Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Iraq on the Brink

NYT Editorial

Iraq has moved perilously close to civil war. Everyone who knows anything about the tortured history of that country, cobbled together from disparate parts by British colonial officials less than a century ago, has always dreaded such an outcome.

Fear of civil war stayed the hand of the first President George Bush, when he turned back American troops and left Saddam Hussein in power. It generated much of the opposition to the current President Bush's invasion in 2003. Yet many critics of the invasion, including this page, believed that the dangers from civil war were so dire that American troops, once in, were obliged to remain as long as there was a conceivable route to a just peace.

The only alternative to civil war is, and has always been, a national unity government of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Unless these mutually suspicious groups can work together, the United States will be faced with the impossible task of trying to create a stable democracy that Iraqis have refused to create for themselves.

The chances of putting together such a government grew much smaller with the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in the largely Sunni city of Samarra last week, an attack that literally blew the lid off the simmering animosity between Iraq's two main religious factions. That hatred and distrust had been heated to a high boil by the sharp-shouldered and small-minded maneuvering over the formation of a new government.

To millions of enraged Shiites, all Sunni Arabs suddenly seemed indistinguishable from the Samarra bombers. Seeing that the weak-willed and poorly disciplined Iraqi security forces had utterly failed to protect their revered mosque and shrine, Shiites looked instead to the vicious and brutal sectarian militias run by leading Shiite political parties. They promptly unleashed a torrent of bombings and killings directed against Sunni mosques, mullahs and terrified civilians.

Those bloody reprisals have so far killed hundreds of people. They confirmed Sunni fears that the Shiite-led government would not lift a finger to protect their lives, families, property and mosques from a reign of terror inflicted by militias affiliated with the leading government parties.

The desperately dangerous situation that now prevails in Iraq could never have been created by Sunni terrorists alone, or by the dithering ambivalence of Sunni political leaders, who seem unable to decide from one day to the next whether they are ready to engage in the give-and-take of parliamentary politics. Much of the blame must also go to ambitious and revenge-minded Shiite political leaders, who, for the past year, have thwarted constitutional compromises and given members of their party militias key posts in the government security forces and Interior Ministry prisons. To this day, they continue to resist the formation of a broadly inclusive national unity government.

Some of the worst offenders on this score include the incumbent prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who has just been nominated for another term; his crucial ally Moktada al-Sadr, the rabidly anti-American cleric, politician and militia leader; and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who heads Iraq's most powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

If Iraq can still be saved from its consuming hatreds, at least some of these major Shiite leaders will have to rise to the moment and abruptly change their ways. Kurdish leaders can help by pledging to withhold their support for Mr. Jaafari's renomination unless he agrees to a broadly representative national government. And Sunni leaders will have to embrace and take part in such a government, accepting the fact that they are a minority in the population and must get used to playing a secondary, though still significant, role.

If civil war broke out, innocent Shiite and Sunni civilians would suffer first, but the repercussions could spread far beyond Iraq's borders. The Shiite south would be further propelled into the political orbit of Iran, and Kurds in the north would claim independence, probably drawing in Turkey. The oil-free western and central Sunni area would be left impoverished, a potential no man's land that could become a home base for terrorists operating around the globe.

Iraq's elected leaders can still save their country. They must now prove that they want to. Time is rapidly running out.




Now the Florida delegation's third-strongest Bush supporter is on the front lines of the Republican revolt against the president on the deal to turn over key operations at six U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates company. Republicans who once marched in lock step behind their president on national security are increasingly willing to challenge him in an area considered his political strength.

The signs of GOP discontent have been building in the past few months. Dissident Republicans in Congress forced Bush to sign a measure banning torture of detainees despite his initial veto threat, blocked renewal of the USA Patriot Act until their civil liberties concerns were addressed and pressured the White House into accepting legislation on its secret eavesdropping program. By the time the port deal came to light, the uprising was no longer limited to dissidents.

"We simply want to participate and aren't going to be PR flacks when they need us," Foley said. "We all have roles. We have oversight. When you can't answer your constituents when they have legitimate questions . . . we can't simply do it on trust."

The breakdown of the Republican consensus on national security both reflects and exacerbates Bush's political weakness heading toward the midterm elections, according to party strategists. Even as Republicans abandoned him last year on domestic issues such as Social Security, Hurricane Katrina relief and Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination, they had largely stuck by him on terrorism and other security issues.

Exclusive: Dubai ports firm enforces Israel boycott

The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The firm, Dubai Ports World, is seeking control over six major US ports, including those in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore. It is entirely owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), which consists of the Dubai Port Authority, the Dubai Customs Department and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Area.

"Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced," Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department's Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the Post in a telephone interview.

"If a product contained even some components that were made in Israel, and you wanted to import it to Dubai, it would be a problem," he said.


When President Bush held a public meeting with troops by satellite last fall, they were miraculously upbeat. And all along, unrepentant hawks (most of whom have never been to Iraq) have insisted that journalists are misreporting Iraq and that most soldiers are gung-ho about their mission.

Hogwash! A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq — and soon.

The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, "How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?"

Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush's position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw "immediately."

That's one more bit of evidence that our grim stay-the-course policy in Iraq has failed. Even the American troops on the ground don't buy into it — and having administration officials pontificate from the safety of Washington about the need for ordinary soldiers to stay the course further erodes military morale.

While the White House emphasizes the threat from non-Iraqi terrorists, only 26 percent of the U.S. troops say that the insurgency would end if those foreign fighters could be kept out. A plurality believes that the insurgency is made up overwhelmingly of discontented Iraqi Sunnis.

So what would it take to win in Iraq? Maybe that was the single most depressing finding in this poll.

By a two-to-one ratio, the troops said that "to control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions." And since there is zero chance of that happening, a majority of troops seemed to be saying that they believe this war to be unwinnable.

This first systematic look at the views of the U.S. troops on the ground suggests that our present strategy in Iraq is failing badly. The troops overwhelmingly don't want to "stay the course," and they don't seem to think the American strategy can succeed.

It's tempting, but not very helpful, to repeat that the fatal mistake was invading Iraq three years ago and leave it at that.

That's easy for a columnist to say; the harder thing for a policy maker is to figure out what we do next, now that we're already there.

I still believe that while the war was a dreadful mistake, an immediate pullout would also be a misstep: anyone who says that Iraq can't get worse hasn't seen a country totally torn apart by chaos and civil war.

Mr. Bush is right about the consequences of an immediate pullout — to Iraq, and also to American influence around the world.

But while we shouldn't rush for the exits immediately, we should lay out a timetable for withdrawal that would remove all troops by the end of next year.

And we should state clearly that we will not keep any military bases in Iraq — that's a no-brainer, for it costs us nothing, but our hedging on bases antagonizes Iraqi nationalists and results in more dead Americans.

Such a timetable would force Iraqis to prepare — politically and militarily — to run their own country.

The year or two of transition would galvanize Iraqi Shiites to find a modus vivendi with Sunnis while undermining the insurgents' arguments that they are nationalists protecting the motherland from Yankee crusaders.

True, a timetable is arbitrary and risky, for it could just encourage insurgents to hang tight for another couple of years.

But we're being killed — literally — because of nationalist suspicions among Iraqis that we're just after their oil and bases and that we're going to stay forever. It's crucial that we defuse that nationalist rage.

For now, we've become the piƱata of Iraqi politics, something for Iraqi demagogues to bash to boost their own legitimacy.

Moktada al-Sadr, one of the scariest Iraqi leaders, has very shrewdly used his denunciations of the U.S. to boost his own political following and influence across Iraq; that's our gift to him, a consequence of our myopia.

And many ordinary Iraqis are buying into this scapegoating of the U.S. Edward Wong, one of my intrepid Times colleagues in Baghdad, quoted a clothing merchant named Abdul-Qader Ali as saying:

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America. Everything that is going on between Sunnis and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

Will a timetable work? I don't know, but it's a better bet than our present policy of whistling in the dark.

And it's what the troops favor — and they're the ones who have Iraq combat experience. It's time our commander in chief stopped stage-managing his troops and listened to them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Democrats declare 'Orange Jumpsuit Week' for Abramoff birthday

Raw Story

Senate Democrats have declared it "Orange Jumpsuit Week" in a release attacking Republican ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who turns 47 tomorrow.

The document, which was accompanied by a picture of an Orange Jumpsuit with the words "Orange Jumpsuit Week" superimposed on the back, follows:

"Happy Birthday, Jack Abramoff! Tomorrow is the disgraced Republican super-lobbyist's birthday but, unfortunately for Abramoff, his friends aren't in much of a mood to party. In fact, three Abramoff cronies will be appearing in court this week.

Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration

WASHINGTON - Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations, a Senate panel said Monday.

The surprise disclosure came during a hearing on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. The port operations are now handled by London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

"There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment of the potential" merger," an undated Coast Guard intelligence assessment says.

"The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities," the document says.

Republicans With Jitters: "We have a President who is not popular"

The Nation

Conservative Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake: He pleaded with fellow conservatives to take the high road of liberalized immigration reform in the escalating debate and not go down the immigrant-bashing path. "I encourage Republicans to not repeat what happened in California in 1994," he said referring to GOP support for Prop 187. "It works for one cycle and then you pay a price for a decade."

Former Congressman Pat Toomey, current head of The Club for Growth: "We have to acknowledge we have a President who is not popular… The war in Iraq is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room and a major downturn could drown anything we do… We won in 1994 because we promised small government and going into the 2006 elections this is key idea we have abandoned."

Former Colorado State Senator John Andrews: "I feel the Republican Party in my state and nationally is a party that has lost its way… we need to find our way back to a reason to vote Republican."

Missouri Lt. Governor Pete Kinder on the state of the party: "The demoralization of the base is real. I hear it everywhere."

Conservative Arizona Congressman John Shaddeg on the Abramoff scandal: "I believe these scandals are the end of the 1994 Revolution… all this seriously threatens the Republican majority. It might be hard to shrink government as we promised. But it's not that hard to be honest and we haven't."

Culture of Corruption: Four days, three court appearances

Three times this week the Republican culture of corruption will come to a head before a federal judge.

Tuesday: David Safavian, George Bush's top procurement officer (responsible for billions of dollars in federal spending), will be in court for pretrial motions in his case involving lying to investigators about his dealings with Jack Abramoff.

Wednesday: Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's associate, who pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, will be in court for a status conference on his sentencing.

Friday: Former Republican Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham who pled guilty on November 28th will be sentenced.

Time and time again Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated to us they are unfit to govern. As the days and weeks go by, the public is becoming more aware of that fact. We can take back the Senate this November and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is helping to make that possible. They are making sure all Democratic Senate candidates can compete with their Republican opponents who, through the efforts of Rick Santorum and Tom Delay, have become a wholly owned subsidiary of special interest lobbyists.


Culture of Corruption: America For Sale, New Report Documents Cost of Republican Corruption for American People

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, yesterday released a report, “America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” documenting the unprecedented level of corruption which has come to define Congress and the federal government under Republican leadership.

“America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption,” presents for the first time a comprehensive review and analysis of the major ethics scandals which have shaken Washington during the last five years of Republican rule, and reveals how deep the culture of corruption nurtured by the Republican Party’s leadership goes.

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots (No. 234)

February 27, 2006 · Port Probe Edition
So, apparently George W. Bush isn't that serious about this whole "national security" thing after all. Last week we learned that he wants to hand over our ports to a country with a (shall we say) less-than-perfect record in the war on terror.

Robert Fisk: Bush Man Speak [With Forked Tongue]

Everyone in the Middle East rewrites history, but never before have we had a US administration so wilfully, dishonestly and ruthlessly reinterpreting tragedy as success, defeat as victory, death as life - helped, I have to add, by the compliant American press.
I'm reminded not so much of Vietnam as of the British and French commanders of the First World War who repeatedly lied about military victory over the Kaiser as they pushed hundreds of thousands of their men through the butchers' shops of the Somme, Verdun and Gallipoli.

The only difference now is that we are pushing hundreds of thousands of Arabs though the butchers' shops - and don't even care.

Last week's visit to Beirut by one of the blindest of George Bush's bats - his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice - was indicative of the cruelty that now pervades Washington.

She brazenly talked about the burgeoning "democracies" of the Middle East while utterly ignoring the bloodbaths in Iraq and the growing sectarian tensions of Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps the key to her indifference can be found in her evidence to the Senate Committee on International Affairs where she denounced Iran as "the greatest strategic challenge" facing the US in the region, because Iran uses policies that "contradict the nature of the kind of Middle East sought by the United States".

As Bouthaina Shaaban, one of the brightest of Syria's not always very bright team of government ministers, noted: "What is the nature of the kind of Middle East sought by the United States? Should Middle East states adapt themselves to that nature, designed oceans away?"

As Maureen Dowd, the best and only really worthwhile columnist on the boring New York Times, observed this month, Bush "believes in self-determination only if he's doing the determining ... The Bushies are more obsessed with snooping on Americans than fathoming how other cultures think and react." And conniving with rogue regimes, too, Dowd might have added.

Take Donald Rumsfeld, the reprehensible man who helped to kick off the "shock and awe" mess that has now trapped more than 100,000 Americans in the wastes of Iraq.

He's been taking a leisurely trip around North Africa to consult some of America's nastiest dictators, among them President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, the man with the largest secret service in the Arab world and whose policemen have perfected the best method of gleaning information from suspected "terrorists": to hold them down and stuff bleach-soaked rags into their mouths until they have almost drowned.

The Tunisians learned this from the somewhat cruder methods of the Algerians next door whose government death squads slaughtered quite a few of the 150,000 victims of the recent war against the Islamists.

The Algerian lads - and I've interviewed a few of them after their nightmares persuaded them to seek asylum in London - would strap their naked victims to a ladder and, if the "chiffon" torture didn't work, they'd push a tube down the victim's throat and turn on a water tap until the prisoner swelled up like a balloon.

There was a special department (at the Chateauneuf police station, in case Donald Rumsfeld wants to know) for torturing women, who were inevitably raped before being dispatched by an execution squad.

All this I mention because Rumsfeld's also been cosying up to the Algerians. On a visit to Algiers this month, he announced that "the United States and Algeria have a multifaceted relationship.

"It involves political and economic as well as military-to-military co-operation. And we very much value the co-operation we are receiving in counter-terrorism..."

Yes, I imagine the "chiffon" technique is easy to learn, the abuse of prisoners, too - just like Abu Ghraib, for example, which now seems to have been the fault of journalists rather than America's thugs.

Rumsfeld's latest pronouncements have included a defence of the Pentagon's system of buying favourable news stories in Iraq with bribes - "non-traditional means to provide accurate information" was his fantasy description of this latest attempt to obscure the collapse of the American regime in Baghdad - and an attack on our reporting of the Abu Ghraib tortures.

"Consider for a moment the vast quantity of column inches and hours of television devoted to the detainee abuse [sic] at Abu Ghraib.

Compare that to the volume of coverage and condemnation associated with, say, the discovery of Saddam Hussein's mass graves, which were filled with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis."

Let's expose this whopping lie. We were exposing Saddam's vile regime, especially his use of gas, as long ago as 1983. I was refused a visa to Iraq by Saddam's satraps for exposing their vile tortures at - Abu Ghraib.

And what was Donald Rumsfeld doing? Visiting Baghdad, grovelling before Saddam, to whom he did not mention the murders and mass graves, which he knew about, and pleading with the Beast of Baghdad to reopen the US embassy in Iraq.

With the usual press courtiers in tow, Rumsfeld has no problems, witness George Melloan's recent interview with the Beast of Washington in his Boeing 737: "He generously spares me time for a chat about defence strategy.

"Bright sunlight streams in and lights his face ... Sitting across from him at a desk high above the clouds, one wonders if the ability of this modern Jove to call down lightning on transgressors will be equal to the tasks ahead."

And so myth-making and tragedy go hand in hand. Iraq's monumental catastrophe has become routine, shapeless, an incipient "civil war".

Note how the American framework of disaster is now being portrayed as an Iraqi vs Iraqi war, as if the huge and brutal US occupation has nothing to do with the appalling violence in Iraq.

They blow up each other's mosques? They just don't want to get on. We told them to have a non-sectarian government and they refused. That, I suspect, will be the get-out line when the next deluge overwhelms the Americans in Iraq.

Winston Churchill, when the Iraqis staged their insurgency against British rule in 1920, called Iraq "an ungrateful volcano". But let's just sit back and enjoy the view. Democracy is coming to the Middle East.

People are enjoying more liberties. History doesn't matter, only the future. And the future for the people of the Middle East is becoming darker and bloodier by the day.

I guess it just depends whether "Jove" is up to his job when all that bright sunlight streams in and lights his face.


Ben Bernanke's maiden Congressional testimony as chairman of the Federal Reserve was, everyone agrees, superb. He didn't put a foot wrong on monetary or fiscal policy.

But Mr. Bernanke did stumble at one point. Responding to a question from Representative Barney Frank about income inequality, he declared that "the most important factor" in rising inequality "is the rising skill premium, the increased return to education."

That's a fundamental misreading of what's happening to American society. What we're seeing isn't the rise of a fairly broad class of knowledge workers.

Instead, we're seeing the rise of a narrow oligarchy: income and wealth are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

I think of Mr. Bernanke's position, which one hears all the time, as the 80-20 fallacy. It's the notion that the winners in our increasingly unequal society are a fairly large group — that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don't have these skills.

The truth is quite different. Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains.

The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.

So who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?", gives the details.

Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726.

The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Why would someone as smart and well informed as Mr. Bernanke get the nature of growing inequality wrong?

Because the fallacy he fell into tends to dominate polite discussion about income trends, not because it's true, but because it's comforting.

The notion that it's all about returns to education suggests that nobody is to blame for rising inequality, that it's just a case of supply and demand at work.

And it also suggests that the way to mitigate inequality is to improve our educational system — and better education is a value to which just about every politician in America pays at least lip service.

The idea that we have a rising oligarchy is much more disturbing. It suggests that the growth of inequality may have as much to do with power relations as it does with market forces. Unfortunately, that's the real story.

Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats.

Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I'm with Alan Greenspan, who — surprisingly, given his libertarian roots — has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to "democratic society."

It may take some time before we muster the political will to counter that threat. But the first step toward doing something about inequality is to abandon the 80-20 fallacy.

It's time to face up to the fact that rising inequality is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.


Early in the documentary film "Why We Fight," Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City police officer whose son was killed in the World Trade Center attack, describes his personal feelings in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.

"Somebody had to pay for this," he says. "Somebody had to pay for 9/11. ... I wanna see their bodies stacked up for what they did. For taking my son."

Lost in the agony of his grief, Mr. Sekzer wanted revenge. He wanted the government to go after the bad guys, and when the government said the bad guys were in Iraq, he didn't argue.

For most of his life Mr. Sekzer was a patriot straight out of central casting. His view was always "If the bugle calls, you go."

When he was 21 he was a gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam. He didn't question his country's motives. He was more than willing to place his trust in the leadership of the nation he loved.

"Why We Fight," a thoughtful, first-rate movie directed by Eugene Jarecki, is largely about how misplaced that trust has become.

The central figure in the film is not Mr. Jarecki, but Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican president who had been the supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II, and who famously warned us at the end of his second term about the profound danger inherent in the rise of the military-industrial complex.

Ike warned us, but we didn't listen. That's the theme the movie explores.

Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to a national television and radio audience in January 1961. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," he said.

He recognized that this development was essential to the defense of the nation. But he warned that "we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."

"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," he said. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

It was as if this president, who understood war as well or better than any American who ever lived, were somehow able to peer into the future and see the tail of the military-industrial complex wagging the dog of American life, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming.

"His words have unfortunately come true," says Senator John McCain in the film. "He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country."

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs.

"Before long," said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, "the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy."

In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history, the military-industrial complex (with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as chairman and C.E.O., respectively) took its eye off the real enemy in Afghanistan and launched the pointless but far more remunerative war in Iraq.

If you want to get a chill, just consider the tragic chaos in present-day Iraq (seven G.I.'s were killed on the day I went to see "Why We Fight") and then listen to Susan Eisenhower in the film recalling a quotation attributed to her grandfather: "God help this country when somebody sits at this desk who doesn't know as much about the military as I do."

The military-industrial complex has become so pervasive that it is now, as one of the figures in the movie notes, all but invisible. Its missions and priorities are poorly understood by most Americans, and frequently counter to their interests.

Near the end of the movie, Mr. Sekzer, the New York cop who lost his son on Sept. 11, describes his reaction to President Bush's belated acknowledgment that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved" in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"What the hell did we go in there for?" Mr. Sekzer asks.

Unable to hide his bitterness, he says: "The government exploited my feelings of patriotism, of a deep desire for revenge for what happened to my son. But I was so insane with wanting to get even, I was willing to believe anything."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 02-26-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (344)

Place (103)

Show (29)

Out of the Money (88)


Balmoral Park

Race # 9

Horse: EENY RELLIM (Place)

Post Position: # 2


Race # 10

Horse: WORKS FOR ME (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 5

Gaps in Security Stretch From Model Port in Dubai to U.S.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 25 — To some American officials, the sprawling port along the Persian Gulf here, where steel shipping containers are stacked row after row as far as the eye can see, is a model for the post-9/11 world.

Fences enclose the port's perimeter, which is patrolled by guards. Gamma-ray scanners peek inside containers to make sure they carry the clothing, aluminum, timber and other goods listed on shipping records. Radiation detectors search for any hidden nuclear material.

But those antiterrorism measures still fall far short of what is needed to ensure security, American government auditors and maritime experts say.

The scanning devices, for example, can check only a small fraction of the millions of containers that flow through here every year. The radiation detectors most likely would not pick up a key radioactive ingredient in a nuclear bomb, even if it was just modestly shielded. And the system that selects containers for inspection relies upon often-incomplete data.

In short, even at this model port, the security regimen set up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, largely at the request of the United States government, is far from enough to address the vulnerabilities that make ports still such an attractive terrorist target.

Harness Racing Picks for 02-26-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (344)

Place (102)

Show (29)

Out of the Money (87)


Balmoral Park

Race # 9


Post Position: # 2


Race # 10


Post Position: # 5

Iran and Russia in joint venture


Iran has agreed in principle on a joint venture with Russia to enrich uranium.
But further talks are needed, said the head of Iran's nuclear agency, Gholamreza Aghazadeh.

The Russian compromise proposal is that Iran move all the sensitive parts of its nuclear programme to Russian soil to ally Western concerns.

But it is thought unlikely Iran would agree to this. Tehran says it will not give up its current enrichment programme resumed earlier this month.

Mr Aghazadeh was speaking at a news conference in the southern city of Bushehr with his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Kiriyenko.

He said any deal to form a joint company for producing nuclear fuel would have to go further and be part of a wider package if it were to resolve the current crisis.

It appears Iran is looking for a wider compromise that would allow it to keep its nuclear research programme, says the BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran.

Mr Kiriyenko said he agreed all countries had the right to nuclear technology, but added that the international community also had the right to objective guarantees that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Harness Racing Results for 02-25-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (344)

Place (102)

Show (29)

Out of the Money (87)



Race # 2

Horse: PULSE (Show)

Post Position: # 5

Race # 4

Horse: ANNS NESTEGG (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 1

Fraser Downs

Race # 8


Post Position: # 4


The Meadows

Race # 6

Horse: WET BUNNY (Show)

Post Position: # 1

Younger Clerics Showing Power in Iraq's Unrest


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 25 — American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken a new and ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward ever more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.

Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite cleric to whom the Americans have often looked for moderation, appears to have been outflanked by younger and more aggressive figures. After a bomb exploded in Samarra at one of Iraq's most sacred Shiite shrines on Wednesday, many young Shiites ignored Ayatollah Sistani's pleas for calm, instead heeding more extreme calls and attacking Sunni mosques and killing Sunni civilians, even imams, in a crisis that has threatened to provoke open civil war.

On Saturday, the sectarian bloodletting continued in Karbala and the Baghdad area, bringing the death toll since the bombing to more than 200.

As the critical moment of Friday Prayer approached, United States officials and their allies were left almost helpless, hoping that Iraq's imams would step up to calm the crisis. But that hope gave way to the realization that the clerics could do as much harm as good, and for the first time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi authorities imposed an unusual daytime curfew to keep people from attending the sermons.

"Sectarian divisions are not new, and sectarian violence is not new," said a Western diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity. "What is different this time is that the Shiites, in a sign that their patience is limited, reacted violently in a number of places."

Culture of Corruption: Former GOP employee testifies about political work on state time

MADISON, Wis. - State employees who worked for Assembly Republicans served as a central command for GOP candidates statewide, answering fundraising questions, developing campaign messages and churning out candidate flyers, yard signs and logos, two former employees testified Friday at the misconduct trial of state Rep. Scott Jensen.

Prosecutors in the trial of Jensen and former GOP aide Sherry Schultz - the last of six people charged in an investigation into corruption at the state Capitol - contend the activities violated the law against electioneering on state time. The defense argues that the law does not specifically outlaw the campaign work.

Ray Carey, a former director of the taxpayer-funded Assembly Republican Caucus, testified he worked closely with Jensen, then the Assembly speaker, in the late 1990s to develop campaign strategies, monitor candidates' progress and track their fundraising.

Carey, who doubled as executive director of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, a private committee established to raise funds for GOP candidates, said the goal of both jobs was to ensure Republicans kept control of the Assembly.

Harness Racing Picks for 02-25-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (343)

Place (102)

Show (27)

Out of the Money (86)



Race # 2

Horse: PULSE

Post Position: # 5

Race # 4


Post Position: # 1

Fraser Downs

Race # 8


Post Position: # 4


The Meadows

Race # 6


Post Position: # 1

Friday, February 24, 2006

Culture of Corruption: Contractor Pleads Guilty to Corruption, ID's Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.)


Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted yesterday in federal court that he attempted to illegally influence Defense Department contracting officials and tried to curry favor with two House members, in addition to lavishing more than $1 million in cash, cars, a boat, antiques and other bribes on convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

The new admissions, including details that identify Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) as recipients of illegal campaign contributions, are contained in Wade's agreement to plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe. The congressman resigned after pleading guilty in November to taking $2.4 million in bribes from Wade and others in return for steering federal funds and contracts their way.

Harness Racing Results for 02-24-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (343)

Place (102)

Show (27)

Out of the Money (86)


The Meadowlands

Race # 5


Post Position: # 8

Race # 7


Post Position: # 3

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY - Admits Defeat in Iraq:"American Objective Has Failed"

That Loud THUMP you heard coming from Florida was Rush Limbaugh keeling over .... his hero has spoken:

William F. Buckley
February 24, 2006, 2:51 p.m.
It Didn’t Work

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors. And so they join the clothing merchant who says that everything is the fault of the Americans.

????? ..... Greenspan decries partisan politics, calls for 3rd party

Wall Street Journal:

Freed of the constraints of public office, Alan Greenspan has expanded from commenting on the economy to commenting on politics.

Speaking to a Wall Street gathering Wednesday, the former Federal Reserve chairman decried the "polarization" of American politics and said the ground was ripe for a third-party presidential candidate, according to several people who attended the event.
Mr. Greenspan was speaking to clients of ABN Amro, a major Dutch-owned banking and investment company, at New York's St. Regis Hotel.

A member of the audience asked Mr. Greenspan if he would endorse a candidate for president. Mr. Greenspan said he would not, "for now." But he went on to describe the two American parties now as controlled by their extreme wings, even though the voting public is far more centrist, people who were present said.
He described the leadership of the parties as "bimodal", meaning clustered at the extreme ideological ends, whereas the voting public was "monomodal", meaning clustered near the middle.

Gates of Hell Are Open - CIVIL WAR In Iraq Is Imminent

The Australian

The threat of a large-scale civil war in Iraq is imminent, reports Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov

IN a land of daily bloodshed and bombings, it took another explosion this week to hammer home what many in Iraq and among its Arab neighbours have already accepted: a civil war is already being fought in the nation the US liberated.

It was an audacious attack even by the brutal standards of the new Iraq. When the giant dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, the holiest Shia shrine in the country, fell just before 7am on Wednesday, the inter-Islamic battles of the past 12 months reached a new nadir.

The toppling of a sacred site urged into the open the Shia fighters who had previously battled the Sunni uprising in the back lanes of towns and villages.

The Shias now have a lightning rod to make their rebellion public. The gates of hell, slightly ajar for a year, have been flung wide open.

Port Authority sues over Dubai control of NJ port

PHILADELPHIA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop a United Arab Emirates company from taking over management of its container terminal at Port Newark in New Jersey.

The authority, jointly owned by the states of New York and New Jersey, argued that the deal under which state-owned Dubai Ports World would take over management from the British company P&O violates the terms of P&O's lease.

The transaction is part of a $6.85 billion deal under which DPW would manage terminals at six major U.S. ports. The plan has sparked protests from federal and local lawmakers and officials who fear the ports' security will be hurt if they are managed by a company whose owner has been accused of having links with terrorist groups.

The Port Authority said it has a right to review changes in port management under the existing lease agreement. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court in Newark, urged the court to declare that the purchase of P&O requires consent of the Port Authority under the lease, that the container terminal is in breach of its lease, and that the lease is terminated.

The suit names P&O Ports North America, and Port Newark Container Terminal LLC as defendants.

Culture of Corruption: Plame Whistleblowers Targeted by Administration

By Jason Leopold

Two top Bush administration officials who played an active role in the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, have been removing from their jobs, career State Deptartment weapons experts who have spoken to investigators during the past two years about the officials role in the leak, according to a half-dozen State Department officials.

The State Department officials requested anonymity for fear of further retribution. They said they believe they are being sidelined because they have been cooperating with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and have disagreed with the Bush administration's intelligence that claimed Iraq sought 500 tons of yellowcake uranium ore from Niger - an explosive piece of intelligence that was included in President Bush's January 2003, State of the Union address that was found to be based on crude forgeries, but helped pave the way to war.

The reshuffling, which has been conducted in secret since late last year, has led to a mini-revolt inside the State Department, numerous officials who work there said.

The officials who have been leading the State Department reorganization plan are Frederick Fleitz and Robert Joseph. Fleitz now works for Joseph. Both men were appointed to their positions by President Bush. They have claimed publicly that the State Department reshuffle has nothing to do with retribution, rather it is aimed at helping that branch of the federal government to better deal with 21st century threats.

Both men were directly involved in the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson, and have been targeted by Fitzgerald's probe as possible sources that unmasked Plame Wilson's identity to reporters, according to several people knowledgeable about the Fitzgerald probe and the roles Fleitz and Joseph played in the Plame Wilson leak.

Culture of Corruption: Ex-Aides to Ohio Gov. Plead No Contest

Former Aides to Ohio Gov. Taft Plead No Contest to Ethics Law Violations

COLUMBUS, Ohio Feb 24, 2006 (AP)— Two former aides to Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest Friday to ethics law violations alleging they failed to report loans from the coin dealer at the center of Ohio's corruption scandal.

Doug Moormann and Douglas Talbott were the third and fourth former Taft aides to face charges as a result of their relationship with Tom Noe, a prominent Republican fundraiser who managed a controversial state investment in rare coins.

Taft and two other administration members pleaded no contest last year to similar charges of violating ethics laws.

Noe, 51, was accused in a recent 53-count indictment of embezzling at least $1 million from the investment and has pleaded not guilty. A state auditor's report this week said he funneled state money into his own businesses starting on the day in 1998 that he received the first of two $25 million investments from the state insurance fund for injured workers.

Bob Dole says he won't lobby on ports deal

RALEIGH, N.C. - Former Sen. Bob Dole says he won't lobby Congress - not even his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. - to push through a questioned deal that would allow a Middle Eastern company to take control of six U.S. ports.

Bob Dole, a former GOP presidential candidate, is among a team of lawyers at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Alston & Bird hired to represent Dubai Ports World, which is owned by United Arab Emirates. The company volunteered Friday to postpone its takeover to help give the Bush administration time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal poses no increased risks from terrorism.

Elizabeth Dole was among several members of Congress calling for the $6.8 billion deal to come to a halt.

Bob Dole issued a statement Thursday evening, after the North Carolina Democratic Party called for Elizabeth Dole to recuse herself from the debate, saying he would limit his involvement to discussions with Bush administration officials and efforts to "help the American people understand the real facts."

Shi'ite militia, insurgents clash in Baghdad, Iraqi Security helpless

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Shi'ite militiamen clashed with gunmen in southern Baghdad on Friday, leaving Iraqi security forces who are trying to enforce a curfew helpless to stop them, police sources said.

They said the clashes were between unidentified gunmen, possibly minority Sunnis, and members of the Mehdi Army militia loyal to firebrand Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who called on his followers on Friday not to attack Sunnis or their mosques.

It was not immediately clear if anyone was hurt in the skirmishes in the Saidiya area, which undermined a day-time curfew announced by the government to try to stop violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites on the Muslim day of prayer.

Residents of the religiously-mixed area said they heard heavy and sustained gunfire overnight.


But many thousands of Shi'ites flouted the curfew to throng to mosques in the sprawling Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, in the east of the capital, where support for Sadr runs high.

Kimmitt Failed to Make Good on Pledge, Fueling Port-Sale Uproar

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, facing an outcry from Congress about the process for approving foreign investment in the U.S., promised lawmakers yesterday that he'll keep them better informed.

It wasn't the first time. Just four months ago, Kimmitt appeared before a Senate committee and made the same promise to lawmakers who said the process was too secretive.


Kimmitt, 58, was one of 10 Bush administration officials summoned before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday to explain the decision. He said the deal wouldn't go forward ``if we were not certain'' of the security of the ports.


Last October, the Government Accountability Office said in a report that Treasury uses its position at the helm of CFIUS to tilt reviews in favor of investors at the expense of security concerns raised by the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

More on Kimmitt:

The Marines and coalition officials say they doubt many civilians have been killed in Fallujah and promise that their rules of engagement limit civilian casualties. "My solution is change the channel," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said earlier this week, after being asked about TV images of dead Iraqi civilians.

Chertoff unaware of ports deal until after OK


Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was not aware a Dubai-owned company was seeking to operate terminals in six U.S. ports and that his agency was leading the review until after the deal's approval, an administration official said yesterday.

Mr. Chertoff's spokesman, Russ Knocke, told The Washington Times the issue rose no higher than the department's assistant secretary for policy, Stewart Baker.
" was not briefed up to this until after this story started appearing in the newspapers," Mr. Knocke said.

Mr. Chertoff is the third Cabinet official to acknowledge he did not know his agency had signed off on the plan as a member of the interagency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). Both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow have publicly said they were unaware of the deal.

But Mr. Chertoff's exclusion is more noteworthy because his department headed the CFIUS review and is in charge of security at all U.S. ports.

Federal Reserve reports Average Family Income dropped 2.3% - 2001 to 04

The average income of American families, adjusted for inflation, fell
2.3% to $70,700 in 2004 compared with 2001, according to the Federal
Reserve. The median, or point where half the families earned more
and half less, did rise slightly in 2004 (after adjusting for
inflation) to $43,200, up 1.6% from the 2001 level.

The median, or midpoint, for net worth rose 1.5% to $93,100 from 2001 to 2004.

The Fed survey found the share of Americans' financial assets invested in
stocks fell to 17.6% in 2004 from 21.7% in 2001, while the percentage
of Americans who owned stocks, either directly or through a mutual
fund, fell 3.3 percentage points to 48.6% in 2004, down from 51.9% in

The survey found the percentage of families with some type of
tax-deferred retirement account, such as a 401(k), fell 2.5 percentage
points to 49.7% of all families – however, the median for holdings in
retirement accounts rose 13.9% to $35,200


IRS: Charities Overstepping Into Politics

WASHINGTON - IRS exams found nearly three out of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday.


The vast majority of charities and churches followed the law, but the examinations found a "disturbing" amount of political intervention in the 2004 elections, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.

"It's disturbing not because it's pervasive, but because it has the potential to really grow and have a very bad impact on the integrity of charities and churches," Everson said in an interview.

The tax agency looked only at charities, churches and other tax-exempt organizations referred to the IRS for potentially violating laws that bar them from participating in or intervening in elections, including advocating for or against any candidate.

Harness Racing Picks for 02-24-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (342)

Place (101)

Show (27)

Out of the Money (86)


The Meadowlands

Race # 5


Post Position: # 8

Race # 7


Post Position: # 3


The storm of protest over the planned takeover of some U.S. port operations by Dubai Ports World doesn't make sense viewed in isolation.

The Bush administration clearly made no serious effort to ensure that the deal didn't endanger national security.

But that's nothing new — the administration has spent the past four and a half years refusing to do anything serious about protecting the nation's ports.

So why did this latest case of sloppiness and indifference finally catch the public's attention? Because this time

Let's go back to the beginning. At 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld gave military commanders their marching orders.

"Judge whether good enough hit S. H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time — not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]," read an aide's handwritten notes about his instructions. The notes were recently released after a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Hard to get a good case," the notes acknowledge. Nonetheless, they say: "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

So it literally began on Day 1. When terrorists attacked the United States, the Bush administration immediately looked for ways it could exploit the atrocity to pursue unrelated goals — especially, but not exclusively, a war with Iraq.

But to exploit the atrocity, President Bush had to do two things. First, he had to create a climate of fear: Al Qaeda, a real

but limited threat, metamorphosed into a vast, imaginary axis of evil threatening America. Second, he had to blur the distinctions between nasty people who actually attacked us and nasty people who didn't.

The administration successfully linked Iraq and 9/11 in public perceptions through a campaign of constant insinuation and occasional outright lies. In the process, it also created a state of mind in which all Arabs were lumped together in the camp of evildoers. Osama, Saddam — what's the difference?

Now comes the ports deal. Mr. Bush assures us that "people don't need to worry about security."

But after all those declarations that we're engaged in a global war on terrorism, after all the terror alerts declared whenever the national political debate seemed to be shifting to questions of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, the administration can't suddenly change its theme song to "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

The administration also tells us not to worry about having Arabs control port operations. "I want those who are questioning it," Mr. Bush said, "to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company."

He was being evasive, of course. This isn't just a Middle Eastern company; it's a company controlled by the monarchy in Dubai, which is part of the authoritarian United Arab Emirates, one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

But more to the point, after years of systematically suggesting that Arabs who didn't attack us are the same as Arabs who did, the administration can't suddenly turn around and say, "But these are good Arabs."

Finally, the ports affair plays in a subliminal way into the public's awareness — vague but widespread — that Mr. Bush, the self-proclaimed deliverer of democracy to the Middle East, and his family have close personal and financial ties to Middle Eastern rulers.

Mr. Bush was photographed holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (now King Abdullah), not the emir of Dubai. But an administration that has spent years ridiculing people who try to make such distinctions isn't going to have an easy time explaining the difference.

Mr. Bush shouldn't really be losing his credibility as a terrorism fighter over the ports deal, which, after careful examination (which hasn't happened yet), may turn out to be O.K.

Instead, Mr. Bush should have lost his credibility long ago over his diversion of U.S. resources away from the pursuit of Al Qaeda and into an unnecessary war in Iraq, his bungling of that war, and his adoption of a wrongful imprisonment and torture policy that has blackened America's reputation.

But there is, nonetheless, a kind of rough justice in Mr. Bush's current predicament. After 9/11, the American people granted him a degree of trust rarely, if ever, bestowed on our leaders.

He abused that trust, and now he is facing a storm of skepticism about his actions — a storm that sweeps up everything, things related and not.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Conason: Bush's strong support of the Dubai ports deal isn't so surprising in light of his family's many financial ties to Arab sheikdoms

Feb. 24, 2006 To hear George W. Bush urge calm upon the nation is a refreshing change from his administration's habitual encouragement of fear for political advantage. No more color-coded terror alerts, election-timed warnings or partisan-tinged posturing will emanate from the White House, or at least not until Dubai Ports World has safely completed its takeover of several major American shipping terminals. The president's shift in tone is as remarkable as his threat to use his first veto in five years to protect the Dubai deal in the face of bipartisan congressional opposition.


What seems worrisome even to some who might ultimately accept the Dubai ports deal is the "casual attitude" of the Bush administration in vetting the company, as Sen. Carl Levin put it. Considering the history of Bush entanglement with the oil despots of the Gulf, that lax indulgence was bad policy and worse politics.

For the president, his administration's lenience toward the Emirates recalls the unpleasant history of Harken Energy, the loser oil exploration firm that provided him with a handsome profit when he unloaded his shares during the summer of 1990. Years earlier, Harken had been rescued from bankruptcy by timely investments of millions of dollars from the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, also known as the "bank of crooks and criminals." Although dominated by Saudi friends of Dubya's dad, BCCI was headquartered in the Emirates, specifically in Abu Dhabi.


Consider the Carlyle Group, the huge, politically wired private equity firm that has employed both the president and his father -- and from which the members of the Bush family and their closest associates, such as former Secretary of State James Baker III, have profited handsomely in recent years. With its sole Middle East office headquartered in Dubai, Carlyle has managed to attract substantial funding from the UAE government, which controls most of the tiny nation's oil wealth and channels that money into foreign investments.

Ohio lawmaker to propose ban on GOP adoption

AKRON, Ohio - If an Ohio lawmaker's proposal becomes state law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship.

On Thursday, the Youngstown Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.

Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.

Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption.

Anti-War Congressional Democrat placed on NO-FLY List

PLATTSBURGH -- A candidate for Congress has been put on a federal watch list as a possible terror suspect, and he wants to know why.

Dr. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Sackets Harbor, near Watertown, who is challenging incumbent Republican John McHugh in the 23rd District, said he was denied access aboard a Continental Airlines flight to Florida on Jan. 17 from Syracuse after officials informed him that he was on a "no-fly" list.

"I flew to England in December and there was no problem, then in January all of a sudden I'm on the list," said Johnson, a heart surgeon and former officer in the U.S. Army.

According to the federal Transportation Security Administration, watch lists are compiled based on "recommendations and information received from federal agencies, including intelligence and law-enforcement agencies."

Johnson said officials at the Syracuse airport would not tell him why he was placed on the list.

"Why would a former lieutenant colonel who swore an oath to defend and protect our country pose a threat of terrorism?" Johnson said.

Johnson, who ran against McHugh and lost in 2004, has been outspoken against the war in Iraq. He wonders if that is why he wound up on the list.

"This could just be a government screw-up, but I don't know, and they won't tell me."

Johnson said that if he is being targeted because of his views on the war, it is an outrage.

"This is like McCarthyism in the 1950s."

Johnson was eventually allowed to board the flight to Florida, but the incident has left him angered and frustrated.

"Being on that list and not being taken off is like character herpes; it's with you forever."

McHugh spokeswoman Brynn Barnett said it is possible that Johnson wound up on the list by mistake.

"Maybe there is somebody else named Bob Johnson that's on the list," she said.

Asked if Congressman McHugh had anything to do with Johnson being placed on the list, Barnett said sternly, "Certainly not."

Johnson said he wrote a letter to the Transportation Security Administration but doubts they will take his name off the list.

"I was shocked by this, at first, and kind of amused, but then when I started to think about it some more, it was chilling and scary."

Radical US Religious Right MoonBats and China have Common Ground...... Destroy the Teletubbies


Cartoons that blend live-action actors with animation are to be banned from TV in China.
Shows such as Teletubbies and the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? could be affected by the decision taken by the country's main TV and film regulator.

The move is aimed at promoting Chinese animators and apparently curbing the use of foreign cartoons.

China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television said people who flout the ban will be punished.

Documents show FBI questioned Guantanamo interrogation tactics

WASHINGTON (AFP) - FBI officials raised repeated objections to "aggressive interrogation tactics" at the US "war on terror" prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including some they said were approved at high levels of the Defense Department, documents show.


"As it relates to (redacted) and (redacted) the techniques employed against them in the interrogation process were, based on numerous inquiries I made, in addition to my personal review of the DoD interrogation plans, approved by the Deputy Secretary of Defense."

The deputy defense secretary at the time was Paul Wolfowitz, now head of the World Bank.

Another message sent minutes later from an unidentified sender to FBI officials,referred to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Based on Rumsfeld's public statements, DoD is against hooding prisoners, threats of violence and techniques meant to humiliating (sic) detainees (there is a list of these I have seen)," it said.

"I know these techniques were approved at high levels w/in DoD and used on (redacted) and (redacted)," it said.

The documents were released in December 2004 but in heavily censored form. The American Civil Liberties Union then took the FBI to court, gaining release of the current version with newly uncensored passages.

Pentagon Told to Release Gitmo Transcripts

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A federal judge ordered the
Pentagon on Thursday to release the identities of hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to The Associated Press, a move which would force the government to break its secrecy and reveal the most comprehensive list yet of those who have been imprisoned there.

Some of the hundreds of detainees in the war on terror being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been held as long as four years. Only a handful have been officially identified.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in New York ordered the Defense Department to release uncensored transcripts of detainee hearings, which contain the names of detainees in custody and those who have been held and later released. Previously released documents have had identities and other details blacked out.

The judge ordered the government to hand over the documents by March 3 after the Defense Department said Wednesday it would not appeal his earlier ruling in the lawsuit filed by the AP.
"Glory Days"

Federal government agrees to stop funding abstinence-only program

BOSTON - A nationwide abstinence-only program that uses a silver ring to remind teens to remain sexually pure has lost federal funding with the settlement of a lawsuit alleging it used the money for Christian evangelization.

The Silver Ring Thing, which presents its message though comedy skits and music, has received more than $1 million in federal funding during the past three years.

But it won't be eligible for more unless it changes its program to ensure the money isn't used for religious purposes, according to the agreement reached Wednesday between the American Civil Liberties Union and Department of Health and Human Services.

"Public funds were being used to fund a road show, really, to convert teens to Christianity," said Julie Sternberg, an ACLU attorney.

Sternberg said the ACLU supports the program's right to offer religious content, but not with taxpayer money. She added she hopes the lawsuit is a "wake-up call" to the federal government to more closely monitor the abstinence-only programs it funds.

Culture of Corruption: Contractor to Plead Guilty in Bribe Scheme

WASHINGTON Feb 23, 2006 (AP)— A defense contractor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in lavishing more than $1 million in gifts on a California congressman, two federal law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Mitchell Wade was expected to enter his guilty plea Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the charges against Wade and the plea agreement had not been made public.

Messages left for Wade's defense attorney, Reginald Brown, were not returned Thursday.

Wade is one of four co-conspirators in the plea agreement and court filings for former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who quit Congress last year after admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and others in exchange for defense contracts and other favors. The co-conspirators are not named in court papers, but have been identified elsewhere.

Role of Sen. Dole's Husband at Issue


The lobbying of former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole on behalf of the Dubai-owned company set to take over management of terminals at six major U.S. seaports is creating a political problem for his wife, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

The chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Jerry Meek, yesterday called on Sen. Dole to remove herself from "any congressional oversight" of the Dubai port deal. "The fact that Dubai is paying her husband to help pass the deal presents both a financial and ethical conflict of interest for Senator Dole," Meek said.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Dole rejected the criticism as "a partisan attack" and defended the senator's role as a lawmaker and her husband's as a lobbyist.

"Elizabeth Dole knows that her work is separate from Bob Dole," said her spokeswoman, Lindsay Taylor Mabry. "Bob Dole works for a law firm. Elizabeth Dole works for the people of North Carolina."

Iraq kickbacks 'known' to US, UK (P&O statement)

THE US and British governments knew more than four years ago that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime was demanding huge kickbacks from importers, a commission of inquiry has been told. The evidence suggests the naval forces from both countries were aware of the kickbacks at a time when the Royal Australian Navy was helping police UN sanctions against Iraq by inspecting ships in the Persian Gulf.

A statement from British shipping giant P & O Nedlloyd (PONL), was obtained this morning by the Cole commission investigating wheat exporter AWB's $300 million in illicit payments to Iraq under the UN's corruption-riddled oil-for-food program. PONL, in a statutory declaration to the commission, said two of the world's biggest navies – the American and British – knew Saddam's regime was slugging humanitarian suppliers a 10 per cent kickback on top of contract prices in September 2001.

PONL's Dubai manager Michael Wallbanks said when his office was advised about the 10 per cent "after sales tax" levied by Iraq, he contacted the US and British navies, as well as the British Embassy in Dubai. "I recall that they were all aware of the requirement to pay the after sales service tax and advised that if PONL was merely advising exporters what it was told in relation to requirements for shipping goods to Iraq it was doing nothing wrong," Mr Wallbanks' statement said.

The impost, he said, was common knowledge among anyone in the shipping industry who had dealings with Iraq.
"It was well known and widely communicated, and anyone involved in shipping goods to iraq from August or September 2001 would have known about it," he said.


UAE gave $1 million to Bush library

A sheik from the United Arab Emirates contributed at least $1 million to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The UAE owns Dubai Port Co., which is taking operations from London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which operates six U.S. ports. A political uproar has ensued over the deal, which the White House approved without congressional oversight.

The donations were made in the early 1990s for the library, which houses the papers of former President George Bush, the current president's father.

The list of donors names Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan and the people of the United Arab Emirates as one donor in the $1 million or more category.

The amount of the gift grants them recognition on the engraved donor wall in the library entrance or on the paving bricks that line the library's walkways, according to library documents.


Harness Racing Results for 02-23-06

Record since 04-26-05

Win (342)

Place (101)

Show (27)

Out of the Money (86)


The Meadowlands

Race # 1

Horse: REUNION (Won)

Post Position: # 6


Race # 3

Horse: TEXAS PHOTO (Out of the Money)

Post Position: # 6

Senate Democrat chastises Bush on Al Qaeda speech

WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's disclosure of detailed intelligence about a thwarted al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles could prove damaging for U.S. national security, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said in a letter released on Thursday.

In a Feb. 17 letter to U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia echoed a warning from CIA Director Porter Goss that revelations about intelligence successes or failures against al Qaeda can aid America's militant enemies.

"Why then did the president and the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism describe in great detail the information about this plot contained in a highly classified October 2004 CIA document?" Rockefeller wrote.

White House officials were not immediately available for comment.

To combat hunger, more in US turn to soup kitchens

ABC News

America's Second Harvest is helping to more than 25 million people, an 8 percent increase over 2001.

NEW YORK As the economy has steadily grown over the past four years, so too has the number of Americans going hungry. America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable food distribution network, is now providing help to more than 25 million people, an 8 percent increase over 2001, the last time the organization did a major survey of its more than 200 food banks in all 50 states.

That increase in the number of people who are hungry or "food insecure" - Washington bureaucratese for "not sure where their next meal will come from" - is reflected in data collected by the US Department of Agriculture as well. In 2005, it found more than 38 million Americans lived in "hungry or food insecure" households, an increase of 5 million since 2000.

"Even though individuals may have a job, they still are having a hard time making ends meet," says Maura Daly, a spokeswoman for Second Harvest, which is based in Chicago. "We find many people have to make choices between food and other basic necessities like paying for utilities and heat."

More than 35 percent of the people who are served by Second Harvest come from homes with at least one working adult, according to the study, which was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, a social-policy research firm based in Princeton, N.J. And many of those hungry are children, almost 9 million, or 31 percent. Another 3 million of the hungry are senior citizens, about 11 percent. "Food banks are like the canary in the mine shafts. They see trends in underreported populations long before they show up in other statistics," says Doug O'Brien, vice president for public policy and research at Second Harvest. "People access emergency food systems because something in their household economy has gone wrong.

Bush Family Ties to the UAE

Lou Dobbs took a look at the family ties between the two.


DOBBS: President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates, and those connections are raising new concerns and questions tonight in some quarters about why the president is defying his very own party leadership and his party in defending the Dubai port deal.

CHRISTINE ROMANS: The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.

Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned.

Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX/. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars.

In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."

Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations.


You Know You Are Still A Republican If...

by Jimmy Lohman

You are more upset about Brokeback Mountain than Abu Ghraib.

You can’t stand Hilary Clinton’s hair but you have no problem with Tom DeLay’s.

You think Global Warming is no big deal but environmentalists are a major problem.

You support the "war on drugs" but think Rush Limbaugh is being prosecuted unfairly.

You think professional athletes make too much money but Sam Walton’s kids deserve everything they have.

You like the way George Bush walks.

You think Al Gore is "wooden" and Donald Rumsfeld has charisma.

You think CNN is biased but Fox News is neutral.

You like the sound of Newt Gingrich’s voice.

You are sure the United States has the best education and health care systems in the world.

You think Dick Cheney is a straight shooter.

You think Michael Chertoff’s beard makes him look distinguished.

You think the problem with our health care system is lawyers.

You think it was more important to locate Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress than to locate weapons of mass destruction.

You don’t believe "terrorism" has made Rudy Giuliani an incredibly rich man.

You believe freedom of speech covers everything Pat Robertson says and does, but burning a flag should be illegal.

You can be in the same room with Brit Hume.

You have yourself convinced that the country and world are better off now than 5 years ago.

Iran & China aim to sign Multibillion deal

Kyodo News International, Tokyo

Iran and China aim to sign a multibillion-dollar deal at an early date to develop the Yadavaran oil field in southwestern Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday in its online edition.

The deal involving the oil field, estimated to be able to produce a maximum 300,000 barrels of oil a day, might thwart efforts by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to isolate Iran, the business daily said.

Iran recently resumed uranium enrichment on the pretext of developing nuclear power plants.

The deal, if concluded, would be the first major contract of its kind for Iran since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an outspoken critic of the United States, took office as president last August.

Rove Flip Flops on ports, says Bush will do as he's told

Bush would accept slight delay in ports deal: Rove

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush would accept a slight delay in permitting Dubai Ports World to acquire a British company that operates six key U.S. ports, senior White House adviser Karl Rove told Fox News.

When asked if Bush would accept a slight delay in implementing the takeover of P&O, Rove said: "Yes, look, there are some hurdles, regulatory hurdles, that this still needs to go through on the British side as well that are going to be concluded next week.

"There's no requirement that it close, you know, immediately after that," he said in an interview with FOX News Talks' "The Tony Snow Show".

Rep. Jane Harman: Wiretap inquiry a ruse to aid Rep. Heather Wilson

WASHINGTON - The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says the White House is letting Rep. Heather Wilson claim progress in an investigation of warrantless eavesdropping to help the Albuquerque Republican in her re-election race.

Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, charged in a press release that the White House has yet to come through with briefings on the program that Wilson announced Feb. 8 as forthcoming.

"What's worrisome is that the White House remains focused on two political objectives - first to allow Republicans in tight congressional races, such as Rep. Heather Wilson, to claim credit for `progress,' and second, to allow Republican Chairman Pat Roberts to block a bipartisan vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee on a full investigation of the program.

"These political agendas are not surprising," Harman continued, "given Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove's vow to make the NSA program a partisan wedge issue in the 2006 election."

"Trust Me" Bush Spent $1.6 billion for propaganda and recruitment

SAN FRANCISCO - Media reform groups are calling for a deeper investigation of Bush administration advertising and propaganda efforts following the release of a report that concludes the White House has spun a web of public relations (PR) contracts larger than previously thought.


''When elected public servants use taxpayer dollars to manipulate or deceive the very people whose consent they require for their legitimacy, our public servants then become our masters,'' said Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The official Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported last week that government agencies have spent about $1.6 billion over the past 30 months on PR and advertising contracts. Investigators said they found no breach of the law and added that all spent funds came from the agencies' budgets.


''We need a full accounting of the Bush administration's spending on advertising, PR, and fake news,'' said Craig Aaron of advocacy group Free Press. ''It's time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional role as a counterweight to the executive branch and permanently cut off funding for covert propaganda. We must ensure that taxpayer money isn't being spent by the White House to secretly manipulate the American public.''

The administration's drive to shore up popular support for its self-styled ''war on terror'' and to keep up armed forces recruitment appears to have fuelled the spending, according to Diane Farsetta of the Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of the quarterly PR Watch.

Of the $1.6 billion total outlined in the GAO report, the Pentagon spent $1.1 billion--much of it on recruitment, Farsetta said.

Bush officials brief lawmakers on Dubai port deal .... (ONLY ONE REPUBLICAN SHOWED UP)

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US government took its public relations offensive to Congress, hoping to quell a public backlash over a controversial deal allowing a Dubai company to run several major US ports.

Officials from a dozen federal agencies took part in the briefing on plans for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) state-owned firm, Dubai Ports World, to acquire a British firm which currently manages the six US ports.


At Thursday's briefing, Senator Hillary Clinton called the deal "a failure of judgment" by the White House.

"Port security is national security and national security is port security," the New York Democrat said at the briefing by representatives from the departments of State, Commerce, Defense,
Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

RNC release omits ALL Republican comments from WSJ Ports article


While Bush says he’ll veto any attempt to block the port deal, congressional critics have threatened to derail one of the president’s nominees. Last month, in an unfortunate bout of timing, the White House nominated David Sanborn, a former Dubai Ports World executive, to head the Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration. Sanborn was the focus of a confirmation hearing earlier this month, but critics, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have threatened to block the nomination.

In a sign of how stormy the politics is, the Republican National Committee forwarded reporters excerpts of a Wall Street Journal editorial slamming critics of the deal. While the RNC release highlighted portions of the editorial critical of Democrats, it omitted every mention of Republicans—including the editorial’s opening paragraphs which highlighted the opposition of Frist and other GOP critics. “This behavior of Republicans strikes us as peculiar coming from people who claim to support the war on terror,” the WSJ opined, in a sentence not included in the RNC release. President Bush always wanted to make Washington a more bipartisan place. Unintentionally, he seems to have succeeded.

Great GOP economic policy news - Average American Family Income Declines

The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace.

The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that the drop in inflation-adjusted incomes left the average family income at $70,700 in 2004. The median, or point where half the families earned more and half less, did rise slightly in 2004 after adjusting for inflation to $43,200, up 1.6 percent from the 2001 level.

The median, or midpoint for net worth rose by 1.5 percent to $93,100 from 2001 to 2004. That growth was far below the 10.3 percent gain in median net worth from 1998 to 2001, a period when the stock market reached record highs before starting to decline in early 2000.

Sen Levin: Bush Admin Ignoring the Law On Port Deal

WASHINGTON - The senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee angrily accused the Bush administration Thursday of ignoring the law by refusing to extend an investigation of a United Arab Emirates company's takeover of significant U.S. port operations.

Bush, talking to reporters at the conclusion of a Cabinet meeting earlier Thursday, said that "people don't need to worry about security."

"The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government," Bush said, "the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."

Clashing with a Treasury Department official on a mission to calm a political uproar, Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) said the law has language specifically requiring a longer review than the one that an interagency committee conducted, if a business deal could affect national security.

"Is there not one agency in this government that believes this takeover could affect the national security of the United States?" the Michigan Democrat asked at a committee briefing. Chairman John Warner, R-Va., in a very unusual procedure on Capitol Hill, allowed reporters to question the administration witnesses.

Flip-Flop O'Reilly: U.S. should leave Iraq "as fast as humanly possible" because "there are so many nuts in the country"

Bill O'Reilly suggested that the United States "hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible" because "[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them." O'Reilly has previously called those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq "pinheads" and compared them to Hitler appeasers. Read more