Saturday, June 30, 2007

It Gets Worse: From Afghanistan to Iraq to Pakistan

In another world, in another time, this would be considered not only heartbreaking but bizarre. From the Observer:
Air strikes in the British-controlled Helmand province of Afghanistan may have killed civilians, coalition troops said yesterday as local people claimed that between 50 and 80 people, many of them women and children, had died.

In the latest of a series of attacks causing significant civilian casualties in recent weeks, more than 200 were killed by coalition troops in Afghanistan in June, far more than are believed to have been killed by Taliban militants.

The bombardment, which witnesses said lasted up to three hours, in the Gereshk district late on Friday followed an attempted ambush by the Taliban on a joint US-Afghan military convoy. According to Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief, the militants fled into a nearby village for cover. Planes then targeted the village of Hyderabad. Mohammad Khan, a resident of the village, said seven members of his family, including his brother and five of his brother's children, were killed.
Got that? Americans were attacked, and the response was such indiscriminate bombing that 50 to 80 innocent civilians were massacred. Murdered. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the month of June, more than 200 innocents were murdered for the same reason. Anything familiar about this situation? Americans attacked, innocents massacred. That's the way things work in George Bush's America. Indiscriminate death, with no strategic value whatsoever. Except to make us more hated.

Remember Iraq? You know, that country we decided to destroy because it was there. Because our strategic stupidity allowed the September 11 perpetrators to get away, and God knows someone had to pay, and it didn't actually matter if that someone actually had anything to do with the September 11 attacks, just so there were big booms, and people who didn't look like us or speak like us or worship like us died. In very large numbers. Because that would make the Faux News people hot and randy, and Chris Matthews could bloviate with shrill enthusiasm, and the Beltway power elite could preen and fawn over Commander Codpiece, and lots of very well-connected soul-sucking psychopaths could make lots and lots and lots of money. Except that it could cause problems. Not the death and destruction problems, which weren't problems at all, but the Pandora's Box problems. Like what the hell happens when you blow a big hole through the center of the Middle East? Well, one of those problems might be that the hole will expand and explode. Become regional. Maybe global. Not that the Bush Administration would worry about that, or even consider the possibilities. But others did. People with brains. People who didn't work for the Bush Administration. Some talked about Iraq being torn apart by a factional civil war. Some suggested that a factional civil war could pour over the borders and cause problems in neighboring countries, and that those neighboring countries might decide to respond. Most countries don't like when their neighbors' civil wars spill over their borders. Oops.

As the Guardian reported, on Saturday:
Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned.

"The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said. The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey.

Among other things, Turkish military planners have been working on a scheme to establish a buffer zone on Iraqi soil to try to stop the rebels' movements.
Well, wouldn't that be helpful? Turkish generals itching to go into Iraq to establish a "buffer zone" just might cause further problems, don't you think? So, let's just say that the expansion of the Iraq War into a regional conflict is inching a little closer.

But back to those perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. The Bush Administration may have forgotten about them, but you probably haven't. They were back in Afghanistan, where we didn't catch them, and where we're now busily making up for that by bombing innocent civilians. They had been allied with and enabled by the religious fanatic Taliban, whom we also did not catch, and who fled into the mountainous border region that connects Afghanistan and Pakistan. And you remember Pakistan. The ones with the nuclear bombs? The ones who haven't even punished the guy who sold their nuclear bombmaking technology on the open market? Well, guess what?

From the New York Times:
The Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was warned this month that Islamic militants and Taliban fighters were rapidly spreading beyond the country’s lawless tribal areas and that without “swift and decisive action,” the growing militancy could engulf the rest of the country.

The warning came in a document from the Interior Ministry, which said Pakistan’s security forces in North-West Frontier Province abutting the tribal areas were outgunned and outnumbered and had forfeited authority to the Taliban and their allies.

“The ongoing spell of active Taliban resistance has brought about serious repercussions for Pakistan,” says the 15-page document, which was shown to The New York Times. “There is a general policy of appeasement towards the Taliban, which has further emboldened them.”
Of course, just a week ago, the BBC reported:
The Taleban in Afghanistan are changing their tactics to mount more attacks on the capital, Kabul, a spokesman for the militant group has told the BBC.

The spokesman, Zabiyullah Mujahed, said Taleban were recovering after Nato had infiltrated the group and killed some of its leaders.

But more people were volunteering to carry out suicide bombings, he said.
And there had already been reports, in April, that our puppet government in Afghanistan was meeting with the Taliban.

So, let's summarize what the Bush Administration has accomplished:

The Taliban are growing stronger, not only in Afghanistan, where we never succeeded in catching them, but in Pakistan, too. Nuclear armed Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Iraq War is on the verge of going regional. And all we're successfully accomplishing is to massacre civilians.

The "worst strategic mistake in the entire history of the United States."? Can anyone name anything even close?

Broun Fellinis

Friday, June 29, 2007

Taliban Spreading In Pakistan

New York Times:
The Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was warned this month that Islamic militants and Taliban fighters were rapidly spreading beyond the country’s lawless tribal areas and that without “swift and decisive action,” the growing militancy could engulf the rest of the country.

The warning came in a document from the Interior Ministry, which said Pakistan’s security forces in North-West Frontier Province abutting the tribal areas were outgunned and outnumbered and had forfeited authority to the Taliban and their allies.

“The ongoing spell of active Taliban resistance has brought about serious repercussions for Pakistan,” says the 15-page document, which was shown to The New York Times. “There is a general policy of appeasement towards the Taliban, which has further emboldened them.”

Turkey Warns Of Plan To Invade Iraq

You want to know how the war can get worse? Here's one of many.

Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned.

"The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said. The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey.

Among other things, Turkish military planners have been working on a scheme to establish a buffer zone on Iraqi soil to try to stop the rebels' movements.

Surging Backward

Five American soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a coordinated attack in southern Baghdad involving a roadside bomb and rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. military announced Friday....

The deaths brought to 99 the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq this month, according to an Associated Press count.

The death toll for the past three months _ 329 _ made it the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Luna- California All The Way

Leaders Lead, Senator

US Senator Barack Obama (ber-AHK' oh-BAH'-muh) says he doesn't favor impeachment proceedings for President Bush and Vice President Cheney....

The Illinois Democrat says he's distressed by the Bush administration's ethical standards and secrecy. But the presidential hopeful says impeachment should be reserved for "grave" breaches of the president's authority.

Both Obama and US Senator Dick Durbin say having to deal with month after month of impeachment hearings wouldn't be in the best interest of America.
"Grave breaches"? Like what- domestic spying, authorizing torture, lying the nation into a war, refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents, using signing statement to undermine Congress's Constitutional lawmaking authority?

"(B)est interest of America"? Like what- holding criminals accountable, demonstrating that even the President and Vice President aren't above the law, or defending the Constitution? Good thing Senator Sam Ervin and Congressman Peter Rodino weren't worried about having to put the country through the horrible ordeal of restoring law and order.

This Man Wants To Be President

Boston Globe:
Then Romney put his boys on notice: He would be making predetermined stops for gas, and that was it.

The ride was largely what you'd expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ''white whale.''

As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
Emotion-free cruelty to the family pet.

A New Era- Hopefully

I was remiss in not posting about this, a few days ago. Here's some compensation...

"Let the work of change begin," Gordon Brown declared today as he returned to Downing Street as the new prime minister of Great Britain.

A beaming and emotional premier pledged to use "all the talents" as he prepared to reshape the cabinet and government.

Speaking with his wife, Sarah, beside him, Mr Brown told reporters: "I have just accepted the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen to form a government.
The new faces running Britain.
Gordon Brown today appointed Britain's first female home secretary as he unveiled a radical shake-up of his frontbench team.
Times of London:
Profiles of the knowns and the less knowns in Gordon Brown's first Cabinet as Prime Minister


President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.

Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department, including complaints of undue political influence.

The Democratic chairmen of the two committees seeking the documents accused Bush of stonewalling and disdain for the law, and said they would press forward with enforcing the subpoenas....

''Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law,'' said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He portrayed the president's actions as ''Nixonian stonewalling.''
Hmmm. How did Congress deal with Nixon?


Times of London:
At least 34 Iraqi civilians and three British soldiers were killed in four bomb and mortar attacks today, in a day of carnage which saw also saw the gruesome discovery of 20 beheaded bodies by a river.

The worst of the attacks saw 25 commuters killed at a bus station in Baghdad's al-Bayaa neighbourhood, a mixed Sunni and Shia area which has frequently been the focal point for attacks.

The powerful car bomb tore into crowds waiting during morning rush hour and also caused a huge crater in the ground, decimating surrounding buildings as it did so.

Doctors at the Iraqi capital's Yarmuk Hospital said they had received a total of 25 dead bodies, and ambulances were still pulling in with seriously wounded pedestrians. At least 45 were wounded in the attack, some seriously.

Tom Waits- On The Nickel

Wanted to find a good live version to post, but this little film speaks for itself.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Malalai Joya: "The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan"

Malalai Joya is just five feet tall, unassuming and soft-spoken. On May 21, she was suspended from the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament for having in an interview compared the Afghan legislature to a stable or zoo.

As Human Rights Watch explained:
Joya, 28, is the youngest member of the Afghan legislature. As a 19-year-old refugee in Pakistan, she taught literacy courses to other Afghan women. During the Taliban years, she ran an orphanage and health clinic in Afghanistan. In 2003, she gained international attention for speaking out publicly against warlords involved in drafting the Afghan Constitution. Two years later, she was the top vote-getter from Farah province in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, and was easily elected to the lower house of the legislature.

Since her election, Joya has continued to be an outspoken defender and promoter of the rights of Afghan women and children. She has also continued to publicly call for accountability for war crimes, even those perpetrated by fellow parliamentarians.

Joya has survived four assassination attempts, travels with armed guards and reportedly never spends two nights in the same place.
Undaunted, she courageously refuses to be silenced. On June 18, Reuters reported:
Washington "supports the same enemies, who are mentally like the Taliban. ... They brought them back into power," soft-spoken Joya told Reuters in an interview during her first visit to the United States.

"This is the wrong policy. Do not support fundamentalist warlords," she said. "Every day for the people of Afghanistan is September 11. Please pressure your government to change this policy, it is a mockery of democracy, it is a mockery of the war on terror."
We all say the same, but we don't risk our lives when we do so. Everything the Bush Administration does is a mockery, and it is genuine heroes like Malalai Joya who suffer the consequences.
"Many, many times they insulted me, even inside of the parliament they threw water at me and they threatened me with death, and one of them shouted, 'Take her and rape her,'" she said. "They turned off my microphone."
These are the people our government supports, as it pretends to fight terrorism. In an interview with Anthony Kaufman of The American Prospect, Joya elaborates:
"I understand that one day they will kill me, because it's easy for them to kill people, especially women," she says about her enemies in Afghanistan, namely the former Taliban members, tribal warlords, and Northern Alliance fighters. These are the people who currently comprise Afghanistan's government -- people that Joya frequently denounces as "killers" and "criminals."

"But this is the voice of the voiceless people of Afghanistan," she continues. "And they can't silence this voice and they can't hide the truth. And they understand that."
According to Kaufman, she laughs as she says this.
"Because I have hopes for my people, for my country, and I have supporters around the world, and I am happy that at least I am not alone," she explains. "And I trust my people and I believe in democracy, women's rights and human rights and I believe this isn't something that's given and we must make sacrifices."
She pleads that we, the American people, stand up for her, her people, and her cause. She emphasizes that people responsible for the massacres in Afghanistan during the Taliban's reign now hold important positions in our puppet President Hamid Karzai's government.
"I'm here to tell you: Please pressure your government to stop this wrong policy of supporting fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan who are brothers of the Taliban."

Joya's main goal is to clean up Afghanistan's leadership from what she calls "warlord-ism" and "druglord-ism." To back up her claims, the country remains the largest worldwide producer of opium and heroin, and according to Human Rights Watch, many of the country's new legislators, including up to 60 percent of deputies in the lower house of Parliament, have been directly or indirectly tied to current and past human rights abuses. In speeches, Joya has called the Afghan government "the most corrupt and unpopular in the world."
Joya is in New York, as an award-winning documentary about her 2003 political campaign, Enemies of Happiness, screens at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. She will return to Afghanistan, and again live with daily threats against her life. Meanwhile, we will blog in the security of our own homes, offices, and other internet access points, while the Bush Administration makes her homeland hell.

You can hear Malalai Joya in the Democracy Now interview from which I took the title of this post.

You can also read the links, and contribute to The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya.

"The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" is an understatement. Malalai Joya is one of the bravest people in the entire world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In Praise Of Youth: New Poll Portends A Brighter Future!

A new New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll underscores the seismic shift that is bubbling under the surface of our body politic. Young Americans are not only increasingly more liberal, but they are increasingly more politically engaged! While the CBS report emphasizes that Americans aged 17 to 29 favor Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential Race, the New York Times gets to the real story:
Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.
Among the poll's findings:

70% believe the country is on the wrong track.

48% fear their generation will be worse off than their parents'.

54% of young Americans intend to vote for a Democrat for President in 2008.

28% give Bush a positive approval rating.

44% percent approve of same-sex marriage (only 28% of the public approves, overall).

They are more likely than their elders to favor legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

62% support universal national health insurance.

37% believe abortion should be generally available, 38% believe it should be available with more restrictions, and 24% believe it should be banned.

52-36% believe the Democrats are closer to sharing their values than are the Republicans.

58% have a positive view of the Democratic Party, while only 38% have a positive view of the Republicans.

42% think it likely or very likely a military draft will be imposed in the next four years, two-thirds think the Republicans are more likely to impose it, and 87% oppose it.

Young people are more optimistic about the outcome of the Iraq War, with a bare 51% majority believing we are at least likely to succeed, but the article makes clear that young Americans are historically more likely than the overall population to support a president during a war.

And in some very key results:

77% believe their generation will greatly influence the next Presidential election.
By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they were paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.
And as for their favorite candidates?
Asked if they were enthusiastic about any of the candidates running for president, 18 percent named Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and 17 percent named Mrs. Clinton, of New York. Those two were followed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, who was named by just 4 percent of the respondents.
All of this is encouraging. It speaks well of the much-disparaged youth of our nation. Even the numbers that aren't yet where we want them to be are trending in the right direction. It gives a glimmer of hope for a much better future. It also speaks to the importance of making sure that young people remain engaged, and that they vote in 2008!

A Major Success For Bush's Afghanistan!

Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, where some 7,000 British troops are based, is on the verge of becoming the world's biggest drugs supplier, cultivating more opium than entire countries such as Burma, Morocco, or even Colombia, the UN warned yesterday.

The region was largely responsible for a huge increase last year in Afghanistan's opium poppy harvest, the origin of most of the heroin on the streets of Britain and mainland Europe. And Helmand's poppy harvest is expected to increase again this year, according to the latest annual report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Nobody's Mayor

Associated Press:
Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group.

Every campaign faces bad news at one time or another, but with a fundraising deadline looming Saturday, the timing couldn't be worse. Most voters are not tuned in, but for those who are giving and raising money for the former New York mayor, the heartburn-inducing headlines may make them think twice.

The string of events - some Giuliani's making, some out of his hands - comes as national polls continue to show him ahead of his rivals, but surveys in early voting states have him trailing or losing ground.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Another Bush Foreign Policy Success

Spiegel Online:
The arrest warrants German authorities have issued against 10 CIA agents have strained German-American relations. Now, prosecutors in Munich want the agents extradited to Germany so they can stand trial for their alleged roles in the illegal kidnapping of terror suspects.

Great Idea

USA Today:
If Vice President Cheney believes his office is not an "entity within the executive branch," then a House Democratic leader says taxpayers shouldn't have to finance his executive expenses.

Cheney's office has claimed his constitutional role as president of the Senate also makes him part of the legislative branch and therefore is not covered by a presidential order requiring executive branch workers to report their numbers of classified and declassified government documents.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Sunday that a court should decide whether the vice president belongs to the executive or legislative branch. "The vice president needs to make a decision," he said.
Defund Cheney!

But Will He Walk The Walk?

New York Times:
Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said that Bush's Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military's role.

The unusually blunt assessment Monday deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.
A lot of Republicans now voice disagreement with Bush. Will any actually make the votes to back their words?

Someone Forgot To Tell Putin The Cold War's Over

Spiegel Online:
Russian intelligence agents have recently been trying to steal German military technology with an intensity unknown since the end of the Cold War. But the spies who have been arrested so far have got off scot-free -- thanks to their diplomatic immunity.
Or is it?

Buying a Clue for Sally Quinn

Doyenne of the Beltway cocktail party circuit, Sally Quinn epitomizes thinking inside the box. In today's Washington Post, she has something important to say: the Republicans want to be rid of Dick Cheney. This effectively refutes one of the major arguments propounded by those Democrats frightened of an impeachment process that would include both Cheney and his supposed boss. But Quinn is Quinn. She misses the key point. She says the Republicans want to replace Cheney with someone who can win in 2008. Here's the clue: the Democratic Congress has to confirm any replacement Vice President. Should Cheney go, they can tell Bush to appoint someone to their liking- someone moderate, bipartisan, and uninterested in 2008, or he will have to serve out his term, and face possible consequences for his own high crimes and misdemeanors, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi first in line to succeed him.

It Will Not End

Washington Post:
Iraqi forces will not be ready to assume full responsibility for their nation's security for years, and the U.S. military should be cautious in planning to reduce its 157,000-strong force in Iraq given past setbacks, the American general in charge of the teams that advise Iraqi forces warned yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of the Iraq Assistance Group, said "it'll take years" for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant in protecting the country from internal and foreign threats. He suggested that it will be at least two years before the forces, which number 348,000, can "fully take control" of the situation in Iraq.
Four more Friedman Units before the Iraqis can take over. And if you believe that...

Dire Straits- Sultans of Swing

The song that announced the arrival of a new musical genius.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fred Thompson Could Be A Trailblazer

Huffington Post:
f Fred Thompson is elected president, he will be the first federally registered lobbyist to become Commander in Chief. Since his days as top minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, Thompson has collected over $1 million in lobbying fees. In return, he has provided exceptional access to those in power.

Thompson's prospective presidential bid stands out in another respect: No campaign has been so dominated by staffers and advisers who have worked on behalf of Philip Morris, one of the world's leading tobacco conglomerates and a leading force in promoting cigarette smoking.

Thompson's lobbying career demonstrates his striking skill in capitalizing on his own government service and on the success of his friends in public office.
Because we need a President who isn't beholden to lobbyists, we should elect one who actually is a lobbyist! Particularly one who surrounds himself with tobacco industry hacks. Just guessing you haven't seen anything about this in the fawning corporate media puff pieces on Thompson.


A suicide bomber blew himself up in the lobby of a high-rise hotel in Baghdad today, killing 12 people and injuring 18 others.

The bombing, at the Mansour hotel in the city centre, was one of at least four separate bomb attacks in Iraq today that left more than 40 people dead.

Up to six Sunni tribal leaders from the western Anbar province could be among the victims at the Mansour hotel, the US military said.

Quicksilver Messenger Service- Mona

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Most Despicable Man In America

Washington Post:
Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'" if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.
Let's be clear, because the Washington Post won't be: we're talking about war crimes. We're talking about the Vice President of the United States advocating for and implementing a policy of war crimes.

Nobody's Mayor

Rudy Giuliani's campaign for the Presidency is based around exactly one thing: the public's reaction to his public response on 9/11. It's no surprise that he was later appointed to the Iraq Study Group. It has already been much-dscussed that he quit the ISG after never having even attended a meeting. Now, it's also revealed that his explanation for having left the ISG is a lie. As Gwen Ifill points out, Giuliani clearly believes politicking is more important than national security.

Think Progress has the story.

Joan Armatrading- Willow

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Los Angeles Times:
The deaths of 10 U.S. troops Saturday in Iraq, seven in roadside bomb attacks, brought to 30 the week's toll for American military personnel.

Good News From Across The Pond

A 'liberated' Gordon Brown will take over as leader of the Labour party today as a new poll reveals that Labour has pulled ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since October.

The survey for The Observer, which will be of deep concern to the Tories, reveals the first signs of a 'Brown bounce' and the end of David Cameron's honeymoon with the British people.

The Ipsos MORI poll shows that 40 per cent of voters believe Brown would make the more capable Prime Minister, against 22 per cent who believe that Cameron would be better. The poll makes even worse reading for Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who is rated by just 5 per cent of voters.

Trouble In Nuke-ville

Nuclear power shills are trying to use global warming to promote their own dirty, dangerous, and costly technology. Bad news for them.

Nuclear power would only curb climate change by expanding worldwide at the rate it grew from 1981 to 1990, its busiest decade, and keep up that rate for half a century, a report said on Thursday.

Specifically, that would require adding on average 14 plants each year for the next 50 years, all the while building an average of 7.4 plants to replace those that will be retired, the report by environmental leaders, industry executives and academics said....

While the report also supported storing U.S. nuclear waste at power plants until the long-stalled Yucca Mountain repository opens, 10 dumps the size of Yucca Mountain would be needed to store the extra generated waste by the needed nuclear generation boom.
And how expensive is Yucca Mountain?

It will cost $26.9 billion to build and operate the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump through 2023, the Energy Department said Friday in a new cost calculation.

The department did not release a new figure for the total life-cycle cost of the Nevada project, estimated several years ago at $58 billion. The department plans to recalculate that figure in May and it almost certainly will rise, said Edward F. ``Ward'' Sproat, director of the Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

The $26.9 billion figure, about in line with recent estimates, assumes that the department meets its goal of opening the repository in March 2017, Sproat told reporters on a conference call.
So, the current estimate is that Yucca Mountain will cost a total of $58 billion- and those cost estimates keep rising. We've already wasted more than ten billion taxpayer dollars, and the site won't even open for another ten years. To build enough nukes to dent global warming would mean an additional ten waste storage sites, and even if such could be found, that would mean more than half a trillion dollars more. Just for waste storage. Doesn't sound like the best idea, does it?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Righteous Brothers- Unchained Melody

An oldie. One of the greatest vocal performancs in the history of rock 'n' roll:

And a live version:

Surging Backward

The Washington Post reports:
The major U.S. offensive launched last weekend against insurgents in and around Baghdad has significantly expanded the military's battleground in Iraq -- "a surge of operations," and no longer just of troops, as the second-ranking U.S. commander there said yesterday -- but it has renewed concerns about whether even the bigger U.S. troop presence there is large enough.

As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital -- areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years -- the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops.

Since President Bush ordered the troop increase in January, the military had focused on creating a more secure environment in Baghdad. "We are beyond a surge of forces," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said yesterday in a briefing from his headquarters in the Iraqi capital. He did not directly address the size of the force, saying only that the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops over five months "allows us to operate in areas where we have not been for a long time."

Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who in 2003 was among the first to call public attention to the relatively small size of the U.S. invasion force, said that the new operation shows how outnumbered U.S. troops remain. "Why would we think that a temporary presence of 30,000 additional combat troops in a giant city would change the dynamics of a bitter civil war?" he said in an interview yesterday. "It's a fool's errand."
In other words, just chase them out of one place, and they'll show up in another. It's already happening.

New York Times:
The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevel” Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.

Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush’s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north.
Otherwise upbeat? About what?

Global Warming: The Consequences

The conflict in Darfur has been driven by climate change and environmental degradation, which threaten to trigger a succession of new wars across Africa unless more is done to contain the damage, according to a UN report published yesterday.

"Darfur ... holds grim lessons for other countries at risk," an 18-month study of Sudan by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) concludes.

"Partition may be the only solution"

On Thursday the Guardian's Ghaith Abdul Ahad won the prestigious James Cameron award for foreign reporting. On Wednesday Rajiv Chandrasekaran won the Samuel Johnson prize for his chronicle of life in the Green Zone. Here the two reporters discuss how the conflict has unfolded - and what the future holds for Iraq
Two credible sources. Two men who have spent a lot of time there. Want to know what's really going on? Go read.

Saving Tropical Rainforests Is Even More Important Than Previously Believed!

Science Daily:
Forests in the United States and other northern mid- and upper-latitude regions are playing a smaller role in offsetting global warming than previously thought, according to a study appearing in Science this week. The study, which sheds light on the so-called missing carbon sink, concludes that intact tropical forests are removing an unexpectedly high proportion of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, partially offsetting carbon entering the air through industrial emissions and deforestation....

"With this new information from aircraft samples we see that the models were overestimating the amount of uptake in the north and underestimating uptake in the tropics," says Kevin Gurney of Purdue University, a co-author of the paper and coordinator of the TransCom study. "To figure out exactly what is happening, we need improved models and more atmospheric observations."
Please support the Rainforest Action Network!

More Polling News

Editor & Publisher:
A new Gallup Poll reveals that fewer than 3 in 10 Americans saying the United States is winning the war on terror -- the lowest figure since the 9/11 attacks.

Further, while most Americans consider the war in Afghanistan part of the war on terror, more than half reject the idea that the war in Iraq is.

Results of the June 11-14 national survey of 1,007 adults find that that 29% of Americans say the United States is winning, while 20% say the terrorists are winning and 50% say neither side. Independents and Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to doubt U.S. progress, but even so only 53% of Republicans feel we have the upper hand.

Concerning Iraq, 43% say it is part of war on terrorism but 53% reject this notion.
A large majority of Americans no longer buy the bullshit. Roughly a third are even more stupid than Bush.

Long Overdue

The Hill:
House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys last year.

The deadline for a response is Thursday, June 28. If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches. In an ironic twist, the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be called on to enforce the contempt motion.

During yesterday’s testimony by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, panel Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) asked McNulty whether he would enforce such a motion. McNulty responded that he would recuse himself from handling such matters because of an internal DoJ investigation into the U.S. attorneys matter.

Liberalism Ascendent

In a fascinating analysis of polling data for The Nation, Rick Perlstein has heartening words for unabashed liberals:
You suspected it all along. Now it just might be true: Most Americans think like you.
He begins be referencing The Pew Research Center's new study, Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007. The numbers astonish. As Pew opens their summary:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.

At the same time, many of the key trends that nurtured the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s have moderated, according to Pew's longitudinal measures of the public's basic political, social and economic values. The proportion of Americans who support traditional social values has edged downward since 1994, while the proportion of Americans expressing strong personal religious commitment also has declined modestly.
Pews numbers show that:

In 2002, Party affiliation was about even, with 43% identifying or leaning towards both the Democrats and Republicans. Now, the Democrats lead 50-35%.

In 1994, when the Republicans took Congress, only 41% agreed that "the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the nation's debt." Today, that number is 54%.

Five years ago, an impressive 65% said "today it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer," but that number has actually risen to 73%.

In 2002, 62% agreed that "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Today, that number has dropped to 49%.

In 1987, only 8% said they were unaffiliated with any religion, but that number has now grown to 12%. Furthermore:
The poll finds greater public acceptance of homosexuality and less desire for women to play traditional roles in society. Both represent a continuation of trends that have been apparent over the past 20 years, and have occurred mostly among older people.
In 1995, 58% favored Affirmative Action. With gains across the political spectrum, that number now stands at 70%.

And while Perlstein emphasizes that the Pew numbers show Independents increasingly largely agreeing with Democrats on the issues, in the overall trends:
It's not just Pew. In the authoritative National Election Studies (NES) survey, more than twice as many Americans want "government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending" as want fewer services "in order to reduce spending." According to Gallup, a majority say they generally side with labor in disputes and only 34 percent with companies; 53 percent think unions help the economy and only 36 percent think they hurt. A 2005 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 53 percent of Americans thought the Bush tax cuts were "not worth it because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs." CNN/Opinion Research Corp. found that only 25 percent want to see Roe v. Wade overturned; NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard found the public rejecting government-funded abstinence-only sex education in favor of "more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives" by 67 percent to 30 percent. Public Agenda/Foreign Affairs discovered that 67 percent of Americans favor "diplomatic and economic efforts over military efforts in fighting terrorism."

Want hot-button issues? The public is in love with rehabilitation over incarceration for youth offenders. Zogby/National council on Crime and Delinquency found that 89 percent think it reduces crime and 80 percent that it saves money over the long run. "Amnesty"? Sixty-two percent told CBS/New York Times surveyors that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to "keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status." And the gap between the clichés about what Americans believe about gun control and what they actually believe is startling: NBC News/Wall Street Journal found 58 percent favoring "tougher gun control laws," and Annenberg found that only 10 percent want laws controlling firearms to be less strict, a finding reproduced by the NES survey in 2004 and Gallup in 2006.
He then refers to the report The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth, by the Campaign For America's Future and Media Matters. Highlights of this report include these numbers:

69% agree that "t is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have access to health coverage," with 76% percent deeming it more important than Bush's tax cuts, and 60% willing to have their own taxes raised towards that end.

52% believe government investment in alternative energy sources is the best way to break our addiction to foreign oil, with 68% agreeing conservation is a better solution than production, and 64% willing to pay higher taxes for renewable energy research.

77% believe the minimum wage should be increased.

66% believe the wealthy pay too little taxes.

53% deem Bush's tax cuts a failure because of the increased deficit and cuts in government programs.

69% believe the government "should care for those who can't care for themselves."

62% believe undocumented workers should have the opportunity to "keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status."

Perlstein believes Democrats fail by not identifying themselves more strongly as Democrats. Given the Party affiliation numbers, it's impossible to disagree. And he points to another telling conclusion of the CFAF/MM report:
(W)hen the GOP took over Congress in 1994, the New York Times front page claimed, "The country has unmistakably moved to the right." It hadn't; for an excellent study showing this wasn't so, see Ronald Rapoport and Walter Stone's Three's a Crowd, which shows how Newt Gingrich's Contract With America was tailored as an appeal to Perot voters, then retroactively spun as a mandate for conservatism. Ten years later, when Bush beat Kerry by three points, Katie Couric asked on Today, "Does this election indicate that this country has become much more socially conservative?" It was a rhetorical question, for the establishment had set the conclusion in stone long before. Three weeks before the 2006 election Candy Crowley of CNN said Democrats were "on the losing side of the values debate, the defense debate and, oh yes, the guns debate." After election day, Bob Schieffer of CBS said, "The Democrats' victory was built on the back of more centrist candidates seizing Republican-leaning districts." (Tell that to my favorite Democratic House pickup, Carol Shea-Porter, a former social worker who won a New Hampshire seat after getting kicked out of a 2005 presidential appearance for wearing a T-shirt reading Turn Your Back on Bush.) John Harris of the Washington Post, now of The Politico, said, "This is basically not a liberal country." Concludes the Media Matters/Campaign for America's Future report, "Democratic victories are understood as a product of the Democrats moving to the right, while Republican victories are the product of a conservative electorate."
There is much more to his article, including about media complicity in obfuscating the facts about the public's political beliefs; but his own conclusion is clear: Democrats need to stop compromising, they need to stop avoiding Party identification, and they need to stop listening to the corporate media's conventional wisdom. Democrats have been right all along- not Third Way, DLC Democrats, but traditional populist Democrats.

I will point to another issue. A May poll by the conservative InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion found that 39% favor impeaching Bush and Cheney. This was a poll taken in a vacuum, since no one in the corporate media, and no Democratic leaders are even discussing the possibility. It's telling that this poll was the only one recently taken on impeachment. The corporate media is, apparently, afraid to touch the subject. Why are the Democrats? This was a poll taken absent any public hearings laying out the extensive legitimate grounds for impeachment. It's also a poll showing stronger support for impeachment than for the Democratic Congress. What does that tell you?

It's time for elected Democrats to stop being afraid. Our core values are the nation's. The more elected Democrats stand up for our core values, the more elected Democrats there will be. Liberalism is ascendent. It's time to acknowledge it, act on it, and revel in it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bright Eyes- Lua

The Most Despicable Man In America Deals With Oversight

New York Times:
For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.

The Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives, appealed the issue to the Justice Department, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed Mr. Cheney’s effort to shut down the oversight office. Mr. Waxman, who has had a leading role in the stepped-up efforts by Democrats to investigate the Bush administration, outlined the matter in an eight-page letter sent Thursday to the vice president and posted, along with other documentation, on the committee’s Web site.


Spiegel Online:
In southwestern Germany, an American archaeologist and his German colleagues have found the oldest mammoth-ivory carving known to modern science. And even at 35,000 years old, it's still intact.

Archaeologists at the University of Tübingen have recovered the first entirely intact woolly mammoth figurine from the Swabian Jura, a plateau in the state of Baden-Württemberg, thought to have been made by the first modern humans some 35,000 years ago. It is believed to be the oldest ivory carving ever found. "You can be sure," Tübingen archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard told SPIEGEL ONLINE, "that there has been art in Swabia for over 35,000 years."

In total, five mammoth-ivory figurines from the Ice Age were newly discovered at the site of the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, a site known to contain primitive artefacts since it was excavated in 1931 by the Tübingen archaeologist Gustav Reik. Over 7,000 sacks of sediment later, archaeologists were again invigorated by the discoveries.

Trent Lott: Illegal aliens are like goats

Biloxi Sun-Herald:
Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., was talking to reporters Wednesday about the immigration bill, when he said, "If the answer is 'build a fence' I've got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain't no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence."

"Now people are at least as smart as goats," Lott continued. "Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it."

"I'm not proposing an electrified goat fence," Lott added quickly, "I'm just trying, there's an analogy there."
I'm sure we could all come up with some good analogies for Lott.


Associated Press:
The U.S. command announced Thursday the deaths of 14 more American troops, most killed in powerful roadside bombs in Baghdad. Thick, black smoke rose from the heavily fortified Green Zone after a mortar barrage as militants struck back despite a massive military offensive.

But as always, attacks claimed far more Iraqi lives.

Michael Bloomberg is a Concern Troll

Michael Bloomberg wants you to know that he's concerned.

The New York Times reported on Monday that:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, sounding every inch the presidential candidate he insists he is not, brought his message of pragmatic, nonpartisan leadership to California on Monday, telling a crowd of Google employees that the nation was “really in trouble.”

In unusually stark terms, Mr. Bloomberg expressed his frustration with the state of the nation, touching on campaign-style issues like the war in Iraq, immigration, education, health care and crime before a crowd of more than 1,000 employees at the Google campus here.
Isn't that sweet? The man cares. And like most billionaires, he's been able to put his money where his mouth is. According to Newsmeat, he has. Since he became mayor, these are his leading campaign donations:
$250,000 to the Republican National Committee
$250,000 to the RNC Republican National States Elections Committee
$12,100 to Joseph Lieberman
$5000 to Rudy Giuliani's Solutions America PAC
He's also made major donations to:
George W. Bush, John Sweeney, Vito Fossella, Harold Dallas Rogers, Richard Shelby, John McCain, Peter King, James Walsh, Lynette Boggs McDonald
What do they all have in common? None are Democrats. And having done so much to enable the worst government in American history, what does he do when public support for that government collapses? He bails. Very noble. Very visionary. Such a brilliant display of leadership.

And, of course, that same vision accords well with the very best of the Bush Administration's war on the Constitution. As the New York Times reported:
Undercover New York City police officers have been conducting covert surveillance of political, social and religious groups since Sept 2002, after administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg persuaded federal judge to enlarge Police Dept's authority in wake of 9/11 terror attacks...
And as the Times editorialized:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's record on free speech is already pretty poor. Unless he wants to make a disregard for New Yorkers' rights part of his legacy, he should make sure that the police understand what civil liberties mean in a democracy.
But Bloomberg was still defending the policy, just a few months ago. In fact, his championing of basic police state tactics also extends to immigration policy, as the Associated Press reported, in 2006:
Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg thrust himself into the national immigration debate Wednesday, advocating a plan that would establish a DNA or fingerprint database to track and verify all legal U.S. workers.
And although he poses as a moderate, he refused to enforce New York City's domestic partnerships law.

So, let's not allow the corporate media to get away with painting Bloomberg in soft, warm hues. Let's also not kid ourselves as to the political impact, if he does run.

As the New York Times explained:
Several analysts argued that a three-way race with Mr. Bloomberg running as a third-party candidate could ultimately prove more of a threat to Democrats than to Republicans.
So, let's get this straight: after having strongly supported the Republicans (and their ally) who created the current disastrous state of the nation, he's now very concerned about it. He's left the political party he helped enable and is considering an independent run for the Presidency. An independent run that will do nothing but continue to help that disastrous political party.

Michael Bloomberg doesn't deserve our support, or even our consideration of support. Michael Bloomberg deserves our disdain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Clash- The Magnificent Seven

Since I normally post photos, as visual breaks between days' postings, but can't, while on the road, I thought I'd start posting videos, instead.

That Other War

The Taleban in Afghanistan are changing their tactics to mount more attacks on the capital, Kabul, a spokesman for the militant group has told the BBC.

The spokesman, Zabiyullah Mujahed, said Taleban were recovering after Nato had infiltrated the group and killed some of its leaders.

But more people were volunteering to carry out suicide bombings, he said.


Washington Post:
U.S. and Iraqi troops discovered an orphanage with "24 severely malnourished and abused boys" 10 days ago in the al-Fajr neighborhood of northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said Wednesday. The boys, ages 3 to 15, "were found naked in a darkened room without any windows," the military said in a statement.

Photographs obtained by CBS News, which broke the story Monday, showed emaciated children lying naked on concrete floors in their own waste, some tied to their beds. Nearby, soldiers discovered a locked room with food and clothing.

Abeer Mahdi al-Chalabi, head of the orphanage section of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, denied in a telephone interview that the children had been badly treated and said they were not orphans but were "special needs" children.
Special needs? They need to be starved to death?

And, in political news, the Washington Post reports:
Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a senior Shiite politician often mentioned as a potential prime minister, tendered his resignation last week in a move that reflects deepening frustration inside the Iraqi government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Other senior Iraqi officials have considered resigning in recent weeks over the failures of their government to make progress after more than a year in power, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.
Our puppet government continues to implode, the violence continues unabated, and "special needs" children are found starving. Hell. On. Earth.

Why Does He Hate America?

Washington Post:
The Bush administration wants to overhaul the troubled agency in charge of security at most federal buildings, cutting personnel and giving a bigger role to local police. Lawmakers are fighting the plan, saying that it could leave government employees more vulnerable to crime or attacks by terrorists.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thanks, Mike

New York Times:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, sounding every inch the presidential candidate he insists he is not, brought his message of pragmatic, nonpartisan leadership to California on Monday, telling a crowd of Google employees that the nation was “really in trouble.”

In unusually stark terms, Mr. Bloomberg expressed his frustration with the state of the nation, touching on campaign-style issues like the war in Iraq, immigration, education, health care and crime before a crowd of more than 1,000 employees at the Google campus here.
You're obviously running for President, but one question: if you're so goddamned concerned about the state of the nation, why did you support Bush's re-election. Mike?

Monday, June 18, 2007


The honour was intended to recognise the contribution to literature by one of Britain's most high-profile - and much vilified - writers. But the government's decision to give Salman Rushdie a knighthood has generated the kind of international furore that once threatened to engulf his career and put his life at risk.

Yesterday, indignation at the award for the writer of The Satanic Verses, spread to Islamabad, with one Pakistani minister reported yesterday as saying that a suicide bomb attack would be a justified response to the award of the knighthood.

The Pakistan parliament called on the British government to reverse the decision or face further protests from Muslim nations. "If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified," the minister for religious affairs, Ijaz ul-Haq, told Pakistan's national assembly, according to the translation from Urdu by Reuters. He urged Muslim countries to break diplomatic ties with London.

"This is an occasion for the [world's] 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," said Mr ul-Haq, the son of the former Pakistan military leader, Zia ul-Haq. "If Muslims do not unite, the situation will get worse and Salman Rushdie may get a seat in the British parliament.
Keep in mind: Pakistan is supposedly one of our allies against extremism.

But It's A Really Cool Fortress!

Washington Post:
Ryan C. Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, bluntly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a cable dated May 31 that the embassy in Baghdad -- the largest and most expensive U.S. embassy -- lacks enough well-qualified staff members and that its security rules are too restrictive for Foreign Service officers to do their jobs.

"Simply put, we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people," Crocker said in the memo.
Poor guy presumes there's an intention to do the nation's most important work.

That Other War

New York Times:
At least seven children have been killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike in a religious school in Afghanistan, the coalition said on Monday, amid rising anger over civilian deaths from foreign military operations.

Violence has surged in recent months in Afghanistan after the traditional winter lull, with foreign forces launching attacks against Taliban guerrilla strongholds in the south and east and the Taliban hitting back with a string of suicide bombings.

In a separate incident, three coalition soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle near the southern city of Kandahar.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Road Trip

I'll be posting, but probably not as often. And, once again, unless I take some, I won't be posting any pictures...

That Other War

A bomb attack on an Afghan police bus has killed up to 35 people and injured many in Kabul, officials say.

The bomb went off close to police headquarters in the city centre at rush hour. Most of the dead are police recruits or instructors.

It is thought to be the highest number of deaths caused by a bomb in Kabul since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.
One more in an endless series of examples of why we should have actually finished the job in Afghanistan, and helped the Afghans get back on their feet, rather than wasting lives and money in a war that had nothing to do with international terrorism.


Criticized by some as over-restored, the Minoan palace was built in the Bronze Age, around 1600 BCE, and represents the earliest known high civlization in Europe. Minoan art was more colorful, realistic, and playful than any previously known; and there is no evidence of war or other conflicts between different Minoan towns. Minoan civilization is thought to have been largely destroyed by the eruption of the volcano that has made Santorini such a dramatic caldera island.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The War Within The War

Washington Post:
Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.

While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months.

The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials. Blackwater USA, a prominent North Carolina firm that protects U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, and several other companies have not applied, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Blackwater said that it obtained a one-year license in 2005 but that shifting Iraqi government policy has impeded its attempts to renew.


Washington Post:
The remains of 13 members of an Iraqi tae kwon do team kidnapped last year have been found in western Iraq, police and hospital officials said Saturday.

That Other War

New York Times:
A suicide bomber driving a taxi set off his explosives near a convoy of American civilian contractors and accompanying soldiers here this morning, killing himself and four bystanders but only wounding one of his intended targets, the Kabul police said.

The Weather Vane

New York Times:
Mitt Romney, who as a presidential candidate has already drawn criticism for changes in his positions on other social issues, is now facing questions on whether he has shifted his stand on expanded federal support for embryonic stem cell research.

Mr. Romney says he has been entirely consistent. But some of his recent statements suggest that he has come to oppose wider financing, which in the past he appeared to support.
No worries. Whatever right wing positions he takes for the primaries will be changed for the general election. What he would actually do, if he were elected? Well, presumably we're not going to have to worry about that, either...


Ha'penny Bridge

Merchants Of Death

In Salon, Robert Dreyfuss discusses the disappointment of war critics in the failure (thus far) of Congressional Democrats to stop Bush's Iraq disaster:
Still, Democratic criticism of administration policy in Iraq looks muscle-bound when compared with the party's readiness to go along with the president's massive military buildup, domestically and globally. Nothing underlines the tacit alliance between so-called foreign policy realists and hard-line exponents of neoconservative-style empire building more than the Washington consensus that the United States needs to expand the budget of the Defense Department without end, while increasing the size of the U.S. armed forces. In addition, spending on the 16 agencies and other organizations that make up the official U.S. "intelligence community" -- including the CIA -- and on homeland security is going through the roof.
He then points out that of our Presidential candidates, only Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gov. Bill Richardson are calling for cuts in the defense budget, while Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actually calling for additional 80,000-100,000 military personnel!

How astonishing are the budgetary numbers? Consider the trajectory of U.S. defense spending over the past nearly two decades. From the end of the Cold War into the mid-1990s, defense spending actually fell significantly. In constant 1996 dollars, the Pentagon's budget dropped from a peacetime high of $376 billion, at the end of President Reagan's military buildup in 1989, to a low of $265 billion in 1996. (That compares with post-World War II wartime highs of $437 billion in 1953, during the Korean War, and $388 billion in 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War.) After the Soviet empire peacefully disintegrated, the 1990s decline wasn't exactly the hoped-for "peace dividend," but it wasn't peanuts either.

However, since Sept. 12, 2001, defense spending has simply exploded. For 2008, the Bush administration is requesting a staggering $650 billion, compared with the already staggering $400 billion the Pentagon collected in 2001. Even subtracting the costs of the ongoing "global war on terrorism" -- which is what the White House likes to call its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- for fiscal year 2008, the Pentagon will still spend $510 billion. In other words, even without the president's two wars, defense spending will have nearly doubled since the mid-1990s. Given that the United States has literally no significant enemy state to fight anywhere on the planet, this represents a remarkable, if perverse, achievement. As a famous Democratic politician once asked: Where is the outrage?
Let me repeat that: the defense budget for items that have nothing to do with 9/11 is being doubled! Except, of course, that it has everything to do with 9/11. Politically. As with every other aspect of governance, 9/11 is being used to justify political machinations that have nothing else to do with it! And with weapons proliferation, the numbers are simply staggering. Using figures from the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation (CACN), Dreyfuss points out:

-28 weapons systems will, by themselves, cost us $44 billion.

-Missile "Defense" will cost us $11 billion a year!

-Our 2008 defense spending will be 29 times the combined spending of our most hyped potential enemies: Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

-Our "defense" budget is now exactly double that of the world's next six largest military powers: China, Russia, the U.K., France, Japan and Germany

-Our "defense" budget now accounts for about 48% of the entire world's military spending!

Of course, all this military spending isn't doing much good in actual wars. As the McClatchy Newspapers reported, in April:
A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.
And it's not only not helping national security, it's actually hurting it! While our politicians like to claim that we're working to stop weapons proliferation, around the world, the Stockholm-based Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission concluded, on June 1:
There are even some waves of new armaments: the United States missile shield may be triggering countermeasures by China and Russia in the nuclear weapons area; and nuclear weapons with new missions may be under development in the United States and elsewhere. While the peaceful uses of space and satellites are developing at a dizzying pace, which facilitates global information exchange and communication, the most advanced military Powers are calculating how they can most effectively pursue war in this environment.
The International Herald Tribune also reported, earlier this month:
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in an interview published Sunday that U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe would force Moscow to target its weapons against sites in Europe.

The threat, voiced in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera and other foreign media, marked one of Putin's most strident statements to date against the U.S. plans and came just days before the Russian president is to join other leaders at a Group of Eight summit in Germany.
And the CACN concluded, in March:
The proposed nuclear cooperation deal between India and the US has raised concerns that it could severely weaken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and unravel the international non-proliferation framework by setting a dangerous precedent for single-country exceptions from the non-proliferation establishment and giving India, which is not a party to the NPT, an increased ability to produce nuclear weapons. To take effect, this agreement requires that Congress make changes to long-standing US laws and international guidelines enacted to prevent transfers of nuclear technology to states outside the NPT. Legislation to do so was recently introduced in the House and Senate.
But let's not waste time trying to imagine how we could better spend all that money, how many lives would be saved, and how much more stable we would be, in both military and geopolitical terms. Let's cut to the chase: who is benefiting? You can check the company profiles here.

The FBI Is Watching

Two new reports ought to make us all feel more secure. Or something. The FBI is watching. It's really watching.

The first report is from ABC News:
A terrorist watch list compiled by the FBI has apparently swelled to include more than half a million names.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates say the list is growing uncontrollably, threatening its usefulness in the war on terror.

The bureau says the number of names on its terrorist watch list is classified.
Half a million names? Here's a clue: if they need to watch a half a million people, they're probably not doing a very good job of figuring out who to watch. Either that, or we're pretty much all suspect; and if that's the case, someone's probably just a little too mentally unstable to be running a national security agency. And they say Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theorists are nuts!

The second report is from the Washington Post:
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.
Several thousand mistakes? And I'm assuming those don't include the monitoring of those half a million people that the FBI seems to think should be monitored. So, it's probably not a stretch to presume that that half a million figure should be revised. Upward.

Just as interesting, is this part of the Post article:
The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information anyway in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities.
Isn't that reassuring? While the FBI is out of control, spying on more than a half a million people, breaking laws and their own rules, telephone conpanies and internet providers are handing over private data that no one even asked for! Might this not be worth a Congressional investigation? Wouldn't it be nice to know if your phone company or internet provider is so blithely dismissive of your privacy rights?

Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III knows how to spend your tax dollars. As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday:
When the FBI asked Congress this spring to provide $3.6 million in the war spending bill for its Gulfstream V jet, it said the money was needed to ensure that the aircraft, packed with state-of-the-art security and communications gear, could continue to fly counterterrorism agents on "crucial missions" into Iraq.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the bureau has made similar annual requests to maintain and fuel the $40 million jet on grounds that it had a "tremendous impact" on combating terrorism by rapidly deploying FBI agents to "fast-moving investigations and crisis situations" in places such as Afghanistan.

But the jet that the FBI originally sold to lawmakers in the late 1990s as an essential tool for battling terrorism is now routinely used to ferry FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to speeches, public appearances and field office visits.
Not that anyone in the Bush Administration would ever politicize federal agencies of intelligence or justice.

Time for yet another in a seemingly endless series of rhetorical questions: what do the words "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" mean?

NYT and WaPo: Iraq Failing Both Politically and Militarily

The New York Times has the political story:
Iraq’s political leaders have failed to reach agreements on nearly every law that the Americans have demanded as benchmarks, despite heavy pressure from Congress, the White House and top military commanders. With only three months until progress reports are due in Washington, the deadlock has reached a point where many Iraqi and American officials now question whether any substantive laws will pass before the end of the year.

Kurds have blocked a vote in Parliament on a new oil law. Shiite clerics have stymied an American-backed plan for reintegrating former Baathists into government. Sunnis are demanding that a constitutional review include more power for the next president.

And even if one or two of the proposals are approved — the oil law appears the most likely, officials said — doubts are spreading about whether the current benchmarks can ever halt the cycle of violence gripping Iraq’s communities.
The Washington Post has the military:
A senior U.S. military commander said yesterday that Iraq's army must expand its rolls by at least 20,000 more soldiers than Washington had anticipated, to help free U.S. troops from conducting daily patrols, checkpoints and other critical yet dangerous missions.

Even then, Iraq will remain incapable of taking full responsibility for its security for many years -- five years in the case of protecting its airspace -- and will require a long-term military relationship with the United States, said Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who until recently led the U.S. military's training effort in Iraq.
So, Iraq is failing on both the political and military fronts. Our troops are dying and getting maimed for a government that cannot function. Period.

Of course, in April, the McClatchy Newspapers reported:
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.
And, of course, there's been no public acknowledgement of the change...
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.
No wonder our military is now planning a long-term commitment of more than 40,000 troops!

Get it? We're not training Iraqi troops to stand up as ours stand down. There's not even a plan for our troops to stand down! A force of forty thousand will be in Iraq indefinitely! The Bush Administration is not even bothering to hide it, anymore!

Last week, the New York Times reported that:
For the first time, the Bush administration is beginning publicly to discuss basing American troops in Iraq for years, even decades to come, a subject so fraught with political landmines that officials are tiptoeing around the inevitable questions about what the United States’ long-term mission would be there.

President Bush has long talked about the need to maintain an American military presence in the region, without saying exactly where. Several visitors to the White House say that in private, he has sounded intrigued by what he calls the “Korea model,” a reference to the large American presence in South Korea for the 54 years since the armistice that ended open hostilities between North and South.

But it was not until Wednesday that Mr. Bush’s spokesman, Tony Snow, publicly reached for the Korea example in talking about Iraq — setting off an analogy war between the White House and critics who charged that the administration was again disconnected from the realities of Iraq. He said Korea was one way to think about how America’s mission could evolve into an “over-the-horizon support role,” whenever American troops are no longer patrolling the streets of Baghdad.
Korea? There's an armistice in Korea! When was the last time a shot was fired in anger between North and South Korea? It would be an almost unthinkable improvement to get to the same status as Korea! South Korea has a functioning government and a booming economy. South Korea is not in the midst of a civil war!

How much more will it take for people to realize that the Bush Administration really is batshit crazy? How much more will it take for people to realize that there's no one at the wheel? Someone has to take control! Any ideas?

According to CNN, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Democrats will again attempt to impose timetables for withdrawal from Iraq:
Reid said Democrats will use a defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2008 as a vehicle to revive two Iraq timetable amendments that they pushed unsuccessfully during a fight over Iraq funding in May.

The first, sponsored by Reid and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, would set a goal of beginning the withdrawal of U.S. troops by April 2008, unless the Iraqi government demonstrated political and security progress. However, President Bush would have the power to waive that requirement.

The second, sponsored by Reid and Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, would go further and cut off funding for the Iraq war by next April, without giving the president any flexibility to extend the mission.
Reid says the Democrats plan to hold the Republicans' feet to the fire. That's a good thing. A better thing would be to hold to the fire the feet of the Blue Dogs and the other recusant Democrats. This is long past being about politics. This is about saving lives. It's about saving our military, our economy, and our national security from going off a cliff. It's time to tell the Democratic dissenters to face the one clear fact: Neither the Bush Administration nor their Republican colleagues have any plan, or even intent, to end this war! Someone has to! It's time for that someone to lead!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nobody's Mayor

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said he would consider increasing U.S. troops in Iraq if the head of military operations there, U.S. Army General David Petraeus, requested them.

``If he said the strategy was working, and we needed more soldiers to make it work,'' Giuliani said in an interview today, ``of course I'd look at that and consider that.''
Sure. Why not? It's only people's lives being wasted.

Uh, Tony? Video games don't count.

Q: Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?

SNOW: Yeah, the President. The President is in the war every day.

Q: Come on, that isn’t my question –

SNOW: Well, no, if you ask any president who is a commander in chief –

Q: On the frontlines, wherever…

SNOW: The President.
Think Progress has the video.