Monday, April 30, 2007


Iraq's sectarian warfare fueled a sharp increase in global terrorism in 2006, the U.S. State Department reported Monday.

The total number of terrorist attacks was up more than 25 percent from the previous year, according to the State Department's annual report on global terrorism.

Incidents in Iraq accounted for nearly half of the 14,000 attacks and about two-thirds of the more than 20,000 fatalities worldwide. The number of deaths blamed on attacks increased by about 40 percent.

The spike comes from the eruption of sectarian killings and bombings that followed the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra, according to Frank Urbancic, the State Department's acting counterterrorism coordinator.

Bush's War Escalation Is Really Working!

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in separate attacks in the capital this weekend, including three in a single roadside bombing, the military said today, pushing the death toll past 100 in the deadliest month so far this year.

Both attacks occurred in eastern Baghdad, a predominantly Shiite area where American and Iraqi forces have stepped up their activities as part of a security crackdown that began on Feb. 14 to quell the sectarian violence.

In violence today, a suicide car bomber apparently targeting an Interior Ministry convoy struck an Iraqi checkpoint near a busy square in the predominantly Sunni area of Harthiyah in western Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 10, police said.
Or not.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Renaissance Classicist Andrea Palladio's final work, the 1585 Teatro Olimpico is considered to be the world's oldest surviving covered theater. It's still in use.

And This Really IS Good News!

Los Angeles Time
President Bush's unpopularity and a string of political setbacks have created a toxic climate for the Republican Party, making it harder to raise money and recruit candidates for its drive to retake control of Congress.

Some of the GOP's top choices to run for the House next year have declined, citing what Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) called a "poisonous" environment. And Republicans' fundraising edge, an important advantage over the last five years, has dwindled.

With GOP clout diminished after November's election losses, the Republicans' national committee and their House and Senate campaign committees together raised the same amount as the Democrats in the first quarter of the year — and Democrats ended the period with more cash in the bank. At this point four years ago, Republicans had more than twice the money Democrats did.

"The reality is the Republican brand right now is just not a good brand," said Tim Hibbitts, an independent Oregon pollster. "For Republicans, the only way things really get better … is if somehow, some way, Iraq turns around."

More Good News

Remember how the announced British pullout from Iraq was explained as being due to the improved conditions in Basra, the area they were patrolling?

Los Angeles Times:
Although the violence pales in comparison to Baghdad, seven British soldiers have been killed in Basra in April, three by gunfire and four when a roadside bomb tore through their Warrior fighting vehicle.

The deaths pushed Britain's monthly toll in Iraq to 11, the highest since 27 of its troops were killed in March 2003 during the invasion, according to the website, which tracks U.S. and British military casualties in Iraq.

The increase in violence comes as Britain begins to disengage from southern Iraq, leaving Shiite political parties and their militias to battle over the spoils. At stake is control of political patronage in Iraq's second-largest city and of the billions of dollars in oil that flow through the country's only seaport.

In the latest power struggle, Gov. Mohammed Waili's rivals on the Basra provincial council voted Saturday to unseat him, leaving the city of Basra on tenterhooks as residents wait to see how he — and his gunmen — will respond.

Foreign Aid For Katrina Recovery Largely Uncaimed, Unspent

Washington Post:
Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government's difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.

Administration officials acknowledged in February 2006 that they were ill prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid and that only about half the $126 million received had been put to use. Now, 20 months after Katrina, newly released documents and interviews make clear the magnitude of the troubles.
Simply put: the Admiistration doesn't care.

Yet Another Reason Why We Are Failing In Iraq

New York Times:
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.
Bush is very good at breaking things. Fixing them? Not so much.


New York Times:
A car bomber struck Saturday in Karbala, killing at least 58 people and wounding 169 in the second attack in two weeks against the city’s holy sites, Iraqi police officials said.

The American military also announced that nine of its service members had been killed since Friday.

In Baghdad, the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr sent a statement to Parliament berating President Bush, saying he had undermined democracy in Iraq and in the United States by failing to heed demands for a troop withdrawal.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nobody's Mayor

On Salon, Joe Conason rips the Republican frontrunner a new one:
When Rudolph Giuliani delivered his stark warning Tuesday of another 9/11 should the Republicans lose the White House in 2008, Democratic presidential candidates responded with a predictable chorus of outrage. Even the amiable Barack Obama protested that he had sunk to a "new low in the politics of fear."

But in truth, Democrats ought to be happy whenever the Republican front-runner opens his mouth. For every time the former New York mayor speaks, and especially when he reaches for demagogy, he confirms again that electing him would mean prolonging the disaster of the Bush administration, or precisely the opposite of what most Americans say they want now.

Ever since his prime-time speech during the Republican Convention of 2004, if not earlier, Giuliani has been locked into the "wartime presidency" script written by Karl Rove to win the midterm elections and reelect George W. Bush. That divisive script purposely ignored the patriotic solidarity that had unified the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. Rove insisted that only Republicans could be trusted to protect America in the "long war" against the terrorists, implying that for the duration of the war only Republicans should exercise power. The logic of Giuliani's speech was impeccably Rovian.
But referring to Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins's new book, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, Conason hits the real story:
In vivid detail, Barrett and Collins examine how Giuliani brushed aside the advice of real experts and stubbornly built the city's new emergency command center in a World Trade Center building, although terrorists had struck there already and were believed likely to strike again. When that multimillion-dollar boondoggle fell with the rest of ground zero, the mayor and his aides were left to run the fire and police response from the streets, with mixed success at best. The location of the command center was only one of several ultimately lethal errors that originated in Giuliani's City Hall.
Go read!

The Endless War

New York Times:
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.

In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.

That prospect would entail a dramatically longer commitment of frontline troops, patrolling the most dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad, than the one envisioned in legislation that passed the House and Senate this week. That vote, largely symbolic because Democrats do not have the votes to override the promised presidential veto, set deadlines that would lead to the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of March 2008.

Faro, Portugal

The Confederate Flag

In a debate that was dull, but otherwise encouraging, as it highlighted the depth and breadth of our 2008 candidates, one question and two answers particularly rankled me.

From the transcript:
MODERATOR: And the first one is for Senator Biden.

This is from Daniel in Eastover, South Carolina. He says, "I would like a comment concerning the ban on South Carolina from the NAACP; and why they, the candidates, are in South Carolina if they support the NAACP"

"The NAACP has asked tourists, groups and sporting events not to come to South Carolina until the confederate flag has been removed from the statehouse grounds. Do you agree with that?"

BIDEN: Number-three man in the United States Congress, James Clyburn, who is one of the leaders of the Black Caucus is the reason why this event is here. I think it is better to show off the incredible capability of a historic black college and all these incredible students here than it is to walk away from that opportunity.
Good answer. He's right. He also ignored the larger issue.
MODERATOR: Senator Obama?

OBAMA: Well, look, I think that the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That's where it belongs. But we've got an enormous debate that's taking place in this country right now.

I mentioned black infant mortality rates going up. We have poverty in the inner cities and rural communities all across the country. And we've got to engage the American people and the people of South Carolina in that debate.

Hillary mentioned earlier, this is going to be a change election. People are hungry for change. And the question is: Who is going to be the most effective agent for change? And I think in this forum, it gives voters the opportunity to see who that's going to be.
Better answer, in that he addressed some of the racial disparities that continue to scar our nation and devastate people's lives; but he, too, didn't really address the issue: the symbolism of the Confederate flag.

Joe Scarborough, of all people, had one of the better reactions to these answers. He said that Democrats continue to soften their language about polarizing issues on which they do have strong opinions- I would say morally just opinions- out of fear of alienating white Southern voters. He pointed out that Al Gore and John Kerry, at the risk of alienating their base supporters, moderated their language on certain issues in attempts to win border states like West Virginia and Tennesee- which they lost, anyway. Some might say Scarborough was being a Concern Troll, but I think he's right.

The Confederate flag is not a debatable issue. It is not an issue given to nuance. The Confederade flag symbolizes slavery. I'm disappointed that none of the candidates was willing to say that. It also symbolizes an attempt by some states to separate from the United States. There's a word for that: treason. The Confederate flag is not some rustic symbol of courage and heroism, it is a symbol of slavery and treason. It's that simple. The Democrats should be willing to say that. It's honest. It's factual. It also frames the question in the moral light in which it should be framed!

White Southerners should not be offended by this framing. Anyone who has spent any time in the South knows that Southerners are among the most personally gracious and passionately patriotic people you will ever meet. The Confederate flag is an offense to both grace and patriotism. It is shameful. I'm guessing that the majority of white Southerners can handle hearing that. I'm guessing that the number of white Southerners who would actually switch their votes from a Democrat to a Republican because they heard that are very few. It's time for our Democratic candidates to respect both the truth and the descendants of slavery. Partial answers are not enough. I repeat: the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and treason, and it does not belong on state flags or government buildings. Next time one of our Democratic candidates is asked about that, I hope we will hear a more honest and courageous answer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Trajan's Markets- essentially, a Second Century CE shopping mall.

Russia Pulls Out Of Arms Deal In Anger Over "Missile Defense"

From the New York Times:
President Vladimir V. Putin said today that Russia would suspend its compliance with a treaty on conventional arms in Europe that was forged at the end of the cold war.

Instead, Mr. Putin said, the Kremlin would use its future compliance with the treaty as a bargaining point in the dispute with United States over American proposals to install missile defenses in Europe.

Mr. Putin’s announcement, made in his annual address to Parliament, underscored the Kremlin’s anger at the United States for proposing a new missile-defense system, which the Bush administration insists is meant to counter potential threats from North Korea and Iran.
Of course, we've spent over a hundred billion dollars, since 1983, including 7.8 billion in fiscal 2006, for a technology that repeatedly fails tests, except for those that are very carefully rigged. After a "successful" test, last summer, CBS reported:
Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that advocates curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, said the demonstration was still far from replicating an actual missile attack, he said.

“They know the when, the where, the what (of the target missile) ... where it's coming from, the size of the warhead,” he said by phone from Maryland.
Which is exactly the conditions under which a real attack would occur. Right?

Meanwhile, Russia is hinting at a new arms race.

RIA Novosti:
U.S. plans to expand and deploy elements of its missile defense system around the world threaten the start of a new arms race, a Russian expert said Wednesday.

In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns. Moscow has strongly opposed the U.S. plans, saying they would threaten Russia's security and destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

Sergei Rogov, head of the Institute of the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said that today strategic stability in the world is maintained by treaties limiting strategic offensive weapons and banning strategic missile defenses, which are due to expire in the near future.
With Putin pulling out of a conventional arms pact, is there any doubt about what he's considering doing when the missile treaties expire?

In other words, we're wasting billions of dollars on a technology that doesn't work but that does undermine our national security by provoking other nations into distrust and hostility. Sound familiar?

San Marino

The Tie That Binds

Washington Post:
White House officials conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity, a White House spokesman and other administration officials said yesterday.

The previously undisclosed briefings were part of what now appears to be a regular effort in which the White House sent senior political officials to brief top appointees in government agencies on which seats Republican candidates might win or lose, and how the election outcomes could affect the success of administration policies, the officials said.

The existence of one such briefing, at the headquarters of the General Services Administration in January, came to light last month, and the Office of Special Counsel began an investigation into whether the officials at the briefing felt coerced into steering federal activities to favor those Republican candidates cited as vulnerable.

Such coercion is prohibited under a federal law, known as the Hatch Act, meant to insulate virtually all federal workers from partisan politics. In addition to forbidding workplace pressures meant to influence an election outcome, the law bars the use of federal resources -- including office buildings, phones and computers -- for partisan purposes.
The Bush Administration has politicized everything, from the war to the Department of Justice. This is the key to the U.S. Attorneys Firings scandal, the Abramoff bribes, the Katrina disaster, the replacement of scientists with religious ideologoues, and the complete infiltration of industry lobbyists and political hacks into every aspect of our political and bureaucratic structure. This is why our government is collapsing. Investigations of this particular manifestation have the potential to blow this Administration right out of office. Let's hope.

Bush White House Upset By U.N. Human Rights Report on Iraq

Washington Post:
A new human rights report by the United Nations mission in Iraq described high levels of ongoing violence, an unfair and potentially abusive detainee system and a country suffering a "breakdown in law and order." The report upset the U.S. Embassy here, which characterized it as inaccurate and not credible.

The 30-page report by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, an appraisal of human rights conditions from January through March, said the Iraqi government is up against "immense security challenges in the face of growing violence and armed opposition to its authority and the rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis."

For the first time, the United Nations did not include civilian death tolls, statistics that are usually provided to it by the Health Ministry and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad. The data have become a key gauge of the level of violence in Iraq. In the last report, the United Nations said 34,452 Iraqi civilians had died violently in 2006, a number that the Iraqi government later said was exaggerated.

The report said the Iraqi government told the United Nations "that it had decided against providing the data, although no substantive explanation or justification was provided."
You know the drill. All these bad reports undermine the war effort. Nevermind that the war effort is causing all these bad reports.

DOJ Wants To Limit Lawyers' Access To Their Guantanamo Clients

Ho hum. Just another day in the budding dictatorship.

From the New York Times:
The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to impose tighter restrictions on the hundreds of lawyers who represent detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the request has become a central issue in a new legal battle over the administration’s detention policies.

Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused “intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo,” a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers’ contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases that would replace more expansive rules that have governed them since they began visiting Guantánamo detainees in large numbers in 2004.

The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media, assertions that have drawn angry responses from some of the lawyers.
Sure. Why not? Why even pretend to pretend to care about the rule of law and the concept of justice? Intractable problems. Laws and justice are so difficult and messy. Feh. Why bother?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WHO Doesn't Support The Troops? Bush Ignores The Wounded!

With Bush, Cheney, and McCain once again equating Democratic opposition to the war with lack of support for the troops, Salon's Mark Benjamin has produced yet another bombshell report on the Administration's callous neglect of those wounded in the war!
When the Walter Reed scandal exploded in the media in February, bringing wide attention to inadequate care for veterans at the Army's flagship hospital, Defense Department officials expressed shock and claimed ignorance. Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant defense secretary who oversees military medicine, declared at a press conference on Feb. 21: "This news caught me -- as it did many other people -- completely by surprise."

But Salon has learned that the Defense Department had been conducting monthly focus group discussions with soldiers treated at Walter Reed since before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had even begun, and that it continued to do so as wounded veterans of those conflicts arrived at the facility. The interviews with outpatients were set up to monitor Army healthcare and provide military officials with direct information about it.

"They were trying to find out the good and the bad and the ugly," said a former Defense Department official familiar with the DoD focus groups. "That is the good-news story. The bad-news story is they did not do anything about it."
Simply put: they knew! And they didn't care!

So, let's review...

NPR already reported that the Pentagon is giving disability benefits to fewer veterans, since the war began!
When service members are forced to leave the military by war injuries or illness, they face a complex system for getting health and disability benefits. Sometimes, health care gets cut off when new veterans find they need it most. Some retired soldiers and their families say they are worried that the Pentagon won't spend enough money to give the injured the care they deserve.
And NPR reported on research done by retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parker:
Parker started digging through Pentagon data, and the numbers he found shocked him. He learned that the Pentagon is giving fewer veterans disability benefits today than it was before the Iraq war — despite the fact that thousands of soldiers are leaving the military with serious injuries.

"It went from 102,000 and change in 2001... and now it's down to 89,500," says Parker. "It's counterintuitive. Why are the number of disability retirees shrinking during wartime?"
And the New York Times reported in January that up to eighty percent of the marines killed in Iraq could still be alive, if they'd been given adequate body armor!

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
A month later, the Washington Post reported that the troops being sent to Iraq as part of Bush's escalation are not even being given adequate protections!
The Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from particularly lethal weapons linked to Iran and known as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFP) -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.

The additional protection is needed for thousands of U.S. reinforcement troops flowing into Baghdad, where these devastating weapons -- used primarily by Shiite fighters -- are particularly prevalent, the officials said.

U.S. Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan lack more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kit, known as FRAG Kit 5, according to U.S. officials. The Army has ramped up production of the armor, giving priority to troops in Baghdad, but the upgrade is not scheduled to be completed until this summer, Army officials said. That is well into the timeline for major operations launched last week to quell violence by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, which the U.S. military now views as the top security threat in Iraq.
And, of course, the troops themselves considered themselves overextended, thanks to Stop-Loss policies, and that was even before the latest round of tour extensions!

And, of course, it was Benjamin who already broke the stories that wounded troops are being sent back into battle; and that a VA official who investigated conditions at Walter Reed in 2004, and apparently did nothing is being promoted!

So, let's be clear: the Bush-Cheney administration is overworking the troops, failing to give them adequate protective armor, neglecting them when they return from the war wounded, giving fewer disability benefits, and promoting the very people who knew about these scandals and did nothing about them! And Bush and Cheney run around blathering that Democratic attempts to bring the troops home from his failed war means a lack of support? Bush and Cheney could not be doing more to abuse our troops, and less to support them, if that was their deliberate intention! And no amount of lies, warmongering, and fearmongering can hide the fundamental facts! Bush and Cheney are the enemies of America's military personnel!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The Most Despicable Man In America

Cheney takes on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and gets smacked down.

New York Times:
Mr. Cheney said the senator’s complaint on Monday that the White House did not engage in “substantive” discussions about Iraq was at odds with his description of a meeting last week as “a good exchange.”

“What’s most troubling about Senator Reid’s comments yesterday is his defeatism,” Mr. Cheney said. “It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage. Leaders should make decisions based on the security interests of our country, not on the interests of their political party.”

Only minutes later, Mr. Reid spoke, after the Democrats’ policy luncheon. “The president sends out his attack dog often,” Mr. Reid said. “That’s also known as Dick Cheney.”
Cheney takes on former Democratic Presidential Nominee, former Senator, and decorated war veteran George McGovern, and gets smacked down even harder!

McGovern, in the Los Angeles Times:
VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today's Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition. The city where the vice president spoke, Chicago, is sometimes dubbed "the Windy City." Cheney converted the chilly wind of Chicago into hot air....

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.

Cheney charged that today's Democrats don't appreciate the terrorist danger when they move to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The fact is that Bush and Cheney misled the public when they implied that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. That was the work of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda team. Cheney and Bush blew the effort to trap Bin Laden in Afghanistan by their sluggish and inept response after the 9/11 attacks.
Bush and Cheney both like to talk tough, but they're both chickenhawk liars who destroy the lives of others for their own cynical political purposes. McGovern is 85 years old, and he can still kick both their asses.

Natural Antioxidant Selectively Kills Leukemia Cells

Science Daily:
A naturally occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables as well as red wine, selectively kills leukemia cells in culture while showing no discernible toxicity against healthy cells, according to a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. These findings, which were published online March 20 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and will be in press on May 4, offer hope for a more selective, less toxic therapy for leukemia.

"Current treatments for leukemia, such as chemotherapy and radiation, often damage healthy cells and tissues and can produce unwanted side effects for many years afterward. So, there is an intensive search for more targeted therapies for leukemia worldwide," said corresponding author Xiao-Ming Yin, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Democrats Stand Firm: Binding Dates For Iraq Pullout!

For the past few weeks, there's been much speculation as to whether or not the Democrats would cave in to the media and White House propaganda on the Iraq Spending Bill. The common consensus has been that they would not have the courage to stand their ground and tie the spending bill to a firm withdrawal date. To many, this was to be an ultimate test of whether or not the Democrats understood what the voters had demanded, last November. To those who had criticized the Democrats who worked so hard for this complicated bill, while not immediately defunding the war, this would prove, once and for all, that they were spineless sellouts. Well, guess what?

New York Times:
Congressional Democrats agreed Monday to ignore President Bush’s veto threat and send him a $124 billion war spending bill that orders the administration to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Oct. 1.

“On Iraq, the American people want a new direction, and we are providing it,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, a leader of the Congressional negotiators who came to terms on the legislation that has become a test of wills between Mr. Bush and the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are to vote on the agreement and send it to the White House by the end of the week, and Democrats expressed confidence that they could secure narrow approval. But even as they ironed out differences between House and Senate approaches to Iraq policy and cut some spending that has drawn Republican scorn, Democrats acknowledged that the bill would be rejected by the president.
Now, I've already expressed my opinion that nothing the Democrats do will end the war as long as the Bush-Cheney Administration remains in power. I won't go into all the details, but you can read my old diary:

If You Want To End The War, You Must Support Impeachment!

I won't claim that this bill is a silver bullet, and I won't claim it is the assertion of leadership I would like to see. That would be impeachment. Even so, the Democrats are standing tall, calling for a pullout, busting the Overton Window wide open, and disproving those critics who believed they hadn't the guts to stick to their own declared strategy.

As the Washington Post puts it:
The $124 billion bill, slated for final votes in the House and Senate tomorrow and Thursday, sets up a veto clash with President Bush by week's end. Some congressional Democrats had considered making advisory all dates for withdrawing U.S. troops in the hopes of persuading Bush to sign the bill, which Democratic leaders said provides $96 billion -- more than the White House requested -- for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with the president standing firm on his plans to veto any language on the timing of the war, Democratic leaders stuck to binding dates for initial troop pullouts.
Bush will veto this bill. The media will probably promote his spin that the Democrats are delaying funds for the troops. We can't let them get away with it. The Democrats are funding the troops and calling for a deadline. Binding dates! That's what the public wants. Maybe, just maybe, despite all the criticism, the Democrats do actually know what they're doing!


View from the top of the Campanile.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris Yeltsin Is Dead

New York Times:
Boris N. Yeltsin, the burly provincial politician who became the first freely elected leader of Russia and a towering figure of his time when he presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the demise of the Communist Party, has died at the age of 76, the Russian government said today.

A Kremlin spokesman confirmed Mr. Yeltsin’s death but gave no details about the circumstances or cause. The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified medical source as saying the former president had died of heart failure.

In office less than nine years and plagued by severe health problems, Mr. Yeltsin added a final chapter to his historical record when, in a stunning coup at the close of the 20th century, he announced his resignation, and became the first Russian leader to relinquish power on his own in accordance with constitutional processes. He then turned over the reins of office to his handpicked successor, Vladimir V. Putin.
In many ways, Yeltsin was a mixed bag. As mayor of Moscow, in 1991, he risked his life to help stop an attempted military coup against then-President Mikhail Gorbachev. Less than a decade later, he hand-picked Vladimir Putin as his own successor. First he saved Russian democracy, then he may have helped end it. His sloppy leadership also helped create the conditions under which Russians decided they needed a strong authoritarian president, like Putin. We don't yet know how that story will end. Meanwhile, Yeltsin deserves the world's thanks for helping Russia make that initial transition towards openness and democracy.


Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded Monday in a suicide car bombing against a patrol base northeast of Baghdad, the military said.

An Iraqi civilian was also wounded in the attack on Task Force Lightning soldiers in Diyala province, a volatile area that has been the site of fierce fighting involving U.S. and Iraqi troops, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

Of the 20 wounded, 15 soldiers were treated and returned to duty while five others and the Iraqi were evacuated to a medical facility for further care, the military said.

Americans in Germany On Alert

The US Embassy in Berlin on Friday announced that it was increasing its "security posture" in light of a perceived threat. The Americans didn't say why, but the German press writes that an Iraqi terror group may have been casing US targets in Germany.

A German police officer stands outside the US Embassy in Berlin in this 2001 file photo. The embassy announced Friday it was stepping up security.
The US Embassy in Berlin on Friday announced that it was increasing its "security posture" due to what an announcement on its Web site refers to as a "heightened threat situation." The announcement urged US citizens living in Germany to "increase their vigilance and take appropriate steps to bolster their own personal security."

The message, which did not appear on embassy Web sites in other European countries, did not mention any specific threats nor did it indicate why the message was posted on Friday. The embassy likewise refused to comment on why the message had been posted, nor did it comment on what the nature of the threat might be.
Before Bush's immoral, illegal, and unnecessary war in Iraq, Americans had nothing to fear from Iraqis. Iraq never attacked either the United States or Americans. Just another in an endless string of examples of how Bush is making the world less safe for Americans.

FDA Knew of Dangers To Food, Did Nothing

Washington Post:
The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.

Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.

Congressional critics and consumer advocates said both episodes show that the agency is incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply.
Part of it was tight budgets. Part of it was an unwillingness on the FDA's part to follow up, when problems were found; instead, they relied on businesses to solve their own problems, with no oversight. Two more examples of how the Bush Administration's incompetence, and the Republican ideological disdain for regulation of businesses, kill.

Sao Miguel, Azores

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gun Control

Since Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed a 27-story tower on the University of Texas campus and started picking people off, at least 100 Americans have gone on shooting sprees.
And Down Under?
Australia had a spate of mass public shooting in the 1980s and ’90s, culminating in 1996, when Martin Bryant opened fire at the Port Arthur Historical Site in Tasmania with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 35 people.

Within two weeks the government had enacted strict gun control laws that included a ban on semiautomatic rifles. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since.


Criticism mounted Saturday over a wall U.S. troops are building around a Sunni enclave surrounded by Shiite areas in Baghdad, with residents calling it "collective punishment" and the local council leader saying the community did not approve the project before construction began.

Violence continued Saturday, with at least three people killed when a bomb left on a bus exploded in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, police said. The minibus was gutted by flames and its windows shattered.

Gunmen stormed a house in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, killing a mother, father and their two teenage daughters, police said. The victims were Kurds who had received death threats from al Qaeda-linked militants operating in the area, witnesses said.

A U.S. soldier was also killed Saturday by a roadside bomb southwest of the capital, the military said.


Early 6th Century CE mosaics at Sant' Apollinaire, in what was then Imperial Ravenna's port city.

Why Does Bush Hate Our Troops?

When service members are forced to leave the military by war injuries or illness, they face a complex system for getting health and disability benefits. Sometimes, health care gets cut off when new veterans find they need it most. Some retired soldiers and their families say they are worried that the Pentagon won't spend enough money to give the injured the care they deserve.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parker did a little research:
Parker started digging through Pentagon data, and the numbers he found shocked him. He learned that the Pentagon is giving fewer veterans disability benefits today than it was before the Iraq war — despite the fact that thousands of soldiers are leaving the military with serious injuries.

"It went from 102,000 and change in 2001... and now it's down to 89,500," says Parker. "It's counterintuitive. Why are the number of disability retirees shrinking during wartime?"
Why, indeed?

Congressional Opposition To Bush's Desire For New Nuclear Arms Race

Washington Post:
Congressional hearings over the past several weeks have shown that the Bush administration's plan to move ahead with a new generation of nuclear warheads faces strong opposition from House and Senate members concerned that the effort lacks any strategic underpinning and could lead to a new nuclear arms race.

Experts inside and outside the government questioned moving forward with a new warhead as old ones are being refurbished and before developing bipartisan agreement on how many warheads would be needed at the end of what could be a 30-year process. Several, including former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), suggested linking production of a new warhead with U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a move the Bush administration has opposed.
This is a no-brainer, which is why Bush wants it: because he has no brain.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Infant Mortality Rising In The South As Government Aid Drops

Simply put: government can do things that no other entity can. Providing adequate health care to those who need it is one important example. That has been proved, all week, and Sunday's New York Times provides yet more proof:
For decades, Mississippi and neighboring states with large black populations and expanses of enduring poverty made steady progress in reducing infant death. But, in what health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states.

The setbacks have raised questions about the impact of cuts in welfare and Medicaid and of poor access to doctors, and, many doctors say, the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes and hypertension among potential mothers, some of whom tip the scales here at 300 to 400 pounds.

“I don’t think the rise is a fluke, and it’s a disturbing trend, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Southeast,” said Dr. Christina Glick, a neonatologist in Jackson, Miss., and past president of the National Perinatal Association.
Of course, there is a racial component, with blacks suffering an infant mortality rate more than double that of whites; and, needless to say, poverty is also seen as a key factor. In Mississippi, Republican Governor (and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee) Haley Barbour's policy of cuts in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, along with a deliberately increased complexity of enrollment, are specifically blamed. Punish the poor. It's the Republican way.

This report comes after a week in which the Toronto Star reported that:
Health outcomes for patients in Canada are as good as or better than in the United States, even though per capita spending is higher south of the border, suggest Canadian and U.S. researchers who crunched data from 38 studies.

The findings were published in the inaugural edition of Open Medicine, a new online medical journal launching Wednesday in the aftermath of a rift last year between some editors and the publisher of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"In looking at patients in Canada with a specific diagnosis compared to Americans with the same diagnosis, in Canada patients had at least as good an outcome as their American counterparts – and in many situations, a better health outcome," said one of the 17 authors, Dr. P.J. Devereaux, a cardiologist and clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton.
And Jerome a Paris, on Daily Kos, reporting about his own personal experience, lauded France's socialized system.

Our own wonderful system now has us ranked as having only the 42nd best infant mortality rate in the world, which puts us two behind our politically repressed and economically depressed southern neighbor, Cuba.

Of course, the Senate Republicans last week made their own contribution to our health care crisis, by blocking Democratic attempts to lower the price of prescription drugs for senior citizens.

For the young or old, on health care, as on everything else, it is abundantly clear: government help is needed, but the Republicans care less about the health of people than about the bottom lines of their corporate masters.


Los Angeles Times:
President Bush said Friday that his revised military strategy was taking hold in Iraq and "the direction of the fight is beginning to shift," even as he acknowledged "horrific" bombings that killed more than 200 people in Baghdad this week.

"So far, the operation is meeting expectations," Bush said of the boost in U.S. troops he ordered and the new focus on improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods.
Back on planet Earth, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is once again pressuring the Iraqi "government" to, you know, begin governing. Also from the Los Angeles Times:
In the latest warning from Washington that America's patience is wearing thin, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Iraqi government officials Friday that they need to pass legislation aimed at easing sectarian tension before this summer, when the U.S. military will conduct a formal evaluation of its troop increase in Iraq.

Gates stopped short of announcing a deadline, but he used some of his most forthright language to date to make clear to the Iraqi government that American soldiers would not remain on Baghdad streets indefinitely. "Our commitment to Iraq is long term, but it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly," Gates said.
And the Pentagon is no longer even focused on training Iraqi troops, so that they can carry they burden of fighting the insurgency.

From the McClatchy Newspapers:
Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.
Of course, the Pentagon denies it...
But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq.

More Fun With The Sun

Science Daily:
The global search for a sustainable energy supply is making significant strides at Wake Forest University as researchers at the university’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have announced that they have pushed the efficiency of plastic solar cells to more than 6 percent.

In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Wake Forest researchers describe how they have achieved record efficiency for organic or flexible, plastic solar cells by creating “nano-filaments” within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves. This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the sun’s light.

Efficient plastic solar cells are extremely desirable because they are inexpensive and light weight, especially in comparison to traditional silicon solar panels. Traditional solar panels are heavy and bulky and convert about 12 percent of the light that hits them to useful electrical power. Researchers have worked for years to create flexible, or “conformal,” organic solar cells that can be wrapped around surfaces, rolled up or even painted onto structures.
Before 2005, the highest efficiency from organic cells was 3 percent. That year, the Wake Forest team produced almost 5 percent. Now, they've reached six. In just two years, they've doubled the efficiency. Imagine what scientists could do if they were given serious support from the federal government. Imagine.


Scottish National Gallery and Edinburgh Castle from the top of the Scott Monument.

Friday, April 20, 2007

John McCain Shows Compassion For The Victims Of The VT Massacre

Republican presidential candidate John McCain declared Wednesday he believes in "no gun control," making the strongest affirmation of support for gun rights in the GOP field since the Virginia Tech massacre.
Or not. Good thing the Senator has his priorities straight.

John McCain Makes A Funny

Sydney Morning Herald:
Republican US presidential contender Senator John McCain's joke on how to deal with Iran is not making everybody laugh.

He responded to a question from an audience in South Carolina on Wednesday by breaking into the melody of the Beach Boys song "Barbara Ann" but changing the lyrics to "Bomb Iran."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, 'Bomb Iran',' McCain joked and then added: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb ... anyway, ah ..." The audience responded with laughter.
Because, you know, war is a joke.

Humanitarian Crisis Looms in Somalia

The UN has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, as fighting continues between insurgents and government-backed Ethiopian forces.

More than 200,000 people have fled their homes amid ongoing clashes in the capital, Mogadishu, the UN said.

Aid workers say the city is inhabited only by fighters and men protecting the remains of their property.
The fighting is making it increasingly difficult for the U.N. to get aid to the people who need it. Somalia has been effectively without government, and at the mercy of warlords, for sixteen years.


Thursday, April 19, 2007


Rome is set to show off its ancient glory in a swathe of old and new museums centred on the Capitol Hill.

"It will be a new Louvre," said Mayor Walter Veltroni, announcing the plans.

The little-known but richly attractive Museum of Roman History - currently off the tourist map in the Mussolini-built suburb EUR - is to move into a municipal building on the edge of the Circus Maximus.
Along with the remodeled Capitoline Museums, and the soon-to-open Museum of the Imperial Forums, in Trajan's Markets, this will make one of the most fascinating and exciting cultural areas in the world that much more of a thrill! I want to go! Now!

Fred Thompson Warning

Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, moving closer to a White House run, is getting support from his party's social conservatives even though he wasn't previously a standard-bearer for their agenda.

The actor and former Tennessee lawmaker met with House Republicans in Washington yesterday to discuss a possible candidacy. The 53 lawmakers gave him a standing ovation and Thompson later said: ``We had a good talk. I enjoyed it and we'll be seeing more of each other, I'm sure.'' The discussion covered abortion, immigration, his first marriage and the war in Iraq.
The article discusses Thompson's "Evolving View" on various issues, which will be important to watch. The media will be sycophantically slavering all over Thompson, who has undeniable charm and presence; but he's a Republican's Republican, and he supports the war. It will be important to undercut him, early and often.

National Health Insurance Works!

You know that tired old argument about our health care system being superior to nationalized systems? Well, guess what...

Toronto Star:
Health outcomes for patients in Canada are as good as or better than in the United States, even though per capita spending is higher south of the border, suggest Canadian and U.S. researchers who crunched data from 38 studies.

The findings were published in the inaugural edition of Open Medicine, a new online medical journal launching Wednesday in the aftermath of a rift last year between some editors and the publisher of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"In looking at patients in Canada with a specific diagnosis compared to Americans with the same diagnosis, in Canada patients had at least as good an outcome as their American counterparts – and in many situations, a better health outcome," said one of the 17 authors, Dr. P.J. Devereaux, a cardiologist and clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton.
Oh well. The health insurance industry will just have to come up with some other lames excuse for its continued existence.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


New York Times:
In the deadliest day in Baghdad since the latest American-led security plan for the city took effect two months ago, at least 171 people were killed today in a flurry of insurgent attacks, including car bombs that tore through predominantly Shiite crowds gathered at a bus hub, on a shopping street and near a police checkpoint, the authorities said.

In the worst of the attacks, a car packed with explosives exploded at an intersection in the Sadriya neighborhood that serves as a station for buses traveling to the Shiite district of Sadr City. The blast killed at least 140 people and wounded 150; incinerated dozens of vehicles, including several minibuses full of passengers; and charred nearby shops, witnesses and the police said.

As rescuers crowded the site, a sniper opened fire on the crowd, killing at least one more person and wounding two others.

WMDS Don't Kill, People Do!

I've never hunted. I've never understood the appeal in killing something. I haven't eaten the flesh of a mammal in more than twenty years. I don't enjoy loud noises unless they have a rhythm to which I can dance. I admit it: I've never understood the fascination with guns.

Growing up, I had friends and classmates whose parents hunted. For some of them, that annual take provided a significant portion of the family's winter meat. I always had a grudging respect for that. I have a libertarian streak, which is one of the reasons I love the potential of solar power. Anything that can help people stay off-grid is worthy of consideration. If hunting enables some people to save money and stay out of supermarkets, I support their right to do so. Handguns are a different matter. I doubt there are many people who hunt with handguns.

I was more than a little disturbed, these past few days, by some of the blog diaries by gun lovers. What I perceived as callousness astonished me. In the face of overwhelming horror and heartbreak, these gun lovers felt the need to assert their presumed right to own guns, to declare their passion for their guns, and even to quantify that passion by "bragging" about how many guns they own. It overwhelmed me. I would have called some of them repugnant, unconscionable, insenstive fuckwits; but I didn't want to insult repugnant, unconscionable, insensitive fuckwits. Then, I couldn't help it. Against my will and judgment, all this talk about guns got me hot and bothered. I realized that guns are sexy. I realized that gun owners are sexy. I want to be sexy. I am now on board with the gun fetish. I'm ready to take up the banner and march forth in the cause of obsessive gun ownership. I am now a gun lover. Please excuse me if it takes me a while to get the hang of it.

The first thing we gun lovers must do is to continue to declare, against all but the most recent judicial rulings, that the Second Amendment protects our rights, as individuals, to own guns. Now, we must grant that the courts have, until recently, consistently disagreed with our interpretation of the Bill of Rights, but that disagreement no longer matters. In the 2001 United States v. Emerson ruling, Reagan appointee, Judge William Lockhart Garwood, and G.H.W. Bush appointee, Judge Harold R. DeMoss, Jr. provided the first Federal ruling that the Second Amendment does actually guarantee an individual right to bear arms! Unfortunately, Clinton appointee, Judge Robert Manley Parker had to muddy the waters by declaring that the majority opinion was a non-binding dicta. Fortunately, for our side, in March of this year, the D.C. Circuit, in Parker v. District of Columbia also ruled that there is a Constitutionally guaranteed individual right to bear arms! In this case, we gun lovers have Reagan appointee, Judge Laurence H. Silberman and W appointee, Judge Thomas B. Griffith, to thank. In fact, I'm so thrilled that the tide of judicial opinion is finally, after two centuries, turning our way, that I intend to write letters to both Presidents Bush, and to the Reagan Library, thanking them for finally, after two centuries, appointing judges who really understand the Constitution! And with the present president having done his best to pack the courts with sympathetic judges, we gun lovers can expect even more favorable rulings, in the future! Thanks, W!

The other great argument in our favor is that our ability to arm ourselves is a guarantee that we can defend ourselves against tyrannical government. I don't know about you, but when those black helicopters come, I intend to be ready! In fact, this is where I think we gun lovers have fallen down on the job, and neglected the vigilance by which we have thus far prevented tyranny! The simple fact is that weapons technology has greatly advanced since the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Our critics rightly point out that in the late Eighteenth Century, muskets were often adequate firepower. How things have changed!

Given that governments now have arsenals undreamed of by the Founders, it is only right that we lovers of liberty should have commensurate arsenals with which to protect ourselves! That is why I now propose that we haven't been broad enough in our demand for our Constitutional rights! We have been shortchanging ourselves! We have actually been undermining our own liberty! We need to protect our right to bear all manner of arms, from high tech weapons to WMDS! If governments have them, we need them to protect ourselves from said governments! And given that I am now on board with the theory that packing heat is a deterrent to crime, and that people knowing we are packing heat is a deterrent to crime, I also propose that we take this cause global!

The more countries that have advanced weapons and WMDS, the more secure we will all be from one another! That is why I believe the National Rifle Association to be hopelessly outdated. Therefore, in the causes of self-protection and individual liberty, I now propose that we establish the International WMD Association! After all, WMDS don't kill, people do!

Monday, April 16, 2007

They Won't Say It. I Will.

Every gun owner should be licensed. Every bullet should be registered. Period.

Abu Gonzales Caught Lying- Again

Washington Post:
The former Justice Department official who carried out the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year told Congress that several of the prosecutors had no performance problems and that a memo on the firings was distributed at a Nov. 27 meeting attended by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, a Democratic senator said yesterday.

The statements to House and Senate investigators by Michael A. Battle, former director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, represent another potential challenge to the credibility of Gonzales, who has said that he never saw any documents about the firings and that he had "lost confidence" in the prosecutors because of performance problems.

Battle's statements, relayed to reporters yesterday by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), came as Gonzales prepares for a make-or-break appearance on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prepared testimony released yesterday indicates Gonzales will apologize to the fired prosecutors for the way they were treated and will acknowledge that he has been "less than precise" in describing his role in the firings.
Less than precise? Is that what they're calling it, now?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It Gets Worse

The political movement of fiery Iraqi Shi'ite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr said on Sunday it would withdraw from the government on Monday to press its demand for a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Officials from the movement, which holds six ministries and a quarter of the parliamentary seats in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Alliance, said the formal announcement would be made on Monday at a news conference.

The move is unlikely to bring down the government, but it could create tensions in Maliki's fractious Shi'ite-led government of national unity at a time when it is trying to heal sectarian divisions that threaten to tip Iraq into civil war.

McCain Owns This War

New York Times:
Senator John McCain said that the buildup of American forces in Iraq represented the only viable option to avoid failure in Iraq and that he had yet to identify an effective fallback if the current strategy failed.

“I have no Plan B,” Mr. McCain said in an interview. “If I saw that doomsday scenario evolving, then I would try to come up with one. But I cannot give you a good alternative because if I had a good alternative, maybe we could consider it now.”

In a discussion of how he would handle Iraq if elected president, Mr. McCain said that the success of the Bush administration’s strategy, which seeks to protect Baghdad residents so Iraqi political leaders have an opportunity to pursue a program of political reconciliation, was essentially a precondition for a more limited American role that could follow.
Brilliant. Except, you know, Bush's strategy is a disastrous failure. So, McCain just wants to be Bush's heir to this disastrous failure.


New York Times:
Two car bombs killed 15 people and wounded 50 when they exploded in quick succession in a mostly Shi'ite neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad on Sunday, police and hospital sources said.

North of Baghdad, two U.S. military helicopters crashed near a large U.S. air base, killing two soldiers and injuring five in what appeared to be a mid-air collision, the U.S. military said.

The first of the two car bombs in Baghdad exploded at a market in the al-Shurta al-Rabeia neighborhood, while the second one went off seconds later at a nearby intersection, police said. Mortar rounds also landed in the area, police said, in an apparent coordinated attack.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nobody's Mayor

The American Prospect's Michael Tomasky eviscerates Rudy Giuliani:
Gun control? Welcoming immigrants? A woman's right to choose? Never mind his past positions. The only -ism that Rudy Giuliani believes in is sadism.
Go read.

Another Solar Power Breakthrough

Science Daily:
Unique three-dimensional solar cells that capture nearly all of the light that strikes them could boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems while reducing their size, weight and mechanical complexity.

The new 3D solar cells capture photons from sunlight using an array of miniature "tower" structures that resemble high-rise buildings in a city street grid. The cells could find near-term applications for powering spacecraft, and by enabling efficiency improvements in photovoltaic coating materials, could also change the way solar cells are designed for a broad range of applications.

"Our goal is to harvest every last photon that is available to our cells," said Jud Ready, a senior research engineer in the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). "By capturing more of the light in our 3D structures, we can use much smaller photovoltaic arrays. On a satellite or other spacecraft, that would mean less weight and less space taken up with the PV system."

Iraqi MP Says Turkish Intrusion Would Mean War

RIA Novosti:
Turkey's intrusion into the north of Iraq to conduct a military operation against Kurdish separatists based there would be tantamount to a declaration of war, a senior MP in Iraq's Kurdish autonomy said Friday.

The Turkish Army chief of staff said Thursday it was necessary to carry out a military operation against Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq.

Gen. Yasr Buyukanit said the Turkish Army was currently conducting large-scale operations in different parts of southeast Turkey against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), adding that 13 Turkish servicemen had been killed in action against the separatists so far this year.

"If Turkey starts an Army operation on Kurdish soil, it would be treated as a direct declaration of war on Iraq as a whole," said Kemal Kerkuki, deputy parliament speaker of the Kurdish parliament, according to ANKA news agency.

More Lies

New York Times:
A Justice Department e-mail message released on Friday shows that the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales proposed replacement candidates for United States attorneys nearly a year before they were dismissed in December 2006. The department has repeatedly stated that no successors were selected before the dismissals.

The Jan. 9, 2006, e-mail message, written by D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned last month as the top aide to Mr. Gonzales, identified five Bush administration officials, most of them Justice Department employees, whose names were sent to the White House for consideration as possible replacements for prosecutors slated for dismissal.

The e-mail message and several related documents provide the first evidence that Mr. Sampson, the Justice Department official in charge of the dismissals, had focused on who would succeed the ousted prosecutors. Justice officials have repeatedly said that seven of the eight prosecutors were removed without regard to who might succeed them.
These firings were purely political. It was the politicization of Justice. It could not be more clear. This Administration makes Nixon's look like a bunch of amateurs.


At least 40 people have been killed and 60 hurt in a suicide car bomb attack in Iraq's holy city of Karbala, police and medical sources say.

The attacker detonated explosives at a crowded bus station in the city close to a shrine holy to Shia Muslims, at around 0915 local time (0515 GMT).

Many of the casualties were said to be women or children.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Bullshit Express

Democratic Senator James Webb, a decorated Veteran, and Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, gives John McCain some genuine straight talk.

Democratic Senator James Webb accused Republican John McCain of questioning the patriotism of those who disagree with him on Iraq and ``hiding behind the troops as political justification'' for a misguided policy.

``I think that John McCain has been impugning people's patriotism and I really regret that he is doing that,'' Webb, of Virginia, said on Bloomberg Television's ``Political Capital with Al Hunt,'' scheduled to air today. ``I'm very disappointed in him.''...

In the television interview, Webb said McCain had approached him on the Senate floor and said lawmakers should avoid the type of personal attacks that occurred during congressional debates about the Vietnam War 30 years ago.

Since that conversation, Webb said McCain has been ``consistently'' attacking those who disagree with him about the war.

Schwarzenegger: Don't Believe The Hype

Los Angeles Times:
He is gaining a reputation as the green governor who is marshaling California in the fight against global warming. But Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the last people in the Capitol to join the battle, and has earned so-so grades from environmental activists....

The governor has taken more than $1 million in campaign money from the oil industry, whose products contribute to the greenhouse gas buildup that Schwarzenegger says he wants to roll back. And he is not reliable in using his bill-signing powers to protect the environment, activists say.

Each year, the California League of Conservation Voters puts out an annual scorecard that rates the governor on a scale of 0 to 100, based on the environmental bills he has signed or vetoed. Last year, Schwarzenegger's grade was 50, down from the previous two years when he logged a 58.
Of course, the national media portrays him as a champion of the environment. Of Course.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Al Qaeda Resurgent

Spiegel Online:
The news is alarming. US and French intelligence agencies are convinced that terrorist network Al-Qaida has reorganized, and even that it has developed new training camps, both in Afghanistan and the remote tribal regions of northern Pakistan. They believe that a new generation of terrorists has come of age, and some are suspected of planning attacks in the West.

Five and a half years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001 and the beginning of the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The physical presence of Osama bin Laden's network was largely destroyed at the time, with the terrorist camps which had trained an estimated 20,000 men quickly reduced to rubble. Two years ago, the White House crowed that two-thirds of Al-Qaida's leadership had been eliminated. "We're winning," US President George W. Bush claimed recently. "Al-Qaida is on the run."

But are they really on the run? Of course, there can be no doubt that the network no longer has nearly the capacity it had when it organized 9/11. But the attempts to reorganize are obvious, and the new camps are an indication that the efforts have been successful. According to Time magazine, each of the camps has the capacity to train between 10 and 300 jihadists. "We know they exist, but it's like finding a needle in a haystack," the magazine quotes a US military official in Afghanistan as saying.

It Gets Worse

There are so many ways in which Bush's Iraq War could expand into neighboring countries. One of them may be happening.

New York Times:
Turkey's army chief said Thursday the military had launched several ''large scale'' offensives against rebels in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, and he asked the government for approval to launch an incursion into neighboring northern Iraq.

Washington repeatedly has cautioned Turkey against staging a cross-border offensive, fearing that it could destabilize the region and antagonize Iraqi Kurds, who are allied with the U.S.

But Iraq's government is barely able to control its own cities. U.S. commanders, who are battling the Iraqi insurgency in the middle of the country, are stretched too thin to take on Turkish Kurds hiding in remote mountains near the frontier.


A suicide bomber killed eight people in the Iraqi parliament on Thursday, slipping through multiple checkpoints in a brazen strike that challenged a major U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad.

U.S. military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell said initial reports showed eight had been killed and 20 wounded in the blast which tore through a cafe where lawmakers were having lunch. State television said three of the dead were lawmakers.

It was the most serious breach of security in the Green Zone, the sprawling, heavily protected area in central Baghdad that houses parliament, government offices and the U.S. embassy.

Bush Continues To Undermine Our National Security

Boston Globe:
Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.

According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year -- 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty by this January, the statistics show.

The figures mark the lowest retention rate of graduates after the completion of their mandatory duty since at least 1977, with the exception of members of three classes in the late 1980s who were encouraged to leave as the military downsized following the end of the Cold War.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Yet Another Example of Bush Undermining National Security

RIA Novosti:
The planned deployment of American anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) components in Poland and the Czech Republic has provoked heated debates among Russian experts on how the country should respond. One of the questions they are discussing is whether Russia should withdraw from the 1987 treaty on intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles (officially known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty).

Nobody's Mayor

Rudy Giuliani's tenure as mayor of New York City included several incidents in which he defended cops who had abused people of color. In Alabama, yesterday, Giuliani demonstrated once again that he just doesn't get it.

Asked about the flying of the Confederate flag in some Southern states, Giuliani said, "That's a good thing to be left on a state-by-state basis."

Giuliani said he did not recall seeing a Confederate flag during his day in Alabama — even though there was a display of four Confederate flags flying beside the Capitol.
Others are making a big deal of the fact that Giuliani also proved he doesn't know the price of milk or bread. For years, that's been a political game of gotcha, designed to supposedly prove how in our out of touch a candidate is with "real people"- a false designation, to begin with. It's stupid. I can't tell you the price of milk or bread. I don't drink milk, and I don't eat bread. That questionis irrelevant. Giuliani's refusal to condemn a flag that represents slavery and treason? That's relevant.

Eat More Shrimp!

Science Daily:
Shrimp-lovers take note – research has shown that a chemical called chitosan, derived from shrimp shells, might be useful in the fight against obesity and high cholesterol.

This study is published by Wiley-Blackwell in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology. Lead author Dr. Shahdat Hossain from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Jahangirnagar University tested the effect of chitosan – derived from the exoskeleton of shrimp – on the body weight, plasma lipid profile, and fatty acid composition of rats.

The results from the study conducted by Dr. Hossain and his colleagues have shown that chitosan reduced weight gain and blood cholesterol levels in the rats. More significantly, the researchers found that when taken as a dietary supplement, the chemical chitosan increased the ratio of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
But only eat the right kinds of shrimp!

And As For Those U.S. Attorneys Who WEREN'T Fired?

John Nichols, of The Nation:
The question of whether any of the 85 U.S. Attorneys who were not fired by the Bush administration may have engaged in political prosecutions blew open Tuesday, when key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded files pertaining to a botched prosecution in Wisconsin.

Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and five other senators have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for documents dealing with the case of a Wisconsin state employee who was tried in a case that played out during the course of the 2006 gubernatorial race in that state. Republicans used the prosecution as part of a television attack campaign aimed at defeating Democratic Governor James Doyle.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic obtained an election-season conviction of the state employee, Georgia Thompson, on charges that she steered a state contract to a Doyle donor. But a federal appeals court last week overturned that conviction with a stinging decision that complained about a lack of evidence. One of the appeals court judges said Biskupic's case was "beyond thin."
This scandal is still in the very early stages. Bush was using the Justice Department as a political attack dog. The word "Nixonian" could not be more applicable. Stay tuned.

Bloomberg/LAT Poll: Abu Gonzales Should Go, White House Staff Should Testify!

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign, most Americans say, and White House aides should be forced to testify before Congress about their involvement in the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys.

In a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, conducted April 5 to 9, 53 percent of respondents said Gonzales should leave his post. Seventy-four percent said White House staff members who had discussions about the firings with Gonzales's chief of staff should testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which the White House has refused to allow.
In other findings, the poll showed that a strong majority of Americans believe the U.S. is on the wrong track, and President George W. Bush's approval rating was 36 percent, a record low. In addition, a majority of respondents said they disapproved of the performance of the Democratic-led Congress, in part because of continuing divisions over the war in Iraq. The poll of 1,373 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
I'll say it again: The Democrats cannot be too aggressive in their investigations of this Administration's corruption. The public is with them! Other polls show that even though there is majority disapproval of Congress, that number has dropped significantly since the Democrats took control. It will continue to drop if they continue to fight back against Bush.

Terrorism in Algeria

Two almost simultaneous bomb blasts in Algiers, one targeting the prime minister's office, have killed at least 17 people and injured more than 80, Algerian authorities said today.

Nine people died in the explosion at the headquarters of the prime minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem.

A second bomb at a police station in Bab Ezzouar, on the city's eastern outskirts, killed eight and wounded 50. Police sources said the attack on the government building, at 10.45am local time, was a suicide bombing.

Germany Narrowly Avoided Terror Attack

Spiegel Online:
Germany narrowly escaped what could have been its worst-ever terrorist attack last July when two bombs placed on trains failed to detonate. The case comes to trial in a Lebanese court this week with German police suspecting that the attack was an initiation test for potential al-Qaida recruits.

German authorities believe that the two Lebanese studentswho tried but failed to detonate self-made bombs in two German trains last July may have done so to qualify themselves for al-Qaida missions in Iraq.

The trial of the two alleged would-be bombers, Youssef el Hajdib, 21, Jihad Hamad, 20 and four other men starts on Wednesday in the Lebanese capital Beirut. Youssef al-Hajdib, who is in custody in a Berlin jail, is being tried in absentia.

Youssef and Jihad had made crude bombs from gas canisters filled with petrol and diesel and deposited them on two German regional trains hidden in large suitcases on July 31. They both boarded trains at Cologne's main train station and got off after depositing the bombs.

Terrorism In Morocco

Spiegel Online:
Moroccan police are continuing to search for members of a terror cell, a day after a raid in Casablanca led to the death of four militants and one police officer. Meanwhile at least 17 people are reported to have been killed by a suicide bomb in the Algerian capital.

Police in Morocco are continuing their search for Islamic extremists a day after a police raid on suspected militants left five men dead in Casablanca, Morocco's biggest city.

The series of events throughout the city was triggered by a police raid Tuesday during which one militant was shot dead and another blew himself up. By the end of the day two other suspects had detonated themselves with explosives, and a policeman had also been killed.

Salon: VA Knew Of Walter Reed Problems in 2004!

Salon's incredible Mark Benjamin, who broke the story about wounded veterans being sent back to Iraq, has done it again!

From today's edition:
Bush administration officials have claimed that they were unaware of problems with veterans' care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center until a flurry of media reports earlier this year brought the hospital's shortcomings to their attention. But Salon has obtained written proof -- a report prepared for a Department of Veterans Affairs task force -- that officials should have been aware of the situation as long ago as August 2004. President Bush, meanwhile, having promised to improve care at the hospital, has just announce plans to nominate the co-chair of that task force to run all of the VA's health services.
You would think he'd also be nominated for a Medal of Freedom, but I guess they want him to inflict as much damage as possible before he earns that singular form of recognition.
In August 2004, VA researchers conducted focus group interviews with Walter Reed patients and their families. The report based on those interviews, and obtained by Salon, says that the patients -- seriously wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan -- told the VA that they were "frustrated, confused, sometimes angry" about their experiences at the hospital. Documents provided to Salon show the focus group report was delivered to top VA officials in November 2004.
Of course, after the scandal first broke, Bush pretended to have only found out about it through the media reports.

From the February 21 Washington Post:
At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow said that he spoke with President Bush yesterday about Walter Reed and that the president told him: "Find out what the problem is and fix it."

Snow said Bush "first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in The Washington Post. He is deeply concerned and wants any problems identified and fixed." The spokesman said he did not know why the president, who has visited the facility many times in the past five years, had not heard about these problems before.
Then, Bush did a cynical photo-op tour of Walter Reed, to deflect blame and pretend to care.

From the AP, on March 30:
President Bush apologized to troops face to face on Friday for shoddy conditions they have endured at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He shook the artificial hand of a lieutenant and cradled a newborn whose daddy is nursing his remaining, severely injured leg back to health.

"The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures," Bush said during a nearly three-hour visit to the medical center — his first since reports surfaced of shabby conditions for veterans in outpatient housing. "The system failed you and it failed our troops, and we're going to fix it."
Right: "bureaucratic and administrative failures." The buck stops anywhere but at 1600 Pennsylvania. This wasn't an administrative failure, it was an Administrative failure. So, how's he going to fix it?

The report shows that top VA officials were involved in the focus group process back in 2004. Michael Kussman, then the acting deputy undersecretary for health, was co-chair of the VA's Seamless Transition Task Force, which produced the final report. The task force was supposed to make sure veterans had access to healthcare and got their benefits in a fair and timely fashion. Not only is Kussman still at the VA, but he is also in line to be promoted. On April 4, the White House announced that the president intends to nominate Kussman to be undersecretary for health at the VA.
That's right. Heckuva job, Kussman. It's hard work. Keep it up.

On February 25, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin pointed out that the Republican Congress had, as usual, protected Bush by refusing to investigate. So, the new Congress has yet another Bush scandal to deal with; but it now has yet another crtiical responsibility: stop the promotion of Michael Kussman!

Central Park, New York City

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Media Are The Menace

Los Angeles Times:
Last week, in an essay labeled "Opinion," Pizzey took Republican Sen. John McCain to task for asserting that some neighborhoods in Baghdad were safe enough to stroll through.

"For Senator McCain to claim there are places here where all is well is to woefully minimize the dangers faced by the troops he otherwise so admirably supports," he wrote. " … Any time Senator McCain wants to walk the streets of Baghdad, unarmed and without a serious security detail, we'd be glad to lend him a camera so he can record his experience."

Pizzey said he felt compelled to write the piece because McCain "was talking utter rubbish." (In a piece airing Sunday on "60 Minutes," McCain said he misspoke.) He was also motivated by a belief that the media were not skeptical enough in the run-up to the war — a mistake he does not want to repeat.

"We the media gave the Bush administration a free ride for this war," he said. "We did not question sufficiently the statements made by politicians. I'm as guilty as anybody else. We climbed on board, and that's not what we should do."

House Judiciary Committee Subpoenas Abu Gonzales

New York Times:
The House Judiciary Committee demanded more documents today from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in the panel’s inquiry into the dismissals of eight United States attorneys.

The committee’s chairman, Representative John Conyers, wrote Mr. Gonzales that the documents were being subpoenaed because the Justice Department’s cooperation so far in turning over documents “falls far short of what is needed.”

Mr. Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said he appreciated Mr. Gonzales’s cooperation in supplying some documents to the committee’s subcommittee on commercial and administrative law. Still, Mr. Conyers said, the department has not responded fully despite weeks of negotiations with the subcommittee.
Why are they not cooperating? What are they hiding?