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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bush Family Values

This is not satire. More info and a petition, here...

It Could Be Dick

That's the latest rumor on Traitorgate, via Raw Story:
A lawyer who knows Mr. Libby's account said the administration efforts to limit the damage from Mr. Wilson's criticism extended as high as Mr. Cheney. This lawyer and others who spoke about the case asked that they not be identified because of grand jury secrecy rules. On July 12, 2003, four days after his initial conversation with Ms. Miller, Mr. Libby consulted with Mr. Cheney about how to handle inquiries from journalists about the vice president's role in sending Mr. Wilson to Africa in early 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq was trying acquire nuclear material there for its weapons program, the person said. In that account, Mr. Cheney told Mr. Libby to direct reporters to a statement released the previous day by George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence. His statement said Mr. Wilson had been sent on the mission by C.I.A. counter-proliferation officers "on their own initiative."


We are not the only ones disillusioned with Bushco's little adventure...
Two and a half years after the American invasion, the violence shows no sign of relenting, and life for middle-class Iraqis seems only to be getting worse. Educated, invested in businesses and properties and eager for change, the middle class here had everything to gain from the American effort. But frustration is hardening into hopelessness, as families feel increasingly trapped by the many forces that are threatening to tear the country apart.

Insurgents fight gun battles on their streets. Sectarian divisions are seeping into their children's classrooms and even their own dinner table discussions. Their secular voices are barely audible above the din of religious politicians and the poorer Iraqis they appeal to. The daily life the middle class describe is an obstacle course of gasoline lines, blocked roads and late-night generator repairs.


Like many Iraqis, Mr. Abdul-Razzaq said, he despised Saddam Hussein. His uncle was in prison for four years. As an officer in the Iraqi Army, he saw five of his friends executed for treason in 1983 during the war with Iran. But he also enjoyed benefits from his connection with the military, securing contracts for spare parts after he quit. Still, Mr. Hussein's fall was a cause for celebration, and he had high hopes for his future here.

But the rise of the religious parties in the past seven months has sapped Mr. Abdul-Razzaq of his remaining hope. The middle class is largely secular, and most of its members are put off by the religious parties that appeal to the poor Shiite masses on the one hand and to embittered Sunnis, who lost their status after the American-led invasion, on the other. Mr. Abdul-Razzaq voted for a Shiite because the candidate was secular.

The religious Shiite government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, Mr. Abdul-Razzaq said, is pursuing an agenda that favors religious Shiites, driving a wedge deeper into the dangerous divisions in Iraqi society. "The Americans put us in a ridiculous situation," he said. "They came to Iraq and all the religious parties came with them. The religious man in Iraq is like a fox."

Vaccine May Cause Neurological Disorder

The Associated Press reports:
The government is investigating five reports of teenagers who came down with a serious neurological disorder after receiving a new vaccine against meningitis. Doctors don't yet know whether the cases of Guillain Barre syndrome are related to the shot, called Menactra, or are coincidence, the Food and Drug Administration emphasized Friday. The government recommends the vaccine for adolescents and college freshmen living in dormitories, and FDA said there was no reason to change that advice, but it alerted the public as a precaution.
Speaking of the FDA, guess who's in charge... Another Bush crony. Ah, what a comforting thought. And even more alarming, he is a "vocal supporter of faster drug approvals." Gee, do you think more testing could have prevented the above?

Great Progress In Iraq

Drink up...

The Grand Charade

Breaking News: It's illegal for the White House to give payola to reporters. No shit. You don't say. Just like every other crime committed by the Bush Administration, it's not a matter of having enough evidence to make the case. The real problem lies in the utter lack of integrity in the entire political system as a whole - or more to the point, those responsible for maintaining the process. In other words, why would should we expect any honesty from an administration that is built on cronyism to its core. How can we expect Bushco to yield any sense of accountability, when the opposition party has proved be anything but that. How can we expect any retribution, when the press rarely holds the feet of any administration official to the fire. Yes, there have been some instances lately, but it's long overdue and hardly adequate. Until there are any real consequences for the Administration's sins, there will never be any need for them to repent. There is no longer any checks and balances... Only enablers and apologists. It's not a question as to who is on the payola, it's a question as to who is not.

Friday, September 30, 2005


Because of the lack of progress (piss-poor leadership in Washington) and instability in the region (civil war), the withdrawal of troops isn't going to happen any time soon (2, 4, 10 years)...

Sunni Arab opposition to Iraq's draft constitution has increased the potential for instability and called into question U.S. hopes for substantial troop cuts next spring, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Friday. Gen. George Casey, speaking at a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said his prediction in July that "fairly substantial" troop withdrawals could begin next spring was based on a key assumption: that satisfactory progress on the political and security fronts would continue. [...] Indeed, violence in Iraq has increased as Sunni insurgents strike at Shiites and try to undermine the October voting on the proposed constitution. At least 200 people have been killed in the past five days, including 13 U.S. service members.


The underbelly of America has been exposed for all to see this week. First Bill Bennet's "extrapolations", and now the "HUD Chief foresees a 'whiter' Big Easy":
A Bush Cabinet officer predicted this week that New Orleans likely will never again be a majority black city, and several black officials are outraged. Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."


Other members of the caucus said the comments by Mr. Jackson, who is black, could be misconstrued as a goal, particularly considering his position of responsibility in the administration. "I would beg and hope that the secretary, if that is what he is saying, would re-evaluate the situation," said Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat. Mr. Jackson, whose remarks were reported by the Houston Chronicle, said New Orleans might reach a population of 375,000 people sometime late next year with a black population of about 40 percent at the highest, down from 67 percent before Hurricane Katrina sent a storm surge that overwhelmed New Orleans levees and flooded 80 percent of the city.
The question that begs to be asked: What can we do about it?

Thank You Senator Dodd, But Where Are Your Peers?

From the Office of Senator Chris Dodd:
[September 29, 2005] Sen. Chris Dodd today announced that he will introduce legislation directing the Department of Defense to reimburse soldiers who purchase essential military equipment for serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The United States government has few higher priorities than the safety and well-being of U.S. troops deployed in harm's way. In my view, that starts with equipping them with the gear they need to operate safely and successfully," said Dodd. "But when it comes to backing our troops in this way, the Administration is either showing complete incompetence or utter indifference. That's why I'm once again introducing legislation to allow for our troops, their family members and others to be reimbursed for critical safety equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan. We shouldn't have to introduce a law for this to happen. American can do better and it must."

After troubling reports surfaced of troops digging into their own pockets to purchase critical safety equipment, Dodd authored legislation last year to reimburse them, their families, and charitable groups for these purchases. Despite President Bush signing the bill into law in October 2004, the Department of Defense has yet to comply as was required by February 25, 2005. The current law allows for claims of up to $1,100 to be filed by U.S. troops and evaluated and approved by the Secretary of Defense. These reimbursements were to be made for purchases made between September 11, 2001 and July 31, 2004.

Since the Secretary of Defense has yet to comply, Dodd's legislation would take the reimbursement program out of the Defense Secretary's hands and instead allow troops' unit commanders to decide which equipment was eligible for reimbursement. In addition, the measure would cover all purchases made for troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan because reports still indicate that military personnel continue to be insufficiently equipped.
This timeline includes the correspondence between Dodd and Rumsfeld, as well as other relevant documents detailing the Defense Department's non-compliance with the law.

False Extrapolations

This time, from Donald Rumsfeld...
Law enforcement officials are up in arms over Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's claim that the infiltration of insurgents into Iraqi security forces is comparable to problems encountered by U.S. police departments. "It's a problem faced by police forces in every major city in our country, that criminals infiltrate and sign up to join the police force," Rumsfeld said during Senate testimony Thursday. "We know that this is a difficulty." The secretary was responding to claims by Iraqi officials and U.S. military officers that a majority of Iraqi security units have been infiltrated by terrorists posing as recruits.


"The secretary's comment was flippant and reflects a fundamental lack of understanding about what American police departments are all about," said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, which represents 238,000 officers in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and other cities. "It's absurd to equate the idea that background checks may occasionally miss a shoplifting charge or somebody who smoked dope as a kid with a person who wires themselves with explosives and blows themselves up in a dining hall," he added.

The Draft

With numbers like these, it may soon be the Pentagon's only option:
The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth. Many in Congress believe the Army needs to get bigger — perhaps by 50,000 soldiers over its current 1 million — in order to meet its many overseas commitments, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army already is on a path to add 30,000 soldiers, but even that will be hard to achieve if recruiters cannot persuade more to join the service.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Downward Spiral

Troubling times for the Grand Old Party:
On almost every front, Republicans see trouble. Bush is at the low point of his presidency, with Iraq, hurricane relief, rising gasoline prices and another Supreme Court vacancy all problems to be solved. Congressional Republicans have seen their approval ratings slide throughout the spring and summer; a Washington Post-ABC News poll in August found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the lowest rating in eight years.

On the ethics front, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under investigation for selling stock in his family's medical business just before the price fell sharply. The probe of well-connected lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former close associate of DeLay, threatens to create even more troubles for Republicans. Finally, the special counsel investigation into whether White House senior adviser Karl Rove or others in the administration broke the law by leaking the name of the CIA's Valerie Plame is nearing a conclusion.


What worries Republicans is the confluence of a large number of scandals when Bush and the GOP Congress are at the weakest point in years. In the same fortnight as DeLay's indictment and Frist coming under an ethics cloud, David H. Safavian was arrested in connection with the Abramoff investigation days after resigning as the government's top procurement officer.

At an earlier point, Bush could have provided political cover for scandals that touched one or another Republican elected official. But with his approval ratings in the low 40s, there is little to prop up the party's image when congressional leaders are under investigation. Already there have been signs that Bush's influence with members of his own party was beginning to wane as House Republicans look to 2006. Without DeLay in power, the prospects of further splintering increase, adding to perceptions of a party in growing disarray.

Judith Miller Released

And Scooter Libby was her source:

After nearly three months in jail, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify in the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA officer, two people familiar with the case said. Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Legal sources said she would appear before a grand jury investigation the case Friday morning. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings. The sources said Miller agreed to testify after securing an unconditional release from Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to testify about any discussions they had involving CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Judge Demands Abu Ghraib Media

The Associated Press reports:
A federal judge Thursday ordered the release of dozens more pictures of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib, rejecting government arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said that terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail. [...] Hellerstein ordered the release of 74 pictures and three videotapes from the Abu Ghraib prison, potentially opening the military up to more embarrassment from a scandal that stirred outrage around the world last year when photos of 2003 abuse became public.
I shudder to think what they are trying to hide, considering what we have already seen...

The Compassionate One

Dubya granted 14 pardons yesterday:
Jesse Ray Harvey of Scarbro, W.Va., was given a 25-month sentence in 1990 after his conviction for using explosives to damage Milburn Colliery. The mine had been the target of a long strike by about 45 members of a United Mine Workers local.

Gene Armand Bridger, Elkhart, Ind., conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, sentenced May 29, 1963, to five years probation.

Cathryn Iline Clasen-Gage, Rockwall, Texas, misprision of a felony, sentenced Aug. 21, 1992, to 18 months in prison and a year of supervised release.

Thomas Kimble Collinsworth, Buckner, Ark., receipt of a stolen motor vehicle that had been transported in interstate commerce, sentenced Aug. 22, 1989, to three years probation and a $5,000 fine.

Morris F. Cranmer Jr., Little Rock, Ark., making materially false statements to a federally insured institution, sentenced March 30, 1988 to nine months in jail.

Rusty Lawrence Elliott, Mount Pleasant, Tenn., making counterfeit money, sentenced April 26, 1991, to a year and a day in prison, two years supervised release and a $500 fine.

Adam Wade Graham, Salt Lake City, Utah, conspiracy to deliver 10 or more grams of LSD, sentenced Nov. 23, 1992 to 30 months in prison and five years of supervised release, including 250 hours of community service.

Rufus Edward Harris, Canon, Ga., possession of tax-unpaid whiskey, sentenced June 17, 1963, to two years in prison, possession and sale of tax-unpaid whiskey. He also was on May 28, 1970 to five years in prison, later reduced to two years probation.

Larry Paul Lenius, Moorhead, Minn., conspiracy to distribute cocaine, sentenced Sept. 29, 1989, to 36 months probation and payment of $2,500 in restitution.

Larry Lee Lopez, Bokeelia, Fla., conspiracy to import marijuana, sentenced July 19, 1985 to three years probation.

Bobbie Archie Maxwell, Lansing, Mich., mailing a threatening letter, sentenced Sept. 6, 1962, to 12 months probation.

Denise Bitters Mendelkow, Salt Lake City, Utah, embezzlement by a bank employee, sentenced May 21, 1981, to two years probation.

Michael John Pozorski, Schofield, Wis., unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm, sentenced Sept. 14, 1988, to four years probation and payment of a $750 fine.

Mark Lewis Weber, Sherwood, Ark., selling Quaalude tablets, selling, using and possessing marijuana, sentenced Aug. 20, 1981, following Air Force court-martial to 30 months confinement at hard labor, forfeiture of 30 months pay at $334 a month and a dishonorable discharge.
What was the selection process? Friends of friends? Favorite pastimes? One can only wonder.


More carnage in Iraq...
More than 50 people were killed in a series of three apparently coordinated car bomb attacks in the mixed Shi'ite and Sunni Arab town of Balad, north of Baghdad, on Thursday, Iraqi police said. They said bombs went off after dark near a busy market in a predominantly Shi'ite area, in a street with a bank and next to a police station in the town about 90 km north of Baghdad, killing at least 50 and wounding around 100.
For what noble cause?

Write Your Own Caption

Supporting Our Troops

The Bushco way:
Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq. Soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won't provide. One U.S. senator said Wednesday he will try again to force the Pentagon to obey the reimbursement law it opposed from the outset and has so far not implemented.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he will offer amendments to the defense appropriations bill working its way through Congress, to take the funding issue out of the hands of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and give control to military unit commanders in the field. "Rumsfeld is violating the law," Dodd said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's been sitting on the books for over a year. They were opposed to it. It was insulting to them. I'm sorry that's how they felt."

Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said the department "is in the final stages of putting a reimbursement program together and it is expected to be operating soon." But defense officials would not discuss the reason for the delay. Krenke said the Pentagon's first priority is to ensure that soldiers "have all they need to fight and win this nation's wars."

"Your expectation is that when you are sent to war, that our government does everything they can do to protect the lives of our people, and anything less than that is not good enough," said a former Marine who spent nearly $1,000 two weeks ago to buy lower-body armor for his son, a Marine serving in Fallujah. The father asked that he be identified only by his first name — Gordon — because he is afraid of retribution against his son. "I wouldn't have cared if it cost us $10,000 to protect our son, I would do it," said Gordon. "But I think the U.S. has an obligation to make sure they have this equipment and to reimburse for it. I just don't support Donald Rumsfeld's idea of going to war with what you have, not what you want. You go to war prepared, and you don't go to war until you are prepared."


Soldiers and their families have reported buying everything from higher-quality protective gear to armor for their Humvees, medical supplies and even global positioning devices. "The bottom line is that Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department are failing soldiers again," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for Iraq veterans. "It just became an accepted part of the culture. If you were National Guard or Reserve, or NCOs, noncommissioned officers, you were going to spend a lot of money out of your pocket," said Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division and served in Iraq from the invasion in March 2003 to spring 2004. "These are bureaucratic failures, but when they make mistakes like this, guys die. There has been progress made, but we're still seeing serious shortages."

Dodd said he is worried the Pentagon will reject most requests for reimbursement. Turning the decision over to the troop commanders will prevent that, he said, because the commanders know what their soldiers need and will make better decisions about what to reimburse. Dodd also said he wants to eliminate the deadline included in the original law, which allowed soldiers to seek reimbursement for items bought between September 2001 and July 2004. Now, he said, he wants it to be open-ended. "I'm tired of this, obviously they're not getting the job done," said Dodd. "If you have to go out and buy equipment to protect yourself, you're going to get reimbursed."

Information Technology

The latest scapegoat in Katrinagate:
Former FEMA director Michael Brown was warned weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit that his agency's backlogged computer systems could delay supplies and put personnel at risk during an emergency, according to an audit released Wednesday. An internal review of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's information-sharing system shows it was overwhelmed during the 2004 hurricane season. The audit was released a day after Brown vehemently defended FEMA for the government's dismal response to Katrina, instead blaming state and local officials for poor planning and chaos during the Aug. 29 storm and subsequent flooding.

The review by Homeland Security Department acting Inspector General Richard L. Skinner examined FEMA's response to four major hurricanes and a tropical storm that hit Florida and the Gulf Coast in August and September 2004. It noted FEMA's mission during disasters as rapid response and coordinating efforts among federal, state and local authorities. "However, FEMA's systems do not support effective or efficient coordination of deployment operations because there is no sharing of information," the audit found. "Consequently, this created operational inefficiencies and hindered the delivery of essential disaster response and recovery services," it said.

The Crime Rate

Bill Bennett (rightwing talk-radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education) has a suggestion:
But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Straight Talk On Iraq

Senator Russ Feingold:
I cannot support an Iraq policy that makes our enemies stronger and our own country weaker, and that is why I will not support staying the course the President has set. If Iraq were truly the solution to our national security challenges, this gamble with the future of the military and with our own economy might make sense. If Iraq, rather than such strategically more significant countries as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were really at the heart of the global fight against violent Islamist terrorism, this might make some sense. If it were true that fighting insurgents in Baghdad meant that we would not have to fight them elsewhere, all of the costs of this policy might make some sense. But these things are not true. Iraq is not the silver bullet in the fight against global terrorist networks. As I have argued in some detail, it is quite possible that the Administration's policies in Iraq are actually strengthening the terrorists by helping them to recruit new fighters from around the world, giving those jihadists on-the-ground training in terrorism, and building new, transnational networks among our enemies. Meanwhile the costs of staying this course indefinitely, the consequences of weakening America's military and America's economy, loom more ominously before us with each passing week. There is no leadership in simply hoping for the best. We must insist on an Iraq policy that works.

"Unabashed Partisan Zealot"

The smear of prosecutor Ronnie Earle has officially begun, with none other than Tom Delay himself, leading the charge (video).

Moral Values

The Bushco way:
With Gulf Coast governors pressing for action, Senate Finance Committee members complained Wednesday that the Bush administration is blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Meet David Dreier Roy Blunt

Research the next majority leader, on the issues... Please post any findings of note.


The Associated Press reports:
A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post. DeLay, 58, was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

"I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today," DeLay said in a statement. GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.

Criminal conspiracy is a state felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The potential two-year sentence forces DeLay to step down under House Republican rules. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president still considers DeLay a friend and effective leader in Congress. "Congressman DeLay is a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people," McClellan said. "I think the president's view is that we need to let the legal process work."

Cognitive Dissonance

Note the disconnect between the Top Stories and the Most Popular...

What's worse, to fall on the other side of the ideological spectrum, or just not care at all? At least one can attempt to reason with the former, the latter is not even aware of the debate.

66 Journalists Killed, Others Detained

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the Iraq conflict since March 2003. U.S. forces acknowledge killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled who was shot by American soldiers on Aug. 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. But the military say the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth journalist working for the agency, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a U.S. sniper. "The worsening situation for professional journalists in Iraq directly limits journalists' abilities to do their jobs and, more importantly, creates a serious chilling effect on the media overall," [Reuters Global Managing Editor David] Schlesinger wrote. "By limiting the ability of the media to fully and independently cover the events in Iraq, the U.S. forces are unduly preventing U.S. citizens from receiving information... and undermining the very freedoms the U.S. says it is seeking to foster every day that it commits U.S. lives and U.S. dollars," the letter said.

Schlesinger said the U.S. military had refused to conduct independent and transparent investigations into the deaths of the Reuters journalists, relying instead on inquiries by officers from the units responsible, who had exonerated their soldiers. The U.S. military had failed even to implement recommendations by its own inquiry into one of the deaths, that of award-winning Palestinian cameraman Mazen Dana who was shot dead while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in August 2003. Schlesinger said Reuters and other reputable international news organisations were concerned by the "sizeable and rapidly increasing number of journalists detained by U.S. forces".

He said most of these detentions had been prompted by legitimate journalistic activity such as possessing photographs and video of insurgents, which U.S. soldiers assumed showed sympathy with the insurgency. In most cases the journalists were held for long periods at Abu Ghraib or Camp Bucca prisons before being released without charge. At least four journalists working for international media are currently being held without charge or legal representation in Iraq. They include two cameramen working for Reuters and a freelance reporter who sometimes works for the agency. A cameraman working for the U.S. network CBS has been detained since April despite an Iraqi court saying his case does not justify prosecution. Iraq's justice minister has criticised the system of military detentions without charge.
Shockingly, these crimes against humanity have received very little attention in the Blogosphere, and of course the MSM... Please do your part to raise awareness. Pass it on.

More Looting

To the tune of $236 Million:
On Sept. 1, as tens of thousands of desperate Louisianans packed the New Orleans Superdome and convention center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pleaded with the U.S. Military Sealift Command: The government needed 10,000 berths on full-service cruise ships, FEMA said, and it needed the deal done by noon the next day.

The hasty appeal yielded one of the most controversial contracts of the Hurricane Katrina relief operation, a $236 million agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines for three ships that now bob more than half empty in the Mississippi River and Mobile Bay. The six-month contract -- staunchly defended by Carnival but castigated by politicians from both parties -- has come to exemplify the cost of haste that followed Katrina's strike and FEMA's lack of preparation.

To critics, the price is exorbitant. If the ships were at capacity, with 7,116 evacuees, for six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week, according to calculations by aides to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). A seven-day western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston can be had for $599 a person -- and that would include entertainment and the cost of actually making the ship move.

"When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight. A short-term temporary solution has turned into a long-term, grossly overpriced sweetheart deal for a cruise line," said Coburn and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a joint statement yesterday calling for a chief financial officer to oversee Katrina spending.
If you don't agree with this use of your tax dollar, please contact your Representative and Senator.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Republican Investigations

One winding up:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ratcheted up its probe of Senate Majority Leader Bill First's sale of HCA Inc. shares, granting agency staff more legal power to obtain evidence, people with direct knowledge of the inquiry said. The SEC authorized a formal order of investigation, which allows the agency's enforcement unit to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the order hasn't been made public. A formal order requires the approval of at least one of the SEC's five commissioners.
And one winding down:
A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments — possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case. Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code.

Brownie Blames Everybody... But Himself

Some highlights from today's hearing, via Olbermann's Countdown (video).

Anti-Incompetence Bill

It's a sad state of affairs when Congress has to legislate the need for competence in public office:
Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the Anti-Cronyism and Public Safety Act, which would prohibit the President from appointing unqualified individuals to critical public safety positions in the government. [...] The bill would require any presidential appointee for a public safety position to have proven, relevant credentials for that position. In addition, the legislation bars from appointment to an agency any individual who has been a lobbyist for an industry subject to the agency's authority during the preceding two years.
Kudos to Waxman and Pelosi for taking a stand.

Write Your Own Caption

The Patriot Act

As more details surface, the scarier it gets:
In August, a Connecticut library organization was served with a national security letter demanding sensitive information about patrons, including borrowed materials and Internet use. And since the USA Patriot Act says that anyone who receives such a letter is prohibited from ever telling anyone about the demand, this organization is known only as John Doe. Nevertheless, Doe decided to challenge the secret letter in court, and on Sept. 9 U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall said the gag order violates the First Amendment. "John Doe" has a First Amendment right to engage in the "current and lively debate in this country over the renewal of the Patriot Act," she ruled. An appeal by the government is expected.

Scant Fristing

Media Matters:
Since September 19, when Congressional Quarterly quoted a [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist aide acknowledging that Frist had ordered the trustee of his blind trust to sell all of his, his wife's, and his children's HCA stock, the Associated Press picked up the story September 20, followed by The New York Times (September 21), The Washington Post (September 22), and the Los Angeles Times (September 24). The AP reported on September 23 that federal prosecutors had served HCA with a subpoena for documents related to the sale of Frist's stock, and officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had contacted HCA to informally request the same documents. The AP also reported that Frist's office had been contacted by both the SEC and federal prosecutors.


As of September 26, ABC's World News Tonight has yet to cover the Frist story, although the program devoted broadcast time on September 21 to reporting on model Kate Moss's purported cocaine use. On September 23, World News Tonight featured a segment in which ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper reported from inside a wind tunnel to demonstrate the effects of hurricane-force winds on the human body.

CBS' Evening News gave passing mention to the Frist story on September 23 but did not report the subpoena of HCA documents by federal prosecutors or the informal request for documents by the SEC. CBS also failed to report that Frist's office had been contacted by federal prosecutors and the SEC. NBC's Nightly News also briefly covered the scandal September 23, reporting the prosecutors' subpoena and the SEC's document request, as well as the contact between Frist's office and federal officials. As of September 26, however, none of the networks' nightly news broadcasts has reported that Frist was caught in a lie regarding the extent of his knowledge of his blind trust's contents.
Ask them why: ABC, CBS, NBC

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

You just can make this stuff up... Fired for poor judgment, than rehired to evaluate said poor judgment:
CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

The Free Press

A dangerous precedent has been set:
[Spain's High Court] sentenced Al Jazeera journalist Tayseer Alouni to seven years in prison for collaborating with a terrorist group, a decision that drew strong criticism from the Arab broadcaster and international media groups. [...] The Arab satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera denounced the sentencing of Alouni, who interviewed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden shortly after the September 11 attacks. "This is a black day for the Spanish judiciary which has deviated from all the norms of international justice," Al Jazeera news editor Ahmed al-Sheikh told the station. A European media watchdog said the decision to jail him would set alarm bells ringing among investigative journalists. "Journalists have always investigated terrorist groups and their activities. It's part of our job," Jean-Francois Julliard, news editor of the Paris-based watchdog Reporters without Borders.

Cindy Sheehan Arrested

The Associated Press reports:
Sheehan and several dozen other protesters sat down on the sidewalk after marching along the pedestrian walkway on Pennsylvania Avenue. Police warned them three times that they were breaking the law by failing to move along, then began making arrests. Sheehan, 48, was the first taken into custody. She stood up and was led to a police vehicle while protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching." [...] Sheehan was among several hundred demonstrators who marched around the White House today and then stopped in front and began singing and chanting "Stop the war now!" The demonstration is part of a broader anti-war effort on Capitol Hill organized by United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group. Representatives from anti-war groups were meeting today with members of Congress to urge them to work to end the war and bring home the troops.

Setting Precedent

The Chinese Government has announced sweeping new controls on the fast-growing internet industry to put its content under the supervision of Communist Party propaganda officials, as is the case with print and broadcast media. "We need to better regulate the online news services with the emergence of so many unhealthy news stories that will easily mislead the public," a State Council (cabinet) spokesman was quoted as saying.


The tightened controls are part of a general crackdown on leaks and dissent in the media pursued by Hu Jintao, China's President and Communist Party leader, which saw the journalist Shi Tao jailed for 10 years for posting classified information on the net. The crackdown comes as foreign internet companies are rushing to build their position in a market likely to grow to 120 million web users by the end of this year. The market is forecast to grow by 28 per cent in one year as more consumers are poised to move into the credit card age, enabling an explosion of internet transactions.

The French press freedom group Reporters Without Borders recently revealed the US internet company Yahoo! provided China's secret police with the internet protocols allowing them to link Shi Tao with the leaked secret document circulating on the net. Yahoo! said that, as a company operating under Chinese law, it had to comply with police requests, though the information was actually provided by its Hong Kong arm, which is outside Chinese jurisdiction.

The Other Last Throes

The Pentagon publicly acknowledges that the war in Afghanistan is far from over...
Their tactics have changed, but a US military spokesman says rebels are still a threat in Afghanistan. Four years after US-led forces drove the hard-line Taliban from power, the spokesman says militants are no longer able to carry out large-scale attacks. But Colonel James Yonts says small pockets of rebels are resorting to roadside bombs and attacks on police. He calls it a "hit-and-run approach." Yonts also says rebels are recruiting younger fighters. Some are being paid, others are threatened. Insurgents also are relying on militants from other countries who are coming to Afghanistan. These new fighters are very young and inexperienced and there is no strong leader to bring them together. More than 12-hundred people have been killed in the last six months, many of them rebels.


All moral ideologies aside, one would expect better performance than this from the world's most powerful military:
US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel. A government report says that US forces are now using 1.8 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition a year. The total has more than doubled in five years, largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as changes in military doctrine. [...] But using these figures it works out at around 300,000 bullets per insurgent. Let's round that down to 250,000 so that we are underestimating."

Tortured Logic

If the Abu Ghraib detainees are such a danger to our national security, how is it they can be released as a "goodwill gesture"?
More than 1,000 prisoners held at Abu Ghraib jail will be released this week after a request by Iraqi authorities for a goodwill gesture to mark Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, the U.S. military said on Monday. The release will take place in stages over the coming week, with 500 prisoners to be set free on Monday, a statement said. [...] The releases also come just days after a report by Human Rights Watch that detailed further allegations of abuse and torture by U.S. soldiers of Iraqi detainees at other facilities.
And how much of a justifiable threat are the rest of the prisoners... All 11,800 of them?
U.S. forces are holding about 11,800 prisoners at several detention centres in Iraq, with the largest number, 6,300, held at Camp Bucca in the south. About 4,200 are currently held at Abu Ghraib, which is notorious for the images of U.S. soldiers mocking, physically abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners that emerged last year.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why Does Fox News Hate America?

The Israel National News reports:
Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has purchased 5.46 percent of the Fox corporation, according to Gulf Daily News, raising concern that the conservative Fox News may soften its anti-terror stance due to the views of the new shareholder.

Poor George

He's been running around like a crazed hurricane chaser reminiscent of something on the Discovery Channel, and he's not getting enough beauty sleep:
The president didn't look all that relieved or happy, however. His eyes were puffy from lack of sleep (he had been awakened all through the night with bulletins), and he seemed cranky and fidgety. A group of reporters and photographers had been summoned by White House handlers to capture a photo op of the commander in chief at his post. Bush stared at them balefully. He rocked back and forth in his chair, furiously at times, asked no questions and took no notes. It almost seemed as though he resented having to strike a pose for the press.
Oh, his poor beautiful mind.

Moving Forward

Michael Ignatieff:

The most terrible price of Katrina - everyone can see this - was not the destruction of lives and property, terrible though this was. The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together. It is very much too late for senior federal officials, from the president on down, to reknit these ties. It is just too late for the public-relations exercises that pass for leadership these days, the fine speeches from the Oval Office or other stage-managed venues. The real work of healing will be done by citizens much lower down the chain of command: the schoolteachers and superintendents of public school systems around the country who are taking in children and putting them through the healing routines of the school day; the morticians who do what they can to respect the dead; the National Guardsmen who protect the vacant city; the officials and business people who plan its rebirth. To an important degree, the future of confidence in American government will depend not on the leaders who failed their trust but on the foot-soldiers who did not and whom Americans can only hope will do the right thing now. Millions of acts of common decency and bureaucratic courage will be necessary before all Americans, and not just the storm victims, feel that they live, once again, in a political community and not in a savage and lawless swamp.

400 Attend Pro-War Rally

With support like this, I find it hard to believe Dubya manages even a 40% approval...
Support for U.S. troops fighting abroad mixed with anger toward anti-war demonstrators at home as hundreds of people, far fewer than organizers had expected, rallied Sunday on the National Mall just a day after a massive protest against the war in Iraq. [...] About 400 people gathered near a stage on an eastern segment of the mall, a large patchwork American flag serving as a backdrop. Amid banners and signs proclaiming support for U.S. troops, several speakers hailed the effort to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan and denounced those who protest it.

Meanwhile, Over In Freeperville

The Little Green Footballs attempt to discredit the success of the Anti-War Rally by minimizing the turnout:
What If They Gave a Protest and Nobody Came? Getty Images has some interesting photos from today's "anti-war" demonstration in Washington, DC, hosted by the peace-loving Stalinists of International ANSWER. The interesting part: no overall crowd shots so we can gauge the size. The only crowd shot I've seen so far is at Yahoo, where it looks like the turnout was much less than 100,000 people. The biggest crowd seems to have been at the free concert.
And Red State simply calls the attendees a bunch of America haters:
These people represent part of the face of the peace movement. It is a movement that hates capitalism, hates Christianity, hates Bush, and hates you. The peace movement is no longer about peace. It is about the destruction of our way of life. It is not that the peace movement could be about peace. But, those who want peace have delegated to the effective leaders. The effective leaders want peace and think peace means the destruction of the United States.

The Protest Gets National Coverage

But the numbers are downplayed, if mentioned at all...

Boston Globe:
In a daylong marathon of protest, more than 100,000 antiwar demonstrators -- echoing the marches of a generation ago, but adding a 21st century global component -- rallied in Washington, London, and other cities yesterday to demand that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain withdraw military forces from Iraq. The young and the old, longtime peace activists and first-time protesters, gathered on the National Mall in what was billed as the largest antiwar demonstration since the war began in March 2003. In the British capital earlier in the day, police estimated that 10,000 chanted "out of Iraq" and blew horns as they converged on Hyde Park in central London.
Houston Chronicle:
Vast numbers of protesters from across the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. A sea of anti-administration signs and banners flashed back at a long succession of speakers, who sharply rebuked the administration for continuing a war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis.
LA Times:
Capping a summer of rising discontent with the war in Iraq, tens of thousands of protesters marched through cities across the nation Saturday to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. Crowds shrugged off chilly rains and breakdowns in public transportation to greet Cindy Sheehan and her traveling antiwar vigil in Washington. In Los Angeles, actors and politicians led a long procession of protesters through downtown. And in San Diego, war veterans were among the thousands who gathered at a peaceful rally at a park. Thousands also protested in London.
Miami Herald:
Bush wasn't in Washington. He was monitoring hurricane relief efforts at the military's U.S. Northern Command headquarters in Colorado and then in Texas. Organizers of the rally, the third mass protest since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, hoped to stir more anti-war sentiment, win over Americans unsure about the war and increase pressure on Bush and Congress to bring U.S. troops home. "We are at a tipping point whereby the anti-war sentiment has now become the majority sentiment," said Brian Becker, a coordinator for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, one of the groups that organized the rally.
Minnesota Star Tribune:
Tens of thousands of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq marched on the nation's capital Saturday through a gray drizzle, led by a mix of newcomers and established figures from the Vietnam and civil rights movements. The demonstrators included hundreds of Minnesotans, many of whom traveled by bus overnight.
Estimated 150,000 attend demonstration in Washington, D.C., including LI teens with boyfriends in Iraq. Stefanie Baum and Abi Carson hardly blended in to the "tattooed freaks and hippies and radicals" Baum saw around her at yesterday's anti-war demonstration here. Wearing bright red shirts that read, "George W. Bush stole my boyfriend" and "My other half is in Iraq," the two Seaford High School students attracted plenty of attention - not all of it positive. While many of the thousands of marchers stopped them to say "God bless you," or "Good luck," others reacted with cluelessness, disbelief or outright hostility. Baum said she has dealt with this before. On the day her boyfriend, a Marine, left for Fallujah last March, a girl in her art class asked if he was going to Iraq on vacation and said she thought the war was over.
New York Times:
Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. A sea of anti-administration signs and banners flashed back at a long succession of speakers, who sharply rebuked the administration for continuing a war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis. Many of the speakers also charged Mr. Bush with squandering resources that could have been used to aid people affected by the two hurricanes that slammed into the Gulf Coast.

Barrel O'Pork

More from Etta Hulme...

The Pendulum Has Swung

Truth Out:
It is safe to say that there were hundreds of thousands of people marching against the war in Iraq today. Police Chief Charles Ramsey's only statement was that the organizers achieved their goal of 100,000. The DC police refused to make any other estimate. C-SPAN estimated 500,000, a number that I believe was possible from my observations.
Washington Post:
Protest organizers estimated that 300,000 people participated, triple their original target. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who walked the march route, said the protesters achieved the goal of 100,000 and probably exceeded it. Asked whether at least 150,000 showed up, the chief said, "That's as good a guess as any."


More than 200 counter-demonstrators set up outside the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and some back-and-forth yelling occurred as the antiwar marchers moved past. "Shame on you! Shame on you!" one counter-protester shouted at the antiwar group.

Take what you want, leave what you don't.

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