 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, hosted self-identified "Middle East analyst" Michael Evans to discuss the current conflict in the Middle East. Evans's chief experience appears to be in the area of biblical prophecy. Read more

"Kidding" O'Reilly on consequences of trying Maliki protester in "Factor tribunal": "She'll be swimming with the fishes"

Discussing Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin's vocal protest during Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's July 26 address to Congress, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly suggested that if it were up to him to administer Benjamin's punishment for "disrupting Congress," "[s]he'll be swimming with the fishes." While O'Reilly immediately added that he was "just kidding," he had earlier asked Fox News correspondent Major Garrett: "Can we send her to Guantánamo?" Read more

O'Reilly falsely claimed Red Cross symbol was "adopted" because of "Christian philosophy"

In a discussion about a lawsuit filed over the presence of a large cross at a war memorial in San Diego, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that the Red Cross "historically ... adopted" its emblem "because of the Christian philosophy of giving alms and giving assistance to people in need." In fact, according to the American Red Cross website, it was "[i]n honor of the Swiss ... [that] the symbol of a red cross on a white background (the reverse of the Swiss flag) was identified as a protective emblem in conflict areas." Read more

Conservative pundits made wildly wrong claims about how Iraq would turn out -- what are they saying now about the Middle East?

Numerous conservative pundits offered highly optimistic predictions about the U.S. invasion of Iraq regarding the conflict's duration, difficulty, and human and financial costs -- nearly all of which have proven to be wrong. But rather than hold these "Pollyanna pundits" accountable for their past misjudgments, the media have again provided a platform for their views about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. And echoing their rhetoric on Iraq, these conservative pundits have advocated further military action by the United States and its allies. Read more

ABC jumps on Apocalypse bandwagon: GMA host Roberts welcomes End Times authors' "insight"

ABC's Good Morning America joined CNN in featuring a segment on the potential coming of the Apocalypse, as indicated by current conflicts in the Middle East, by hosting the authors of the Left Behind Christian book series to discuss the issue. Read more

On MSNBC, Coulter called Gore a "total fag," while Matthews said "we'd love to have her back"

Chris Matthews asked pundit Ann Coulter, "How do you know that Bill Clinton is gay?" -- referring to her comment the night before on CNBC's The Big Idea that Clinton "show[s] some level of latent homosexuality." Coulter responded, "I don't know if he's gay. But Al Gore -- total fag." In concluding the interview, Matthews said of Coulter, "We'd love to have her back." Read more

"Truth Police" O'Reilly attacked The Oregonian and The Guardian for calling a smear ... a smear

On July 26, Bill O'Reilly baselessly attacked both The Oregonian and The Guardian newspapers for purportedly breaking "professional standards" and "attack[ing]" O'Reilly. Read more

Paul Krugman: Reign of Error

Amid everything else that’s going wrong in the world, here’s one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.

At one level, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don’t like have been established, whether it’s the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.

But it’s dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.

Here’s how the process works.

First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue — stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq — officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Sometimes the officials simply lie. “The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality,” Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.

Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, “as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.” (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) “But,” she went on, “that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)

Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.

And what about the perceptions of those who get their news from sources that aren’t de facto branches of the Republican National Committee?

The climate of media intimidation that prevailed for several years after 9/11, which made news organizations very cautious about reporting facts that put the administration in a bad light, has abated. But it’s not entirely gone. Just a few months ago major news organizations were under fierce attack from the right over their supposed failure to report the “good news” from Iraq — and my sense is that this attack did lead to a temporary softening of news coverage, until the extent of the carnage became undeniable. And the conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, under which lies and truth get equal billing, continue to work in the administration’s favor.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that the Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. For example, Mr. Bush has repeatedly suggested that the United States had to invade Iraq because Saddam wouldn’t let U.N. inspectors in. His most recent statement to that effect was only a few weeks ago. And he gets away with it. If there have been reports by major news organizations pointing out that that’s not at all what happened, I’ve missed them.

It’s all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of “a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,” he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Detainee Abuse Charges Feared


An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of such detainees, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield was needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Gonzales's remarks.

Lebanese Official Says 600 Civilians Dead

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Up to 600 civilians are believed to have been killed in the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, including as many as 200 buried in the rubble of destroyed buildings, the health minister said Thursday.

The toll was a large jump over previous Health Ministry reports of around 400 killed, which is based on the number of bodies received at Lebanese hospitals.

Lebanon state radio quoted Health Minister Muhammed Jawad Khalifeh as saying up to 600 were killed, and that between 150 and 200 of them were believed to be buried in rubble and unreachable.

The Health Ministry count does not include 20 soldiers the Lebanese army has confirmed dead or 35 guerrillas whose deaths Hezbollah has acknowledged.

Station changes format from God to Sex

KINGSBURG, California (AP) -- KFYE-FM hasn't budged from the Fresno-area dial, but it's about as far as you can get from the Christian music, sermons and Bible stories it was broadcasting until about a week ago.

Now it calls itself "Porn Radio" -- "all sex radio, all the time," with a suggestion that people under 21 not listen.

Songs with little in common except suggestive titles and lyrics fill the playlist, including "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" by The Beatles, "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye and "Nasty" by Janet Jackson. Tamer songs are heated up by adding recorded moans and groans.

The change, made after the station was sold this month, was met with several non-sexual groans from some residents.

US House of Representatives passes nuke deal

After many hours of debate, the US House of Representatives has passed the Indo-US nuke deal by a 359-68 majority.

The deal though will take effect only when the Senate also passes a similar legislation later this year.

The bill will change existing American laws in order to give India greater access to sensitive US technology.

The draft bill was earlier approved with an overwhelming 37-5 in the House International Relations Committee on June 26.


US rejects weapon flight concerns


The White House has dismissed UK concerns about the use of Prestwick Airport, in Scotland, by US planes carrying bombs to Israel.
"Apparently, the British foreign minister thinks the paperwork was not in order," said spokesman Tony Snow.

"The Department of Defense does," he added. "We'll get it straightened out."

UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett protested to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, claiming procedures were ignored.

Mrs Beckett said: "We have already let the United States know that this is an issue that appears to be seriously at fault, and we will be making a formal protest if it appears that that is what has happened."

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that two chartered Airbus A310 planes with a cargo of laser-guided "smart bombs" stopped at Prestwick, 30 miles south of Glasgow in western Scotland.

The Israelis have requested the munitions to attack bunkers being used by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.


Opposition parties reacted angrily, with Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond claiming the UK government should decide whether to "be an aircraft carrier" for the US.

Mr Salmond said that "with an escalating Middle East conflict", it was ill-advised to send bombs "to arm one side in that conflict to the teeth".

In Alabama, Charles Barkley Considers Running For Governor

"Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley has changed his political uniform from red to blue and is talking again about running for governor of Alabama, possibly in 2010," the Sports Illustrated reports.

Said Barkley: "Alabama, that's my home. I'm thinking about running for governor; they need the help."

As we noted earlier, Barkley recently expressed his dismay with the Republican party and would most likely run as a Democrat.

"I used to be a Republican, before they lost their minds."

-- NBA superstar Charles Barkley, quoted by the New York Post.


Statistician Stossel: Researchers in school study "tortured the data" by using standard, universally accepted method of analysis

John Stossel attacked the methodology of a Department of Education study demonstrating nearly identical levels of academic achievement among public and private elementary school students, claiming that "[t]he researchers tortured the data" by using regression analysis -- a universally used statistical tool that even Stossel admitted is "valid." Read more

Wash. Post uncritically reported misleading GOP talking point on job growth

A Washington Post article by staff writer Dan Balz uncritically reported RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt's misleading claim in support of President Bush's economic record: that "5.4 million jobs have been created in the last three years alone," leaving the impression that job growth had also occurred earlier in Bush's presidency. In fact, Bush presided over a net loss of 2.6 million jobs, from the beginning of his presidency through July 2003. Read more

Harris poll undermines media's excuses for ignoring new evidence of Bush falsehoods in lead-up to Iraq war

Over the past 18 months, the media have repeatedly dismissed the need to follow up on new evidence that President Bush knowingly misled the nation in making the case to go to war in Iraq. Media figures have defended this lack of coverage by claiming that the public is already aware that Bush made false claims about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his purported arsenal of WMDs. But a recent Harris poll found that the share of Americans who believe Saddam actually did possess WMDs at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has increased substantially since February 2005, from 36 percent to 50 percent. Read more

CNN or CBN? Phillips asks apocalypse authors: "[A]re we living in the last days?"

With Kyra Phillips's discussion of the Apocalypse and the Middle East conflict with Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Joel C. Rosenberg -- who share the view that the Rapture is nigh -- CNN has, for the second time in three days, featured a segment on the potential coming of the Apocalypse, as indicated by current conflicts in the Middle East. Read more

Ken Burns' WWII Documentary Puts PBS in FCC's Aim

PBS chief wary of FCC fine print 'War' could test indecency rule

"Among the many issues facing the newly appointed president of PBS is the possibility that public TV stations could face crippling fines from the FCC for running Ken Burns' upcoming World War II documentary "The War."

Paula Kerger, who took the helm as president and CEO of PBS in March, told reporters at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour Wednesday that she tried without success in meetings with the five members of the FCC to get assurances that salty language heard from servicemen and others in the docu would not run afoul of the FCC, given the commission's recent crackdown on indecency."

Irish FM says Israel fired at UN soldiers moving UN soldier's bodies

Irish army officer - ‘I told Israel about UN base fears’

The most senior Irish army officer in Lebanon warned Israel six times on Tuesday that its bombs were landing close to a United Nations base.

Israeli authorities ignored the warnings and later struck the southern Lebanon UN base, killing four observers.

Lieutenant Colonel John Molloy phoned the Israeli Defence Forces six times on Tuesday.

In a widely welcomed move, foreign minister Dermot Ahern summoned Israeli ambassador Daniel Megiddo to a meeting yesterday.

Mr Ahern said it was extremely disquieting that Israelis had fired on Egyptian UN soldiers as the UN personnel tried to retrieve their colleagues’ bodies.

Britain to protest US use of airport to send missiles to Israel


London: British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is planning to make a formal complaint to the United States over the alleged use of a Scottish airport as a staging post for the transport of missiles to Israel.

Beckett said she had raised the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, telling British media the government was "not happy" about reports two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes that were filled with GBU28 laser-guided bombs landed at Glasgow's Prestwick airport over the weekend for refuelling and for the crew to rest on the way to Israel.

Responding to a question asking whether it was acceptable for a British airport to be used as a staging post for the transport of weapons, Beckett told Channel 4 News: "No I am not happy about it.

"Not least because it appears that in so far as there are procedures for handling of that kind of cargo -- hazardous cargoes irrespective of what they are -- it does appear that they were not followed.

"I have already let the United States know that this is an issue that appears to be seriously at fault ... that we will be making a formal protest if it appears that that is what has happened.

"We are still looking into the facts but I have already notified the United States that we are not happy about it."

Israel won't ask U.S. for special war aid


"Israel will not make a request for special U.S. aid for the war in the North, according to senior government sources.

The decision not ask the Americans for additional help was made in spite of the tremendous pressures on the budget, and in spite of the fact that for the first time in many years the budget framework may be exceeded in 2007.

There were three reasons behind the decision not to ask the U.S. for additional aid. First, the failure last year to obtain any special aid for the disengagement from Gaza − which initially stood at NIS 1.15 billion. This failure showed that the Americans − with their own enormous budget deficits − were in no hurry to pass further aid for Israel, even when the cause was justified.

Another reason is that Israel does not want to be seen as begging for a handout. There are serious worries that this would harm Israel's economic image in the world; after years of presenting Israel as a strong and stable economy, and an attractive destination for foreign investors.

The third reason, and probably the most important, is that Israel wants to start negotiating with the U.S. over future aid − and it wants to start off from a position of strength."

Irish Protestors Found Not Guilty Of Vandalizing US Military Jet

Court Rules Damage Was Act Of Protest

This is a verdict guaranteed to raise eyebrows at the Pentagon and the State Department. A court in Dublin, Ireland, Tuesday found five people accused of damaging a US Navy transport jet at Shannon Airport... not guilty.

The five were arrested in February 2003, after they used axes and hammers to beat up the Boeing 737... which was being repared after a similar attack. All told... the jet suffered more than $2 million in damage.

Why did they do it? Dierdre Clancy, Karen Fallon, Nuin Dunlop, Damien Moran and Ciaron O'Reilly say they were protesting America's war in Iraq... and the use of Irish facilities to service a combatant's aircraft.


Karen Fallon says this is a matter of standing up for Ireland's policy of remaining neutral in the Iraq conflict.

"The Irish people in the majority today approved that the Irish state is actually going against its people and breaking neutrality," she told the Associated Press.

The Wrong Lesson

NYT Editorial

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which failed to employ the kinds of controls necessary to prevent an estimated $1 billion in fraud and abuse following Hurricane Katrina, has compiled a list of remedial steps it plans to take. That’s good. But tucked into the list is a peculiar decision to cut back immediate emergency aid for families to $500, instead of the $2,000 given after Katrina.

Certainly, it was bad news that prison inmates received money intended for the displaced and that cash cards were used to buy pornography and football tickets. But many of the failures identified by the Government Accountability Office could easily have been prevented.

The office estimates that the agency made “about $5.3 million in payments to registrants who provided a post office box as their damaged residence.” That straddles the line between laughable and depressing. Nor does the agency have any excuse for allowing double dipping of rental assistance by evacuees staying in free hotel rooms.

But the agency’s incompetence has no bearing on the needs of people who have lost everything and require immediate help. Cutting back emergency aid is the wrong response by an agency in crisis, one that smacks of victim-blaming and overreaction.

It is important to have strong upfront controls to ensure that money doesn’t end up in the wrong hands, and we are glad to see the agency taking steps in that direction. Taxpayers lose faith in programs when they find out they are being defrauded. But the agency also should not set unrealistic hurdles for people who have fled disaster areas and may not have every piece of identification or documentation that one might bring along in an organized departure. The agency’s first goal in a crisis is to succor the afflicted, not suspect them of fraud.

The devastation of the Gulf Coast was unprecedented in scope. Although fraud was widespread it accounted for only 16 percent of payments, too high but hardly outrageous in a time of great confusion and tumult. What happened in New Orleans in particular was exceptional because normal checks were difficult to perform, thanks to the flooding caused by breached levees. The agency has borne the brunt of the blame. Much of it was deserved, but overreacting — to the detriment of the next group of terrified solace seekers — is not the answer.

Bob Herbert: Bush's Failures

Imagine a surgeon who is completely clueless, who has no idea what he or she is doing.
Imagine a pilot who is equally incompetent.

Now imagine a president.

The Middle East is in flames. Iraq has become a charnel house, a crucible of horror with no end to the agony in sight. Lebanon is in danger of going down for the count. And the crazies in Iran, empowered by the actions of their enemies, are salivating like vultures.

They can’t wait to feast on the remains of U.S. policies and tactics spawned by a sophomoric neoconservative fantasy — that democracy imposed at gunpoint in Iraq would spread peace and freedom, like the flowers of spring, throughout the Middle East.

If a Democratic president had pursued exactly the same policies, and achieved exactly the same tragic results as George W. Bush, that president would have been the target of a ferocious drive for impeachment by the G.O.P.

Mr. Bush spent a fair amount of time this week with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. There was plenty to talk about, nearly all of it hideous.

Over the past couple of months Iraqi civilians have been getting blown away at the stunning rate of four or five an hour. Even Karl Rove had a tough time drawing a smiley face on that picture.

“Obviously the violence in Baghdad is still terrible,” said Mr. Bush, “and therefore there needs to be more troops.”

One did not get the sense, listening to this assessment from the commander in chief, that things would soon be well in hand.

There was, instead, a disturbing sense of déjà vu. A sense of the president at a complete loss, not really knowing what to do. I recalled the image of Mr. Bush sitting in a Sarasota, Fla., classroom after being informed of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Instead of reacting instantly, commandingly, he just sat there for long wasted moments, with a bewildered look on his face, holding a second-grade story called “The Pet Goat.”

And then there was the famous picture of Mr. Bush, on his way back from a monthlong vacation, looking out the window of Air Force One as it flew low over the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s devastating,” Mr. Bush was quoted as saying. “It’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground.”

I’ll tell you what’s devastating. The monumental and mind-numbing toll of Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq, which is being documented in a series of important books, the latest being Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco.” Mr. Ricks gives us more disturbing details about the administration’s “flawed plan for war” and “worse approach to occupation.”

Near the end of his book, he writes:

“In January 2005, the C.I.A.’s internal think tank, the National Intelligence Council, concluded that Iraq had replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for a new generation of jihadist terrorists. The country had become ‘a magnet for international terrorist activity,’ said the council’s chairman, Robert Hutchings.”

Saddled with one failure after another, the administration seems paralyzed, completely unable to shape the big issues facing the U.S. and the world today.

Condoleezza Rice is in charge of the diplomatic effort regarding Lebanon. She’s been about as effective at that as the president was in his response to Katrina.

But Dr. Rice is still quick with the scary imagery. Her comment, “I have no doubt there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib,” recalls her famous, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

It might help if she spent less time giving us provocative metaphors and more time on the very difficult nuts and bolts of trying to maintain or bring about peace.

It may be that a hamstrung Bush administration is a better bet than the same crew being free to act as it pleases.

Imagine how much better off we’d have been if Congress had found the wisdom and the courage to prevent the president from invading Iraq.

In two years and a few months Americans will vote again for president. I hope the long list of tragic failures by Bush & Co. prompts people to take that election more seriously than some in the past.

If you were about to be lifted onto an operating table, you’d be more interested in the competence of the surgeon than in his or her personality.

Mr. Bush’s record reminds us that similarly careful consideration should be given to those who would be president.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Iraqi General kidnapped

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- In northern Baghdad, gunmen kidnapped Gen. Abdullah Ishada, head of Baghdad's residency office, when he was en route to work Wednesday morning, Iraqi Emergency Police said. The residency office is a part of Iraq's Interior Ministry.

A roadside bomb exploded in southeastern Baghdad, killing one civilian.

Police recovered five bodies across the Iraqi capital Wednesday. All had been shot and showed signs of torture.

Subject: A Message from John Cleese

A Message from John Cleese to the citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and Thus
to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective
immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all
states, commonwealths, and territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America
without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules
are introduced with immediate effect: You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English

1. Then look up "aluminium," and check the pronunciation guide. You will be
amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as "favour" and
"neighbour." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters, and the suffix
- ize will be replaced by the suffix - ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable
levels. (Look up "vocabulary").

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as
"like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no
such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft
spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter "u" and the elimination of - ize. You
will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or
therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult
enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult
enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're certainly not
grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more
dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable
peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your
own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start
driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect
and without the benefit of conversion tables.
Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense
of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been
calling gasoline") - roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries
are not real chips and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps.
Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer
at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of
known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. American brands will be referred to
as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good
guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching
Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience
akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of
proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby
(which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest
every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of Nancies).

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an
event called the World Series for a game, which is not played outside of America. Since only 21% of
you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.

15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's
Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 PM with proper cups, never mugs,
with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

Thank you for your co-operation.

John Cleese.

Israel troops 'ignored' UN plea


UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.
The post was hit by a precision-guided missile after six hours of shelling nearby, diplomats familiar with the initial probe into the deaths say.

The news came as crisis talks in Rome failed to call for an immediate ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel.

Reports say up to 13 Israeli soldiers died in the latest fighting.

The four unarmed UN observers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland, died after their UN post was hit by an Israeli air strike on Tuesday.

The UN report says each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.

Israel is conducting an investigation into the deaths, and has rejected accusations made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the targeting of the UN position was "apparently deliberate".

In southern Lebanon, fierce clashes have continued between Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters around the town of Bint Jbail.

Israel has not confirmed any deaths from among its soldiers, but says there have been 20 casualties.

In Middle East conflict, other crises, conservative media find signs of Biblical prophecy of Armageddon

In recent days, some members of the conservative media have seen signs of the Apocalypse in the escalated conflicts in the Middle East and Asia. Pat Robertson has considered the possibility but has seemed to reject it, while columnist Hal Lindsey has simply asserted: "Now Armageddon looms large before us." But as recent reports on CNN and in USA Today attest, conservatives are not the only media figures to raise the question of whether current events are a sign of the "End Times." Read more

Savage: CNN's Blitzer "would have let children into the gas chamber in order to stay alive an extra day"

Accusing CNN host Wolf Blitzer of being anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish in his coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, Michael Savage declared that Blitzer is "the type who would have let children into the gas chamber in order to stay alive an extra day." Read more

Blood in Beirut: $75.05 a Barrel

Greg Palast

The failure to stop the bloodletting in the Middle East, Exxon’s record second-quarter profits and Iran’s nuclear cat-and-mouse game have something in common — it’s the oil.

I can’t tell you how it started — this is a war that’s been fought since the Levites clashed with the Philistines — but I can tell you why the current mayhem has not been stopped. It’s the oil.

I’m not an expert on Palestine nor Lebanon and I’d rather not pretend to be one. If you want to know what’s going on, read Robert Fisk. He lives there. He speaks Arabic. Stay away from pundits whose only connection to the Middle East is the local falafel stand.

So why am I writing now? The answer is that, while I don’t speak Arabic or Hebrew, I am completely fluent in the language of petroleum.

What? You don’t need a degree in geology to know there’s no oil in Israel, Palestine or Lebanon. (A few weeks ago, I was joking around with Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Authority’s Ambassador to the US, asking him why he was fighting to have a piece of the only place in the Middle East without oil. Well, there’s no joking now.)