Friday, November 30, 2007



Rice ‘Planted’ Question With ‘Friendly Journalist’ To ‘Help Erase’ Pre-Iraq War Legacy


In 2003, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice helped push America into war with Iraq. She disregarded at least two CIA memos and a personal phone call from CIA Director George Tenet stating that the evidence behind Iraq’s uranium acquisition was weak. She famously said, “[W]e don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

In an interview with C-SPAN’s Washington Journal today, Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler, author of Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy, revealed that after President Bush promoted her to Secretary of State, Rice mounted a “public relations” campaign to distance herself from the pre-war fiasco.

As part of this PR campaign, she directed an aide to “plant a question” asking if she would run for President, in order to help “negate American memories of her very direct role” in invading Iraq:

She had a very deliberative public relations strategy when she became Secretary of State to help erase the images of how ineffective she had been as National Security Adviser. And I describe how one of her aides even planted a question with a friendly journalist to ask whether she would be interested in running for president — to give her the aura of someone who might have presidential aspirations, make her seem more powerful than she was.

And that all helped negate American memories over her very direct role in the invasion of Iraq........

Murtha clarifies surge remarks

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Following a headline-grabbing uproar, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, moved swiftly Friday to clarify earlier remarks that seemed to suggest the Iraq surge policy was working. The surge, he said in a statement, “has created a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government,’’ but so far the Iraqi government has “failed to capitalize on the political and diplomatic steps that the surge was designed to provide.”

“The fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily, and that we must begin an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as practicable,” said the chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee.

Murtha, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, told reporters Thursday that the "surge is working." The statement stunned his colleagues –- Democratic leadership, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is currently blocking approval of full funding requested by the Bush administration for combat operations in Iraq next year without a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

Murtha’s comments seemed to represent a dramatic shift from his views earlier this year, when he said the surge was not working, and warned of looming disaster for U.S. military forces in Iraq. He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this summer that the president's views on the success of the surge in Iraq were "delusional."

“Nothing's gotten better. Incidents have increased,” he told Blitzer. “We have had more Americans killed in the last four months than any other period during the war."

Sorry, Fred - Endorsement withdrawn


It was with great joy when we firmly endorsed former TN Sen. Fred Thompson for the presidency - months before the candidate actually put his hat in the ring, in fact. Today, however, and with great regret, we announce that we are withdrawing this endorsement and in its place, determining that our ultimate endorsement will go to the GOPer that wins the party nomination early next year.

Two central reasons lead us to this decision: First and foremost, Sen. Thompson’s campaign has been less than exciting. In fact, after watching the candidate at several recent events - both in person and on television - one gets the sense that a trip to the dentist would be more exciting for the would-be president.

Secondly, one has to face facts: Thompson is not going to get the nomination. There is no reason for us - as individuals or as a site - to continue to support someone that ultimate will fail in his quest for the White House. On this we agree: the likely GOP nominee will be Guiliani, Romney or Huckabee, and no necessarily in that order. Those three candidates - pick one of the three - should be the ones getting our attention, coverage and the like.

Like we said, sorry, Fred.

Friday's Sex News 11-30-07

  • Public nudity apology

    National Hockey League player Jiri Tlusty, has apologised for nude of photos of himself that have appeared on the Web. But has he anything to apologise for?

  • Top 2007 nude movie scenes

    Mr Skin has announced the Top 20 nude movie scenes of 2007 with actress Marissa Tomei toping the list in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Full list

  • Aguilera Pregnant and nude

    Singer Christina Aguilera, has posed pregnant and nude on the cover Marie Claire magazine [image]

  • Students bare all for art

    Students can earn $15-$20 as a nude life model, but it's harder than it looks.

  • Win 27 hours of sex for charity

    In a country where prostitution is legal, Maria Carolina has auctioned 27 hours of sex, and raised $4000 for charity

Study: More Than 60% Don't Trust Campaign Coverage


NEW YORK Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not trust press coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, according to a new Harvard University survey, which also revealed four out of five people believe coverage focuses too much on the trivial -- and more than 60% believe coverage is politically biased.

The findings were among those in Harvard's Center for Public Leadership National Leadership Index. The survey, which included interviews with 1,207 adults nationwide in September, focuses mostly on leadership issues. But a portion of the findings asked about views on the media in relation to leadership, with some troubling results.

"Our survey finds a pervasive lack of confidence in the leadership of many sectors of society," the report states. "But Americans give their lowest marks to leaders in the press. Americans are particularly dissatisfied with press coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign."

When asked if election coverage was politically biased, 40% believed it was too liberal; 21% too conservative; and 30% found it neutral. Nine percent of those responding were not sure.

Key among the findings:

• 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.

• 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.

• 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.

• 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidates’ specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.

• 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.

Instead, those surveyed claimed they were getting "exactly the type of campaign coverage that they want the least," the report found.

Seventy percent of those polled said coverage of negative ads was not important and 65% said the media provided too much coverage of them; 67% say that coverage of “gotcha” moments — candidates’ embarrassing incidents and mistakes — was not important and 68% say there was too much coverage of those moments.

"The survey also indicates that Americans believe the media focuses too much on the polls and candidates’ personal lives," the report said.

Most of the survey, however, dealt with basic views on leadership, finding that more than three quarters of those polled now believe there is a leadership crisis in this country, up 8% from 2006 and 12% from 2005.

Other findings revealed 79% of those surveyed were confident the next president would be "good for the country," while 76% were confident that the next president would be a good leader.

The full PDF report

Republicans eat their own in increasingly nasty race

WASHINGTON — Remember Ronald Reagan's famed 11th commandment, do not speak ill of fellow Republicans? It looks as if this year's presidential candidates have forgotten it.

At Wednesday's CNN/YouTube debate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney of running a "sanctuary mansion" because Romney had illegal immigrants doing yard work at his home. Earlier in the week, Giuliani's campaign manager called Romney a "mediocre one-term governor."

Romney has lambasted Giuliani's judgment in hiring as police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was indicted on corruption charges recently. Both candidates routinely accuse each other of resembling Hillary Clinton, perhaps the unkindest cut of all among Republicans.

To be sure, there have always been occasional edgy skirmishes in Republican primary campaigns: "Stop lying about my record," Kansas Sen. Bob Dole snarled to George H.W. Bush in 1988. A vicious whispering campaign against Arizona Sen. John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 suggested that McCain was crazy and the father of an illegitimate black child. (The author of that campaign was never identified, but it helped save George W. Bush's candidacy.)

Turkish army given authority for Iraq operation

ANKARA, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Turkey's government has given the country's armed forces the authority to conduct a cross-border operation against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Despite U.S. opposition to a major operation, Turkey has repeatedly vowed to hunt down the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas who use northern Iraq as a base to launch attacks on Turkish territory.

Card Discredits Rove: "Sometimes Rove’s “mouth gets ahead of his brain”


Karl Rove asserted on the Charlie Rose show recently that it was Congress that pushed the Bush administration into war with Iraq. “The administration was opposed” to voting for a war resolution in the fall of 2002, Rove claimed. “It seemed it make things move too fast,” he argued.

As ThinkProgress documented, key leaders in both the House and the Senate — including then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) — were asking Bush in 2002 to delay the Iraq war vote. But as Daschle recalled, when he asked Bush to delay the vote, Bush “looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”

This morning, former White House chief of staff at the time, Andrew Card, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and completely discredited Rove’s argument:

SCARBOROUGH: We have to start with something that we all are talking about a couple of days ago where Karl Rove went on Charlie Rose and he blamed the Democrats for pushing him and the president into war. Is that how it worked?

CARD: No, that’s not the way it worked.

Card went on to explain that sometimes Rove’s “mouth gets ahead of his brain”:

SCARBOROUGH: Is that just Karl spinning beyond the White House? Spinning out of control?

CARD: Well, Karl is very smart. He’s — sometimes his brain gets ahead of his mouth. And sometimes his mouth gets ahead of his brain.

43 held after bombs found at Sunni leader's office

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Authorities arrested more people on Friday after car bombs were found near the offices of Iraqi politician Adnan al-Dulaimi but did not say whether they thought he was the target or intended to use them himself.

Dulaimi, who told AFP he may have been targeted, said US and Iraqi troops held 43 people in raids on his Baghdad office and home after discovering two primed car bombs nearby.

"Early in the morning US and Iraqi troops came to my home and arrested 30 people, including my son Mekki," Dulaimi said.

He said troops had detained 13 people in a Thursday evening raid.

At the time, the Iraqi military Thursday announced the discovery of two vehicles packed with explosives at the premises in Baghdad's Hail Adel neighbourhood.

“Thousands” Illegally Rendered By Bush Administration for Interrogation, Torture

Massachusetts School of Law Report

In violation of international and U.S. law, “thousands” of alleged terrorists have been victims of “extraordinary rendition” by the Bush Administration since 9/11, two legal scholars say. “Instead of working to bring those committing crimes against the United States to justice in U.S. courts, the Bush Administration seems intent on doing exactly the opposite---keeping such individuals away from U.S. courts, hidden in a web of secret prisons, underground interrogation cells, and in the hands of cooperative governments,” write Margaret Satterthwaite and Angela Fisher. Satterthwaite is an assistant professor of clinical law at NYU School of Law and Fisher served as assistant research scholar with the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

“Extraordinary renditions, whether originating in territories under U.S. control (actual or effective) or merely carried out by U.S. agents, are unlawful and in violation of international treaties to which the United States is a party,” the authors write. “Despite this clear prohibition, the Bush Administration continues to engage in this practice, using it to transfer detainees out of the reach of U.S. courts and into the realm of secret detentions and brutal interrogations.”

“Having altered the procedure from a transfer sanctioned by U.S. courts to a transfer that is extralegal, this Administration completed the transformation of extraordinary rendition from transfer to justice to transfer out of the justice system,” the authorities contend in an article titled “Tortured Logic: Renditions to Justice, Extraordinary Rendition, and Human Rights Law” published in “The Long Term View,” a journal of informed opinion published by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover(Volume 6, No. 4).


Since 9/11, the scholars wrote, renditions have been used not to obtain jurisdiction over the suspects in order to prosecute “but instead to get an individual to talk.” Previous renditions that required approval by an inter-agency group that included the Departments of Justice and State, were now placed in the hands of the CIA, which could render suspects “without consultation.”.........

Rudd to withdraw troops from Iraq

Al Jazeera

Howard was Bush's last major partner in the "coalition of the willing" in the US-led war in Iraq Australia's prime minister-elect has said that his country's 550 combat troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by the middle of next year.

"The combat force in Iraq, we would have home by around about the middle of next year," Kevin Rudd told a Melbourne radio station on Friday.

"We've not begun our discussions with the United States on that. We'll have a meeting with the United States ambassador before too long to set up the appropriate processes for discussing that."

Rudd won Saturday's elections by a landslide, beating John Howard, the prime minister who staunchly supported the US-led war in Iraq.

Rudd had promised to withdraw the battle group from Iraq if elected but said he would leave behind some Australian soldiers, including those providing security at Australia's embassy in Baghdad.

Panel Rebuffs White House Privilege Claim

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — The Senate Judiciary Committee inched forward Thursday in its struggle with the White House over subpoenas demanding information from current and former Bush administration officials about the firing of several United States attorneys last year.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said he was formally rejecting White House claims that the subpoenaed officials, including President Bush’s chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, were protected by executive privilege from being compelled to cooperate with an investigation into whether the prosecutors were fired for political reasons.

By rejecting the administration’s claims, Mr. Leahy took the next procedural step toward seeking to enforce the subpoenas in court, a step that could require the intervention of the new attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, who has suggested that he wants a better relationship with Congress than was built by his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales.

Judiciary Committee aides said the panel would soon vote on contempt citations for the administration officials. But even if the citations are ultimately approved by the committee and then the full Senate, it remains unclear what happens next, since the administration has suggested that it will not allow the Justice Department to go to court to enforce the subpoenas. Customarily, Congressional subpoenas are enforced by the department on behalf of the House or the Senate.

“I have given the White House’s claims of executive privilege and immunity careful consideration,” Mr. Leahy said in his declaration Thursday. “I hereby rule that those claims are not legally valid to excuse current and former White House officials from appearing.”

Dana M. Perino, the president’s chief spokeswoman, said White House aides were perplexed by Mr. Leahy’s action.

“I don’t understand why he continues to have this rope-a-dope that’s not going to go anywhere,” Ms. Perino said.

Still No Way Out

NYT Editorial

There has been so much horrible news out of Iraq for so long that it is natural to want to celebrate better news. Sending another 30,000 American troops into Iraq has made life better: attacks are down, as are the number of American and Iraqi casualties. Some refugees are even venturing home. The news has cheered Americans and dampened Democrats’ enthusiasm for keeping up the pressure on Iraq policy. Unfortunately, it is just as important to look at what has not happened since President Bush announced his surge: Iraq’s leaders are no closer to making the political deals that are the only hope for building a self-sustaining peace.

Without a serious effort at national conciliation, American troops are just holding down the lid on a pressure cooker. Iraq’s rival militias, the insurgents, the bitter sectarian resentments and the meddling neighbors haven’t gone anywhere. Consider this all too familiar horror: yesterday, police said they pulled six bodies from the Tigris River about 25 miles south of Baghdad. They were handcuffed and showed signs of having been tortured. And five, including a child, had been beheaded.

Perhaps 160,000 American troops could hold down the overall casualty numbers indefinitely, but they cannot wipe away that sort of hatred. That’s the job of Iraq’s leaders. Either way, the American military doesn’t have enough troops for such an occupation without end, and the American Treasury can’t keep spending $10 billion a month to maintain it.

Mr. Bush’s escalation was sold as a way to buy Iraqi politicians breathing room to finally address the problems driving the sectarian violence: by agreeing on an equitable division of oil wealth, rules for provincial elections and ways to bring more Sunnis and former Baath Party members into the Shiite-dominated government.

Instead, Iraq’s politicians — and their American backers — have squandered the time and the best efforts of American troops. Mr. Bush’s generals are so frustrated that they’ve begun to complain publicly about the fecklessness of Iraq’s leaders. The ever-feckless White House, rather than looking for ways to compel Iraq’s leaders to perform, is lessening the pressure.

The Times reported this week that the Bush administration has scaled back its goals for political progress. Its newest low bar: Iraq’s dysfunctional government manages to pass a budget and approves legislation to allow former Baath Party members to rejoin the government. (And that was before the Iraqi Parliament dissolved into a shouting match over the Baath reconciliation bill and decided to put it off again.)

At least part of the recent good news can be traced to a new collaboration between American troops and Sunni fighters that last year were trying to kill Americans in wholesale numbers. The question is how long that collaboration will last if the Shiite-dominated government continues to deny the Sunnis access to basic government services and jobs.

There are also suggestions that Iran may be exercising more restraint. Fewer roadside bombs are apparently making their way across the border, and Tehran’s allies in the Mahdi Army are lying low. But Mr. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, still have not begun a serious dialogue with Iran and all of Iraq’s neighbors about what they’re willing to do to help contain Iraq’s chaos.

Even after putting another 30,000 Americans in harm’s way, Mr. Bush still sees no need for a strategy to get all 160,000 troops in Iraq safely home. And as long as they know that this is the case, that Mr. Bush is willing to go on paying the bills — and protecting the Green Zone — Iraqi politicians will see no reason to compromise.

Americans need to ask themselves the questions Mr. Bush is refusing to answer: Is this country signing on to keep the peace in Iraq indefinitely? If so, how many American and Iraqi deaths a month are an acceptable price? If not, what’s the plan for getting out?

Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again


In almost every appearance as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph W. Giuliani cites a fusillade of statistics and facts to make his arguments about his successes in running New York City and the merits of his views.

Discussing his crime-fighting success as mayor, Mr. Giuliani told a television interviewer that New York was “the only city in America that has reduced crime every single year since 1994.” In New Hampshire this week, he told a public forum that when he became mayor in 1994, New York “had been averaging like 1,800, 1,900 murders for almost 30 years.” When a recent Republican debate turned to the question of fiscal responsibility, he boasted that “under me, spending went down by 7 percent.”

All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong. And while, to be sure, all candidates use misleading statistics from time to time, Mr. Giuliani has made statistics a central part of his candidacy as he campaigns on his record.

For instance, another major American city claims to have reduced crime every year since 1994: Chicago. New York averaged 1,514 murders a year during the three decades before Mr. Giuliani took office; it did not record more than 1,800 homicides until 1980. And Mr. Giuliani’s own memoir states that spending grew an average of 3.7 percent for most of his tenure; an aide said Mr. Giuliani had meant to say that he had proposed a 7 percent reduction in per capita spending during his time as mayor.

Facts and figures are often the striking centerpieces of Mr. Giuliani’s arguments. He has always had a penchant for statistics — his anticrime strategy as mayor was built around a system known as Compstat that closely tracked crimes to focus law enforcement efforts. On the campaign trail he often wields data, without notes, with prosecutorial zeal to hammer home his points.

But in recent days, both Mr. Giuliani’s Republican rival Mitt Romney and Democrats have accused him of a pattern of misleading figures and have begun to use the issue to try to undercut his credibility.

An examination of many of his statements by The New York Times, other news organizations and independent groups have turned up a variety of misstatements, virtually all of which cast Mr. Giuliani or his arguments in a better light. “He’s given us a lot of work up until now,” said Brooks Jackson, the director of Annenberg Political Fact Check, which is part of, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that has corrected statements by candidates in both parties........

Atlanta Police Tied to Child Pornography Case

ATLANTA, Nov. 29 The husband of a city police sergeant was arrested on a child pornography charge on Thursday, and federal investigators said police officers had apparently withheld and destroyed evidence in the case.

“These allegations are disturbing,” Chief Richard Pennington said in a written statement, “and the Atlanta Police Department is very concerned about this incident. The alleged actions and any purported failure to take action will not be tolerated.”

“When the incident came to my attention in October,” Chief Pennington added, “I immediately ordered a full inquiry and invited the F.B.I. to assist with the investigation.”

According to federal prosecutors, the sergeant’s husband, Terrill M. Crane, 47, was arrested on a federal charge of producing child pornography after the Federal Bureau of Investigation received photographs that had been held by the Atlanta Police Department since 2000 of Mr. Crane engaging in sexually explicit activity with 11 girls.

Mr. Crane’s wife, Sgt. Tanya C. Crane, 37, who has been with the Police Department since 1993, was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 20 after she told federal agents that she was tipped off in 2003 about her husband’s activity and that she later found and burned photographs of him engaged in sexually explicit conduct with young girls. Investigators said Sergeant Crane had found the photographs in her home.

Sergeant Crane was told by “an unidentified person at A.P.D. headquarters” that officers had photographs of her husband engaged in sexually explicit conduct with the 11 girls, who appeared to be 12 to 15 years old, federal prosecutors said.

A local photo-processing company had turned the pictures over to the department over a period of time from 2000 to 2002, according to the prosecutors’ statement. The department apparently took no action, and Mr. Crane continued to pay girls an undisclosed amount of money for sex, and offered $50 to each girl for referring him to new victims, it said.

One of the girls said Mr. Crane had asked to meet more girls as recently as June or July of this year, investigators said.

Federal investigators said they received the photographs on Oct. 16 from an unidentified person in the Atlanta Police Department.

Sergeant Crane remains on the payroll, said Judy Pal, a department spokeswoman......

Teenager arrested over '£9.7m computer hacking ring'

Guardian Unlimited

A New Zealand teenager was today arrested on suspicion of stealing millions of pounds from bank accounts around the world and of being the ringleader of a hacking network which infiltrated more than 1.3m computers.

The 18-year-old, from Hamilton, North Island, was taken into custody and several computers were seized, said the head of the country's police e-crime unit, Martin Kleintjes.

The teenager cannot be named for legal reasons, but uses the online identity "Akill". He was later released without charge, but police said they expected to interview him again.

Article continues
He is suspected of being the ringleader of an international network of hackers who allegedly assumed control of thousands of computers and amassed them into centrally controlled clusters known as botnets.

The hackers could then use the computers to steal credit card information, manipulate stock trades and even crash industry computers, authorities alleged.

The teenager was the "head of an international spybot ring that has infiltrated computers around the world with their malicious software", Kleintjes told New Zealand national radio.

Eight people have been charged, pleaded guilty or have been convicted since the investigation started in June. Thirteen arrest warrants have also been served in the US and overseas in the investigation.

The FBI estimates that more than 1m computers have been infected, and puts the combined economic losses at more than $20m (£9.7m).

Spybot and botnet are jargon for infiltrating a group of computers and infecting them with malicious software that allows them to be used to collect information - mainly credit card and bank account details.

Kleintjes said the teenager had written software that evaded normal computer spyware systems, then sold his skills to hackers.

"He is very bright and very skilled in what he's doing," Kleintjes said. "He hires his services out to others."

Authorities allege that the New Zealand suspect and Ryan Goldstein, a 21-year-old who was charged earlier this month in the US, were involved in crashing a University of Pennsylvania engineering school server in February last year.

Officials said the server, which typically handles about 450 daily requests for internet downloads, instead got 70,000 requests from the account of an unsuspecting Penn student over four days.

The FBI followed an electronic trail from that student's account which allegedly led to Goldstein's screen name, "Digerati", and the New Zealand hacker. Goldstein denies the charge and is due to go on trial in March.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

CNN’s Irresponsible Debate Coverage Undermines Its Claim As The ‘Most Trusted Name In News’


While many in the media credited the network with bringing “originality and spontaneity” to the debate process by partnering with YouTube, its debates have more often been characterized by sloppy preparation, a lack of transparency, and theatrics that undermine the intelligence of the American public. Some lowlights:

– CNN planted a softball question with an audience member. During the recent Democratic debate, CNN stopped UNLV student Maria Luisa from asking a question about Yucca Mountain, instead telling her to ask Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?

– CNN failed to disclose a questioner’s support for Clinton. Last night, CNN failed to disclose during the debate that ret. Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military, is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”

– CNN failed to disclose Carville’s ties to the Clinton campaign. In its post-debate roundtable after the Democratic debate earlier this month, CNN featured commentator James Carville. Yet CNN failed to disclose up front that Carville has raised money for Clinton.

– CNN gave airtime to a question from a right-wing activist. CNN and YouTube billed last night’s GOP debate as one in which “YOU ask the questions of the candidates through videos you submit on YouTube.” The network rejected a question by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), arguing that he “has regular access to politicians.” Instead, one of the 34 videos it chose (out of 5,000 submissions) was from right-wing Washington insider Grover Norquist.

– CNN claimed American public can’t be trusted to choose questions. CNN senior vice president David Bohrman claimed that if allowed, the public would likely choose questions about “whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a cyborg” or UFOs. He failed to remember that at the Oct. 31 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Russert also asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about whether he had ever seen a UFO.

– CNN took sponsorship funding from the “clean coal” industry. The coal industry sponsored both last night’s Republican debate in Florida and the Democratic one in Nevada earlier this month. The sponsorships appeared to be aimed at pressuring anti-coal lawmakers in the states. In both debates, no questions were asked about climate change or the negative impact of the coal industry.

– CNN’s post-debate analysis focused on the trivial, inconsequential. After July’s Democratic YouTube debate, CNN ran a segment critiquing the candidates on their body language and dress. Wolf Blitzer: “Candidates also sighed, they rolled their eyes, they looked at their watches during the debate.” CNN’s Carol Costello commented, “Look at how the candidates were dressed. The men wore dark suits, but Hillary Clinton wore a brightly-colored jacket.”

Following CNN’s Democratic debate two weeks ago, the New York Observer’s Steve Kornacki even went so far as to suggest that CNN, once the “gold standard for all-news television,” should “never again be entrusted with a presidential debate.”

PAUL KRUGMAN: Mandates and Mudslinging


From the beginning, advocates of universal health care were troubled by the incompleteness of Barack Obama’s plan, which unlike those of his Democratic rivals wouldn’t cover everyone. But they were willing to cut Mr. Obama slack on the issue, assuming that in the end he would do the right thing.

Now, however, Mr. Obama is claiming that his plan’s weakness is actually a strength. What’s more, he’s doing the same thing in the health care debate he did when claiming that Social Security faces a “crisis” — attacking his rivals by echoing right-wing talking points.

The central question is whether there should be a health insurance “mandate” — a requirement that everyone sign up for health insurance, even if they don’t think they need it. The Edwards and Clinton plans have mandates; the Obama plan has one for children, but not for adults.

Why have a mandate? The whole point of a universal health insurance system is that everyone pays in, even if they’re currently healthy, and in return everyone has insurance coverage if and when they need it.

And it’s not just a matter of principle. As a practical matter, letting people opt out if they don’t feel like buying insurance would make insurance substantially more expensive for everyone else.

Here’s why: under the Obama plan, as it now stands, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance — then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. Insurance companies couldn’t turn them away, because Mr. Obama’s plan, like those of his rivals, requires that insurers offer the same policy to everyone.

As a result, people who did the right thing and bought insurance when they were healthy would end up subsidizing those who didn’t sign up for insurance until or unless they needed medical care.

In other words, when Mr. Obama declares that “the reason people don’t have health insurance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it,” he’s saying something that is mostly true now — but wouldn’t be true under his plan.

The fundamental weakness of the Obama plan was apparent from the beginning. Still, as I said, advocates of health care reform were willing to cut Mr. Obama some slack.

But now Mr. Obama, who just two weeks ago was telling audiences that his plan was essentially identical to the Edwards and Clinton plans, is attacking his rivals and claiming that his plan is superior. It isn’t — and his attacks amount to cheap shots.

First, Mr. Obama claims that his plan does much more to control costs than his rivals’ plans. In fact, all three plans include impressive cost control measures.

Second, Mr. Obama claims that mandates won’t work, pointing out that many people don’t have car insurance despite state requirements that all drivers be insured. Um, is he saying that states shouldn’t require that drivers have insurance? If not, what’s his point?

Look, law enforcement is sometimes imperfect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws.

Third, and most troubling, Mr. Obama accuses his rivals of not explaining how they would enforce mandates, and suggests that the mandate would require some kind of nasty, punitive enforcement: “Their essential argument,” he says, “is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way.”

Well, John Edwards has just called Mr. Obama’s bluff, by proposing that individuals be required to show proof of insurance when filing income taxes or receiving health care. If they don’t have insurance, they won’t be penalized — they’ll be automatically enrolled in an insurance plan.

That’s actually a terrific idea — not only would it prevent people from gaming the system, it would have the side benefit of enrolling people who qualify for S-chip and other government programs, but don’t know it.

Mr. Obama, then, is wrong on policy. Worse yet, the words he uses to defend his position make him sound like Rudy Giuliani inveighing against “socialized medicine”: he doesn’t want the government to “force” people to have insurance, to “penalize” people who don’t participate.

I recently castigated Mr. Obama for adopting right-wing talking points about a Social Security “crisis.” Now he’s echoing right-wing talking points on health care.

What seems to have happened is that Mr. Obama’s caution, his reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position, led him to propose a relatively weak, incomplete health care plan. Although he declared, in his speech announcing the plan, that “my plan begins by covering every American,” it didn’t — and he shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true.

Now, in the effort to defend his plan’s weakness, he’s attacking his Democratic opponents from the right — and in so doing giving aid and comfort to the enemies of reform.

Biden: Impeachment if Bush bombs Iran

Excerpt -

PORTSMOUTH — Presidential hopeful Delaware Sen. Joe Biden stated unequivocally that he will move to impeach President Bush if he bombs Iran without Congressional approval.

Biden spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 100 at a Seacoast Media Group forum Thursday, which focused on the Iraq War and foreign policy. When an audience member expressed fear of another war with Iran, he said he does not typically engage in threats, but had no qualms about issuing a direct warning to the oval office.

“The President has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran and if he does, as foreign relations committee chairman, I will move to impeach,” said Biden, which was followed by a raucous applause.

Biden said he is in the process of meeting with constitutional law experts to prepare a legal memorandum saying as much, and intends to send it to the President.

When resident Joel Carp asked Biden why not impeach now given what has already been done, Biden said it was a valid point but might not be constitutionally valid and potentially counterproductive. A case for impeachment must have clear evidence, he said, and blame should be directed at the right parties.

“If you’re going to impeach George Bush, you better impeach Cheney first,” said Biden, which also received applause.

Leahy moves forward with White House contempt


Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today said that several current and former White House officials, including Karl Rove and Josh Bolten, “must comply with committee subpoenas to testify” about the U.S. attorney scandal. He declared that President Bush had no role in the firings, therefore their excuses of “executive privilege” were “not legally valid.” This ruling “clears the way for Leahy’s panel to vote on whether to advance the citations to the full Senate.

Court orders Bush administration to disclose telecom ties


Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has won another significant legal battle, as a federal judge in California yesterday ordered the Bush administration (.pdf) to comply with EFF’s FOIA demand and disclose documents revealing its “communications with telecommunications carriers and members of Congress” regarding efforts to amend FISA and provide amnesty to telecoms. Better still, the court imposed an extremely quick deadline for release of these documents — December 10 — so that “the public may participate in the debate over the pending legislation on an informed basis.”

The godawful GOP debate

Rarely has a debate left me so troubled about the future of the nation. By now, I should have learned not to be shocked when Republicans like Mitt Romney, who spent the Vietnam War doing missionary work in France, pretend to believe that they have more expertise about waterboarding and other forms of torture than John McCain, who spent five and a half years being abused and sometimes tortured in a North Vietnamese prison. I should have also learned not to be dismayed that the standard Republican position on immigration (McCain and Mike Huckabee excepted) now seems to be Emma Lazarus in reverse: "Take my tired and poor, please. I never want to see those shiftless bums again."

No, what sent me into a free fall of depression was CNN's instinct for the fatuous in choosing the debate questions. It is a disgrace that in a two-hour debate (it felt longer) there was not a single question about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the powder keg in Pakistan or Iran. The fault is not with the earnest YouTubers who sent in questions. The blame entirely rests with Anderson Cooper (a debate host who seemed incapable of asking a relevant follow-up question) and his CNN cohorts, who seemed more concerned with goosing the ratings than with grasping the world that the next president will inherit.

And, please God, no more debate questions about the Bible. Somewhere in the dim corridors of memory, I recall being taught (admittedly under the liberal Earl Warren Supreme Court) that there were no religious tests for holding public office in the United States. The theology was getting so thick onstage Wednesday night (with Huckabee, a Baptist minister, all but offering to give Scripture lessons to Rudy Giuliani) that I imagined that instead of commercial breaks, CNN might interrupt the debate for two minutes of public prayer........

Biden: Oil prices cost of Bush failures

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Presidential hopeful Joe Biden says New Hampshire residents can thank the Bush Administration for the high cost of oil.

He says the president is continuing a flailing policy toward the Middle East.

Biden is escalating his criticism of the temporary increase of troops in Iraq. In recent days, Biden has called the move a "fantasy" and said there is no evidence it is working. Biden now says such efforts are making oil more expensive. He says uncertainty in Iraq and Iran are adding an extra $30 a barrel. Oil prices are now at $100 a barrel.

Hagel on Bush WH: ‘most arrogant, incompetent’ ever


Yesterday in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) stepped up his rhetoric against the Bush administration, calling it one of the most “incompetent” in history:

Hagel, who considered running for the GOP presidential nomination as an antiwar candidate, told the foreign policy experts that he would give the Bush administration “the lowest grade of any I’ve known.”

“I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen or ever read about,” Hagel said, according to our colleague Robert Kaiser, who attended the speech. In case his audience didn’t get the point, Hagel also said: “They have failed the country.”

Biden offers advice to Israeli prime minister

MANCHESTER, N.H.Apologizing for his tardiness and touting his foreign policy credentials at the same time, Democrat Joe Biden told students that a call from the prime minister of Israel delayed his arrival at their conference.
more stories like this

Biden, a presidential hopeful and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was waiting for his luggage at the airport Wednesday night when his cell phone rang.

"The prime minister of Israel was calling. He was calling me because he wanted to discuss with me and get my opinion about what happened in Annapolis," Biden said, referring to this week's U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference that included Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives from dozens of other countries.

Speaking at a national conference for high school and college students, Biden spent most of his time on Iraq, arguing that until the war ends, there will be no money to fix any of the nation's problems and the country will remain isolated from the rest of the world.

"Until we settle Iraq, no one in the world is going to listen to us. No one is prepared to join with us," he said.

Biden, who has been pushing a plan to end the war by carving Iraq into three distinct states, pointed out that many of his rivals for the Democratic nomination have praised his foreign policy experience. And he noted that he has been to Iraq more than all the other Democratic candidates combined.

"Every time I fly out of that airport ... I fly out with some flag-draped coffin strapped to the floor of that C-130," he said. "All I can think of as I fly out is, 'What parent is waiting at the other end? What husband or wife? And for what?"

He told his young audience that they will bear the burden of caring for the thousands of wounded soldiers who will need medical care for the rest of their lives......

Biden draws distinctions with leading rivals

ALLISON --- After some prodding from a supporter, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, in a rare moment, criticized his leading rivals by name for a lack of experience.

The distinctions he drew didn't approach the vitriol flying between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, or even John Edwards' aggressive criticisms of Clinton.

In fact, he complimented all three candidates before telling a noon crowd of about 30 at the Allison Public Library he's a better candidate than any of the Iowa front-runners.

The Delaware senator has repeatedly said he doesn't feel comfortable criticizing fellow Democrats, but J.R. Ackley, sitting in the front row wearing a Biden T-shirt, all but demanded he go on the offensive.

"I've never seen anyone with your experience or abilities, and yet the big three --- all three of them --- are one-term senators," he said, although Clinton was re-elected to her second term last year. "It's like three witches sitting around arguing about who's ugliest. Why haven't you taken these guys head on."

At first, Biden wasn't quite sure how to respond. He thanked Ackley for the compliment, and said he prefers to run on his record. Then he started with Clinton and her work with the Children's Defense Fund.



Giuliani tapped budgets of obscure city agencies to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses in 1999 and 2000 when the married Mayor was secretly dating future wife Judith Nathan according to a sensational report.....


Auditors spotted a $34,000 expense for out-of-city travel at the Loft Board. The board's director insisted the tab wasn't run up at the tiny agency, which regulates lofts.....then $143,867 in nonlocal travel at 12 small mayoral agencies in fiscal 2000, including $10,054 for the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities turned up...on top of $165,985 in "nonlocal travel" billed directly to the Mayor's Office. astonishing $400,000 tab in "nonlocal travel" in fiscal 2001 was billed to the Assigned Counsel Plan. Overall nonlocal-travel expenses surged from $245,896 in fiscal 2000 to $618,014 in fiscal 2001 - a 151% increase.....


American Express bills and documents obtained under the FOIA show numerous receipts from hotels and gas stations on Long Island, where Giuliani secretly began visiting Nathan's in 1999 as his marriage to Hanover was crumbling......

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grooming the next Ahmad Chalabi

Richard Perle is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility.


ON A COLD MORNING last winter, I arrived at the home of Richard Perle outside Washington for a scheduled interview. I was about 10 minutes early, so I chose to shiver a bit on the front porch. Perle, the point man for the neoconservatives' drive for regime change throughout the Middle East, had agreed to spend time me with for a book I was writing about his life and times. Just then, the front door opened and out stepped Perle and a robust young man who was obviously in a hurry.

"Oh, Alan," Perle said with some surprise. "I'd like you to meet . . . " But I already knew who his guest was.

"Yes, sir," I said, extending my hand. "I recognize you from your photographs."

My, my, I thought. Mr. Perle is at it again.

The exiting guest was Farid Ghadry, an exiled Syrian dissident who, like Perle, believes it's past time to replace Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Ghadry, who heads a Washington-based group called the Syrian Reform Party, hopes to be the man in charge one day in Damascus. When I met him, he had already been granted audiences with David Wurmser, Vice President Dick Cheney's top Middle East advisor and Perle protege, and with Cheney's daughter, Elizabeth, who headed the State Department's Iran-Syria desk from 2005 until last June. I asked Wurmser about Ghadry. Was he another Ahmad Chalabi, the checkered Iraqi exile whom the United States backed as a Saddam Hussein replacement in Iraq?

"He's not asking for money, and we're not advocating money for him,"........

GOP Abortion Rights Group Raps Romney

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Republican group that backs abortion rights will start an ad campaign this weekend in Iowa and New Hampshire portraying Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper and drawing attention to a questionnaire he filled out in 2002 endorsing legal abortions.

The ads by the Republican Majority for Choice suggest Romney's current anti-abortion stance is politically motivated. The group will spend more than $100,000 to air a 30-second television spot in Iowa and New Hampshire and run full page ads Sunday in the Des Moines Register, the Concord Monitor and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

"He's an opportunist," Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chair of Republican Majority for Choice, said in an interview. "It's important for voters to know who they are voting for."

Stockman and other members of the group's board have donated to the presidential campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an advocate of abortion rights. Stockman contributed $2,300 to Giuliani's campaign last May.

But Stockman said the group itself has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential contest. She stressed that the Republican Majority for Choice and the Giuliani campaign have had no discussions regarding the ad campaign.

Earlier this month in Iowa, Giuliani expressed disapproval of any outside advertising effort that might surface on his behalf akin to the one John McCain's supporters have launched in South Carolina. McCain has asked his donors not to bankroll such campaigns. .......

Media: Pelosi’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Foolish’; Bush’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Victory’


President Bush said the trip “sends mixed signals” to the Assad government, and Dana Perino called the trip “a really bad idea.” Vice President Dick Cheney said Assad’s “bad behavior’s being rewarded.” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) viciously accused Democrats of being “so drunk with grandiose visions of deposing Bush that they break bread with terrorists and enemies of the United States.”

The media picked up the conservative talking points and ran with them:

CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux: “Why should the Americans, or even the international community, see this any more as a political stunt here, a publicity stunt, a big wet kiss to President Al-Assad?”

Washington Post Editorial Board: “Ms. Pelosi’s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.”

Thomas Sowell of the Baltimore Sun: “All that Ms. Pelosi’s trip can accomplish is to advertise American disunity to a terrorist-sponsoring nation in the Middle East while we are in a war there.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer: “But if the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi appear to be acting irresponsibly or incompetently — and let’s face it, a lot of people think she messed up on this one — what’s the impact for Democrats overall?”

Now that the Bush administration has come to its senses and invited Syria to become part of the solution in the Middle East, the media has missed the administration’s reversal, instead praising Bush’s “victory” in securing Syria’s attendance:

New York Times: “Syria announced Sunday that it would attend the Middle East peace meeting beginning here Monday night, joining Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League participants in a turnabout that represented a victory for the Bush administration.”

The Denver Post:Victory for U.S.: Syria to attend summit.”

The AP’s Amy Teibel: “The Bush administration was able to declare a clean sweep when Syria, the last Arab world holdout, said Sunday it would attend this week’s high-stakes Mideast peace conference.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The Bush administration is even courting a long-time pariah, Syria. … Talks with Syria could go some way in weakening Tehran’s strongest alliance in the region.”

The AP’s Sam Ghattas: “The Syrian participation is already seen in Washington as a success for the Bush administration.”

With the exception of a right-wing editorial in the Wall Street Journal attacking the Bush administration, not a single media outlet appears to have noticed that only six months ago, they — and the White House — were imprudently ripping the Speaker for reaching out to Syria.

Time’s false balancing act


Earlier this week, Time magazine’s Joe Klein asserted that Democrats wanted to reform FISA in a way that “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” After Glenn Greenwald noted the false accusations made by Klein, Time has finally posted a “correction”:

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don’t.

Time has helpfully informed us that Democrats don’t agree with Republicans that their bill is providing terrorists equal rights as Americans. Jane Hamsher writes, “Shorter Time Magazine: Equal Time For GOP Propaganda.” Glenn Greenwald writes, “All Time can say about this matter is that Republicans say one thing and Democrats claim another. Who is right? Is one side lying? … Here, there are not two sides; the bill could not be clearer.” Kos points to the relevant text of the Restore Act:


Sec. 105A. (a) Foreign to Foreign Communications-

(1) IN GENERAL - Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons and are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the United States or the surveillance device is located within the United States.

ThinkFast: November 28, 2007


Despite increased public optimism due to the recent downturn in violence in Iraq, a new Pew Research poll finds that President Bush “remains as unpopular as ever” and “the public remains just as committed to bringing U.S. troops home.”

Al Hubbard, the chairman of President Bush’s National Economic Council, is submitting his resignation today. He departs at a time when the White House is struggling “with a mortgage crisis that has sparked foreclosures, declining home prices and concern about prospects for recession.”

Congressional Democrats will focus on the economy next week in an effort to address public fears about an approaching recession. “House leaders have discussed holding an economic summit and are poised to bring a long-awaited energy bill to the House floor next week.”

Following “a lobbying blitzkrieg,” the Federal Communications Commission handed “a significant, though not total, victory” to the cable industry yesterday with a compromise that will postpone for months the question of expanding “the agency’s regulatory authority over” the industry.

In a new report, the United Nations warns that “progress toward prosperity” will be reversed in the world’s poorest regions unless rich countries begin “curbing emissions linked to global warming” while also helping poorer ones transition to renewable energy sources.

“Some of the Army’s best captains are getting out of the war in Iraq. They are tired of long deployments and the strain on their families. But in hopes of getting captains to re-enlist for another three years, the military is offering a $35,000 bonus.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs fell farther behind this year in its attempts to give veterans timely decisions on their disability claims, new records show.” Furthermore, “the VA put a positive spin on many of its numbers, and in two instances provided Congress with incorrect or incomplete figures,” according to McClatchy.

A Saudi court has agreed to review the case of a girl who was sentenced to jail time and flogging “after being gang raped by seven men.” The Saudi Justice Ministry had earlier accused her of being an “adulteress who invited the attack.” The victim explained what happened to ABC News.

“Federal wildlife regulators will revise seven controversial decisions on endangered species” made by President Bush’s controversial Interior Department appointee Julie MacDonald, who quit after criticisms that she “routinely questioned and sometimes overruled recommendations by biologists and other field staffers.”

And finally: With the resignation of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is the last member “left standing” in the Singing Senators barbershop quartet, which previously included Sens. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) and John Ashcroft (R-MO). The Washington Posts’s Al Kamen writes, “It’s the biggest musical breakup since the legendary Ben E. King left the Drifters.”

Editorial: The GOP accepts no presidential dissent

Primary voters must sign loyalty oaths. Where's a third party when you need it?

The Republican Party of Virginia has no interest in thoughtful voters. It only wants mindless party loyalists who will vote Republican no matter what.

That's the sad message of a new GOP policy for next year's presidential primary approved by the State Board of Elections this week. People who want to vote in it must sign a loyalty oath swearing their intent to vote in November for the party's nominee, whomever that winds up being.

A Republican voter might look at the primary contenders and conclude Mike Huckabee is the best choice. That voter might also decide he would never vote for Rudy Giuliani. Perhaps he would look for a Libertarian or independent alternative.

Or it could be just the opposite. Perhaps a would-be Republican voter finds Huckabee unsupportable, or Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney.

The oath precludes such careful analysis and leaves Republicans three options:

n Lie. Virginia's ballots are still secret; no one will know if you vote against the party nominee.

n Stay home from the Feb. 12 election and keep your options open.

n Commit to an unknown Republican candidate nine months before the election.

Honorable Virginians do not give their word lightly and will not lie, even under these obtuse circumstances. We hope, too, that they put candidates' ideas, character and experience ahead of party affiliation.

Honest, responsible voters therefore can only skip the primary.

That, obviously, was not the goal of the Republican loyalty oath. The oath is an outgrowth of Virginia's open primaries and a two-party system that prizes power over all else.

Democrats are susceptible to such electoral foolishness, too. In Roanoke, Democrats who want to help pick the party's city council candidates must vow to support the party's nominees.

Virginians do not register by party, so anyone, even a Democratic-leaning voter, can participate in the GOP primary and skew the results. Though there is scant evidence such crossover voting ever influences elections, political parties deserve the right to control who selects their candidates. They are private organizations, after all.

Anyone who needed more evidence that Virginia's election system is broken has it. Why bother having the election at all? Just count how many Virginians sign away their intent to cast an informed vote.

Rudy's Ties to a Terror Sheikh

Giuliani's business contracts tie him to the man who let 9/11's mastermind escape the FBI

Village Voice

Three weeks after 9/11, when the roar of fighter jets still haunted the city's skyline, the emir of gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, toured Ground Zero. Although a member of the emir's own royal family had harbored the man who would later be identified as the mastermind of the attack—a man named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, often referred to in intelligence circles by his initials, KSM—al-Thani rushed to New York in its aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, principally to the families of its victims.

Rudy Giuliani, apparently unaware of what the FBI and CIA had long known about Qatari links to Al Qaeda, appeared on CNN with al-Thani that night and vouched for the emir when Larry King asked the mayor: "You are a friend of his, are you not?"
"We had a very good meeting yesterday. Very good," said Giuliani, adding that he was "very, very grateful" for al-Thani's generosity. It was no cinch, of course, that Giuliani would take the money: A week later, he famously rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince who advised America that it should "adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause." (Giuliani continues to congratulate himself for that snub on the campaign trail.)

Al-Thani waited a month before expressing essentially the same feelings when he returned to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and stressed how important it was to "distinguish" between the "phenomenon" of 9/11 and "the legitimate struggles" of the Palestinians "to get rid of the yoke of illegitimate occupation and subjugation." Al-Thani then accused Israel of "state terrorism" against the Palestinians.

But there was another reason to think twice about accepting al-Thani's generosity that Giuliani had to have been aware of, even as he heaped praise on the emir. Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network based in Qatar (pronounced "Cutter"), had been all but created by al-Thani, who was its largest shareholder. The Bush administration was so upset with the coverage of Osama bin Laden's pronouncements and the U.S. threats to bomb Afghanistan that Secretary of State Colin Powell met the emir just hours before Giuliani's on-air endorsement and asked him to tone down the state-subsidized channel's Islamist footage and rhetoric.

The six-foot-eight, 350-pound al-Thani, who was pumping about $30 million a year into Al Jazeera at the time, refused Powell's request, citing the need for "a free and credible media." The administration's burgeoning distaste for what it would later brand "Terror TV" was already so palpable that King—hardly a newsman—asked the emir if he would help "spread the word" that the U.S. was "not targeting the average Afghan citizen." Al-Thani ignored the question—right before Giuliani rushed in to praise him again.

Airstrike kills U.S.-contracted road workers

KABUL, Afghanistan The U.S.-led coalition killed 14 road construction workers in airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan because of mistaken intelligence reports, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

The coalition said it was looking into the incident in Nuristan province, but did not immediately comment. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said it has conducted airstrikes against Taliban fighters in the area, but did not say when.

“ISAF was engaged in Nurgaram and Du Ab , and in those places we used airstrikes against ,” ISAF spokesman Portuguese Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco told a news conference. “The situation is not clear at all at this stage. We are carrying out the investigation and trying to get a clear picture.”

The engineers and laborers had been contracted by the U.S. military to build a road in mountainous Nuristan, and were sleeping in two tents in Nurgaram when they were killed Monday night, said Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the Kabul-based road construction company Amerifa. There were no survivors, he said.

“All of our poor workers have been killed,” Jalili said. “I don’t think the Americans were targeting our people. I’m sure it’s the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reporters say Baghdad too dangerous despite surge

WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a poll released on Wednesday said.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that many U.S. journalists believe coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict.

A separate Pew poll released on Tuesday showed that 48 percent of Americans believe the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going very or fairly well, up from 34 percent in June, amid signs of declining Iraqi civilian casualties and progress against Islamist militants such as al Qaeda in Iraq.

But most journalists said they believe violence and the threat of violence have increased during their tenures.

Much of the danger for journalists is faced by local Iraqis, who often do most of the reporting outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, the data showed.

Fifty-eight percent of U.S. news organizations have had local Iraqi staff killed or kidnapped within the past year, the survey said. About two-thirds of news outlets said local staff face physical or verbal threats at least several times a month.

MAUREEN DOWD: Jump on the Peace Train



Condi doesn’t want to be Iraq.

She wants to be a Palestinian state. It has a far more hopeful ring to it, legacy-wise.

The Most Powerful Woman in the History of the World, as President Bush calls her, is a very orderly person.

Like her boss, she loves schedules and routines and hates disruptions. As a child, she was elected “president” of her family, a position that allowed her to dictate the organizational details of family trips, according to “Condoleezza Rice: An American Life,” a new biography by The Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller.

As an adult, Condi was worried about taking the job of top diplomat because it would mean traveling and being away from her things and habits.

So it is telling that in Annapolis she is running such a seat-of-the-pants operation, which seems designed to rescue the images of a secretary of state and president who have spent more time working out in the gym than working on the peace process.

W. couldn’t be bothered to stay in Annapolis and try to belatedly push things along and guide Israel with a firmer hand.

After subverting diplomacy in his first term, now W. does drive-by diplomacy, taking a playboy approach to peace. He wants to look like he’s taking the problem of an Israeli-Palestinian treaty seriously when his true motivation is more cynical: pacifying the Arab coalition and holding it together so that he can blunt Iran’s sway.

When they invaded Iraq rather than working on the Palestine problem, W. and Condi helped spur the greater Iranian influence, Islamic extremism and anti-American sentiment that they are now desperately trying to quell.

Condi has compared trying to broker deals in the Middle East to “Groundhog Day.” An Annapolis-inspired breakthrough would be thrilling, but it will be tough for Madame Secretary to turn around her reputation after so many instances of Mideast malpractice.

The tight-as-a-tick team of W. and Condi have been consistently culturally obtuse on the Middle East, even with a pricey worldwide operation designed to keep them in the loop.

First, Condi missed the scorching significance of the August 2001 presidential daily brief headlined “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” “An explosive title on a nonexplosive piece,” as she later dismissively described it.

Then she and W. failed to fathom that if Iraq went wrong, Iran would benefit.

When Brent Scowcroft, who lured the young Soviet expert from Stanford to the Bush 1 national security staff, wrote a Wall Street Journal piece before the Iraq war titled “Don’t Attack Saddam,” she didn’t call him to explore his reasoning. She scolded him for publicly disagreeing with W. Scowcroft confided to friends that he was mystified by Rice. She enabled Bush’s bellicosity rather than putting a brake on it.

“He told me several times, ‘I don’t understand how my lady, my baby, my disciple, has changed so much,’ ” a senior European diplomat told Bumiller.

Condi and W. were both underwhelmed by the C.I.A.’s presentation of its case on Iraq’s W.M.D.’s on Dec. 21, 2002. Yet, only days later, Bumiller reports, Rice and W. were alone in the Oval Office when he surprised her by asking her point blank about the war: “Do you think we should do this?”

“Yes,” she told the president.

That’s not statesmanship. It’s sycophancy.

She let Rummy waltz away with the occupation and only got back some control after he’d made a historic hash of it.

It took her too long to push back on Rummy’s absurd turf-war tricks, like reading or doodling while she was talking, or dropping a Defense Department document on the conference table as Rice was leading a discussion on a different topic so that he could steal the agenda.

W.’s former chief of staff Andy Card told Bumiller that Rummy was “a little bit old-school” and “a little bit sexist” in his dealings with Rice.

Not to mention a little bit crazy.

In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon and many civilians died, including children, Condi and W. drew Arab and U.N. ire for not forcing Ehud Olmert to broker a cease-fire faster.

That same year, in another instance of spectacular willful ignorance, she was blindsided by the Hamas win in the Palestinian elections.

As she described it to Bumiller, she went upstairs at 5 a.m. the morning after the Palestinian elections in 2006 to the gym in her Watergate apartment to exercise on her elliptical machine. She saw the news crawl reporting the Hamas victory.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not right,’ ” she said. She kept exercising for awhile but finally got off the elliptical trainer and called the State Department. “I said, ‘What happened in the Palestinian elections?’ and they said, ‘Oh, Hamas won.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness! Hamas won?’ ”

When she couldn’t reach the State Department official on the ground in the Palestinian territories, she did what any loyal Bushie would do: She got back on the elliptical.

“I thought, might as well finish exercising,” Rice told Bumiller. “It’s going to be a really long day.” It was one of the few times she was prescient on the Middle East.