Saturday, May 31, 2003

A Note From Peter Coyote

Friends,

I'm writing to urge each of you to send $25 to the campaign of Dennis Kucinich and to commit to organize three others to do the same thing. Dennis is the most progressive candidate currently running for President. Whether or not you finally vote for him is immaterial. A small donation now will advance his campaign immeasurably, force the media to pay attention to him, and spread his positions: National Health for all, anti-Nafta and Gatt, ending the war, de-militarizing space. There is virtually no difference between his positions and the Green Party platform, but as a Democratic Congressman, he is not a symbolic candidate. He is a tried and tested politician who has stayed true to his principles.

Support Democratic diversity, support a peace initiative and support a progressive agenda. Try it. It doesn't preclude you from supporting other candidates, but if you simply support who you think will "win," you can't complain when they don't represent your interests.

To contribute click here

The internet is changing national politics. Please participate.

Thanks,
Peter Coyote
No 10 unlikely to assist inquiry by MPs

PARLIAMENT’S Intelligence and Security Committee is encountering stiff resistance from Downing Street over its planned inquiry into Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the case for war against that country.

Whitehall insiders say that the committee is highly unlikely to get the ministerial backing that it requires for access to intelligence reports upon which the Government’s now infamous dossier on Iraq’s weapons programme was based.


The Times also reports;

A GROUP of former US intelligence officials has written to President Bush claiming that the US Congress and the American public were misled about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the war.

The group’s members, most of them former CIA analysts, say that they have close contacts with senior officials working inside the US intelligence agencies, who have told them that intelligence was “cooked” to persuade Congress to authorise the war.

The manipulation of intelligence has, they say, produced “a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions”. They write in the letter to Mr Bush: “While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been deliberately warped for political purposes, never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorise launching a war.

“You may not realise the extent of the current ferment within the intelligence community and particularly the CIA. In intelligence, there is one unpardonable sin — cooking intelligence to the recipe of high policy. There is ample indication that this has been done in Iraq.”


Is There Anything Left That Matters?
The War Party

A friend just directed me to this BBC page that I've yet to explore but looks very interesting. I admire the way media in the U.K. attempts to investigate the pressing issues of the day.

We have outstanding investigative reporters doing the same here. Unfortunately they don't enjoy the same level of exposure but what can you expect from such a liberal conspiracy, eh?
Bush Does Poland

Jeanne D'Arc has the lowdown on Bush's visit to Krakow. I hope that link works. I just finished reading a Yahoo/AP account of it and was disgusted by his invoking Holocaust images and relating them to this 'war on terror'. The depth of his hypocrisy knows no bounds. According to this article death camps are being considered in Guantanamo. Two years ago who would have imagined we'd be where we are today. Oh of course. We are justified because of 9/11.

THE US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber.

Prisoners would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving its boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported yesterday.

The plans were revealed by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, who is in charge of 680 suspects from 43 countries, including two Australians.

The suspects have been held at Camp Delta on Cuba without charge for 18 months.

General Miller said building a death row was one plan. Another was to have a permanent jail, with possibly an execution chamber.
Getting To The Bottom of the Iraqi Looting

Trish Wilson does just that. Go read.

While you're there don't miss Trish's post about fathers' rights advocates. Compelling stuff.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Married (A Marine)In The Haight

Since I can remember I've had this compulsion to write poetry occasionally all the while aware I'm lousy at it. To make matters worse I can't help myself from sharing it.

Memorial Day came and went
leaving little flags for orphans
collecting
hot dog bun wrappers.

Some slick d.c. stone that
reflects light nicely.
Incomplete
until your name is on it.

They will never tag a soul.
Hand-to-Hand
Budget Cuts
Hills aren't kind
to the losers.

Off you went...

any second
without notice
you couldn't help it.
good soldier you.

Hobo brides know
wedding gowns and box cars
clash
Like alchemy and love.

And you hit the park fast.
Ignore the bench deans' spasms
Clutch the white port tighter.
Refuse to share the medicine.

I brought bread for the pigeons...
You cooed they're unappreciative.
Insisted we honor institutions with lies if necessary...
That was the drill and how they honored you.
Whatever Makes Osama Happy

I've been reading this Wolfowitz statement for two days now and it still stuns me.

He also pointed to another important consequence of the war - the strategic reordering of the Middle East.

"There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed-but it's huge-is that by complete mutual agreement between the US and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia," he said.

"I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things."


In two days we've been informed intelligence the Bush administration and Tony Blair presented to the public as if it was printed on sacred scrolls was intentionally misleading and now Wolfowitz admits the entire strategy is 'reordering the Middle East'.

I don't understand. Why haven't the paddy wagons pulled into the station?

Also in the Guardian this evening a report that tells us Halliburton and Bechtel are pushing a plan to pawn Iraq's future oil sales to banks and Colin Powell and Jack Straw had 'serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims.'

What could be in the morning news? George admits he was AWOL? Cheney releases the energy papers? Ken Lay announces a tell-all book about to hit the shelves. The possibilities are endless. The only certainty is a poll coming out declaring the majority of Americans don't care about any of it.
But This Is Legal?

The Justice Department has begun using its expanded counterterrorism powers to seize millions of dollars from foreign banks that do business in the United States, creating tensions with the State Department and some allies.

Law enforcement officials say the tool has proven invaluable in seizing ill-gotten money that criminals hide overseas and that was once out of the government's reach. Under the counterterrorism measures approved by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors are not even required to trace the money back to the target of an investigation.

Officials at the State Department, however, have raised concerns over the practice — in part because most of the seizures have involved fraud and money-laundering investigations that are unrelated to terrorism.

State Department officials worry "that this might be seen by other countries as arbitrary or trying to extra-territorially impose our laws" under the guise of fighting terrorism, said a Bush administration official who demanded anonymity. Diplomats from several nations, including Switzerland, have voiced private objections, officials said.


Suddenly the Bush administration is worried what other countries think? This is news worth pursuing.
Who Cares About WMD?

We're considering feeding irradiated meat to school children. Will we care that the process is untested and children experiencing stages of rapid growth would be among the most vulnerable to carcinogenic properties?

Apparently it's now okay in the United States of America to shoot a person 5 times then deny them Miranda Rights. According to a former law enforcement specialist from LA in this Democracy NOW! interview we've always 'misunderstood' the meaning of them anyway.

According to this WP article;

"If I had a biography of Yasser Arafat on my shelf, the Americans would think it's a terrorist book. To them, all Palestinians are terrorists," Anthar said. "Welcome to the new American democracy."

Aren't these things we all need to worry about?

We have lots of time for other concerns. According to the Moonie Times the 'majority' of Americans don't care if WMD are ever found.

...the American public appears untroubled by the rationale for the war. A poll this month by CBS News and the New York Times found that 56 percent of Americans believe the war was worth the loss of American lives, even if weapons of mass destruction are never found. Only 38 percent said the war will not have been worth it.

If this is true there is something deeply wrong with the 'majority'.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Blogging will be light this week...

I'm working a lot and Blogger isn't working well at all. Best I can tell their 'retooling' won't be completed until next week. Hopefully I'm wrong as it's frustrating to try and post and impossible to add links/make changes to the template. The page itself looks terrible and I'm sorry I can't acknowledge the very nice people who've linked to me lately with a reciprocal one, but thanks.

Even more frustrating is the news. Insert Iran for Iraq and you know the drill. Rumsfeld in his presentation to the CFR stated this;

Rumsfeld said that reformist Iranians might someday be able to topple the ruling Islamic leadership in that country. He answered a question on Iran by outlining a policy of avoiding "a close, intimate relationship" with the rulers of Iran for fear that this would discourage what he described as a latent popular opposition.

"Look at that country and see that there are things happening, that the women and the young people are churning in that country and putting pressure on the handful of clerics that dominate and control that regime," Rumsfeld said.


However that isn't the whole story. According to this article the Bush administration played very nice with the conversatives in Iran in exchange for their quiet support of the Iraq attack. It appears now that the objective has been untidily met the U.S. is falling behind Sharon's call for regime change in Iran as well.

According to Simin Royanian, an economist and co-founder of Women for Peace and Justice in Iran: "Iran recently arrested alleged Al-Qaeda members. One might have thought that this would be greeted positively by the administration, but instead it cut off dialogue with Iran. It's claiming that Iran is backing Al-Qaeda and developing nuclear weapons -- without citing any evidence for either charge. In fact, it's the Iranian government which has noted that the U.S. is now cooperating with Mujahedeen Khalq, a group that had worked with Saddam Hussein against the Iranian government. Mujahedeen Khalq is actually on the State Department terrorist list. The charges of nuclear possession stem largely from Israel, which wants to make sure no state in the region besides itself may have any possibility of ever developing nuclear weapons. According to the U.N., Iran is a member of, and in good standing with, the U.N. nuclear agency's regulations. The U.S. Congress is moving to fund exiles, and operations have reportedly been staged in Iran. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) announced on May 19 that they are introducing a bill in Congress to fund Iranian exile groups. The administration might be moving toward destabilizing the regime in Iran for the third anniversary of the Iranian student uprising on July 9."

The 'roadmap' is history now that revisions have been presented but anyone keeping track of its progress knows it was insincere from the start. I wonder how many connect Sharon's recent promoting of it despite months of ridiculing it to his hiring of PR people from the U.S.?

A Very Mixed Marriage indeed;

Diplomatically, the move made sense. Politically, it was no accident. Indeed, NEWSWEEK has learned, political adviser Karl Rove was involved in reviewing drafts of both of Bush’s major addresses on the Middle East. Senior administration officials say Rove merely “noodled” the “phrasing” of the speeches.

But in the Middle East, every noodle is important. A former senior Bush administration official says that proposed language favorable to the Palestinian cause was “walked back” after the speeches were reviewed by Vice President Dick Cheney, national-security adviser Condi Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Rove. According to the former official, Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, defended the edits. In one conversation, Hadley said that the speeches needed, among other things, to be politically viable. (Through a spokeswoman, Hadley strongly denied that politics was involved.)

******snip******

Mere politics is involved, too. Conservative Christians want to shed their image of intolerance. “They’re tired of being branded anti-Semites,” says Grover Norquist, a conservative activist. GOP leaders bless the marriage, and hope to get it into a Big Tent strategy for 2004. There is evidence that a number of major Jewish donors—longtime Democrats—are covering their bets if not switching sides, especially in New York, where the shock of 9-11 adds urgency to the war on terror and to Bush’s popularity among Jews.

After private assurances from Bush, Sharon late last week made a show of accepting the Roadmap in concept, if not in its particulars. But the new Zionists are taking no chances. Three weeks ago Bauer was warned by allies in Israel’s government—one of them was Tourism Minister Benny Elon, a source told NEWSWEEK—that Bush was about to pressure Sharon. Bauer and others swung into action. At a conference in Washington, speaker after speaker denounced the document as a “Roadmap to hell.” Bauer organized a letter to Bush from two dozen evangelical leaders, warning that any attempt to be “evenhanded” between Israel and the Palestinians would be “morally reprehensible.” “If they do anything other than make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, they would be messing with the word and the power of God,” Robertson told NEWSWEEK. DeLay pitched in, too. Speaking to Jewish political activists in Washington last week, he said, “Israel is not the problem in the Middle East. Israel is the solution.” He spoke no Hebrew this time, but it still sounded like a prayer.


Is Iran the next target?

The policy debate in Washington has rarely been sharper. Following the swift military victory in Iraq, the neocons imagined they had gained in influence and routed their critics. Now, however, with Iraq in chaos, terrorism rampant, Sharon unrestrained, and the dollar and the American economy heading lower, the tide is turning once again. The strategic wisdom of the neocons is being questioned.

The sensible opinion would seem to be that America will need to show some success in rebuilding Iraq and resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict before it turns its attention to the mullahs in Tehran.


Insert 'find Osama/al-Qaeda' and 'securing Afghanistan' for 'rebuilding Iraq' and 'securing peace in Israel' and I think I've read this story before as well.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Motherhood

Josh Marshall posted with some excitement here that Donna Brazile's byline appeared on a WSJ Op-Ed concerning 'the Dems' defense gap'.

I sometimes get the idea the intellectuals who 'matter' are a very cozy group who wile away many an hour laughing their arses off. I don't need them to explain to me when the foundations of pre-emptive strike became inconsequential but I would like to know when the alternatives might have their day in the sun. In my opinion this OP-ED is nothing more than a continuation in a series of media presentations put forth by the DLC. The only thing that's changing is the voracity of their tenor.

This is a good thing? I subscribed to the DLC updates until I received that one. Good Night, Vietnam. When did we ever say good morning to the truth about it and pledge it would never happen again?

Daniel Drezner also links to the WSJ article and Josh Marshall and titles his post;
THESE DEMOCRATS GET IT

From the Op-Ed;

Democrats have yet to fully comprehend the new reality of the post-Sept. 11 world. While most Americans viewed the war in Iraq through the prism of the Twin Towers attacks, many prominent Democrats still seem not to grasp the profound sense of insecurity that so many people feel in our country. This unease is especially pronounced among women, who have been a cornerstone of our party's strength and without whom we cannot hope to win back the White House or Congress.

Horseshit. There's been no shifting in the views of women on security issues. An escalation of previously held beliefs has occurred on two fronts that have always been prone to quickly eradicating perceived threats. Those who embrace the 'get mine to hell with you' philosophy and those who are sympathetic to the religious intonations this administration tolls as if its the town crier. Conservative women. The women I know don't capitulate to fear easily and have bottomless resources for defining and approaching it. And these are women the DLC do not respect.

Donna Brazile and the DLC are where they've always been and where they were during the crucial buildup to the passage of the Iraq Resolution. As far as I'm concerned Democrats like Ms. Brazile and Mr. Clinton are not much different than Bush and his ilk. Other than throwing left only an occasional bone to their elusive 'base' and appearing less fundamental in their religiosity they are pigs in a poke.

I prefer this message;
These Cats Are Making Me Dizzy

[AP]U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the al-Qaida terrorist network "was pursuing a sophisticated biological weapons research program," a Pentagon report to Congress says.

The report also says North Korea, Iran, Syria and Libya have chemical and biological weapons programs they are working to enhance with help from companies in other countries such as Russia and China.


What a coincidence this accusation comes on the heels of a report released today from the Council on Foreign Relations that states China lags behind the U.S. militarily.

U.S. forces would prevail in a conflict with China, but China could "impose serious risks and costs" on the U.S. military if the United States battled with China over Taiwan, the report said.

Yet another coincidence[?] that recently the Bush administration added yet another hawk to their nest.

Neo-conservatives have scored a new victory in the administration of US President George W Bush with the hiring by Vice President Richard Cheney of a prominent hawk on China policy.

China specialist and Princeton University professor Aaron Friedberg has been named deputy national security advisor and director of policy planning on Cheney's high-powered, foreign-policy staff headed by I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, one of the most influential foreign-policy strategists in the administration.

Both Friedberg and Libby, as well as Cheney, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and 21 other prominent right-wingers, signed the 1997 founding charter of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which called for the adoption of a "'Reaganite' policy of military strength and moral clarity".

Friedberg also signed another PNAC letter to Bush on September 20, 2001, which called for the "war on terrorism" to be directed against Iraq and other anti-Israel forces in the Middle East, in addition to al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And the professor wrote a chapter on the threat posed by China in Present Dangers, a 2000 book edited by PNAC co-founders William Kristol and Robert Kagan that also included chapters by other leading neo-conservative hawks, including former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle and former Central Intelligence Agency chief James Woolsey.

The significance of his appointment lies both with Cheney's and Libby's influence in foreign policy-making and the fact that Friedberg will be the only recognized China expert in such a senior position.


Russia has had quite the week. Our relationship seems to have melted down from a tentative agreement on Putin's part to support missile defense to what is now being described as the return of a Cold War era.

It is rather ironical that Russia has sought and received billions of dollars in Western financial assistance, including funds meant to help Russia get rid of its chemical weapons and old nuclear submarines. Cynics might surmise that the financial leeway thus provided is now being used by Russia to deploy more and more modern nuclear weapons.

No doubt the subject will be raised in discussions between US president George Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when the two men meet face to face on June 1st in St Petersburg and immediately afterwards at the G8 meeting in the French spa resort of Evian.


I wonder if anyone will inquire of George at that meeting why the United States is sanctioning Iran while at the same time ;

In the wake of its victory in Iraq, Washington has been raising eyebrows by flirting with a bloody organisation that has long been condemned by the US State Department as a terrorist outfit - the Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation of Iran (MKO). US commanders signed a ceasefire agreement with the group last month, before backtracking last week by demanding its disarmament.

These on again, off again relationships leave my head spinning.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Joshua Bolton Named to Replace Daniels

QUOTE — "I think (Bush has) got the heft. What he does not have is the veneer of an intellectual. That's what gives people the impression he lacks the heft."

Funny. I think Mr. Bush is exactly how Mikey describes him. [May 22 entry since the links are bloggered]
Palestine Is Still The Issue

Information Clearing House link to a Pilger documentary never broadcast on U.S. Media.
Help Wanted: "Coalition of the Willing"

Patrick Smith writing for The Guardian would like to know if the UN have the will to stop the killing in Congo?

Simon Tisdall warns;

For those who remember Rwanda, Bosnia, and Somalia in the 1990s, the unfolding situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo looks like an unpleasant case of deja vu all over again.

I would think that reports such as these and this one describing the mutiliation of 280 people would electrify a response from the same 'humanitarians' that couldn't wait even a month to invade Iraq and depose its evil president.

But after all there are more important issues at hand. Like lifting the sanctions on Iraq which they've managed to do and Ian Williams covers in depth.
The Climate is Right for Pre-Emptive Strikes

This article in The Christian Science Monitor has a provocative quote about the military escalations occurring in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

"This is the right time to go back to war," says Dr. Andrew Tan, an expert on regional insurgencies at Singapore's Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies. "In the context of the war against terrorism, there are few, if any, diplomatic costs to seeking a military solution."

Mr. Bush seems to be wearing out the welcome mat both in Washington and at his Crawford ranch encouraging this trend.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo received 'royal' treatment at the White House Monday which included a meeting in the Oval Office and a black-tie dinner. Multiple agreements were signed this AP report described as the 'first of their kind';

Under the law enforcement pact, the United States will provide technical help and training and support development of the criminal justice system to make it more effective in fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and other major crimes, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Also, Ople and Andrew Natsios, administrator of the Agency for International Development, signed an agreement to finish decommissioning and reintegrating returned combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace agreement in 1996 after a quarter-century of fighting.


The article goes on to describe what Arroyo was seeking in return for her cooperation in the war on terror which apparently she demonstrated just hours before leaving for Washington this past Saturday when she authorized the military to use bombing and artillery attacks on terrorist cells in the southern region of Mindanao.

Arroyo wants to take home more than memories.

Singapore's Goh visited Washington last week and signed an agreement that would wipe out tariffs and other trade barriers on about $33 billion in annual trade and give U.S. banks and companies more access to one of Asia's main financial centers.

Now it's Arroyo's turn.

She is seeking duty-free privileges for Philippine products, such as dried mangoes, pineapple juice and tuna. Arroyo also wants to see Philippine businesses get reconstruction contracts in Iraq and is trying to lure U.S. companies to invest in operations on the islands.


The talks didn't change the non-combative role U.S. troops would serve in any joint operations. According to the NYT more troops will be sent to the region.

James B. Goodno does a fine job explaining why our presence there doesn't elicit a warm welcome in return.

Mr. Bush today entertained Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at his Crawford ranch in a continuing effort to gather support for 'tightening the noose' around North Korea.

According to this article Japan is prepared to implement a pre-emptive strike strategy should they feel threatened.

The Progressive Review yesterday linked to a group that should be very, very pleased by these events.
'Funeralgate' Company Charged With Moving Bodies in Florida

A funeral services company and its local operators were charged Thursday with felonies for allegedly unearthing older bodies to make way for more burials at two South Florida cemeteries.

Menorah Gardens, its parent corporation, Service Corporation International, and two of its directors were charged with misconduct and incompetence in operating a cemetery, woeful negligence and failing to obtain authorization from a family before disinterment.


Here in Reality covered the scandal when it occurred.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Poland Will Lead Iraq Peacekeepers

This article posted April 30 informed us of several things, according to a NATO source via the daily Rzeczpospolita;

Polish general Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, who was a senior Polish representative in NATO and the current number two in the Polish army, "was one of the serious candidates" to command the international units in Iraq.

and...

It said the United States was "ready to fully finance the participation of the Polish contingent in the stabilisation force" in Iraq and had asked Warsaw to send between 2000 and 4000 soldiers, while the Polish defence ministry "has in mind a figure of 1500".

Lo and behold according to an AP report today Poland will lead Iraq peacekeepers.

French diplomats said Paris had no objection to authorizing the help to the Poles, who are expected to assemble at least 7,000 peacekeepers in a force expected to deploy next month to work between a U.S.-run northern zone and the British-controlled south.

The assistance is expected to involve setting up a headquarters, intelligence sharing, communications and logistics, but no direct NATO involvement on the ground.

"We are not talking about a NATO presence in Iraq, we are talking purely and simply about NATO help to Poland," said Lord Robertson, the alliance's secretary general.

Poland is expected to provide 2,200 troops to lead its force in Iraq. Bulgaria will contribute 450 soldiers, but it was not immediately clear which other countries would join.

Polish officials estimate the mission will cost $90 million a year, of which Poland is ready to pay one-third. Warsaw would like the United States to pay the remaining $60 million_ covering costs like the troops' transport to Iraq, their barracks and some of their equipment, such as Humvees. So far, Washington has not committed to the financing.
Terror Alert Raised

I heard about this on the radio last night on my way home from work. Strangely enough someone changed the presets on my radio to AM and tuned it to this wacky program that can only be described as an apocalyptic, over-the-top fundamentalist newspeak organ of the Bush administration. The only person who might have done something like this is a part-timer who does janitorial work, has a borderline IQ, and from what he tells us spends his days as a virtual shut-in absorbing Rush radio and regurgitating his message to anyone who'll sit long enough to listen.

The degree to which the media has saturated his consciousness and resulted in his robotic actions reminds me of a story. There's an Iowa town that some years ago enjoyed a fair amount of national fame due to a celebrity visitor by the name of Doug Henning. You might recall Henning was a very popular magician who caused a bit of a stir when he exchanged wedding vows in Fairfield, Iowa, then an emerging center for the followers of Marharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation. According to this Chicago Times article;

Fairfield and tiny Vedic City--Iowa's newest city, incorporated in July 2001--represent the TM capital of the United States.

I have nothing against TM'ers other than I doubt their claims of levitation and one other thing that is the point of my little story. When I was doing my nursing clinicals in mental health I had the opportunity to do a case study on a client from Fairfield. He had been living 'on his own', subsidised by a government stipend, and according to our conversations this was something the TM community was acutely aware of and in my opinion, capitalising upon. They talked this man into, or convinced if you will, giving a large part of that check to them in exchange for what he described as small, unpalatable meals in their dining facilities and basically left him on his own without a support system.

In my opinion there are certain groups in our society that are completely vunerable to people like Rush Limbaugh much in the same way they were Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker. The same way they are in Fairfield, IA in the hands of certain TM'ers. Shut-ins, physically and mentally, looking for support who are taken in for their money then abandoned.

The only thing I found interesting about this alert, besides the alleged intercepted e-mail, are the targets. California, New York and Boston? The coastlines?

If this is a credible alert, the news should be how we are completely unprepared for another attack. If that fact isn't what scares you, if you are in fact scared, then the Bush administration has worked its magic well on you.

From my e-mail;

If you heard today's show, you'd know that 6,000 screeners were let go from the airports. Homeland Security hasn't had any funding that WE the people can count on, and now this.

Alerts, secret meetings, failure of our systems to do their jobs and yet no accountability, no one punished, fired, etc. Allan Wood covered it pretty well on todays show.

What's really changed for us since 9/11? Do YOU feel safer?

Until we get answers instead of plastic & duct tape and more FEAR we are all being taken for one HUGE ride.

Meria

p.s. today's show rocked with 9/11 information, especially on Georgie's "interesting day".

"THE MERIA HELLER SHOW "- 3rd yr On The Net- #1 on Net!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Supreme Court Refuses Redneck Shirt Case

The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider whether students can be barred from taking their redneck humor to class.

Justices rejected an appeal from a school district that wanted the court to allow it to bar redneck attire. It was a victory for a New Jersey teenager suspended for wearing a T-shirt he bought at a Wal-Mart store. He also had been criticized for wearing shirts with the Confederate flag.


Nice to know SCOTUS protects the rights of free speech, eh?

Also in the article;

Also Monday, the Supreme Court refused to consider whether parents whose children are required to attend schools in another community should have representatives on that school board. At issue is a situation in New Jersey where one town sends hundreds of students to a neighboring borough's schools.

Attorney Kenneth Starr, representing Branchburg residents, said that the Constitution guarantees Branchburg parents a voice in the policy decisions of their children's' education in nearby Somerville.
House Panel Told of Anthrax Testing Problem

Post offices that were tested for anthrax using dry cotton swabs should be tested again because that method is not the best way of detecting the potentially lethal spores, scientists told a House subcommittee yesterday.

In 2001, postal officials tested the Wallingford, Conn., postal facility for anthrax with dry cotton swabs and found nothing. But when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the facility using wet wipes and a high-efficiency particulate air vacuum, it found more than 3 million anthrax spores.

Dry swabs are an inefficient way of testing for anthrax and there is no guarantee that other anthrax spores weren't missed if that method was used in other facilities, scientists told the House Government Reform subcommittee.

The ones that should be retested are "those facilities deemed free of anthrax based on a single dry swab," said Keith Rhodes, the chief technologist for the General Accounting Office's Center for Technology and Engineering.

Levels between 8,000 and 10,000 spores are considered harmful; the District's Brentwood facility, which was closed for cleaning, had levels between 8,700 and 2 million.
How much is Bush worth? $37 million

President George W. Bush had assets worth as much as US$21.4 million (S$37 million) at the end of last year, with more than half in government securities, according to a financial disclosure statement filed by him.

Vice-President Dick Cheney valued his assets at between US$19.1 million and US$86.4 million, his statement said.

This reflected the wealth he gained as chairman of Halliburton, the Dallas-based energy services company.
US Compromises at UN but Keeps Control of Iraq Oil

Did anyone seriously doubt this? Throughout the 'debate' that led-up to the illegal strike on Iraq I was floored by the countless arguments that the US had no intentions of profiting from it. They were disingenuous at best. I'm now confronted daily by an escalating bravado in which people speak approvingly of what has developed into an obvious occupation.

What I find somewhat new in the article...years?;

But the resolution, expected to be adopted by Friday, still gives the United States and Britain wide-ranging powers to run Iraq and control its oil industry until a permanent government is established, which could take years.

What I find alarming but not surprising at all;

Troubling to international law experts is the rewriting of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the duties of occupying powers, such as the United States and Britain. They are not supposed to create a new permanent government or commit Iraq to long-term contracts, such as oil exploration, under the Geneva treaties.

"The United States is asking the Security Council to authorize it to do a series of things that would otherwise violate international law under the guise of ending sanctions," said Morton Halperin, a former State Department official and director of the Open Society Institute in Washington.

"The purpose of this resolution is to relieve the United States of both its obligations and the limits of what it can do as an occupying power under international law by having the Security Council supersede the requirements of the Geneva Convention," he said in an interview.


Further reading:
Will International Law Shape the Occupation, or the Occupation Shape International Law?
Question W

Speaking of al Qaeda connections

Vinnell, an alleged CIA-front operation that was among the targets of the recent terrorist bombings in Riyadh, was reportedly hated by al-Qaeda for their training of Saudi Arabia's National Guard.

You can also read about Vinnell here and here and here.

A more recent article by William D. Hartung can be found here.

In this Washington Post article you can read this;

Saudi authorities are investigating suspected illegal arms sales by members of the country's national guard to al Qaeda operatives in the country, U.S. and Saudi officials said.

The weapons were seized in a May 6 raid on an al Qaeda safe house and were traced to national guard stockpiles, the officials said.

The Saudi interior minister said today that officials have identified three of the suicide bombers involved in attacks last week on three residential compounds in Riyadh, which led to the deaths of 34 people, including eight Americans. He said they were part of a group of 19 people wanted in connection with the May 6 raid.


An al Qaeda link to notables in the Bush government based on this evidence alone is stronger than the flimsy reports we cited for pre-emptively striking Iraq.

In that same report an unnamed 'US official' stated "cooperation was excellent and involved more than just looking at the bomb sites. The official said U.S. involvement was in sharp contrast to earlier investigations in which visiting FBI agents were shut out."

However this is in sharp contrast to a report published on the NYT site May 19 that is no longer found at its original link but can be read here.

Despite the strong words, Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Nayef downplayed the role played by U.S. investigators in probing the attacks on three foreign housing complexes he linked to al-Qaida.

During a tense press conference Sunday, Nayef called for ``a concerted international effort'' to crack down on those who plan such attacks. He did not identify those he suspected of being behind them.

Nayef described a limited role for U.S. investigators in the kingdom, saying they had come to examine ``the sites and we welcomed them based on that, for examining only.''

Sunday, May 18, 2003

How much could the Bushies save?

Gorilla-a-gogo links to Rep. Henry Waxman's study [pdf] and posts a nifty chart detailing how the Bushies could benefit from this tax cut.
Arundhati Roy: “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy, Buy One Get One Free”

Go here for the video and text of an amazing presentation.

Democracy, the modern world's holy cow, is in crisis. And the crisis is a profound one. Every kind of outrage is being committed in the name of democracy. It has become little more than a hollow word, a pretty shell, emptied of all content or meaning. It can be whatever you want it to be. Democracy is the Free World's whore, willing to dress up, dress down, willing to satisfy a whole range of taste, available to be used and abused at will.
Same old, same old

I wasn't 100% convinced Pelosi would be different. But I hoped. As I posted some time ago a good percentage of that hope was dashed when I learned Rep. Pelosi, champion of human rights when it concerns the Chinese even at a time it was most unpopular, is basically unconcerned about the rights of Palestinians.

She's not alone, of course. Another politician that is often thought of as a champion for the rights of all, Henry Waxman, shares her pro-Israel views.

But yesterday I lost any inkling Nancy Pelosi is any different from her predecessor, Dick Gephardt. Especially considering the right-leaning Washington Post can offer at least a tinge of dark criticism of the Bush administration's failure to find WMD in Iraq, it is outrageous that Ms. Pelosi has only this to say about the situation;

This week, Pelosi said it is "difficult to understand" why the weapons can't be found. Yet she did not seem concerned about whether any are found. "I am sort of agnostic on it; that is to say, maybe they are there," Pelosi said. "I salute the president for the goal of removing weapons of mass destruction."
A Skeptical Blog Presents...

Dominion is a person of many skills. Not only is he a writer who inspires deeper thoughts, a musician who is pleasing to the senses, but now he's treating us to a video he created for the group Compassionate Conservatives.

Here's the link. Don't miss the show.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

'Killer D T's"

While browsing Townhall.com yesterday I came across an article that stated;

...the Democrats are trying to capitalize on the publicity surrounding their walkout to raise money for their party.

"Get Your Historic Killer D's T!" proclaimed an email message from the email address yellowdog@txdemocrats.org, which is listed as the "general questions/comments" contact on the Texas Democratic Party website. The message advertises the shirts for "$15 each (including tax) ... A portion of the proceeds will be contributed to the Texas Democratic Party."

The t-shirts are emblazoned with a drawing of a caped superhero figure with the letter "D" on the front of his costume and the caption "Killer D's ... Fighting for truth, justice and fair play in the 78th Texas Legislature."

David Rushing, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, called the t-shirt sales "shameful" and accused the fugitive Democrats of having "sabotaged" the government to which they were elected to serve.

"This brazen and selfish scheme is beneath contempt and beyond deplorable," Rushing said in a statement released Wednesday. "They bill their t-shirts as 'Hanes Beefy,' but fleeing a legislative fight is Ultra Wimpy."


Is this parody? The conservatives at Townhall.com displaying a sense of humour? I ask because I want one of these T's but was very disappointed when I visited the Texas Democratic Party's website and couldn't find a one. Not even the mention of one.

The only web reference I can find to these mysterious T's was a duplicate posting of the same article on the website Crosswalk. However on that site they stuck this graphic into the center of it;



I will sadly live without a T should this article be a spoof for one reason only. It would mean the following didn't occur;

The Young Conservatives of Texas has prepared a tongue-in-cheek "Top Ten List" noting the "differences between the fugitive Texas Democrats and Saddam Hussein," which it sent to reporters in an email Wednesday. The satirical piece included comments such as, "Saddam concealed his weapons of mass destruction, Texas Fugitive Dems are concealing their weapons of mass obstruction," and "Saddam was targeted by GPS. Texas Fugitive Dems are targeted by DPS."

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Odds and Ends

Reacting to the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia the Bush administration is saying they pleaded with the Saudis to do something to prevent this happening to no avail.

So does this mean our security is now dependent upon the whims of our 'friends'? Is this not delegating authority to an impeachable extreme?

"As soon as we learned of this particular threat information, we contacted the Saudi government," Robert Jordan said. He said the U.S. government asked the Saudis for such security improvements "on several occasions."

" ... We continue to work with the Saudis on this, but they did not, as of the time of this tragic event, provide the additional security we requested," Jordan said in an interview on CBS' "The Early Show."


Liberal Oasis has one of the best posts I've read on the matter today.

Defense Tech posted in February about how he'd snuck into Los Alamos. He'd probably appreciate the irony of this story [AP]Security Keys Lost at Calif. Nuclear Lab

The missing keys at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are the latest embarrassment to the University of California, which manages the Livermore lab, as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, for the Department of Energy.

Livermore guards discovered the missing keys on April 17. They have yet to be located, lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton said Wednesday.

Houghton said there have been no indications of any attempts to access the lab with the missing keys.

Anyone with the keys would still have to get through other security safeguards, like electronic key card locks and computer-controlled access systems. Still, lab officials changed the locks and promised to investigate.


Meanwhile the GAO released a report on Tuesday that was not complementary.

A lack of money and a central storage site has hampered a government effort to recover thousands of sealed radioactive devices held by hospitals, universities and industry, a congressional report said Tuesday, raising security concerns.

The report by the General Accounting Office said that while more than 5,000 of the devices have been recovered since 1999, almost as many have yet to be picked up, although their owners have notified the government that they are no longer being used.


But the GAO should certainly have some empathy for a government accounting branch that lacks funds for investigations as they've used the same excuse for not investigating Bush's recent photo-op aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Well I feel perfectly safe. You?

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Anti-Tax Cut Billboard Alteration in Worcester, MA

This billboard message is the latest in a string of recent billboard alterations in Worcester.

Where Do Monsters Come From?

South Knox Bubba has posted some thoughts and asked this question after searching for and finding two webpages created by Aaron Lee Skeen, thanks to Say Uncle.

According to this article SK Bubba linked;

Skeen, 20, is accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering University of Tennessee student Sandy Jeffers, 25, last week.

I read Skeen's words and think at least the beginning of an answer is there. He was beaten 'black and bleeding' by his father and felt 'less than' virtually everyone else in the world. He'd contemplated suicide many times. Did he suffer mental illness that went untreated, were these feelings a reaction to his father's treatment and lack of support in his life, did his father's abuse push an already ill child into a worsened state? The details have yet to be revealed.

But I imagine his father told him to take things like a man. I think when Say Uncle disagrees there's any insight to be gained from reading Skeen's words and describes them as nothing more than 'he hated his life in that artsy gothic sort of way' he's doing the same.

That's where monsters come from. Corners where hurting kids are made to go and pretend to be invisible.
Radical Cheerleaders

Find A Squad Near You

intro By Aimee and Cara

We are the cheerleaders of the REVOLUTION
Here to tell you about the only solution!
to your problems of hunger , HOME and career
all instigated BY governMENT Fear!
you SEE the government just wants to contRo-oll
playing BIG BROTHER is their fav-or-ite role
and all YOU people are puppets under their STRINGS
Liberation SCISSORS wiLL CUT THOSE THINGS!
Oh YeaH
CRY LIBERATION SISTAS
Oh YeaH
SHOUT LIBERATION BROTHERS

kiss the backa my butt! (cara and aimee)

Monday, May 12, 2003

Jayson Blair

I expect more than a few bloggers will be talking about Jayson Blair today. CalPundit has a post here about it.

So far in my reading comes this gem of an observation from Al Giordano of Narco News;

Any journalist - young or old - assigned to write 73 stories in seven months - 600 in the prior three years - is being asked, in effect, to produce "junk food journalism." At institutions like the giant New York Times, sure, they dress it all up and make it look sufficiently effete and snobbish so that it has the whiff of expensive uptown champagne rather than cheap Bowery wine; but the hangover from consuming its product is the same. Cheez Doodles from the company vending machines seem a natural backdrop for this form of assembly line journalism: the company, after all, and not Blair, put the the Cheez Doodles into the sacrosanct cathedral on 43rd Street.

I haven't read-up on the incident and don't have journalism experience to afford a decent apprisal of the situation. But off-hand my first reaction is, what on earth does race have to do with it?
Blog Matcher

I admit it. I like to check-out the stats on site meter to discover how people find their way here ( those who don't come from Mikey's where most of my traffic comes from ). Some of the google searches are pretty interesting if not downright strange. And unfortunately, google links to the current page not the archives, so the searcher most likely goes away disappointed never to return again.

Today I discovered a visitor found me through the 'Blog Matcher'. Insert the URL of your blog into the engine and voila! it returns sites who most often link to the same places you do. Here's my top ten and it's leaving me a bit queasy to think Drudge and I have anything in common, even links.

1. http://bodyandsoul.blogspot.com (score 198)

2. http://www.drudgereport.com (score 197)

3. http://appellateblog.blogspot.com (score 187)

4. http://reachm.blog-city.com (score 180)

5. http://lifeduringwartime.blogspot.com (score 172)

6. http://www.digitalmediatree.com/dratfink (score 155)

7. http://www.calpundit.com (score 150)

8. http://www.untelevised.org (score 148)

9. http://www.agonist.org (score 141)

10. http://www.hegemoney.com (score 137)

And to everyone who might visit, thanks for stopping by. Hope you found something useful.
Propaganda In Theory And Practice

Often I'll find the most interesting material while I'm surfing for something else. This article I've linked is a great example. While it covers a lot of old ground it also cites some 'news to me' info and it seems particularly relevant these days.

The article explains very well the difference between 'harmless' propaganda, for instance commercials because the viewer knows what's coming, and that which is not so easily recognisable such as false news reporting presented as fact then the repetition of same in order to 'turn around' an unreceptive or skeptical audience. Iraq and its alleged ties to al-Qaeda being accepted by a large number of Americans as fact would be the perfect example of that kind of 'political warfare' being wildly successful.

So okay. I can't recall any administration whose tactics were exposed as quickly yet the reactions to their deceitful manipulations and misdirections for a large part so casually dismissive. It can't all be blamed on fear and the manipulation of it. It would appear there is also a significant segment of society that isn't so repulsed by the idea of the USA strutting its imperialistic stuff across the world stage and consequences be damned. Staying silent about this support alleviates any instance in the future that might crop up when they might be called upon to defend it. Ignorance works like that.

But one of the most interesting parts of the article for me was the focus on group consciousness and how propaganda is used on segments of our society who either haven't formed opinions yet or may be in the process of abandoning old ones, and the elimination of new material that may have shifted these morphing intellects in a direction the powers that be aren't fond of.

For this reason, propaganda has to exploit group identity. It must attempt to challenge the collective ambitions and prohibitions that direct group conduct -- or to create the illusion that meaningful change is taking place even when it is not. Either way, those who are part of the group are inexorably led to change their own behavior in response to what they see as an evolving group ethic.

But cultural manipulation is more than just advocacy. The modern propagandist must understand the audience and learn how different events, situations, and images influence the day-to-day actions of the target group.


Clear Channel does this by playing a music format that attracts a certain age group then delivering a political message their target audience wouldn't ordinarily give much attention. If you were to contrast it with say the sixties there's a compelling difference in the way political messages are delivered. I'm not attempting to pigeonhole genres of music and attach an 'only this political label can be applied' to them, but pointing to the fact that in the sixties you knew what you were getting. Not so 'clear' these days.

Read the article when you have time. I'd reveal the 'news to me' parts but then it wouldn't be a surprise for anyone else.

On a connective note, anyone who reads MaxSpeak regularly is familiar with Tom Walker, aka Sandwichman. He's an illuminating poster on the blog and a source of the rare kind of inveterate commentary that seems to reach across generational and class divides then ties their strings together into a compelling composite that rings a universal, poetic truth.

In this post he addresses charisma, propagating cliches, and films that perhaps preview or possibly examine situations where youthful figures who have charismatic currency are tools of manipulation by a fascist regime.

I think it's one of the most important concerns to consider in the current political climate as the Bush administration begins setting-up shop in Iraq in every area imagineable from the news room to the schoolhouse. But also as the United States continues on this imperialistic road that will require a commitment from its citizens the Bush administration has yet to fully elaborate upon or gain consensus for, I think it's imperative we take heed of the ways in which our 'support' is being 'won'.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Israel's 'We have the right to kill you' visa for Gaza

Nigel Parry and Ali Abunimah have the details and relevant links of this act.

Seeking to sidestep Israeli legal responsibility for violence directed at activists who are confronting illegal Israeli actions in occupied Gaza, the document assumes the following responsibility onto the signer:

"I am aware of the risks involved and accept that the Government of the State of Israel and its organs cannot be held responsible for death, injury and/or damage/loss of property which may be incurred as a result of military activity."
In essence, the form represents an Israeli 'We have the right to kill you' visa for Gaza.

The new measure additionally aims to bar all internationals from key areas of Gaza. "The Military Installation Area along the border with Egypt," states the text, "is IDF administered territory and is strictly out of bounds to foreign nationals. Please note that this area has been the site of intense hostilities and is extremely dangerous."
Blogging around...

Daily Kos has some thoughts on Hatch, fillibusters, and GOP hypocrisy.

Body and Soul has an interesting follow-up to a post about conservatives and human rights.

Atrios points to a question not answered for 8 years during the Clinton Whitewater affair and posed to Susan Schmidt during the recent WaPo Live Chat. He also links to an older Joe Conason article about the matter.

Hesiod points to some consequences of the slash and burn Bush/GOP handling of foreign opposition to their policies.

Silver Rights has a thought-provoking post about what to expect when a society is encouraged to become comfortable with bigotry.
Colo. Gov. Signs Redistricting Bill

Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill on Friday that redraws congressional districts that are less than 2 years old, a move that could bolster the GOP's slim advantage in a new congressional district.

Democrats vowed to challenge the redistricting in court.

and....

The new plan gives Republicans a 29,000-vote margin in the 7th Congressional District, which GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez won by a 121-vote margin in November. Previously, the district was evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The law also increases the margin of Republican voters in the 3rd Congressional District.

Reopening the redistricting process was unprecedented in Colorado politics, and some Democrats called it illegal. But Owens said earlier this week that Republicans had a duty to redraw the lines because the Legislature did not finish the job two years ago.

Texas is considering similar plans to redraw congressional districts. New Mexico, where Democrats are in control of the Legislature and the governor's office, abandoned plans to redraw the lines after drawing similar criticism.


Congressional Redistricting Maps

Friday, May 09, 2003

Lucky Leung

To put it mildly, Katrina Leung was a lady of many hats. Arriving from southern China at the age of 15, she became a successful entrepreneur and socialite, and later a donor and fund-raiser for political campaigns in California.

Most importantly, though, she was one of the FBI's most prized sources on matters Chinese for two decades, during which she was paid $1.7m (£1m) for services to national security. Alas, she may have been working for her country of birth all along.

This modern spy story became public on 9 April, when Ms Leung was arrested at her Los Angeles home on charges of improperly copying classified documents. Taken into custody with her was her FBI handler James J ("JJ") Smith, who had won a CIA intelligence prize largely on the strength of the information he had been passed by Ms Leung. The details were deemed precious enough to be worthy of presidential attention.

But the professional relationship gradually became personal, and the two began an affair that would lead to Mr Smith's disgrace.


Alleged Agent Gets Limited Indictment

A federal grand jury has issued a limited indictment against alleged Chinese double agent Katrina Leung, listing five charges that do not amount to espionage.

The charges come on the heels of similarly oblique charges against the retired FBI agent identified as her lover.


and...

Prosecutors say Leung, a valuable FBI source of Chinese intelligence for 18 years, was passing secret information obtained from Smith to China, including information from FBI files regarding Chinese fugitives, a telephone list of agents involved in an espionage case, lists of agents serving at overseas posts and other classified information.
Halliburton Discloses Bribery Payment

A subsidiary of Halliburton Co. paid a Nigerian tax official $2.4 million in bribes to get favorable tax treatment, the company disclosed in a federal filing.

In a filing made Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said its KBR subsidiary "made improper payments of approximately $2.4 million to an entity owned by a Nigerian national who held himself out as a tax consultant when in fact he was an employee of a local tax authority."


and...

In Nigeria, the engineering, construction and oil-field services company is constructing a liquefied natural gas plant and developing an offshore oil and gas facility.

Body and Soul has as excellent post about Nigeria.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The Compassionate Conservatives

Thanks to Dominion at A Skeptical Blog.

Finally some conservatives I can relate to.
Perle the Investment Counselor

The LA Times reports the latest on Richard Perle's 'axis of influence'.

Last February, the Defense Policy Board, a group of outside advisors to the Pentagon, received a classified presentation from the super-secret Defense Intelligence Agency on the crises in North Korea and Iraq.

Three weeks later, the then-chairman of the board, Richard N. Perle, offered a briefing of his own at an investment seminar on ways to profit from possible conflicts with both countries.

Perle and his fellow advisors also heard a classified address about high-tech military communications systems at the same closed-door session in February. He runs a venture capital firm that has been exploring investments in that very area.

The disclosures in recently released board agendas and investment documents are the latest illustrations of how Perle's private consulting and investment interests overlap with his role on the board, which advises the secretary of Defense.
Autopsy Shows British Cameraman Killed by IDF Fire

According to an AP wire report on the 4th the Israeli army was claiming Miller's death was the fault of Palestinians since he was shot from behind.

Today's Haaretz report of the autopsy proves this to be false.

A pathologist sent from Britain by Miller's family participated in the autopsy, the radio said. The dissection showed that the cameraman was shot from the front, and not from behind, as the IDF claimed. He was wearing a helmet and a flack jacket, but was hit in the neck.
One Toke Over The Line, Sweet Jesus

little red cookbook has an interesting item about the infamous Bush twins indulging in a hookah smoke-fest.

Atrios has the scoop.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Saddam Ally Appointed Health Minister

Doctors wearing their white coats peeled off from a demonstration of around 400 colleagues to hold heated exchanges with Ali Shnan al-Janabi, who was number three at the Health Ministry under President Saddam and has been appointed by the US-led Organisation of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs to head the ministry.

Imad Saud, a resident in cardiothoracic surgery, said: "Before the war, al-Janabi "was a faithful servant of Saddam. How can we trust him?"


Basra Suffers Cholera Outbreak

Health experts have been warning of the potential for a cholera outbreak, given the lack of clean water and sanitation in southern Iraq. Local hospitals have been reporting increasing numbers of patients admitted with diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal complaints.

Basra’s water treatment system was shut down during the war after coalition air strikes damaged the electric grid that powers the water plant. Residents in the city of 2 million went for several weeks without running water. Many collected their drinking water from the Shatt al-Arab river or pilfered water from working pipelines.

To relieve the water shortages, British forces and aid agencies continue to send water tankers through the city and surrounding towns daily. British engineers have succeeded in restoring about 80 per cent of the water system, but the lack of security in the city remains a major problem.


I watched a report about this on BBC last evening. The cholera is hitting the children of Basra very hard. The pictures of the suffering were extremely difficult to view. I can't say if these images are being shown on American news programs as it's been a while since I've bothered to watch them.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Soulmates Redux?

G8 ministers met yesterday and among other issues announced there is reason to believe Al-Qa'ida now has bases of operations in Chechnya and Georgia. John Ashcroft was in attendance.

It reminded me of an article posted on the Kavkaz Center, a site that went down around the time Chechen rebels took hostages at the Moscow Theater and it has yet to come back online or I'd link it. You might recall that horrendous event that Putin brought to a close by gassing the people trapped in the theater with a derivative of Fentanyl, a powerful opium-based narcotic. Sharon congratulated him. Bush refused to criticise him. 117 hostages died in the 58-hour siege.

But the article I recalled was an opinion that war in Iraq and Georgia would start at the same time. This is an excerpt;

Quoted figures of the so-called sociological poll only confirm our fears. Everything is actually ready for an invasion. The Kremlin is just waiting for a good opportunity, right time and proper international situation. So far the US position is holding them back, but once the war with Iraq starts, Washington will have no time for Georgia. As far as Europe goes, it actually gave Georgia up. This is the only way you can interpret the recent statement made by the European Union that the EU is not taking sides in the Russian-Georgian conflict. This unexpectedly demonstrative neutrality is nothing but a hint that Georgia should not expect any serious help from Europe

This Economist article published at the time describes a bit of the political climate and the atrocities both sides commit.

I remember wondering at the time if Putin was withholding support for the strike on Iraq in exchange for what appears to be happening now. A linking of the Chechens to Al-Qa'ida in order to eliminate his problem.

Is it just a coincidence that it was announced yesterday that Putin and Bush plan to meet later this month to discuss the militarization of space?

Update 5/8: Media Whores Online has noticed that Bush's recent photo-op 'jet gimmick' is eerily similar to a flight diversion Putin arranged when he was having domestic issues.
Israelis fire on parents of injured British peace activist

Mrs Hurndall, a schoolteacher from Tufnell Park, north London, said: "We were passing through the checkpoint very, very slowly when there was the sound of a bullet – it was like the sound of a large stone coming off the car.

"What struck me was the ludicrousness of the situation. Here we were, the parents and brother of someone who has been wounded by Israeli Defence Forces and who then fire a warning shot over our car for no apparent reason.

"It was a measure of the insanity that can take hold here." The single shot was fired from one of two watchtowers that stand above the checkpoint, causing the two British cars, identifiable by their white diplomatic plates, to come to an immediate halt.

Not until the defence attaché, Colonel Tom Fitzalan-Howard, had stepped from the car with his hands in the air to talk with the soldiers inside the tower was the convoy able to proceed.

Notice that the cars would be passing through Abu Khouli was given at least three times – in the days before the trip, just as it was setting off and 10 minutes before it arrived.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "A single warning shot was fired as our staff were crossing the checkpoint. No-one was injured but the incident has been raised with the Israeli Defence Forces."

It is understood that an Israeli Army captain at the checkpoint later told members of the convoy that the shot had been fired because the vehicles had not stopped. There was no order to do so.
Messy Questions of Legality

John Howard told the UN Monday there should be no further talk about whether or not the pre-emptive strike on Iraq was legal.

Mr Howard also rejected suggestions that Australia supported the war to position itself as a key member of a new "Anglosphere" of power in world politics.

The debate over post-war arrangements, such as the role of the UN in Iraq, should not become "an arena to debate again old arguments", he said.

"As long as there is not an attempt to redebate the whole issue and the rights and wrongs of it, I think everyone can move forward in a very practical and sensible way."


Key nations at the UN, including Security Council members Russia and France, strongly disagree with that view. Those countries that opposed the war have indicated they will not support the removal of UN sanctions on Iraq unless the issue of whether the action was supported under international law is resolved.

The Security Council resolutions imposed on Iraq say that the sanctions regime can only be removed when UN weapons inspectors have verified that the country has no more weapons of mass destruction.

The US is planning to put a new resolution amending that stand to allow the lifting of sanctions if it and its coalition partners in the war can supply that verification.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whom Mr Howard met in New York on Monday, has supported the return of the UN weapons inspectors to continue their work.

Mr Howard said it was up to the Security Council to decide whether the inspectors should return and "the rationale, the raison d'etre for the sanctions has disappeared".

Australia had no say in the final decision on the UN inspectors because it was not on the Security Council, he said.

However, the US, a permanent member, strongly opposes the inspectors' return.
Another one bites the dust

Mitch Daniels resigns.

WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) -- Mitch Daniels Jr., the head of the White House's Office of Management and Budget who serves as the Bush administration's chief number cruncher, resigned Tuesday.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Daniels resignation, which was made in a letter to President George W. Bush, will take effect in 30 days.

"The president tremendously appreciates his service to the nation," Fleischer said.

He said Bush considered Daniels a good leader and strong man and a "wise steward of the tax dollar."

No reason was given for Daniels' departure, but there has long been speculation that he intends to a run for Indiana's governorship.

Daniels' resignation comes amid Bush's continued hard push for Congress to pass his $550 billion economic stimulus package, which includes accelerated tax cuts.

Daniels was a pharmaceutical industry executive before joining the administration following Bush's win in the 2000 election.

From 1971 to 1982, he was an aide to Richard Lugar, R-Ind., when Lugar was the mayor of Indianapolis and then when he was elected to the Senate.

A replacement for Daniels has not been announced.


Update 5/8: BuzzFlash broke the news yesterday that Daniels' resignation may not be so innocent. Joe Conason adds some details and links.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Choice Point

Nathan Newman points us to a Guardian article that exposes this international scheme perpetrated by Choice Point.

Governments across Latin America have launched investigations after revelations that a US company is obtaining extensive personal data about millions of citizens in the region and selling it to the Bush administration.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that the company, ChoicePoint, received at least $11m (£6.86m) last year in return for its data, which includes Mexico's entire list of voters, including dates of birth and passport numbers, as well as Colombia's citizen identification database.


As Nathan reminds us this is the same Choice Point involved in the 2000 election Florida voter-roll purgings.

Nathan also has a post about the recent unemployment numbers that's a must read.

In fact read everything while you're there. It's all good.

Update 5/6: Hesiod is all over the Choice Point story and has been since 4/30.
Speaking of Holidays

May Day is recognised by some as the "Real Labor Day' and celebrated widely for these reasons.

Well in what has become standard practise for the Bush administration when faced with a holiday that honors moments in history they don't cotton to, they simply create a new one.

How does 'Loyalty Day' strike you?

Thanks anyway, Rove.

"Workmen, let your watchword be: No compromise! Cowards to the rear! Men to the front! The die is cast. The first of May, whose historic significance will be understood and appreciated only in later years, has come." —Albert Spies, May 1886
Mother's Day: a call for women to demand peace

Geov Parrish reminds us about the true meaning behind the establishment of Mother's Day and reprints the 1870 call by American poet and women's leader Julia Ward Howe.

Here is the original, pre-Hallmark, Mother's Day Proclamation, penned in Boston by Julia Ward Howe in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.
Rumsfeld And The OSP

According to the Independent Rummy's soundbites have become something of an institution among the UK press crowd.

"The tortured syntax, the rolling eyes and the faintly incomprehensible, slightly menacing utterances"

Rumsfeld...

"is mocked on the British airwaves – notably BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House, which created a Rumsfeld Soundbite of the Week feature."

But while the Brits hold no illusions about Rummy's sincerity, tactical prowess and diplomatic finesse it would seem Americans are more easily bamboozled.

According to the Spacewar article

US insistence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is based on dubious intelligence from a shadowy Pentagon committee that now dominates US foreign policy, according to The New Yorker magazine.

By late last year, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (OSP) had grown to become President George W. Bush's main intelligence source, particularly over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the country's links to al-Qaeda, the magazine reported in its May 12 edition.

But the OSP, the brainchild of US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, relied on questionable intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.

"You had to treat them with suspicion. The INC has a track record of manipulating intelligence because it has an agenda. It's a political unit, not an intelligence agency," a former senior CIA official specialising in the Middle East said in the article written by Seymour Hersh.

"One of the reasons I left was my sense that they (the Pentagon) were using the intelligence from the CIA and the other agencies only when it fit their agenda. They didn't like the intelligence they were getting and so they brought people in to write the stuff," the same official said.

"They were so crazed and far out and so difficult to reason with, to the point of being bizarre. Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God," he added.

W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the Pentagon's own intelligence agency, the DIA, told the magazine that the SPO's influence has spread beyond Iraq.

"The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government's foreign policy, and they've pulled it off ... The DIA has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there's no guts at all in the CIA," he said.


So why is it Americans are buying into this while our British counterparts can see through it? I would love to see the equivalent of a Rummy 'Soundbite of the Week' on tv. Heck I might even start watching it again. There was a time when our 'leaders' weren't spared the wrath of commentators, remember? It did happen even if it seems to have occurred in an alternate reality that no longer exists.

If there were such a show they could lampoon these recent comments ;

"I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. Saddam Hussein and his entire regime learned to live with UN inspections," Rumsfeld told "Fox News Sunday."

"The intelligence shows that they were systematically trying to prevent the inspectors from finding them."

"We're going to find what we find as a result of talking to people, I believe, not simply by going to some site and hoping to discover it," he said.

Asked if senior Iraqi officials now in US custody were providing information on weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said lower-ranking officials would likely provide the most interesting leads.

"We're going to have to find people not at the very senior level, who are vulnerable, obviously, if they're in custody, but it will be people down below who had been involved in one way or another."

Rumsfeld said he still did know whether the deposed Iraqi leader was alive, but added: "If I had to guess, I would suspect that he may very well be alive."

"He and his crowd are gone. They're either in a tunnel someplace or in a basement hiding. We'll find them, if he's alive."


Update 5/6: Sisyphus Shrugged has the link to The New Yorker article mentioned above.
Palestinians evicted as Iraqis come home

Hundreds of Palestinian families who have lived in Iraq for more than 50 years are finding themselves on the streets after being evicted from their homes after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

More than 35,000 Palestinians who lived in Iraq since they were displaced from their homeland upon Israel's founding in 1948 have enjoyed Saddam's protection, often housed in the homes of Iraqis evicted by authorities for opposing the government, or in government property.

But now that US troops have toppled Saddam, many have found themselves on the streets after some original homeowners returned to claim their property or when other Iraqis, taking advantage of the legal vacuum after Baghdad's fall last month, have simply taken over government houses, forcing tenants out.

Anwar al-Awawda, who runs a health clinic, said about 350 families had moved into tents set up in the clinic's courtyard around an unexploded US missile in Baghdad's Baladiyat area.

"Now there is no government, some 350 Palestinian families have been expelled from their houses and the number is on the rise every hour," Dr Awawda said.

He said the families, who were sharing 64 tents, were mostly living on hand-outs from charities or neighbours. Other Palestinians have moved in with relatives.

"I left my grown-up daughters and my wife at a house of one of my relatives," said Samir Mohammed, 44.

"I cannot bring them here."

Some of the families said they were given time to evacuate their homes, but others were forced to leave on the spot.

"They kicked me out of the house and hit my daughter," said Hayat Hussein, 40, a mother of four. Sitting in a bare tent except for a rug and clothes, Mrs Hussein said she had sold her furniture to buy food.

Another woman, Fatima Khudhur, said: "They threatened us with guns to force us to leave. We left our things with our relatives. There is no place for them here."

Many camp dwellers regretted Saddam's downfall. "No one dared to harm us when he was here," said Thamir Mohammed.
Blogging Around...

Arms And The Man: A daily stop since everything Major Barbara posts is well worth a read, especially this continuing series on Halliburton and shell subsidiaries.

Counterspin Central: Hesiod admits he didn't watch the Democratic debate. I guess I avoided it as well as I put it way down low on my priorities list. Go to Hesiod's post to get some links to people who did.

Via Atrios: Max Sawicky has a rundown as well.

Ha! Watching the debate via C-Span just now. Sharpton compared the Bush tax cut to Jim Jones giving out Kool Aid because it tastes good.

Max addresses Sharpton's remarks about tax cuts and also has a few opinions on Kucinich and the so-called 'kook' factor.

It's always amazed me how strongly people claim to want change until they're presented with an opportunity to enact it at which point they scramble for reasons to decry it. Why must the pursuit of progressive ideals translate into ideas that are 'out of touch'?

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Rice actions on Syria disputed

Anna Perez, White House communications counselor, Friday sharply contested a United Press International report that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and political adviser Karl Rove shut down a Pentagon plan to expand the Iraqi ground war to Syria in closing days of combat.

"That never happened," she said. "It is a complete fabrication."

Perez also said there was no meeting on this subject at the White House with Israeli National Security Adviser Efrian Halevy and other officials.

UPI's report, published Friday afternoon, quoted unidentified administration officials as saying that a combination of Pentagon hawks and senior Israeli officials had been pressing the United States to expand the ground war to Syria. The officials spoke to UPI on condition of anonymity.


And this;

In response to Halevy's entreaties for action, these sources said, Rice repeated an assertion that the White House did not want any further military campaigns for the rest of Bush's first term, according to the sources. They said Rumsfeld objected, and, at one point, turned to Rove and asked his opinion. Rove said the president agreed with Rice, and the meeting came to an end, the sources said.

At least for now it seems Rove is satisfied enough of the public is convinced Iraq is tied to al-Qaeda and confident the taxpayer-funded photo-ops from the USS Abraham Lincoln will keep that message alive during the 2004 re-election campaign. I wonder how long the alleged optimism will last considering this Yahoo article that exposes Fleischer's lie that Bush had to fly onto the carrier.

Fleischer had said last week that Bush would have to fly out to the carrier by plane because the Lincoln would be hundreds of miles offshore, making helicopter travel impractical.

As it turned out, the ship was just 39 miles from the coast when Bush scored a presidential first by landing on the flight deck in a small S-3B Viking jet that was snared by a restraining wire. He climbed out of the cockpit wearing a flight suit and carrying a helmet under his arm, and was swarmed by crew members. The scene was captured on live television and replayed again and again.

"He could have helicoptered, but the plan was already in place," Fleischer said. "Plus, he wanted to see a landing the way aviators see a landing."


Mr. Bush claimed to miss flying. To hear just how much flying he missed during the time he can be accounted for during his National Guard service, listen to this Democracy NOW! interview. Joe Conason addresses this and more.

Yet while Rove is saying 'No, No' others may not be convinced. Powell in Syria 'laying down the law'.