Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thank You To The Democrats Who Tried To End This War!

We've made our feelings known to those who sold out and perpetuated the war. We need to thank those who opposed it. A majority of Congressional Democrats voted both for the McGovern bill that would have brought the troops home and against today's bill, that continued the war's funding. These Representatives did what they were hired to do- and we should thank them. We should support them if they run for higher office!

Thank you, Representatives:

Bishop (NY)
Braley (IA)
Davis (AL)
Davis (IL)
Frank (MA)
Green, Al
Hall (NY)
Hastings (FL)
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones (OH)
Klein (FL)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe
Maloney (NY)
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum (MN)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick
Neal (MA)
Price (NC)
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (VA)
Smith (WA)
Thompson (CA)
Udall (NM)
Van Hollen
Welch (VT)

We hope many of you will be moving up to the Senate!

Sadly, only ten Democratic Senators, plus one liberal Independent, voted both for the Reid-Feingold bill that would have ended the war and against today's bill that continued funding the war. These are our leaders!

Thank you, Senators:


We're very good at expressing our anger and outrage. We need to be just as good at expressing our gratitude.

The fight to end the war continues. These fine people are fighting on our side!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Road Trip

I'll be on the road for several days. I will post when I can, although no pictures unless I take some...

Three Bloggers To Read, Today



Tod Westlake.

More Perjury From Our Chief Law Enforcement Officer

Washington Post:
The Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials have previously acknowledged, with at least 26 prosecutors suggested for termination between February 2005 and December 2006, according to sources familiar with documents withheld from the public.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since last June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.

In fact, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, considered more than two dozen U.S. attorneys for termination, according to lists compiled by him and his colleagues, the sources said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is Russia Waging Cyberwar on Estonia?

A three-week wave of massive cyber-attacks on the small Baltic country of Estonia, the first known incidence of such an assault on a state, is causing alarm across the western alliance, with Nato urgently examining the offensive and its implications.

While Russia and Estonia are embroiled in their worst dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a row that erupted at the end of last month over the Estonians' removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, the country has been subjected to a barrage of cyber warfare, disabling the websites of government ministries, political parties, newspapers, banks, and companies.

Nato has dispatched some of its top cyber-terrorism experts to Tallinn to investigate and to help the Estonians beef up their electronic defences.

Even The Washington Post Is Outraged!

Washington Post:
JAMES B. COMEY, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source. The episode involved a 2004 nighttime visit to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff. Only the broadest outlines of this visit were previously known: that Mr. Comey, who was acting as attorney general during Mr. Ashcroft's illness, had refused to recertify the legality of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program; that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card had tried to do an end-run around Mr. Comey; that Mr. Ashcroft had rebuffed them.

Mr. Comey's vivid depiction, worthy of a Hollywood script, showed the lengths to which the administration and the man who is now attorney general were willing to go to pursue the surveillance program. First, they tried to coerce a man in intensive care -- a man so sick he had transferred the reins of power to Mr. Comey -- to grant them legal approval. Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice's authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations -- Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself -- did the president back down.
When even the Washington Post is outraged at Bush's abuses, you know this is big. Here's the money quote:
That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.
I'll go a step farther: Comey's testimony makes clear that Bush was directly involved. Think about what that means.

DOJ Tells Senate Judiciary Committee It Doesn't Have Subpoenaed Rove Documents

The Justice Department on Wednesday told an angry Senate Judiciary Committee chairman it does not have documents described in a subpoena that demands all materials relating to Karl Rove's possible involvement in the U.S. attorney firings.

Instead, it said, Rove's lawyer must have them. Rove is the chief political adviser for President Bush.

The response from a top Justice Department official came just hours after the chairman, Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chastised Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in a letter for ignoring the subpoena's Tuesday deadline. (Read full story)

"You ignored the subpoena, did not come forward today, did not produce the documents, and did not even offer an explanation for your noncompliance," the two senators wrote in the letter, sent Tuesday night.

"The committee intends to get to the truth."
The dog ate my homework.


Winston Churchill's longtime home.

GAO: Department of Homeland Security Breaks Privacy Laws!

Washington Post:
The Department of Homeland Security is breaking privacy laws by failing to tell the public all the ways it uses personal information to target passengers boarding flights entering or leaving the United States, according to a draft government report.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report to be released tomorrow, says DHS's Customs and Border Protection agency has never publicly disclosed all the sources of data such as name, credit card number and travel history that it uses to detect passengers who may pose a security risk.

"CBP's current disclosures do not fully inform the public about all of its systems for prescreening aviation passenger information, nor do they explain how CBP combines data in the prescreening process, as required by law," the report says. "As a result, passengers are not assured that their privacy is protected during the international prescreening process."
If you fly overseas, they're watching you.


A car bomb exploded near a market in a Shiite enclave northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 32 people and wounding 50, police said Wednesday. Hospital officials and victims said chlorine gas may have been used in the attack, but police denied that.

Clashes also broke out in the mostly Shiite city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, when militants fought with police who had arrested two wanted militia members, police said. Nine Iraqis were killed and 75 wounded, police said.

In Baghdad, at least nine mortar rounds or rockets slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, wounding at least six people, the second such attack in as many days, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.

Jerry Falwell

The Carpetbagger Report gives a summary of his life's work.

Salon's Alan Wolfe has a good obit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monte Carlo

Foxes Guarding The Henhouse, Chapter 10,001

New York Times:
A senior lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers nominated by President Bush to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission will receive a $150,000 departing payment from the association when he takes his new government job, which involves enforcing consumer laws against members of the association.

The lobbyist, Michael E. Baroody, wrote recently to the commission’s general counsel that the severance was an “extraordinary payment” under a federal ethics rule, requiring him to remove himself from agency matters involving the association for two years. Under the rule, a payment is “extraordinary” if an employer grants it after learning that the employee is being considered for a government position and it is not part of an established compensation or benefits program.

Mr. Baroody said in the letter that the payment would not prevent him from considering matters involving individual companies that are members of the manufacturers’ association, many of whom are defendants in agency proceedings over defective products or have other business before the commission. Nor would it preclude him from involvement with smaller trade groups like those representing makers of home appliances and children’s products that have alliances with the association.
Even without the gift, this is a typically unethical Bush appointment: an industry lobbyist in charge of the agency that regulates his industry.

Wolfowitz Is A Bad Boy

An angry and bitter Paul Wolfowitz poured abuse and threatened retaliations on senior World Bank staff if his orders for pay rises and promotions for his partner were revealed, according to new details published last night.

Under fire for the lavish package given to Shaha Riza, a World Bank employee and Mr Wolfowitz's girlfriend when he became president, an official investigation into the controversy has found that Mr Wolfowitz broke bank rules and violated his own contract – setting off a struggle between US and European governments over Mr Wolfowitz's future.

Sounding more like a cast member of the Sopranos than an international leader, in testimony by one key witness Mr Wolfowitz declares: "If they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too."
He's also toast.

Washington Post:
The Bush administration softened its support for World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz yesterday, signaling a willingness to replace him if the bank's executive board resolves an ethics controversy without firing him.

"All options are on the table," said White House spokesman Tony Snow, addressing reporters at a morning briefing. "Members of the board, Mr. Wolfowitz, need to sit down and figure out what is in fact going to be best for this bank. . . ."

The shift of tone at the White House, which nominated Wolfowitz for the post two years ago, is a blow to his struggle to save his job. It came a day after a bank investigating committee found that Wolfowitz broke ethics rules and damaged the integrity of the institution by engineering a large raise for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, while keeping the bank's top legal adviser out of the loop.


Spiegel Online:
The US is blocking language on climate change in the forthcoming G8 declaration. It now remains to be seen whether the other leading industrialized nations can salvage a commitment to combat global warming.

Eat Fish

Unless you're a vegetarian...

Science Daily:
Individuals who have higher dietary intake of foods with omega-3 fatty acids and higher fish consumption have a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration, while those with higher serum levels of vitamin D may have a reduced risk of the early stages of the disease, according to two reports in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the macula, the area at the back of the retina that produces the sharpest vision, deteriorates over time. It is the most common cause of blindness among older adults in the United States, affecting more than 7 million individuals older than 40 years, according to background information in the articles. The prevalence of AMD is likely to increase as the population ages. There is currently no known way to prevent the condition, but research has begun to identify potentially modifiable risk factors and nutrient-based treatments.

Dark Matter

No, this one's not about the Bush Administration!

Exciting news from the world of science!

A halo detected around a distant cluster of galaxies is the strongest evidence yet for dark matter, the cosmic scaffold around which the planets and stars form, astronomers said today.

The discovery is a milestone in a 70-year search for a substance that has never been seen yet accounts for nearly all of the mass in the universe. Because it does not reflect or emit radiation, dark matter has proved impossible to observe directly, even with the most advanced telescopes.

The discovery was announced today at a Nasa press conference in Washington.

Passing The Buck

It's the Bush-league way!

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday he relied on his resigning deputy more than any other aide to decide which U.S. attorneys should be fired last year.

His comments come a less than a day after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced he would resign at the end of the summer — a decision that people familiar with the plans said was hastened by the controversy over the purge of eight prosecutors.

Democratic opponents of the Bush administration say the firings were politically motivated and have called for the resignation of Gonzales, the top U.S. law enforcement official who heads the Justice Department.
The best available evidence, thus far, tends to exonerate McNulty of direct complicity. Typical of the Bush Administration to try to shift blame to a subordinate. The buck always stops somewhere else.

Finally! No More Bad News From Iraq!

We all know that Laura Bush blames the media for always reporting only the bad news from Iraq.

We all know that no one suffers over the war like she and her W.

Certainly not the troops and their families, and certainly not the Iraqi people.

And Dick Cheney told us:
It's hard sometimes, if you look at just the news, to have the good stories burn through.
Of course, that was also when he told us:
From our perspective, looking back, as I say, to a year and a half ago, I think it's remarkable progress. I think we've turned the corner, if you will. I think when we look back from 10 years hence, we'll see that the year '05 was in fact a watershed year here in Iraq.
And, of course, that was back in December. Of 2005.

And Mr. Straight Talk, himself, also recognizes the real problem, in Iraq:
The new political-military strategy is beginning to show results. But most Americans are not aware because much of the media are not reporting it or devote far more attention to car bombs and mortar attacks that reveal little about the strategic direction of the war. I am not saying that bad news should not be reported or that horrific terrorist attacks are not newsworthy. But news coverage should also include evidence of progress. Whether Americans choose to support or oppose our efforts in Iraq, I hope they could make their decision based on as complete a picture of the situation in Iraq as is possible to report.
Well, thankfully, the news from Iraq is about to get much better! As AFP reported, yesterday:
Iraq's interior ministry has decided to bar news photographers and camera operators from the scenes of bomb attacks, operations director Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf said on Sunday (local time).

His announcement was the latest in a series of attempts to curtail press coverage of the ongoing conflict, which has already attracted criticism from international human rights bodies.
So, cheer up, everybody! We'll no longer have to waste our beautiful minds on something like that!


Monday, May 14, 2007

The Media Are The Menace

Last night's San Francisco Chronicle had a preview of the new Media Matters report on the lack of diversity of the guests on Sunday talk shows. You know the drill. It's one of the blatant examples of bias that typifies our corrupt, incompetent, corporate media.
Seeing nonwhite men on the Sunday shows is as rare as seeing them on the floor of the U.S. Senate. According to a study to be released Monday by the liberal media organization Media Matters for America, which was obtained by The Chronicle, at least 77 percent of the 2,150 guests who appeared on the four major Sunday shows in 2005-06 were men; at least 82 percent were white.
Well, that fits our national demographic, right? Well, at least the demographic of those whose opinions actually matter, right? White men. Every week, all the time. Of course, these movers and shakers are so intelligent, reponsible, and attuned that it doesn't matter. They still best represent what needs be the focus of the national dialogue. Right?

The Chronicle article then goes on to describe the April 15 episode of NBC's "Meet the Press," which was a rare example of a show that featured two African-American guests! Of course, that was the week of the Don Imus controversy, when race issues actually mattered to the Powers That Be. It mattered because one of their own had finally gotten in trouble for behaving like a bigoted bully. PBS's Gwen Ifill upbraided Tim Russert for having continued to appear on the Imus show, long after it had become clear that Imus repeatedly made racist comments, including one about Ifill herself.
"There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, 'I find this offensive or I didn't know,' " Ifill said. Turning to Russert, Ifill said, "These people didn't speak up. Tim, we didn't hear from you."

Not only did the moment make for good TV, it was a rare example, analysts said, of how broadening the pool of talking heads can lead to a more inclusive and representative national conversation. Sunday shows are closely monitored by the nation's decision-makers, as a barometer of Beltway buzz.
That's part of the problem: the nation's decision-makers and the Beltway buzz. Glenn Greenwald and Digby absolutely nailed that one, last week. Greenwald got into an exchange with the always embarrassing Joe Klein (Joke Line). It started with this article, which evoked this response, at which point Greenwald succinctly and perfectly summarized the entire problem:
My point was that Beltway pundits are far too insulated and detached from the people whom they baselessly claim to represent, not that leaving the Beltway is bad. The fact that it is supposed to be some sort of commendable or distinguishing attribute that Broder goes on field trips to America in order to study how the "ordinary people" think -- much the way a zoologist travels to the jungle to observe the behavior of different species -- illustrates that point.
Digby then did what often makes Digby the best of all bloggers:
I would actually take the argument another step and point out that Broder and others also venture out into the American landscape with a sort of pre-conceived notion of what defines "the people" that appears to have been formed by TV sit-coms in 1955. They seem to see extraordinary value in sitting in some diner with middle aged and older white men (sometimes a few women are included) to "ask them what they think." And invariably these middle-aged white men say the country is going to hell in a handbasket and they want the government to do more and they hate paying taxes. There may be a little frisson of disagreement among these otherwise similar people on certain issues of the day because of their affiliation with a union or because of the war or certain social issues, but for the most part they all sit together and politely talk politics with this anthropologist/reporter, usually agreeing that this president or another one is a bum or a hero. The reporter takes careful notes of everything these "real Americans" have to say and take them back to DC and report them as the opinions of "the people."

Meanwhile, someone like me, who lives in a big city on the west coast and who doesn't hang out in diners with middle aged white men are used as an example of the "fringe" even though I too am one of "the people" as are many others --- like hispanic youths or single urban mothers or dot-com millionaires or elderly southern black granddads or Korean entrepreneurs (or even Sheryl Crow.) We are not Real Americans.
Digby then traces this mythical America to Joseph Kraft, forty years ago, and brings it home with an analysis of how the Beltway punditocracy also mythologizes itself, and the effect that had on their false outrage over President Clinton's personal misbehavior:
Yet, even while they ostentatiously ranted and wailed hysterically with anachronistic notions of bourgeois American values, they still carried on as if the White House and the nation's capital belonged to them instead of the American people, which is the very definition of elitism. What an achievement! The very rich and powerful (but we won't talk about that) "bourgeoisie" now had to save degenerate "Middle America" from itself.

When the equally phony George W. Bush came to town it was love at first sight, and why wouldn't it be? Here you had a man whom these people could truly admire --- a rich man of the bluest blood, born into one of the most powerful families in America who nonetheless pretended to be some hick from Midland Texas. He took great pride in his phoniness, just as they did, and they all danced this absurd kabuki in perfect step for years each pretending to the other that they were all "just regular guys."
Exactly. It's a magnificent read!

The Media Matters report is now online:
Not only are the Sunday morning talk shows on the broadcast networks dominated by conservative opinion and commentary, the four programs -- NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- feature guest lists that are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male.

And the top-rated Sunday show -- Meet the Press -- shows the least diversity of all. The NBC program is the most male and nearly the most white (Face the Nation beats it out by 1 percentage point), and it has the highest proportion of white males to all other guests.
And I will close by posting a little media guide I threw together to use as a comment in media related diaries. Much of what's wrong with America can be traced to our media's bias. That's one of the many reasons the internet and the blogs have become so critically important!
anyone interested in the complicity of the media in creating and enabling bush should check out the following:

for background:
mark hertsgaard- on bended knee: the press and the reagan presidency

gene lyons- fools for scandal: how the media invented whitewater

joe conason & gene lyons- the hunting of the president: the ten-year campaign to destroy bill and hillary clinton

for the current era:
eric alterman- what liberal media?

eric boehlert- lapdogs: how the press rolled over for bush

frank rich- the greatest story ever sold: the decline and fall of truth from 9/11 to katrina

al franken's books also cover the subject, although not in as great detail.

also check websites:
media matters

daily howler

fairness and accuracy in reporting

make no mistake- it's not just a matter of incompetence. the corporate media deliberately help republican presidents and undermine democratic ones. we need always keep this in mind! they are not a peripheral problem, they are at the heart of what's so terribly wrong in this country.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Ninth Century CE mosaic in Santa Maria in Domnica

Nobody's Mayor

Washington Post:
On Dec. 7, 2001, nearly three months after the terrorist attack that had made him a national hero and a little over three weeks before he would leave office, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took the first official step toward making himself rich.

The letter he dispatched to the city Conflicts of Interest Board that day asked permission to begin forming a consulting firm with three members of his outgoing administration. The company, Giuliani said, would provide "management consulting service to governments and business" and would seek out partners for a "wide-range of possible business, management and financial services" projects.

Over the next five years, Giuliani Partners earned more than $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the firm's financial information is private. And that success helped transform the Republican considered the front-runner for his party's 2008 presidential nomination from a moderately well-off public servant into a globe-trotting consultant whose net worth is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

A Quick Guide To Repug Scandals

Courtesy of Slate.


Thousands of U.S. soldiers searched Sunday for three Americans who were missing after their patrol came under attack in an explosion that killed four of their comrades and an Iraqi army translator. Two bombings -- one in northern Iraq and another at a market in Baghdad -- killed at least 67 Iraqis.

The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, said it had captured several soldiers in the attack, but offered no proof to back up its claim, posted on an Islamic Web site.

The search for the missing Americans began after insurgents attacked a patrol of seven U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter before dawn Saturday near Mahmoudiya.

Interesting Idea On Global Warming

Science Daily:
Writing in the journal Nature, a Cornell biogeochemist describes an economical and efficient way to help offset global warming: Pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by charring, or partially burning, trees, grasses or crop residues without the use of oxygen.

When bioenergy is produced by pyrolysis (low-temperature burning without oxygen), it produces biochar, which has twice as much carbon in its residue than that from other sources. This makes bioenergy carbon-negative and improves soil health.

This process, he writes, would double the carbon concentration in the residue, which could be returned to the soil as a carbon sink. The exhaust gases from this process and other biofuel production could then be converted into energy.
Less expensive than ethanol production, this could reportedly offset some ten percent of our annual fossil fuel emissions!

Potentially Good News

Blair getting out of the way may actually save Labour!

Gordon Brown is to set out a wide-ranging blueprint for a new Britain as he attempts to prove that he will be a Prime Minister for the whole country rather than sectional interests.

As a new poll shows Labour has gained a bounce in the polls, the Chancellor is set to unveil a host of new policies on the environment, the treatment the public can expect from doctors and fundamental changes to the constitution designed to show the broadness of his political vision and that he can outmanoeuvre David Cameron on the key issues.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Destroying Our National Guard

The National Guard isn't as strong as it should be because of the war in Iraq and American communities will suffer as a result, retired Air Force Gen. Melvyn Montano said Saturday.

Delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address, Montano said the strain means it will take longer for Greensburg, Kansas, to recover from a devastating tornado that leveled the town a week ago.

"Crucial equipment used by the Guard for disaster relief is now in Iraq instead of standing ready to respond to crises here at home," said Montano, who was once adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard.

Rainforests Matter!

Science Daily:
Dr Pep Canadell, from the Global Carbon Project and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, says in the journal Science that tropical deforestation releases 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon each year into the atmosphere.

“Deforestation in the tropics accounts for nearly 20 per cent of carbon emissions due to human activities,” Dr Canadell says. “This will release an estimated 87 to 130 billion tonnes of carbon by 2100, which is greater than the amount of carbon that would be released by 13 years of global fossil fuel combustion. So maintaining forests as carbon sinks will make a significant contribution to stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

“The new body of information shows considerable value in preserving tropical forests such as those in the Amazon and Indonesia as carbon sinks, that they do not release the carbon back into the atmosphere as has been suggested,”
Give to the Rainforest Action Network!

Gordon Brown, Radical!

Gordon Brown will try to restore public trust in British politics by proposing an all-party convention that could pave the way for a written constitution.

In an attempt to draw a line under damaging perceptions over sleaze and spin in the Blair era, the chancellor will seek consensus for the historic move to enshrine certain values and rights.

The convention will also look at new powers for parliament and a rebalancing of powers between Whitehall and local government, similar to those laid out in the US constitution of 1787 which has a central place in American law and culture.
In Rights Of Man, Thomas Paine excoriated England for having no constitution. It's incredible that they still haven't bothered to actually write one. Of course, those silly Guardian writers don't realize that our current Administration is doing its best to shred ours!


Seven U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi army interpreter came under attack Saturday morning during a patrol in a Sunni insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad, leaving five dead and three missing, the military said.


The Wawel.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Los Angeles Times:
Within hours of Friday prayer services' end, two suicide car bombers struck checkpoints at Baghdad bridges in quick succession, killing 23 Iraqis, injuring 57 and crippling the key passageways from the capital to the country's south. Among those killed were 10 Iraqi police officers and soldiers.

The first suicide car bomber detonated his cargo before dusk over an old two-lane bridge on the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris.

Minutes later, a tanker truck loaded with explosives rammed a second bridge on the Diyala, a four-lane metal structure built after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.


New York Times:
Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report.

Using an average of $50 a barrel, the report said the discrepancy was valued at $5 million to $15 million daily.

The report does not give a final conclusion on what happened to the missing fraction of the roughly two million barrels pumped by Iraq each day, but the findings are sure to reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry.
How does one smuggle hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day?

A Hopeful Sign?

Spiegel Online:
Two moderate parties in Belgrade have announced a coalition deal that will shut out the far-right Radical Party. The announcement comes after months of talks -- on the very day that Serbia takes over the Council of Europe, amid protests from rights groups. At issue is the continuing freedom of two men accused of war crimes.

Serbia's acting Foreign Minister, Vuk Draskovic, takes a seat at the Council of Europe on Friday, amid protests from human-rights groups and last-minute government chaos at home.

Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and pro-Western President Boris Tadic sealed a coalition deal just days before next Tuesday's deadline to forge a government or face fresh parliamentary elections.

Embedded British Photographer: "the Iraqi army is a fiction"

Read the interview here.


Just go read. Trust me.

Some Goods News

Spiegel Online:
The Troubles in Northern Ireland led to the deaths of 3,700 people and injured thousands of others. Now the bitter enemies of the past have come together to form a power-sharing government.

First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are all smiles after being sworn in on Tuesday.
The new ministers in Northern Ireland's government wasted no time in getting behind their desks on Wednesday morning. As of midnight Tuesday, direct rule from London ended and the politicians were eager to get to work. What has been described as a "new dawn" was made possible by the pledging of the two sides in the bitter conflict to abandon the tactics of violence for good and to join together in the political process.

On Tuesday Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), took office as Northern Ireland's first minister, forming an administration with his former foe, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, who now takes over as deputy leader. They will head a new 12-member administration which will take back control of government departments that had been run from London for the past five years. Allegations of intelligence gathering within Belfast's government buildings led to the collapse of the first attempt at devolved government back in 2002. Power-sharing had been the central goal of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which had been brokered by the United States, Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Surprise, Surprise

Murray Waas, of the National Journal:
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin's appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove's role in supporting Griffin.

In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post. A month later, the Justice Department apologized in writing to the Senate Democrats for the earlier letter, saying it had been inaccurate in denying that Rove had played a role.

Buh Bye

New York Times:
European leaders have told the Bush administration that Paul D. Wolfowitz must resign as president of the World Bank in order to avoid a vote next week by the bank’s board declaring that he no longer has its confidence to function as the bank’s leader, European officials said Thursday.

The officials said the board was drafting a resolution reflecting its view that the relationship between Mr. Wolfowitz and the governing body of the bank had “broken beyond repair.” They noted that, if he remained in office, some European countries were planning to reduce contributions to the World Bank that would aid poor countries and instead would channel the money to European agencies and other groups for distribution.

“The administration has been told that its battle to save Wolfowitz cannot be won,” said a European official, who like others who discussed the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is confidential. “His relationship with the board is not only damaged. It is broken.”

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Pre-Colombian Fremont petroglyphs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Legislators Vote Timetable for Withdrawal from Iraq!

Iraqi legislators, that is!

Washinton Post:
A majority of members of Iraq's parliament have signed a draft bill that would require a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq and freeze current troop levels. The development was a sign of a growing division between Iraq's legislators and prime minister that mirrors the widening gulf between the Bush administration and its critics in Congress.

The draft bill proposes a timeline for a gradual departure, much like what some U.S. Democratic lawmakers have demanded, and would require the Iraqi government to secure parliament's approval before any further extensions of the U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2007.
U.S. legislators? Another cop-out.

Washington Post:
The House last night pushed through its second plan to fund the Iraq war and reshape war policy, approving legislation that would provide partial funding for the conflict but hold back most of the money until President Bush reports on the war's progress in July.

Coming only a week after the Democrats' first war funding bill was vetoed, the House's 221 to 205 vote defied a fresh veto threat and even opposition from Democrats in the Senate....

The final tally came just an hour after antiwar Democrats mustered 171 votes for far tougher legislation that would all but end U.S. military involvement in Iraq within nine months. The 255 to 171 vote against that measure meant that nowhere close to a majority backed it, but the fact that 169 Democrats and two Republicans voted for it surprised opponents and proponents alike.

Olmert learns from Bush

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blamed his former military chief of staff for telling him that the army was prepared enough to defeat Hezbollah before he sent troops into Lebanon last July.

In testimony released today by the government commission studying the five-week conflict, Olmert also described the political confusion during the six months after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had a crippling stroke and he took over.
Of course. Nothing's ever the fault of the guy at the top of the food chain.

Good Riddance!

Blair resigns, effective June 27. He's long planned an orderly transition, so that Labour can move on without him. Unfortunately, he has effectively destroyed the great Labour majority he first created, and it's doubtful Labour will hold Downing Street, in the next election.

A tragically flawed Prime Minister, Blair could have been one of the great ones. His support for Bush's war will always be his primary legacy.

Kansas Steps Into the 21st Century!

The Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday repealed sex education policies enacted last year, the latest move by the moderate majority to undo efforts by conservatives when they dominated the board.

One rescinded policy recommended that schools stress abstinence until marriage, while the other urged school districts to get parental permission before students could attend human sexuality classes.

On a 6-3 vote, the board replaced the policies with one that recommends "abstinence plus" sex education programs and leaves it up to the state's 296 school districts to decide whether to get parental permission.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Fortified in the Tenth Century CE, it became one of the primary Angevin castles, and a frequent residence of England's King Henry II, who died here, on July 6, 1189.

In 1307, when King Philip IV (the Fair) of France brutally suppressed the Knights Templars, some were imprisoned here.

A century later, it was home to Charles VII, Dauphin of France, while in exile from Paris, during the Hundred Years' War. On March 8, 1429, Joan of Arc was granted audience, but Charles disguised himself among his courtiers. That she wasn't fooled, and picked him out of the crowd, helped convince Charles to follow her advice, go to Reims to be crowned king, and aggressively pursue the expulsion of the English from France.

Surging Backward: Green Zone Declared Unsafe!

A sharp increase in mortar attacks on the Green Zone — the one-time oasis of security in Iraq’s turbulent capital — has prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a strict new order telling all employees to wear flak vests and helmets while in unprotected buildings or whenever they are outside.

The order, obtained by The Associated Press, has created a siege mentality among U.S. staff inside the Green Zone following a recent suicide attack on parliament. It has also led to new fears about long-term safety in the place where the U.S. government is building a massive and expensive new embassy.

Yet Another Reason to Get Out of Iraq

And yet another example of why Bush is such a literally disastrous President.

New York Times:
For months, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and other governors have warned that their state National Guards are ill-prepared for the next local disaster, be it a tornado a flash flood or a terrorist’s threat, because of large deployments of their soldiers and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, last Friday night, a deadly tornado all but cleared the small town of Greensburg off the Kansas map. With 80 square blocks of the small farming town destroyed, Ms. Sebelius said her fears had come true: The emergency response was too slow, she said, and there was only one reason....

Two recent reports have raised questions about Guard preparedness. An independent military assessment council, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, released a report in March that stated: “In particular, the equipment readiness of the Army National Guard is unacceptable and has reduced the capability of the United States to respond to current and additional major contingencies, foreign and domestic.”

Another report, released in January by the Government Accountability Office, concluded that the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have “significantly decreased” the amount of equipment available for National Guard units not deployed overseas, while the same units face an increasing number of threats at home.
Why does he hate America?

Let's Hope

Seattle Times:
Two former U.S. attorneys said today they believe ongoing investigations into the dismissals last year of eight federal prosecutors could result in criminal charges against senior Justice Department officials.

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, and David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, also said they believe White House political operative Karl Rove and his aides instigated the dismissals and ultimately decided who among the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys should be fired.

The Polls Are In: Democrats Should Not Back Down On Deadlines!

The polls are in, and the Democrats cannot lose by standing firm, forcing Bush's hand, and continuing to send him firm deadlines for withdrawal for Iraq!

Opinion Research, for CNN, found that a solid 54% opposed Bush's veto of the last bill. More importantly:
Now that the veto has been cast, 57 percent of Americans said they want Congress to send another spending bill with a timetable for withdrawal back to the White House, the poll found -- but 61 percent would support a new bill that dropped the timetables in favor of benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet to maintain American support.
The slightly larger majority favoring benchmarks is irrelevant. Fully 57 percent want the Democrats to essentially send Bush the same bill! The Democrats are so far behind the public, on this, and we need to wake them up! In fact, today's USA Today/Gallup poll adds confirmation:
Six in 10 support setting a timetable for withdrawal and sticking to it regardless of what's happening in Iraq; 36% say the United States should keep troops in Iraq until the situation there improves.
At what point do the Democrats realize that there is no political downside to standing firm? I'm not one who often criticizes the Democratic leadership, but these numbers could not be more plain! Key Republicans are panicking, and major media outlets that formerly supported the war are now openly calling for us to simply leave! And the news from Iraq just continues to get worse!

Radio stations attacked and torched.

Doctors prevented from fleeing the country.

No medical facilities to treat wounded Iraqi soldiers.

And another bombing, today, which left at least 14 people dead.

And the Pentagon says 35,000 more troops are being told to prepare for deployment to Iraq in December!

So, Vice President Cheney is in Iraq on another propaganda and oil tour, while Iraq's national security adviser is making the rounds, in Washington:
In a whirlwind series of closed-door meetings that began with Representative John P. Murtha and ended with Senator Carl Levin — two Democrats who have been leading the charge for American troop withdrawals — Mr. Rubaie sought to make the case that an American pullout would be catastrophic.

“I know that they are running out of patience, and I understand this very well,” Mr. Rubaie said in a Monday interview in which he outlined his case. “And we have to play the political game. But I feel we are on the last mile of a walk toward success, and if they let go and don’t take our hand, I feel that we are going to lose everything.”
Catastrophic? Like what- it will turn into a civil war? Lose everything? Like what- 655,00 of your people dead?

It's over! The American people know it! It's time for the Democrats to realize that the American people know it! Stand up to Bush! Force his hand! Send him the same bill, with the same firm deadline! Watch the Republicans squirm and jump ship! It's the right thing to do. It's the politically advantageous thing to do! It's the moral thing to do! Don't back down! The people are leading; it's time for the leaders to follow!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


The Tower Bridge.

Even Politically, The Democrats Can Afford To Stand Firm!

A majority of the U.S. public disapproves of President Bush's decision to veto a war spending bill that called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq in 2008, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday.

The poll found that 54 percent of Americans opposed Bush's May 1 veto, while 44 percent backed the president's decision to kill the $124 billion bill.

Now that the veto has been cast, 57 percent of Americans said they want Congress to send another spending bill with a timetable for withdrawal back to the White House, the poll found -- but 61 percent would support a new bill that dropped the timetables in favor of benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet to maintain American support.

Very cool!

An ancient staircase used in a royal funeral procession led an Israeli archaeologist to solve a 2,000-year-old mystery, the location of the tomb of the Roman-anointed "King of the Jews," Herod the Great.

Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer said on Tuesday he had found the sarcophagus of the king, who ruled Judea from about 37 BC until his death in 4 BC, had been smashed, most likely by Jews who rebelled against Rome from 66 to 72 AD.

Speaking at a news conference a day after the university announced the discovery, Netzer said the monarch's remains most likely disappeared when the rebels raided the tomb at Herodium, where Herod's fortress palace once stood, near Jerusalem.

Nobody's Mayor

The New York Times has Rudy's speech on crime. Choice Orwellian nugget:
Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Buh Bye

New York Times:
A committee of World Bank directors has formally notified Paul D. Wolfowitz that they found him to be guilty of a conflict of interest in arranging for a pay raise and promotion for Shaha Ali Riza, his companion, in 2005. The findings stepped up the pressure on Mr. Wolfowitz to resign.

Humvees Kill Our Troops

USA Today:
The Army is fixing the doors of every armored Humvee in combat in Iraq because they can jam shut during an attack and trap soldiers inside, Pentagon records and interviews show.

The door trouble, the latest in a series of problems with the Humvees since the Iraq war began, is an unintended consequence of the Pentagon's effort to add armor to protect troops from makeshift bombs. Improvised explosive devices are the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Iraq, causing 70% of injuries and deaths. Armored Humvees, the main troop-transport vehicle, are often targeted by insurgents who plant bombs on roads.

Fourth largest Newspaper calls for an End to the War!

Los Angeles Times editorial:
But what now? After four years of war, more than $350 billion spent and 3,363 U.S. soldiers killed and 24,310 wounded, it seems increasingly obvious that an Iraqi political settlement cannot be achieved in the shadow of an indefinite foreign occupation. The U.S. military presence — opposed by more than three-quarters of Iraqis — inflames terrorism and delays what should be the primary and most pressing goal: meaningful reconciliation among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

This newspaper reluctantly endorsed the U.S. troop surge as the last, best hope for stabilizing conditions so that the elected Iraqi government could assume full responsibility for its affairs. But we also warned that the troops should not be used to referee a civil war. That, regrettably, is what has happened....

Having invested so much in Iraq, Americans are likely to find disengagement almost as painful as war. But the longer we delay planning for the inevitable, the worse the outcome is likely to be. The time has come to leave.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports:
A senior U.S. commander said Sunday that the military was bracing for a rise in the casualty rate in the coming months, as an ongoing security offensive attempts to tame the devastating violence and stabilize Baghdad.

"All of us believe that in the next 90 days, you'll probably see an increase in American casualties because we are taking the fight to the enemy," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Army's Task Force Marne, told reporters Sunday. "This is the only way we can win the fight."

Even as insurgents take aim at U.S. troops, they have stepped up their attacks on so-called soft targets, especially in Shiite areas of Baghdad, in an apparent attempt to stoke sectarian warfare. In the deadliest such attack Sunday, a car bomb explosion tore through one of the capital's biggest markets at midday, killing 42 people, police said. The blast, in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bayaa, ravaged buildings, scorched vehicles and injured at least 67 people, police said.
And the Iraqis continue to suffer. New York Times:
Successive suicide car bombs hit a police checkpoint near Ramadi on Monday, the provincial security chief said, killing 25 people and dealing a blow to a city recently considered a showcase for the strategy of integrating insurgents into the Iraqi security forces. Attacks elsewhere in Iraq killed an additional nine Iraqi civilians, according to the Interior Ministry, while five Iraqi security troops died in an assault on a checkpoint in Al Baagh, a small town near Mosul, the town’s mayor said. Thirty bodies were found in Baghdad and at least six elsewhere in Iraq.
It's getting worse, not better. The L.A. Times is late to realize it, but it's nice to have them on board.

Iraqi Soliders Have No Military Hospitals

Washington Post:
As the U.S. military prepares for an eventual handover of security duties to Iraqi forces, more of Iraq's 120,000 soldiers are advancing to the front lines of the war, and more are being wounded. But because there are no Iraqi military hospitals, thousands have been left to the mercy of overtaxed and corrupt civilian hospitals and a military compensation system paralyzed by red tape and disorganization, according to soldiers, family members, doctors and military officials. Many, feeling abandoned, turn to their families for help.

Bush's DOJ Civil Rights Division Needs A Little Affirmative Action

ABC affiliate WJLA-TV:
But our investigation has found that the Justice Department is missing a key component in its mission to protect civil rights - DIVERSITY � diversity in the attorney ranks to prosecute cases.

Congressman John Conyers: "They need someone to investigate them."

The I-Team has learned that since 2003...the criminal section within the Civil Rights Division has not hired a single black attorney to replace those who have left. Not one.

As a result, the current face of civil rights prosecutions looks like this: Out of fifty attorneys in the Criminal Section - only two are black. The same number the criminal section had in 1978 - even though the size of the staff has more than doubled.

Beyond the Paradigm of Winning and Losing

On Bill Maher, Friday night, Garry Shandling said something very perceptive. He didn't flesh it out, and I don't recall the wording, but it essentially came down to this: we need to get past the paradigm of "winning" and "losing." This struck me, because I've known educators who believe that children should not partake in competitive sports. I know socialists who believe capitalism undermines social comity by encouraging an alienating greed and selfishness rather than a sense of community and compassion. Both of those subjects are worthy of their own diaries, but Shandling's comment came in a discussion about Iraq and politics, and that's where I will focus.

To the right wing and their media lapdogs, we who want to end the war are "defeatists." Many on our side point out that the Bush Administration keeps redefining what it is to "win." Some even say we should simply "declare victory" and go home. I agree with anyone and anything that might expeditiously get us out of Iraq, but I also think Shandling has an important point. There's a larger issue at play. The need to somehow spin our defeat in Iraq as a victory has become part of the problem. The war is lost. I wrote one of my first diaries to that effect in August, 2005. Senator Harry Reid recently suffered an attack of High Broderism for suggesting the same. Apparently, our post-Vietnam national psyche is too fragile to admit that, once again, we have lost a war that, once again, never should have been fought. Of course, the ability of Broder and his ilk to distract the national dialogue with such outrage over semantics helps prevent us from engaging in the conversations we need be having about the lies that got us into the war, and how we can now best get out of it. Admitting defeat is actually enormously important, because it introduces a hitherto largely absent measure of honesty into the discussion, and it also makes plain that we are long past the point of new strategies being anything other than further wastes of time, money, and lives.

We need to stop pretending. We need to get past the reflexive desire for victory. From the moment "President" Bush did his photo op at Ground Zero, our nation has been obsessed with victory and revenge. It wasn't enough to simply catch and bring to justice the criminals responsible for the September 11 attacks, we had to beat them, to prove that they can't beat us, and to somehow assert that we are the winners and they are the losers. Of course, our effort to "beat" them resulted in an overkill bombardment that did kill a lot of people, but not the actual people who perpetrated the September 11 attacks; and we all know that the only way to have actually caught those perpetrators would have been to send in ground troops, probably in small numbers, and very much in secrecy. It wouldn't have made for great television, but it would have brought mass murderers to justice; and it might have satisfied just enough of that lust for vengeance, the festering of which played such a large role in the successful selling of the lies that took us into Iraq. In other words, our desire to win big played a role in costing us any chance to actually win at all. That desire has also continually defined the propaganda of the Iraq disaster.

From "Shock 'n' Awe," to the Saddam statue, to "Mission Accomplished," to Uday and Qusay, to Saddam in his hidey-hole, to all the various stagings of democracy and justice breaking out, to Saddam's execution, we have seen nothing but propaganda propagating an illusion that is supposed to satisfy our seemingly innate passion for victory. Of course, we cannot even begin to honestly discuss what's happening in Iraq, because what's happening has nothing to do with winning and losing. Wars do not have happy endings. Those who live through them are not winners, they are survivors. The best way to help them survive is to not turn their homes into war zones, in the first place; and however much we might want to deny it, this war was always about politics. We like to talk about oil, war profiteers, and neocon imperialists, but even such a grand Coalition of the Killing could not have prevailed, had the politics of winning and losing not predominated.

We all knew that Saddam was contained, that inspections and no-fly zones were working, that he didn't constitute anything close to an imminent threat, and that he had been almost as much an enemy of theofascist terrorists as had we; so, our politicians who now claim they were deceived by the Administration simply aren't telling the truth. We need to come to grips with that, not as a means of condemning politicians who are mostly on our side, but as a further means of understanding the destructiveness of the paradigm of winning and losing! Too many politicians who knew better failed to vote their consciences because they were too worried about the potential political consequences of opposing what they thought might turn out to be a popular war. They remembered the Gulf War. Some knew they would be running for President. They made political calculations, and failed themselves, us, this country, and the world. They are not bad people. They are human, and imperfect, and too caught up in a failed paradigm.

I'm an ideological purist, but a political pragmatist, and I supported Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 primaries, right from the start, even though I believed he had made exactly such a failed political calculation on Iraq. I still believed he was the best of all our 2004 presidential options. I still do. So, I'm not writing this to condemn Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. John Edwards, and I'm neither praising nor condemning Sen. Barack Obama, who openly opposed the war, but was not then in the political position of having to face those political calculations, but who has certainly not shown himself to be pure in facing the political calculations of how to now end the war. All of our top tier candidates (and a couple of our second tier candidates) have much to suggest themselves as potentially terrific presidents. Really. But they are all entangled in the game of politics, and they are all too obsessed with winning.

The politics of "winning" and "losing" is just as ugly as the policies. If every candidate truly cared about doing what's right for the country and the world, rather than about winning and earning their places in the history books, they would calculate and posture immeasurably less. They would be less concerned with tearing down their opponents than with explaining, in detail, how they are going to solve our many problems; and they would work together more towards that end! The fact that we're already diarying polls about 2008, that we consider it important that one candidate raised more money than another, and that we even know the names of presidential campaign advisors demeans the process of democracy. Horse races are fun, but politics should be less about fun and more about nuts, bolts, and compassion.

There's an old comparison, and I don't know to whom to credit it, about political advertising and airline advertising. Imagine if the airlines used the same tactics politicians use, and instead of simply promoting themselves, spent much of their time trying to destroy their competitors. Imagine if you saw television ads wherein different airlines told us that their competitors crash more often, have bumpier flights, or are more prone to misplace our bags. After a while, no one would want to fly. Is it any wonder so few eligible voters exercise their franchise? In politics, negative advertising works; but it would be nice if politicians cared more about good governance than effective campaigning. I would love, just once, to hear a candidate listen to another candidate's proposals, and admit to having been convinced that the other candidate actually had the better ideas. I'm sure the convincing happens fairly often, but how often does a candidate have the honesty and courage to admit it?

Granted, this is all pie-in-the-sky, but it's worth thinking about. At what cost, our obsession with winning? Wouldn't it help if our national dialogue attended less to issues of winning and losing in Iraq, and more to the terrible reality that innocent people are being killed and maimed every single day? Wouldn't the outcome of the 2000 election have been more valid and beneficial if the media had been less obsessed with the horse race, and more with ensuring there was an honest discussion of the issues, and an honest result to the vote count? And the scandalous firings of the U.S. Attorneys only underscores that the Mayberry Macchiavellian Bush Administration never cares about anything other than political victory. They have taken the obsession with political victory to its logical and catastrophic end. Rolling back their abuses are only a small step. Never has it been more clear that we need a new paradigm.

I don't yet care about the 2008 polls. I don't care which candidates' supporters get their candidates' names on the Recommended List most often. I don't care who is right about the most expeditious way to get us out of Iraq- defund, deauthorize, regime change, whatever; it's absurd to argue about- try them all, again and again!- and support each other for simply trying! It shouldn't be about ego. It shouldn't be about proving who's right, it should be about actually being right. In politics, it shouldn't be about winning or losing, it should be about making this world and this nation better places for all.

Nobody's Mayor

Wall Street Journal:
A pair of companies owned by Rudy Giuliani represented both a debtor and a creditor in a recently concluded bankruptcy proceeding, a potential conflict of interest that wasn't disclosed to the federal judge overseeing the case, records show. The matter could heighten pressures on Mr. Giuliani's presidential campaign to be more forthcoming about the candidate's stable of businesses, their clients and the services they provide.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

That Other War

An Afghan soldier shot and killed two U.S. troops Sunday outside a top-security prison being revamped to house Afghans transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The gunman was shot dead by other Afghan troops at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, some 20 miles east of Kabul, said Maj. Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for Combined Security Transition Command, which trains Afghan security forces. The shooter also wounded two U.S. soldiers.


Roadside bombs killed eight American soldiers in separate attacks Sunday in Diyala province and Baghdad, and a car bomb claimed 30 more lives in a wholesale food market in a part of the Iraqi capital where sectarian tensions are on the rise.

In all, at least 95 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide Sunday, police reported. They included 12 policemen in Samarra, among them the city's police chief, who died when Sunni insurgents launched a suicide car bombing and other attacks on police headquarters.

The deadliest attack against U.S. forces occurred in Diyala, where six U.S. soldiers and a European journalist were killed when a massive bomb destroyed their vehicle, the U.S. military said. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded, the military said.

Two other American soldiers died Sunday in separate bombings in Baghdad.

Descendants Of Iconic Republicans Consider Leaving The Party

Children of President Dwight Eisenhower and Senator Barry Goldwater, and the great-grandson and namesake of President Theodore Roosevelt, are all thinking about voting Democratic in 2008. Newsweek has the story.

Fred Thompson

I'm just going to deposit this Washington Post link, for future reference. The title of the article?
Thompson's Politics Much Like McCain's
But Unlike the Senator, Actor Is GOP's Darling
He'll be the media's darling, too. No illusions!

Deployed Troops Losing Custody Of Their Children

A federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is meant to protect them by staying civil court actions and administrative proceedings during military activation. They can't be evicted. Creditors can't seize their property. Civilian health benefits, if suspended during deployment, must be reinstated.

And yet service members' children can be - and are being - taken from them after they are deployed.

Some family court judges say that determining what's best for a child in a custody case is simply not comparable to deciding civil property disputes and the like; they have ruled that family law trumps the federal law protecting servicemembers. And so, in many cases when a soldier deploys, the ex-spouse seeks custody, and temporary changes become lasting.

Everyone else is blogging about it...

so, I might as well, too:

Bush is down to a 28% approval rating in the latest Newsweek Poll. I'd love to know of what they approve. Or maybe I wouldn't...


Washington Post:
At least 15 people were killed Saturday when a suicide bomber walked into an Iraqi army recruiting center west of Baghdad and detonated explosives.

No group asserted responsibility for the attack, which occurred in the predominantly Sunni town of Abu Ghraib, about 20 miles west of the capital, police said. The dead included 10 recruits and five soldiers, officials said. An additional 22 people were wounded.
Los Angeles Times:
Kareem Yousif knew it would be a rough day when armed men tried to abduct four of his employees as they rode to work in a company van. The Radio Dijla staff members escaped unharmed, but the maverick news-and-talk station did not.

Hours after Thursday's foiled abduction, editors, security guards and other radio staffers battled with dozens of gunmen who stormed the building, killing one guard and wounding two others. They drove off the assailants, but the next night, arsonists returned to finish the job.

By Saturday, the station was a smoldering, looted ruin, one more casualty in a war in which independent voices face deadly repercussions.
Washington Post:
A car bomb ripped through a wholesale food market in western Baghdad on Sunday, flattening cars and shops and killing at least 30 people in the deadliest of a wave of attacks across Iraq that killed at least 50 people.

The attack came amid an 11-week-old crackdown by U.S.-led forces intended to bring stability to Baghdad.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Trevi Fountain

Iraq Won't Let New Doctors Leave

Washington Post:
Iraq is hemorrhaging doctors as violence racks the nation. To stem the flow, the Iraqi government has recently taken a cue from Saddam Hussein: Medical schools are once again forbidden to issue diplomas and transcripts to new graduates.

Hussein built a fine medical system in part by withholding doctors' passports and diplomas. Although physicians can work in Iraq with a letter from a medical school verifying their graduation, they say they need certificates and transcripts to work abroad.

It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Electricity in Baghdad was more reliable; sectarian hostility was rare; Iraq was safe -- except for the many victims of Hussein's tyranny. But rarely has the government embraced a policy that so harshly evokes the era of dictatorship. To some students and doctors, the diploma decision, like Iraq's crumbling medical system, provides clear proof of the government's helplessness and the nation's decline.

The NRA Thinks Suspected Terrorists Should Be Able To Buy Guns!

The National Rifle Association is urging the Bush administration to withdraw its support of a U.S. bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms.

Backed by the Justice Department, the measure would give the attorney general the discretion to block gun sales, licenses or permits to terror suspects.

In a letter this week to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, NRA executive director Chris Cox said the bill, offered last week by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, "would allow arbitrary denial of Second Amendment rights based on mere 'suspicions' of a terrorist threat."

And Speaking of Drugs

Brazil's president has authorised the country to bypass the patent on an Aids drug manufactured by Merck, a US pharmaceutical giant.

The country will import a cheaper, generic Indian-made version of the patented Efavirenz drug.
Good. People shouldn't be dying because they can't afford life-saving drugs. People shouldn't be going broke to stay healthy.
"This is certainly an important advance in terms of widening access. We are very happy that Brazil is moving in the right direction," said Michel Lotrowska of NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Exactly right.

Merck says this will discourage investment in research for new drugs. Bullshit.

Losing the "War on Drugs"

Los Angeles Times:
The United States and its Latin American allies are losing a major battle in the war on drugs, according to indicators that show cocaine prices dipped for most of 2006 and U.S. users were getting more bang for their buck.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. antidrug spending and record seizures, statistics recently released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy suggest that cocaine is as available as ever.
It's long past time we switched to a policy of: legalize, regulate, tax, and educate. The social damage will be much less. For the record: I've not so much as smoked a joint in more than two decades. One doesn't have to use drugs to want them legalized. Given the results, one might suggest that the ones on drugs are those who actually support the current policy.

Housestead's Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall

Friday, May 4, 2007

Russia's Concern Troll

RIA Novosti:
It is too early to withdraw foreign troops from Iraq, Russia's foreign minister said at an international conference on Iraq in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh Friday.

Sergei Lavrov said the main criterion in determining a withdrawal schedule should be Iraqi law enforcement's real preparedness to maintain law and order.

The Russian minister said the presence of coalition troops in Iraq "is one of the stabilizing factors, preventing the country from spiraling into the chaos of a full-scale internal war."
Thanks for your help.

Hillary Wants To Repeal The War Authorization

Hillary Clinton rightfully gets a lot of criticism, but praise where praise is due.

New York Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed Thursday that Congress repeal the authority it gave President Bush in 2002 to invade Iraq, injecting presidential politics into the Congressional debate over financing the war.

Mrs. Clinton’s proposal brings her full circle on Iraq — she supported the war measure five years ago — and it sharpens her own political positioning at a time when Democrats are vying to confront the White House.

“It is time to reverse the failed policies of President Bush and to end this war as soon as possible,” Mrs. Clinton said as she joined Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, in calling for a vote to end the authority as of Oct. 11, the fifth anniversary of the original vote.

Her stance emerged just as Congressional leaders and the White House opened delicate negotiations over a new war-financing measure to replace the one that Mr. Bush vetoed Tuesday.
This will never pass, but it will create a buzz, put more pressure on Bush and his party, further promote the meme that this is wholly a Republican war, otherwise help widen the Overton Window, and bring an actual end date one step closer.

Kudos also to Senator Byrd!


Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Tale Of Two Newspapers: Reporting The Iraq Deadline Showdown

The Washington Post wants you to know that the Democrats are backing down. A front page article by Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray begins with this:
President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.

Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July. But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) outlined a second measure that would step up Iraqi accountability, "transition" the U.S. military role and show "a reasonable way to end this war."
Wimps! Lily-livered, weak-kneed Democrats shrink before the bold leadership of the Decider!

The Los Angeles Times sees thing slightly differently. Also on the front page, Noam N. Levey and Janet Hook open thusly:
Distressed by the violence in Iraq and worried about tying their political fate to an unpopular president, some Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to move away from the White House to stake out a more critical position on the U.S. role in the war.
That's actually a pretty fair statement. They have legitimate strategic and political concerns, and are therefore ready to stake out a more independent position. Not only does the Times focus on the Republican discomfort, and Bush's unpopularity, it also strikes a measured tone. The Republicans aren't cast as wimps, they're made to sound reasoned.

The Post article continues:
Bush said he is "confident that we can reach agreement," and he assigned three top aides to negotiate. White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and budget director Rob Portman will go to Capitol Hill today to sit down with leaders of both parties.
The Decider's in charge. Negotiations will begin, but the Democrats are already trembling before his bold codpiece.

The Post then, finally, touches on Republican reservations about Bush's desire for a no-strings funding bill, and even mentions that deadlines might reappear in a defense policy measure that will be voted on in two weeks. Wait. Really? So, despite the apparent readiness of the Democrats to turn tail and flee, they're actually thinking of attaching deadlines to subsequent legislation? Better not emphasize that fact. Even those liberals who love to rail against the Democrats, when they compromise, might take notice, and temper their criticism if those hard deadlines are removed from the current funding bill.
Beyond that, Democrats remain deeply divided over how far to give in to the White House.
Good. Let's get back on message. The simple, factual statement about the Republican discomfort with a no-strings approach doesn't have quite the sting of this phrasing. In fact, the paragraph that mentioned it does not in any way suggest how it should be interpreted. But we know how the Democrats should be perceived: divided. Divided Democrats. Has a nice ring to it.

The Times article, on the other hand, proceeds with eleven paragraphs describing Republican efforts to figure out appropriate benchmarks. The article does make clear that most Republicans will still support Bush:
But the call for establishing benchmarks with concrete consequences challenges the position of the president and GOP leaders, much as the Democrats did when they tried to link the same measurements with a troop withdrawal.

And it comes as some Republicans are calling on colleagues to take a more independent position on the war after years of deferring to the White House.
Again, the language is not at all negatively pejorative; rather, it actually suggests that standing up to Bush is a sign of strength! The Post wants you to know that negotiating Democrats are spineless, while the Times wants you to know that negotiating Republicans are sensible.

The Times article then goes on to discuss both the Democratic and Republican approaches, and even mentions that Republican dissent was bolstered by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's statement, Wednesday, that the discussion of timelines is actually helpful! The Times also makes clear that:
Republicans acknowledge privately that impatience with the White House — whose Iraq policies helped sweep Democrats into the majority on Capitol Hill last year — is driving the search for an independent position.
The Post, on the other hand, goes on to talk about benchmarks. Democrats and Republicans are talking about benchmarks. We're going to be hearing much about benchmarks in the coming days. Benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks.
Administration officials note that they do not oppose benchmarks, and in fact have developed them in the past along with Iraqis. But they are sensitive about provoking Iraqis, who bristled last year when benchmarks crafted by U.S. and Iraqi officials became public and left the impression that Washington was dictating to Baghdad.
Sensitive. Isn't that sweet? The Democrats are gutless for merely wanting to negotiate with Bush, but Bush is "sensitive" about provoking the Iraqis. And we all know how responsible and responsive the Iraqi government has been about, well, pretty much everything! But President Codpiece wants to be "sensitive" about "provoking" them to actually do something!

The Post then tells us the Democratic leadership is "resigned" to losing some liberals, while some Republicans remain "balky." Yes, those inept Democratic leaders are going to have to cry in their Chardonnay about not being able to hold their caucus together, while some crusty Gary Cooper Republicans will steer their own independent courses. No word on the Republican leadership's reaction. I'm sure they'll maintain stiff upper lips.

The Post article then closes with two paragraphs about Bush's speech, yesterday, in which he once again claimed great progress is being made, and once again associated the war with al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks. Needless to say, the Post article offered not even a hint of factual rebuttal.

Not Good

New York Times:
Aerial bombing of a valley in western Afghanistan several days ago by the American military killed at least 42 civilians, including women and children, and wounded 50 more, an Afghan government investigation found Wednesday. A provincial council member who visited the site independently put the figure at 50 civilians killed.

President Hamid Karzai said at a news conference in Kabul that the Afghan people could no longer tolerate such casualties. “Five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue accepting civilian casualties,” he said. “It is becoming heavy for us; it is not understandable anymore.”

There have been several episodes recently in which civilians have been killed and foreign forces have been accused of indiscriminate or excessive force. That has prompted Afghan officials to warn that the good will of the Afghan people toward the government and the foreign military presence is wearing thin.

Lions Gate, Ancient Mycenae

If there was an Agamemnon, this is where he lived.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Nobody's Mayor and Global Warming

New York Times:
For a native New Yorker mounting a first bid for national office, Rudolph W. Giuliani has shown an impressive ability to raise money in Texas, where his Republican presidential campaign collected $2.2 million in the first quarter of the year, far more than any other candidate.

Mr. Giuliani has drawn support from Texans who were notable donors to President Bush, including a former Enron president, Richard D. Kinder, and business executives who direct many of the nation’s oil, gas and energy producers.

And a good part of this success, analysts say, stems from his affiliation with a well-established and politically connected law firm that is based in Houston and bears his name, Bracewell & Giuliani.

That affiliation adds to Mr. Giuliani’s personal wealth but also could pose political risks for him. The firm is perhaps the nation’s most aggressive lobbyist for coal-fired power plants, heavy emitters of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, a gas associated with global warming. Environmentalists say the firm played a significant role in persuading the Bush administration to roll back major provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Think this might be an issue, should the Republicans be stupid enough to nominate him?