Easter Lemming Liberal News

Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day Messages


To those who serve and pay the price, with no say in right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust. Spend wisely the flower of our nation and be sparing with the lives of those who answer the call of Duty, Honor, Country. -- Jim

I have officially become a friend of KPFT,
link to program schedule. Without a contribution, just a willingness to help and spread the word about alternative non-commercial media. Live in Houston/Galveston or live worldwide on the web.

Other Liberal Airwaves - Radio Air America - listen here.

Mary Ann in Milwaukee wrote to Charles Auld:

Because people spoke out, Bush suddenly seemed vulnerable.
Now, like a roar of shouting, the voices multiply: As more and more people awaken to incompetence, masquerading as leadership.

Because people spoke out, the New York Times was forced to recant its reporting of Weapons of Mass Destruction prior to the war. The voices of many people prompted the Times to bow to the truth, that there were no weapons and thus no foundation for a "war of pre emption."

Because people spoke out against misleading campaign advertisements, the Washington Post published a long article (5.31.2004)detailing the lies being presented by the Bush campaign in its desperate fight to pre-empt Kerry. The Post too has bowed to truth.

There's a pattern here: The Bush administration attacks false premises, non-existent weapons, truth tellers. It promotes fear and promises to "save" us from conjured dangers and gathering threats WROUGHT BY THEM!

Because one lower-rank military person spoke out, by placing a note and a CD under the door of an officer, scandalous mistreatment of prisoners has come to light. History may recount that one lone voice brought down generals and an administration, as citizens bowed to the truth.

Yes, one voice can make a huge difference. And many voices together can change our country's direction.

A citizenry that assumes its power, voices its concerns, and engages in dialogue across the chasms (often erected by lying politicians), that is true democracy. Yes, true democracy is indeed a danger - a danger to the truth-betrayors.

Archives

An page of mine from last year that includes a gratuitous Coupling reference to Lesbian Spank Inferno.

Another archive - What was I writing about one year ago today. A lot of stuff, as usual. One thing I notice is that both of these archives include adult language. This is actually not common on my pages. A year ago a European Union legal website devoted to US and EU relations, they are bad - they explain why, was pointing to my website to get progressive views on what was going on here. The link is not on that main page anymore which has been greatly redone. They still have a link on another page. I am under American Information, News, Politics. A year ago I started with political bigotry, went on to the CIA, a lot of current political hot topics, and closed with bring back Buffy and Willow.

BACK TO IRAQ NEWS

To those who think that reporters aren't supporting the war effort enough and refuse to report good news, well, here's a shocker: There isn't much good news to report. The security situation is growing worse. The power is still bad (three hours on, three hours off, or so.) Major U.S. contractors are bypassing Iraqi companies, leading to growing resentment. What kinda sorta good news there is is being pretty well covered. The (maybe) truce between Moqtada al-Sadra's Mahdi Army and U.S. forces in the south, the coming together, however shakily, of a caretaker government. I refuse to reprint the press releases that pour out of the CPA on any given day. Most of the 'good news' they release has to do with passing out free soccer balls to kids. Is this what should be reported when U.S. troops and Iraqis are dying every day?

Like the woman on the day of the car bomb who wailed that "The Americans did it!" I got some flack for just quoting her, but I included her not because I believed her (I don't.) but because her reaction is part of the story. To those who think the press doesn't pay enough attention to the Iraqis: This woman is a prime, albeit exaggerated, example. I would honestly be shocked if the U.S. had done this and I don't think it did. You have to examine Iraqis' statements critically. This one was easy, others are not.

To those who criticized me for even quoting her, if you don't like that Iraqis feel this way and express themselves by blaming the Americans, well, too damn bad. The occupying forces, including the Americans, are responsible for security under the United Nations resolution. So far, they haven't done a very good job of providing it.

My point in all of this is that the reporters I've met so far are smart, talented and very good at what they do. Many of them most emphatically do not stay in the Green Zone. Most live and run around Baghdad in constant fear for their lives. All of us are trying to a do a job and stay safe at the same time, which is the same thing Iraqis are trying to do every day. And like Iraqis, the journalists I've met are frustrated with the security situation.

Kerry Honors War Dead

John Kerry took a break from politics on Monday to pay tribute to America's war dead
, but made a statement nonetheless by choosing Republican-leaning Virginia to show that his presidential bid will be different.

With Virginia Gov. Mark Warner -- whose name has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate -- by his side, Kerry watched a parade in Portsmouth after quietly visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. He did not speak publicly.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Virginia in 40 years, but Kerry told reporters aboard his chartered jet; "I don't care what's usual or not. There's not much usual about this campaign."



Graduation Day

Survivors,What does it take not to be left behind today?

Vanessa Perez started Austin High School with 1,000 other students four years ago. This week she graduates with a senior class of 284 kids.


Did Vanessa Perez prosper because she's so smart and determined, or because some dedicated teachers wouldn't let go? Obviously, yes to both.

And what does that say about the children left behind? The ones who weren't quite clever enough? The ones who didn't have enough self-starter to them? The ones who never got the best teachers, who never got that bit of extra help? The ones who didn't get that kind word at the most necessary moment?

You know those kids. We all do. They're the ones who'll be cleaning up after us when we finish eating in a restaurant tonight. If Vanessa Perez won't forget them, then neither should we. Even in times of celebration.



The President: Paying the Price . . .


Thoughtful Opinion on the Aggressive Choices Bush Made And His Shrinking Uncomfortable Bed

Bush is losing support among independent voters and has not nailed down moderate or even moderately conservative Republicans.
Bush has signaled his own weakness by buying time on the Golf Channel, more a home to Republicans than to swing voters (except, perhaps, where the game itself is concerned).

By failing to embrace his opportunity to be a president of national unity, Bush has endangered the great project of his presidency: remaking Iraq. And he has offered Kerry the chance to be as tough as Howard Dean was -- but in the name of uniting Americans at a moment when solidarity is desperately needed.

This is why Kerry has reason to hope that his identity as a Vietnam veteran can trump his history as a Massachusetts liberal. And it's why President Bush, lacking the political insurance he should have sought, is right to be running scared.

el - I am not crazy about E.J. Dione but he has been spinning around D.C. long enough to know when someone is running scared.



Like What's Up With Bases Anymore?


The New York Times Magazine Discovers Teen Sex

The decline in dating and romantic relationships on college campuses has been deplored often enough. By 2001, it had become so pronounced that a conservative group, the Independent Women's Forum, was compelled to take out ads in college papers on the East Coast and in the Midwest pleading with students to ''Take Back the Date.''
But their efforts don't seem to have paid off. The trend toward ''hooking up'' and ''friends with benefits'' (basically, friends you hook up with regularly) has trickled down from campuses into high schools and junior highs -- and not just in large urban centers. Cellphones and the Internet, which offer teenagers an unparalleled level of privacy, make hooking up that much easier, whether they live in New York City or Boise.

And yet, still, many date. Or sort of, falling out of romantic relationships into hookups and back again. When teenagers do date, they often do so in ways that would be unrecognizable to their parents, or even to their older siblings. A ''formal date'' might be a trip to the mall with a date and some friends. Teenagers regularly flirt online first, and then decide whether to do so in real life. Dating someone from your school is considered by many to be risky, akin to seeing someone from the office, so teenagers tend to look to nearby schools or towns, whether they're hoping to date or just to hook up.

It's not that teenagers have given up on love altogether. Most of the high-school students I spent time with said they expected to meet the right person, fall in love and marry -- eventually. It's just that high school, many insist, isn't the place to worry about that. High school is about keeping your options open. Relationships are about closing them. As these teenagers see it, marriage and monogamy will seamlessly replace their youthful hookup careers sometime in their mid- to late 20's -- or, as one high-school boy from Rhode Island told me online, when ''we turn 30 and no one hot wants us anymore.''

Regardless of which end of the political spectrum they find themselves on, parents and teen-sexuality experts tend to agree on one thing: hooking up is a bad thing for teenagers. They insist that it's bad emotionally and potentially bad physically. Female adolescents ages 15 to 19 have the highest incidence of both gonorrhea and chlamydia, and according to the latest C.D.C. figures, 48 percent of new S.T.D. cases reported in 2000 occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds. Many of the teenagers I talked to told me that no one they know uses condoms during oral sex, only during intercourse.

''I don't understand the base system at all,'' Jesse said, lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. ''If making out is first base, what's second base?''

''We need to establish an international base system,'' Brian said. ''Because right now, frankly, no one knows what's up with the bases. And that's a problem.''

Jesse nodded in agreement. ''First base is obviously kissing,'' Brian said.

''Obviously,'' Jesse said.

''But here's the twist,'' Brian said. ''Historically, second base was breasts. But I don't think second base is breasts anymore. I think that's just a given part of first base. I mean, how can you make out without copping a feel?''

''True,'' Jesse said. ''And if third base is oral, what's second base?''



Religion and Repression

Worries about Democracy and Free Speech and Free Art In Russia

Director of an Art Museum Faces Charges

After pressure from the Church, church ativists and nationalists in Government, Samodurov and others associated with the show have recently been indicted for inciting religious hatred. They face up to five years in prison.


The case began in January 2003, when Russian Orthodox activists vandalized an exhibition in the Sakharov Museum titled "Caution! Religion." One work showed the image of Christ on a Coca-Cola advertisement that included the words "Coca-Cola: This is my blood." Another showed human figures nailed to crosses and a swastika. Still another showed a church made of vodka bottles.

The activists, who spray-painted some works and broke others, were charged but later acquitted. Church officials condemned the art show, and the lower house of the parliament, up in arms, overwhelmingly passed a decree ordering the state prosecutor to act against the exhibit's organizers. A commission of art historians, asked by the prosecutor's office to evaluate the exhibition, did not find it to have incited religious hatred -- to the consternation of Orthodox officials and nationalists. Another commission, this time including a psychologist and a sociologist, was appointed. It found unanimously that the exhibition had indeed incited religious hatred.

In its second decade after the fall of communism, Russia is showing worrisome anti-democratic signs. Most troubling is probably the state's increasing control of media organizations, resulting in the government's ever-greater influence over, and manipulation of, television and radio, especially evident during recent elections. But increasing nationalism, favoring the Orthodox Church at the expense of other churches and religions, is no less troubling.

Before the 1917 revolution, nationalism and the Orthodox Church were dominant. After the revolution, the church and personal liberties were repressed. In both periods, democratic freedoms were unknown. Now that the Soviet era has ended and those freedoms have entered Russian national life, it would be a pity if Russia were to lose them and end up combining the worst of both worlds.



The handover that became a shambles


UK Independent - Ten U-turns on the road to 'peace'

Just Two of Bush's Flip-Flops

The constitution


In mid-November 2003 came the biggest course correction of all. With plans for a new constitution foundering and US forces growing more unpopular by the day, Mr Bremer rushed back to Washington for consultations. Instead of waiting for a new constitution to be drawn up - a process that could take years - the US junked its existing seven-stage, multi-year plan and decided to transfer power to the transitional government that assumes power in 32 days' time. That government would preside over elections for an assembly This body is meant to produce a constitution, on the basis of which Iraq would hold its first election for a permanent government, all by the end of 2005. But Mr Bush still dares not set a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops. Critics accordingly accuse him of still lacking an exit strategy. The President says "full" sovereignty will be transferred on 30 June. But what does "full" mean?

Disbanding the army

The US was supposed to train a new Iraqi security force, but this has proved woefully inadequate. In the past two months the CPA has twice reversed course. De-Baathification was ditched when the US gave responsibility for policing the flashpoint Sunni city of Fallujah to a force under a senior Saddam-era Iraqi commander. The same could happen in the Shia south, where the US struck a deal with the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf under which local militias are taking over some security tasks. The about-turn is further admission that the US doesn't have the troops, or the respect of the local citizenry, to do the job.

President Waffle.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

Right Wing Wants A New Wargame


Like my Grandpa always said, there were no naked human pyramids in Starcraft.

I want a War Simulation. A real one. I don't want little cartoon tanks jostling around in a video sandbox chewing down each other's health meters while a preteen opponent insults my sexuality using every key on his keyboard except the ones with letters. I want an RTS game that will give me a stress headache after an hour and an ulcer after a week. I want to identify experienced players on the street by their Thousand-Yard Stares.

From 20 of his wants for the game:

14. I want fat, left-wing documentarians carefully editing the only the most incriminating footage, countered only by low-IQ country music singers crooning my praises while in American Flag-colored cowboy hats.

15. About every five minutes I want one of my helicopters to crash, completely on its own, for some fucking reason.

16. I want a fourth of my casualties to come from friendly fire and non-combat or training accidents. I want a big-name hero unit who rallies the troops with his Magical Sword of Slaying, only to be killed when an ammo crate falls off a loading dock.



Presidential Race - Memorial Weekend 2004


Isn't this early? Yes - so?

The race is Kerry's to lose. Bush has to make up the ground he's lost in recent months.


Greenberg - The Two America's - has polled a 4% drop in the groups that supported Bush last election which would clearly cost him the election now and lost him the popular vote last time. Greenberg predicts Karl Rove's response: "The White House probably has no choice but to fan the cultural flames to get more votes." So a nasty fight is coming after Labor Day.

Prediction Site by David Leip (nice maps) has the count right now at Dem 284 - Rep 254. Kerry carries New England and all the Yankee States, all the MidWest except Indiana, West Coast, Hawaii and New Mexico. Considering that there are some toss-up states I might place in the Kerry camp that are awarded to Bush that is encouraging.

Zogby had made my prediction earlier, that the race is Kerry's to lose and polling done by the 18th gives his lead as 320-218. Here is a Star-Tribune article discussing this interesting poll. This poll might be overstated as that was done by internet savvy respondents, who are more informed and thus more anti-Bush. That could be corrected in how the responses are handled but it is a difficult modeling job.

The site by a Bush supporter has, with tossup states,: Kerry 255 -Bush 227. He has the popular vote going the other way Bush 45.1%, Kerry 43.9%. His Classic page, only going by polling, has Kerry 327, Bush 211 with the tossups. I should add his blog to my intelligent but very wrong Republicans list. He nailed a very bad Dean moment which cost him Iowa, from another site. That moment greatly disturbed Janette who is a Dean fanactic.

Here are a couple more conservative sites tracking states.

Hedgehog report - Bush 296, Kerry 242, supposedly purely on last poll but has more polls than most.

Electoral College Bush 276 Kerry 262 from the "objective" and Kerry-bashing Washington Dispatch.

Here is where you can bet on who carries what state. It would have a bias toward Bush ($$$). Overall Bush winning 2004 is bid 56.2 ask 56.9.

National Rasmussen Polls has Bush 46 - Kerry 43. Some states are covered. It is a bit of an outlier on national, some have that reversed.

Kerry Surges ahead in 12 Swing States - from Zogby polling.


FLASH - NEW IRAQI PM Allawi was Responsible for 45-Minute WMD Claim





Very Bloody Memorial Day Weekend in Iraq


Nine dead in last 24 hours

So we have another Memorial Day with U.S. troops far from home being killed and wounded as they provide manpower in another country's "defense." And what will be the killed-in-action total as of Memorial Day 2005? -- Axis of Logic reflecting on America's four years in Vietnam after Vietnamization started and Iraq today.

Bush silent on Iraq as he lauds heroes


Molly Ivins thinks this all is as depressing as divorce and Rumsfeld should have the same standards imposed on him he authorized to use on prisoners.



Iraq War Woes Deepen Internal Pentagon Tensions


Iraq has caused the military to hate Rumsfeld more

Even before the Iraq war some senior officers chafed under the guidance of Rumsfeld and his team, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone.

Retired officers and defense analysts said the problems have worsened during a war in which critics accuse Rumsfeld's team of neglecting to provide enough troops to stabilize Iraq after ousting Saddam Hussein, botching the planning for the postwar period, and failing to anticipate and later comprehend an insurgency that threatens the mission with failure.

Rumsfeld was seen as particularly hard on the Army, undercutting its former top officer, Gen. Eric Shinseki. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz dismissed Shinseki's assertion a month before the war that several hundred thousand U.S. troops might be needed to stabilize postwar Iraq.

"The Shinseki thing is really ironic because not only was he badly treated, he was right," Nash said.



Left Behind Politics


Bush is trying to tie up the religious vote.

He hasn't succeeded and his strategy appears unwise.

Ryan Lizza reports on MYTHICAL EVANGELICALS, SKEPTICAL CATHOLICS, and Missing Religious Blacks and Jews.


Since we are on Left Behind, slacktivist has been blogging about this funny series and movement.

You want "biblical literalism," look at St. Francis -- a man who literally turned the other cheek, walked the extra mile and sold all he had to give to the poor. Of course, if you ask a premillennial dispensationalist like Tim LaHaye about such literal biblical imperatives from the mouth of Christ, he will explain that such teachings do not apply to our current "dispensation." The Sermon on the Mount, like most of Jesus' teachings, applies only to some future millennial kingdom, he will tell you -- it's one of those passages that those of us living in the present age are free to dismiss. This is what passes for "biblical literalism"?

As a Christian, I believe that our best indicator of the character of God comes from the example of Jesus Christ, and I have a rather hard time picturing Jesus roasting pagan babies on a spit.

This so-called-theology precisely parallels the plot of many an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Zealous fanatics loyal to some secretive prophecy try to bring about the signs that will summon their master and bring about the apocalypse and the death of nearly everyone on earth. (Buffy and the gang, contra the Apostolic Congress, regard this as a Bad Thing that should be stopped.)

"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," Jesus said. So where is L&J's newfound treasure?

Then the fateful day arrives. In the twinkling of an eye, his teammates and opponents vanish. He is confronted with stark, incontrovertible proof of the existence of God. Life, he realizes, does have meaning -- there is a basis for faith, hope and love. And so he kills himself.

Slacktivist has a lot of good non-Left Behind posts too. Thanks to Off the Kuff for pointing my way.





Kerry/McCain 14 Points Over Bush Cheney


Kerry/Edwards 10 Points Up

The Kerry/ Edwards slate holds Democrats and draws a few more conservatives and Independents while dropping a bit with liberals. The Edwards addition also closes the gap with veterans.

el - I'm surprised it drops with liberals.




End of Cheap Oil @ National Geographic Magazine


If National Geographic has it that makes it official.
It could be 5 years from now or 30: No one knows for sure, and geologists and economists are embroiled in debate about just when the "oil peak" will be upon us. But few doubt that it is coming. "In our lifetime," says economist Robert K. Kaufmann of Boston University, who is 46, "we will have to deal with a peak in the supply of cheap oil."
>Oil Production peaked in 2000, if Saudi really turns on the spigot we
>might get back up to 2000 this year or next year. No one I know thinks
>the peak could be later than next year. Why do you think GM is spending
>billions to have hydrogen cars in mass production by 2010 to 2014?

From my reply to Charles who informed me of the link.



Weapons of Mass Distraction?


The New York Times examines why it trumpeted the lies

As one reader asked, "Will your column this Sunday address why the NYT buried its editors' note - full of apologies for burying stories on A10 - on A10?"

The failure was not individual, but institutional.


War requires an extra standard of care, not a lesser one. But in The Times's W.M.D. coverage, readers encountered some rather breathless stories built on unsubstantiated "revelations" that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests. Times reporters broke many stories before and after the war - but when the stories themselves later broke apart, in many instances Times readers never found out.

The contract between a reporter and an unnamed source - the offer of information in return for anonymity - is properly a binding one. But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed. The victims of the lie are the paper's readers, and the contract with them supersedes all others. (See Chalabi, Ahmad, et al.) Beyond that, when the cultivation of a source leads to what amounts to a free pass for the source, truth takes the fall. A reporter who protects a source not just from exposure but from unfriendly reporting by colleagues is severely compromised.(While I'm on the subject: Readers were never told that Chalabi's niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times's Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.)

A dysfunctional system enabled some reporters operating out of Washington and Baghdad to work outside the lines of customary bureau management.

In 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz wrote that The Times had missed the real story of the Bolshevik Revolution because its writers and editors "were nervously excited by exciting events." That could have been said about The Times and the war in Iraq. The excitement's over; now the work begins.


Saturday, May 29, 2004

Power of Prayer Study Taken by Con Man


Exposed: conman's role in prayer-power 'miracle'

It was a miracle that created headlines around the world. Doctors at one of the world's top medical schools claimed to have scientifically proved the power of prayer.


Many Americans took the Columbia University research - announced in October 2001 after the terror attacks on New York and Washington - as a sign from God. It seemed to prove that praying helped infertile women to conceive.

One of the study's authors is a conman obsessed with the paranormal who has admitted to a multi-million-dollar scam. Daniel Wirth, now under house arrest in California awaiting sentencing, has used a series of false identities for several decades, including that of a dead child.

Wirth is at the centre of a network of bizarre scientific research, often working with co-researcher Joseph Horvath. Horvath has pleaded guilty to fraud, has used a series of false names and is accused of burning down his house for insurance money.

Many scientists are now questioning how someone with Wirth's background was able to persuade Columbia University Medical Centre to unveil his research in such a high-profile way. They also want to know why it appeared in the respected Journal of Reproductive Medicine, whose vetting procedures are usually strict. 'We are concerned this study could be totally fraudulent. It is an amazing saga,' said Dr Bruce Flamm, a clinical professor at the University of California.

el - This prayer study shot down, what can a person do besides pray?

HERE IS SOME REAL HEALTH WORK PEOPLE CAN DO (good flash)

June 19th, National Day of Action for Americans Without Health Insurance

In the last 60 seconds,
five more people lost their health care coverage.

By this time tomorrow,
7,000 more will lose theirs.

Eight out of ten
of the 44 million who lack health insurance come from working families.



GOP Politics


Christian Reconstructionism - The Foundation of Modern Conservativism

Christian Reconstructionism is a little heard of religious philosophy that preaches that every aspect of society must come under biblical law. In their view, secular governments are in opposition to the word of God, and therefore they seek to eliminate all legal barriers between church and state. Founded in 1973 by R.J. Rushdoony, it has had wide influence in the modern Republican party.

el - Here in Texas it pretty much is the Republican Party.

It varies very little in its goals and practices from the brand of Islamic fundamentalism forced upon the people of Afghanistan by the Taliban -- a totalitarian religious order, doling out justice according to their twisted interpretations of a religious text, and forcing the people to believe as they do or suffer violent consequences.

Long article and discussion.

Molly Ivins has a good summary column on how prisoner abuses started at the top.

Salon: Cynical compassion


Behind closed doors, Bush and his Republican allies are devising a federal budget for 2006 that ignores those most in need in order to make their tax cuts permanent.



Kurds Sold Out Again


Kurds Unhappy with UN Resolution

Senior Kurdish officials have expressed dismay at a proposed U.S.-British U.N. resolution on Iraq, saying it ignores Kurdish rights and guarantees of federal self-rule that were included in the interim constitution hammered out last March.

Many Kurds now openly question how long they can be expected to remain part of the country if the chaos and instability threatens to engulf their own, largely successful region.



A Speech That's No Joke


Herbert Agrees - Gore Is Right

The speech was extraordinary — blunt, colorful and delivered with the kind of passion you seldom see in politics anymore.
The former vice president described Mr. Bush as incompetent and untrustworthy, and said his policies had endangered the nation.

The president, said Mr. Gore, had "planted the seeds of war, and harvested a whirlwind."

Those who disagree with Mr. Gore should challenge him on his facts. Those who agree must look for ways to defend the honor and perhaps the very identity of the United States as we've known it.

It may be that the president never understood what made the U.S. great. In that case, he'd be among those who could benefit most from a reading of Mr. Gore's speech. If he followed that up with a look at the Bill of Rights (it would only take a few minutes), he'd have a better understanding of what this country, at its best, is about.

TRANSCRIPT OF GORE SPEECH



For Almost Two Weeks This Has Stayed Popular


The Wastrel Son

It seems increasingly likely that the nation will end up disowning President Bush and his debts.


Normally an article or opinion stays topical for a couple days. Eleven days after publication this Krugman opinion is still one of the most emailed New York Times articles.

Maybe I should forward it to some people.

He was a stock character in 19th-century fiction: the wastrel son who runs up gambling debts in the belief that his wealthy family, concerned for its prestige, will have no choice but to pay off his creditors. In the novels such characters always come to a bad end. Either they bring ruin to their families, or they eventually find themselves disowned.

George Bush reminds me of those characters — and not just because of his early career, in which friends of the family repeatedly bailed out his failing business ventures. Now that he sits in the White House, he's still counting on other people to settle his debts — not to protect the reputation of his family, but to protect the reputation of the country.

One by one, our erstwhile allies are disowning us; they don't want an unstable, anti-Western Iraq any more than we do, but they have concluded that President Bush is incorrigible. Spain has washed its hands of our problems, Italy is edging toward the door, and Britain will join the rush for the exit soon enough, with or without Tony Blair.

At home, however, Mr. Bush's protectors are not yet ready to make the break...



From Salon Archives


French Women - La Passion

"There is so much pressure on American women to be happy. To sweep away all traces of loneliness, to forget who you are in your search for a lover or a spouse. In France young girls learn that happiness is elusive; we learn that happiness is less important than passion."


As girls we Americans sit in our field of daisies and pull off petals with, "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not." Meanwhile French girls sit in their meadows with their marguerites and pull off petals with: "He loves me a little. A lot. Passionately. Madly. Not at all." Why does the little French girl innately think in nuances and increasing levels of passion while we're mired in the black-and-white of total love or utter rejection?

French women are a bundle of alluring contradictions that seem to perfectly coexist, like the unlikely mélange of sweet and sour. They're often annoyingly coy and darkly wanton. Many of them are not great beauties and yet are gorgeously compelling in the way they reconcile their imperfections. They tend to be more concerned with experiencing pleasure than with being liked and far more passionate about having a life than making a living.

In her classic "The French and Their Ways," Edith Wharton had already singled out this sophistication back in 1919. The French woman "is in nearly all respects, as different as possible from the average American woman," Wharton wrote. "Is it because she dresses better, or knows more about cooking, or is more 'coquettish,' or more 'feminine,' or more emotional, or more 'immoral'? The real reason is not nearly as flattering to our national vanity. It is simply that the French woman is more grown-up. [Wharton's italics.] Compared with the women of France the average American woman is still in kindergarten."

Excusez-moi: Did you say kindergarten? I suppose if Wharton were comparing French and American women over the long course of history, then we Americans would be the innocent toddlers. When I was a girl I used to marvel at French women in history books precisely for this reason. They led armies of querulous men. They were burned at stakes. They got their heads chopped off for being petulant little queens. They were sexy and bellicose and bare-breasted. Even the symbol of the French Republic, the fair-haired Marianne, stormed Paris with (if we take Delacroix's depiction of her as our reference) her impudent and perfectly pulpy breasts exposed. French girls grow up with this legacy of women who were utterly feminine and totally kick-ass; a legacy of bare breasts, revolutions, royal courts, sex, death, blood, guts and great hair. Meanwhile, my generation of American girls grew up with Betty Crocker, Girl Scouts and training bras -- and Julia Child was as French as it got. How unfair is that?

"We're a grown-up culture. America is a super power but historically you're barely adolescent. We were dismissing the Church because of its corruption hundreds of years ago while you Anglos were naively embracing it. History has taught us that you can't rely on dogma or doctrine. Relationships burn brightly, then die. We have our passions, our human tragedies, our loves and our losses. We have a couple of centuries of living and dying over you Americans."

Our heroine runs down the street toward an unknown future, a liberating and strangely happy glow on her face.

As long as you have the 24-hour access to Salon explore the archives.



A presidential aura

Salon Premium - Kerry, Kerry, Next President Kerry

With the crowds growing, the campaign money flowing and the media swarming, John Kerry is looking more and more like the front-runner.


"I'm not going to let the Republicans pretend that they're doing something better or have the better ability to do that," Kerry told Salon Thursday night. "I think these guys have made America less safe, and I think I have a plan to make us stronger."

Gore said this week that Kerry needn't be more specific about his Iraq plans: "Kerry should not tie his own hands by offering overly specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation that is rapidly changing and, unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating," Gore said. Rather, in words that invoked Watergate, the former vice president said Kerry should "preserve his, and our country's, options to retrieve our national honor as soon as this long national nightmare is over."

It's a view shared by many who support Kerry. A Kerry aide familiar with the deliberations that led to Kerry's national security address Thursday said that there was no point in Kerry repeating the plan he set forth last month. And Sandy Berger, the former national security advisor who is now advising Kerry, said that the presumptive Democratic nominee "doesn't feel the need to jump into the news cycle" and comment every time something goes wrong in Iraq.

To the extent that the Kerry audience is the Democratic base, that conclusion is probably right. While Dennis Kucinich and others on the far left have called for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq immediately, many Democrats view that as an unlikely and unreasonable course of action, at least for now. And many more are so troubled by the Bush administration's failings in Iraq that they're ready to sign on with Kerry's plan, even if they don't know what it is.

After shoring up his support on the antiwar left -- in recent weeks, Kerry charmed Ralph Nader, campaigned with Howard Dean and received Al Gore's public permission to tread a little lightly on Iraq -- Kerry is pushing himself hard as a tough-on-defense leader who rejects the Democrats' traditional second-fiddle role on issues of foreign policy and national defense.

Although some polls still show Kerry and Bush running neck-and-neck, the latest CBS poll shows Kerry leading by 8 points. Perhaps more encouraging for Kerry is a new poll showing rising favorable impressions among voters where it matters, in 20 key battleground states. And on Friday, his increasingly confident campaign announced that Kerry would even challenge the president in Republican-leaning Virginia, a state where Bush beat Gore in 2000 by a solid 8 points.

Democrats have fretted that Kerry hasn't defined himself yet, but that process is now in high gear. With the primary season behind him, Kerry suddenly begins to come off not as one of eight guys on a stage with Al Sharpton, but rather as someone who looks and acts like a president. He's so in demand by the TV news that his campaign staffers run him through five or six or seven or eight satellite interviews a day, one after another in rapid succession, with just enough time in between for a press aide to tell Kerry which city is next and remind him of a few salient facts about it.

When the local newspaper ran a photo of Kerry on the front page Friday morning, the campaign had what it wanted: a shot of the candidate, veterans arrayed behind him, and a big American flag overhead.

Green Bay Local story:
If the Washington Redskins lose or tie the game before the presidential election, the party in the White House gets ousted. A Redskins win is a win for the incumbent party. At least that’s how it has played out in the past 18 presidential elections.

“No matter what it means to the New England Patriots … you’re looking at the biggest Cheesehead in America,” Kerry told the crowd, which responded by banging green and gold noise makers. “Right here — here I am. Go Pack.”

“I’m running for president to help remind Americans that we have to be wary of false patriotism,” Kerry said. “We have to be wary of those who say to Americans that what we fought for denies us the right to stand up and be critical of a government that makes bad decisions.

“Let’s reclaim our democracy. Let’s reclaim the White House. Let’s go out and get the work done. Let America be America again.”

As Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Good” blasted through the sound systems, confetti exploded into the crowd and streamers rained down.
Other Salon Content - 24 hour hour access after watching short ad, take advantage of it.

The Kerry Interview

Iyad Allawi, the new choice to lead Iraq, isn't Ahmed Chalabi
-- but that's about the only thing to commend this wily member of the old-boy, CIA-sponsored exile club.

Not fit to print How Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraq war lobby used New York Times reporter Judith Miller to make the case for invasion.
"You know what," she offered angrily. "I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right." But she is proved fucking wrong.
How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons

House divided
GOP enforcer Tom DeLay and his former partner Dick Armey are locked in a nasty dispute over the future of the Republican Party.

America's laziest fascist Infamous shock jock Michael Savage bombed in a bizarre, half-baked stage show this week, but his 6 million listeners just heard him call for the U.S. to murder millions of Arabs. Does the FCC care?

Trust us Defending the administration's enemy-combatant policy, the Justice Department told the Supreme Court that the U.S. doesn't torture prisoners. Just hours later, the Abu Ghraib story broke. Did the Administration intentionally mislead the court?

This Modern World By Tom Tomorrow and other great comics.

BUT THEY REMOVED SEX AS A TOPIC!



Gitmo Training Preceeded Abuses


Rumsfeld's Get Tough Policies in Action

The teams from Guantánamo Bay, which had operated there under directives allowing broad latitude in questioning "enemy combatants," played a central role at Abu Ghraib through December, the officials said, a time when the worst abuses of prisoners were taking place. Prisoners captured in Iraq, unlike those sent from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, were to be protected by the Geneva Conventions.

The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C., also played a major role in setting up the new interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib last fall. In its ranks was Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, who had led an interrogation team at the Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan.

Two Afghan prisoners died in Bagram in December 2002 in what investigators have ruled were homicides, during the time Captain Wood's unit was in charge of interrogations. An Ohio-based Army Reserve unit, the 377th Military Police Company, was guarding Bagram at the time, and Army investigators are now pursuing what they have said are indications that enlisted soldiers from one or both units abused the Afghan prisoners before they died.

An Army Reserve spokesman confirmed that among the unit's duties was guarding prisoners at Bagram Collection Point. In interviews, some members of the unit acknowledged that they were interviewed by criminal investigators in the last three months, but said they had no knowledge that the prisoners who died had been abused.

But one member of the 377th Company said the fact that prisoners in Afghanistan had been labeled as "enemy combatants" not subject to the Geneva Conventions had contributed to an unhealthy attitude in the detention center.

"We were pretty much told that they were nobodies, that they were just enemy combatants," he said. "I think that giving them the distinction of soldier would have changed our attitudes toward them. A lot of it was based on racism, really. We called them hajis, and that psychology was really important."





Free Speech Correction


Evidently the reports were wrong about the rightwing nut school principal banning poetry and posters and firing teachers.

Thanks for natasha for following up on this.



Iraq Today


CIA Gets Their Man In Charge of Iraq

The United States has warmly endorsed a decision by the Iraqi Governing Council to select a longtime exile with strong ties to the CIA to be the new prime minister of Iraq's interim government despite U.N. concerns over his past links.

Intelligence Agents Accused of Widespread Abuse

Several U.S. guards allege they witnessed military intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib, investigative documents show.

Interrogators hid identities, Army insisting small group of guards responsible

Efforts to determine who orchestrated the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison may be complicated by the ways in which many military intelligence officials, covert U.S. agents and civilian contractors obscured their identities.

Meanwhile, military prosecutors appear to be developing a theory of the case that dovetails with the stance taken by top officials at the Pentagon: that the abuse was not systemic and was the work of a small group of low-level soldiers.

more...

Fallujah may be a glimpse of Iraq's future

With U.S. marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state - anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "western" hair cuts.

"After all the blood that was shed, and the lives that were lost, we shall only accept God's law in Fallujah," said cleric Abdul-Qader al-Aloussi, offering a glimpse of what a future Iraq may look like as the U.S.-led occupation draws to a close. "We must capitalize on our victory over the Americans and implement Islamic sharia laws."

Besides Halliburton - Massive Looting Operations Underway In Iraq

As the United States spends billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq's civil and military infrastructure, there is increasing evidence that parts of sensitive military equipment, seemingly brand-new components for oil rigs and water plants and whole complexes of older buildings, are leaving the country on the backs of flatbed trucks.


In what some experts call a massive looting operation, at least 100 semi-trailers loaded with what is billed as Iraqi scrap metal are streaming each day into Jordan, just one of six countries that share a border with Iraq.

In the past several months, the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, has been closely monitoring satellite photographs of hundreds of military-industrial sites in Iraq.

Initial results from that analysis are jarring, said Jacques Baute, director of the agency's Iraq nuclear verification office: entire buildings and complexes of as many as a dozen buildings have been vanishing from the photographs.



To Tell the Truth
Krugman: People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.

But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?

The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.

The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along. Mr. Bush's problems with the truth have long been apparent to anyone willing to check his budget arithmetic. His inability to admit mistakes has also been obvious for a long time. I first wrote about Mr. Bush's "infallibility complex" more than two years ago, and I wasn't being original.

So why did the press credit Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn't possess? One answer is misplaced patriotism. After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. Moderate and liberal journalists, both reporters and commentators, often bend over backward to say nice things about conservatives. Not long ago, many commentators who are now caustic Bush critics seemed desperate to differentiate themselves from "irrational Bush haters" who were neither haters nor irrational — and whose critiques look pretty mild in the light of recent revelations.

And some journalists just couldn't bring themselves to believe that the president of the United States was being dishonest about such grave matters.

Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers.

The Bush administration, knowing all this, played the press like a fiddle. But has that era come to an end?

A new Pew survey finds 55 percent of journalists in the national media believing that the press has not been critical enough of Mr. Bush, compared with only 8 percent who believe that it has been too critical. More important, journalists seem to be acting on that belief.

Amazing things have been happening lately. The usual suspects have tried to silence reporting about prison abuses by accusing critics of undermining the troops — but the reports keep coming. The attorney general has called yet another terror alert — but the press raised questions about why. (At a White House morning briefing, Terry Moran of ABC News actually said what many thought during other conveniently timed alerts: "There is a disturbing possibility that you are manipulating the American public in order to get a message out.")


Friday, May 28, 2004

Pasadena Activist Plans Cinema Protest


Pasadena Citizen" Pasadena resident Janette Sexton hopes to attract as many as 20 people to her organized protest Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Cinemark Hollywood theater at 2101 E. Beltway 8.

Sexton has been fighting for global rights for three years and said she hopes her presence at the film's opening will give movie-goers a dose of reality before watching the Hollywood hype.

"I'm trying to get the word out and raise awareness. Not many people even know about climate change," she said.

Like Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," Sexton is hoping "The Day After Tomorrow" arouses just as much public consciousness.

Twentieth Century Fox has taken certain truths about the belief in Earth's next Ice Age and released it as the summer's expected blockbuster.

The PG-13 movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal details massive natural chaos across the globe in a matter of days, leaving New York City as a frozen wasteland and California's hillside ripped by tornados.

Global warming and other repercussions human technology has inflicted on Earth is the premise behind the disaster. Experts on climate change who have seen advanced screenings of "The Day After Tomorrow" contend while the movie is definitely "Hollywoodized," its basis is real.

"The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real, and that it's upon us now," said Tom Prugh, senior editor at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., as reported in National Geographic. "In the last century, the average temperature of the Earth has warmed roughly one-degree Fahrenheit. That means an enormous additional amount of heat energy has been built into the system, and there are serious consequences to that warming."

Sexton said she knew she first wanted to protest President Bush's policy on pollution when she visited the Pasadena movie theater and saw TXU Energy promoting their services to patrons with Latin disc jockeys.

"It just wasn't fair to the Hispanic population. Not a lot of them are aware that the laws have been reduced to a point where companies have free rein to do what they want to do," said Sexton, a Hispanic.

After living in Pasadena for more than 20 years, Sexton has taken an active approach in educating others on Houston's pollution problem. During Saturday's protest she plans to adorn 20-by-30 inch foam placards that read "TXU is bad 4 U" and "Bush + TXU = Global Warming."

She said she has warned the theater's management of her protest plans and tried to obtain a permit from the Pasadena Police Department.

Officers advised Sexton that she could only stand on the side of the theater building, not impede traffic, not display offensive signs and must keep moving, she said.

Similar movie theater protests are planned at the Edwards Marq*E at 7620 Katy Freeway today from noon to 2 p.m., LCE East Commons at 8580 Highway 6 North today and Saturday at 9 p.m. and at the LCE Spring 10 at 20115 Holzwarth Rd. in Spring today at noon.

"(Climate change) has happened many times in the past. It's a cycle Earth goes through. Ignorance and arrogance in people do not change things; this will happen again," Sexton said.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Pardoned by Satan


Thanks to Gov. Rick Perry, Texans can rest a little easier knowing we have been protected, once and for all, from the future dangerousness of Kelsey Patterson, the paranoid schizophrenic who went to his death in Huntsville last week despite his belief that he had been granted an amnesty by Satan himself.

That was what he had told his attorney Gary Hart several years ago in refusing to speak to him any more, on the grounds that Hart was insufficiently versed in "Hell Law." Hart might have replied that Texas law is certainly close enough – a conclusion drearily reinforced by the final days of Patterson's dismal journey on this earth.

"Statement to what? State what? I am not guilty of the charge of capital murder. Steal me and my family's money. My truth will always be my truth. There is no kin and no friend; no fear what you do to me. No kin to you, undertaker. Murderer. Go to hell. Get my money. Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my life back." – Kelsey Patterson's last words, May 18.

Even under the standard 40-year sentence, Patterson would not have been eligible for (unlikely) parole until he was 78.

Patterson's case is hardly unique. Larry Robison, executed in January 2000, and James Colburn, executed in March 2003, were both long-diagnosed schizophrenics when they committed their crimes, and the families of each had sought state help, in vain. Scott Panetti, who received a stay in February, will most likely be the next schizophrenic with a similar history to be executed by the state of Texas.



The White House Health Advisor Answers Questions


Ha, Ha, Ha...
No matter what you say I am going to spin, spin, spin.

I'm a little top
Short and stout
Wind me up
and watch me spout.


Who will they put on next week? This discussing of Medicare and Health issues was not good for the White House.



Dodd Hits Some Sitting Targets


Oh Maureen

An outraged president called yesterday for the immediate resignations of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Douglas Feith and Stephen Cambone.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the president in the White House. It was the shadow president, the one who won the popular vote.


"George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility," he said, in one of the most virulent attacks on a sitting president ever made by such a high-ranking former official. "Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world." (He did not ask the neocon cabal ringleader, Dick Cheney, to step down, perhaps in a spirit of second-banana solidarity.)

...
Mr. Kerry has made a huge $25 million ad buy in recent weeks, believing that the better voters know him, the more they'll like him. But many Democrats fear he's one of those supercilious/smarmy candidates (like Al Gore) for whom the opposite is true: the more you know him, the less you want to see him.

They wonder whether Mr. Kerry should just let the campaign be Bush vs. Bush. As the president's old running buddy, Lee Atwater, used to say, don't get in the way when your rival's busy shooting himself.

Couldn't the Democratic standard-bearer use a William McKinley front-porch strategy, talking only to those who bother to show up at his front porch? After all, Mr. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, have five front porches, stretching from Sun Valley to Nantucket and Georgetown.

...
The president did look a little rattled during his finger-in-the-dike speech at the Army War College on Monday night, as he promised to give the Iraqi people the gift of "a humane, well-supervised prison system." It was hard to tell if it was the subdued response of the military audience, the only group forbidden to criticize the commander in chief, or if it's beginning to sink in: this is one mess that no amount of power and privilege, or unending terror alerts, can get him out of. (Mr. Bush's speech about the Iraqi makeover, as he wore all that makeup, couldn't even pre-empt the more convincing makeovers on "The Swan" on Fox.)



Iraq Sovereignty - US Occupation Indefinitely


New UN Resolution Would Grant US Occupation Indefinitely

Under the guise of a “transfer of sovereignty,” the Bush administration is seeking from the Security Council the legal authority to continue the occupation indefinitely.

This resolution has run into opposition.

China, France, Germany, Russia Seek Iraqi Control Over Security


Also US Violating Geneva Convention Again

Holding Family Members as Hostages


Detaining a fugitive's relatives is a form of "moral coercion" forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The convention, which guarantees the rights of civilians under military occupation, also prohibits punishing someone for an offense that he has not personally committed.

Since very few women in Iraq are involved with any kind of armed resistance, the majority of women being held in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are hostages.



‘The War on Terror Is Not Working’


Amnesty International says governments who fight terror become guilty of human-rights abuses

The human-rights advocacy nonprofit documented the doings of 177 terrorist organizations—or, as they describe them, “armed groups”—in 65 countries over four years. The findings were simultaneously predictable and counterintuitive: while human-rights abuses were committed by 69 percent of these groups, Amnesty concludes that governments combating them perpetrated many of the same violations—torture, sexual abuse, rape.

The annual report also finds that more than half (54 percent) of identified terror groups have killed civilians over the last four years. Twenty percent of the groups committed rape and other sexual violence—but so did 28 percent of governments. One in five armed groups used child soldiers. And with reports that the still-unfolding Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq may have involved more abuse (and consent from higher levels) than already made public, Amnesty concludes that governments in 36 percent of the countries where armed groups were present used torture; more than a quarter (28 percent) used incommunicado detention. At the same time, government-sponsored abuse is often justified as integral to initiatives in the U.S.-led “war on terror,” according to Amnesty executive director William F. Schulz.



Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools


In the wake of Iraq, the term "neo-conservative" may come to mean "dangerous innocence about world realities"

The Atlantic
- Shortly after September 11, Sir Michael Howard, the British military historian, issued what sounded then like an apocalyptic warning: that in the context of the "war of civilizations" between radical Islam and the West a US occupation of Iraq would be tantamount to a nuclear exchange between the superpowers during the Cold War. It sounds like realism now. The fallout from the photographs will poison Muslim minds against the US, and possibly against democracy, throughout this century. Before the war, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak cautioned that a US invasion of Iraq would create "a hundred Bin Ladens." That is likely to prove a conservative estimate.

Paradoxically, the very scale of the debacle in Iraq may yield one long-term good: the repudiation of neo-conservative "democratic imperialism." The Americans killed in Iraq will not have died in vain if their sacrifice keeps other Americans from dying in neo-con wars to "remediate" Syria, Iran, or North Korea. After Iraq, "neo-conservative" may achieve the resonance of "isolationist" after World War II—a term of opprobrium for a discredited approach to foreign policy, shorthand for dangerous innocence about world realities. Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.



New York Times Confesses


The New York Times Admits Boldly Trumpeting Reasons For War, Burying The Problems With Stories

Susan Moeller, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, oversaw a UM study released in March that was critical of The Times for its coverage of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - especially articles by Miller, who long relied on Chalabi as a source. (The Times has used Chalabi as a source since at least 1991.) Yesterday, Moeller said Times editors had failed to address systemic problems.

"They were too close to their sources - whether government sources or defector sources," Moeller said.

The Times highlighted 10 questionable articles from October 2001 through May 2003. Judith Miller wrote or shared bylines on seven of these.

Howell Raines, who was Times executive editor during that period, objected to the editors' note, calling it "vague and incomplete" and saying a broader examination was warranted.

Raines - The Gray Lady in Crisis

Slate's Jack Shafer Feels vindicated


"As someone who has harangued the Times for better than 14 months to acknowledge its reportorial shortcomings, I applaud the paper for finally crawling out from under its rock and confirming the true verdict. Granted, the note is more "mini culpa" than mea culpa, but at least it's a start. Granted, the note is months late in arriving. Granted, it doesn't take a lot of courage to dump on the Iraqi defectors a couple of days after the U.S. government gives former exile in chief Ahmad Chalabi the big kiss-off. And granted, it is not the note I would have written. But as a demonstration of accountability, it exceeds what most of the rest of the errant press corps has done by a factor of 100."



Tom Clancy Likes Bush But "Good Men Make Mistakes"


A brand name author with many admirers in the military criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, citing it as proof that "good men make mistakes."

That same writer said he almost "came to blows" with a leading war supporter, former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle.

The author is Tom Clancy.


el - he should not have restrained himself.

Zinni has openly attacked the war, but Clancy reluctantly acknowledged his own concerns. He declined repeatedly to comment on the war, before saying that it lacked a "casus belli," or suitable provocation.

"It troubles me greatly to say that, because I've met President Bush," Clancy said. "He's a good guy. ... I think he's well-grounded, both morally and philosophically. But good men make mistakes."


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Evangelicals Are Wrong


Evangelical Christianity is increasingly separated from the surrounding culture so says Christian former evangelical.

My problem is with attitude. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, "Now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

That message is totally lost. God loves us first, because He made an incredible sacrifice, far more incredible that anything I have given up, to have a relationship with us. That glory, that painful beauty, is lost in the debates modern Christianity has obsessed itself with.

el - I don't follow the sacrificial lamb teachings but agree with the rest.

The Conjecturer also fisks Focus on the Family's Position on Gay marriage and how wrong it is.

For a Christian organization to post such bile in the name of a Christian desire to save children is not just wrong, it borders on the evil. There is such moral equivocation, such abject hatred and distrust involved, that my mind if reeling from it. This is exactly why I'm so dissatisfied with evangelical Christianity?there is no sense of engagement with the world, only a desire to cudgel it back into a rosy, nostalgic mirror image of what it once may have been.

That is frighteningly close to the mindset of an Islamofacist. I hope James Dobson realized this, and comes to the conclusion that his purpose as a Christian minister should be spreading the Gospel of Christ, not attacking the gays for daring to try for a normal life.



Jon Stewart's Commencement Address


How Cool Would It Be To Have Him Speak Anywhere

Thank you Mr. President, I had forgotten how crushingly dull these ceremonies are. Thank you.

My best to the choir. I have to say, that song never grows old for me. Whenever I hear that song, it reminds me of nothing.

I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better. And I believe we should. But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It’s incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That’s very nice of you, I appreciate it.

I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates—who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless—will join in congratulating me. Thank you.

But today isn’t about how my presence here devalues this fine institution. It is about you, the graduates.



Kerry evokes Scoop Jackson as energy crisis deepens


Sen. John Kerry: An administration that is "of oil, for oil, and by oil" will only dig America deeper into addictive dependence on an unstable Middle East.

"We are not going to drill our way out of this problem. We will have to invent our way out of it,"
the Democrats' presidential nominee-in-waiting said in an interview on the eve of today's Seattle appearances.

As author of the Bush administration's dig-coal, drill-for-oil energy program, currently stalled in Congress, Vice President Dick Cheney would call that fuzzy thinking.

In the early 1970s, and again after the Arab oil embargo in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Washington Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson gave long speeches about growing U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf oil. He predicted an America vulnerable to blackmail by, using Jackson's syntax, "A-rab potentates."

As co-leader of the Senate talkathon that blocked oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Kerry uses words like "embarrassing" and "an insult to our democratic process" to describe private White House meetings at which Cheney's task force hammered out the energy plan.

"My energy deliberations would be completely open. C-Span can put a camera in the room. I would not be embarrassed by the people I bring to the table," Kerry said.

Cheney has gone to the mat -- and the U.S. Supreme Court -- to keep a veil of secrecy over who had input into the administration's plan.

Choices on energy in 2004 are clear. The question is whether a vital issue will hold public attention.




Hospital Leaves Young Woman Without Skull For Months


Dispute Over Who Pays Leaves Patient At Home Without Half of Skull

Remind me again about that awful Canadian health care system, where people have to wait months to get treated?


The surgery finally came through after an excruciating wait, during which she suffered extreme pain just bending down and would wake up in the morning to find that her brain had shifted to one side during the night.



Gore Gives Fiery Speech Denouncing Bush


I Agree With Every Word 100%

Just one of many points -
President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world - but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

GOP Lies About Outsourcing Phone Callers to India


MaxSpeak and his commenters has the details.

The Republican National Committee is quoted in the Post dismissing the story about GOP out-sourcing of fund-raising to Indian call centers as an "urban legend." The SCLM Post evidently did not find it necessary to acknowledge a contrary story from India, even though it was written in English.

The story of Republican Party outsourcing campaign operations to India originated in an Indian “Business Standard” article dated 1/30/03. The Business Standard link is dead, but the article has been mirrored on the Free Republic.

The RNC officially denied the allegations, and issued a cease and desist letter, which probably accounts for the missing Business Standard article. It too is available at Free Republic.

The story resurfaces with the Hindustan Times article of May 16, 2004. The Hindustan Times article claims that 125 Indians were calling for the RNC between May 16, 2002 and July 22, 2003, using an RNC call list, immediately prior to the RNC’s misleading legal threat.

The Asia Times ran perhaps the best article on the subject on May 19th. It appears to independently verify the Hindustan Times Piece.

The conclusion: the RNC sent a cease-and-desist letter to the media that was deliberately based on lies.

The key here is that the calling was done with the RNC phone list. To say that it wasn't done at the behest of the RNC is irrelevant, unless they are so casual in disseminating their phone list.



Increasing Latino Votes Could Make a Difference


About 6.9 million Latinos should vote in 2004 compared to 5.9 million in 2000, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund predicted, based on voting and registration trends and Census data. That would increase their share of the national vote from 5.4 percent to 6.1 percent.

The increases will not be uniform, ranging from a mere 8,000 in Colorado and 11,000 in New Mexico to 70,000 in Arizona, 391,000 in California, and 194,000 in Texas.

Latino voters could make a difference in New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Arizona, which were all close in 2000, and have an impact in states like Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Vargas said.


The association is predicting a hefty increase from 2000 in the Hispanic share of the vote in Arizona, 15 percent to 17.9 percent; California, 13.9 percent to 16.8 percent, Florida, 11.3 percent, to 13.2 percent; Illinois, 11.3 percent to 13.2 percent, and Texas, from 18.6 percent to 20.4 percent.

It also is predicting smaller increases in voter share in Colorado, 9.7 percent to 10 percent; New Jersey, 5.6 percent to 6 percent; New Mexico, 29.5 percent to 29.9 percent, and New York, 7.2 percent to 7.8 percent.


Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes

A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.

Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans - about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens, up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot, and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward touch screens with a move to require paper trails.

Paper trails - ballot receipts - would let voters verify that they had cast their votes as they intended and let election officials conduct recounts in close races.

Officials from several large manufacturers have said that they could produce paper trails if they were required to, but they have so far resisted, arguing that they are unnecessary.

If more jurisdictions require them, though, vendors want to be first in line for the potentially lucrative contracts. Should a big state like New York, for example, which is considering making paper trails mandatory, joins California, the industry could probably gear up quickly.



Krugman on Job Growth


The bottom line, then, is that Mr. Bush's supporters have no right to complain about the public's failure to appreciate his economic leadership. Three years of lousy performance, followed by two months of good but not great job growth, is not a record to be proud of.



Drug Prices Outpace Inflation


Price Increases Undermine Medicare Discount Card

The price of name-brand prescription drugs most used by seniors has increased by rates substantially above inflation for the past four years, undercutting the potential value of the new Medicare drug discount card, two senior advocacy groups reported today.


In a study tracking the prices of 197 of the most widely used brand-named drugs from 2000 to 2003, the group AARP found a cumulative increase of 27.6 percent as compared to a general inflation increase of 10.4 percent.

Analyzing the prices of the top 30 name-brand drugs prescribed for seniors, Families USA found an increase on average 4.3 times greater than inflation between January 2003 and January 2004.

The AARP report also found that the price escalation has picked up during the past four years: About one quarter of the most-used name brand drugs more than doubled the general inflation rate in 2000, while 87 percent of those same drugs doubled the inflation rate in 2003.

The Bush administration has estimated that only one in six seniors will actually get the cards.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the new reports show that the discounts cards will be of little use to most seniors. "Seniors need a real break, along with the rest of America, but they won't get one as long as this administration panders to big drug companies that overcharge for their prescription drugs," he said.



President Repackages Failed Iraq Plan



Thirty-seven days before the transition, the president still cannot describe what the interim Iraqi government will look like.

CfAP - President Bush's speech last night on Iraq – the first salvo in a public relations campaign meant to substitute for real action – fell short on all fronts.
Repackaging the current U.S. approach as a five-step plan is not a substitute for a policy that details how Iraq will be governed, how long American troops will stay there and how much all of this will cost American taxpayers.

The president still will not say how much more money the United States will spend in Iraq or how long our troops will be there.

The Iraqi and American people are growing increasingly worried about the direction of U.S. policy in Iraq.



Iraq abuse insider disciplined


Had Declared Abu Ghraib Actions Were Under Orders

US Army sergeant who gave an insider's view of Abu Ghraib prison to the media has lost his security clearance and been disciplined by the military for speaking out, he said today.


Sergeant Samuel Provance said soldiers he served with in Iraq were treating him as a pariah, but that he would not change a thing if given a second chance.

"My soldiers who were at Abu Ghraib are so scared now they're not even talking to me any more - I'm like a villain, but would I do it again? Of course I would, because I stand behind what I said," Provance said in a telephone interview from Heidelberg, Germany, where his military intelligence unit is based.

"I knew what was being reported was not true."

Provance, 30, is with the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion, a unit of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which has been implicated in the alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib. The scandal broke after photographs were made public of US soldiers abusing prisoners, sparking worldwide outrage.

Unlike early reports suggesting the abuses were failings by individual soldiers, Provance said that interrogators at the prison viewed sleep deprivation, stripping inmates naked and threatening them with dogs as normal ways of dealing with "the enemy".



Bill Clinton attacks Bush over Iraq


GOP had been using Clinton to justify Iraq invasion - Clinton Doesn't justify it.

Speaking in Brazil Mr. Clinton said the best way to take Iraq to a democracy was multilaterally, with the UN in a leading role. He said the Bush administration should have given UN inspectors a final chance to look for the weapons which it had accused the Iraqi leader of hoarding.

Any military intervention, he said, should have involved a multinational force rather than the present "coalition of the willing".



Marine Protests Orders In Iraq


The Marine's tale: 'We killed 30 civilians in six weeks. I felt we were committing genocide'

During 12 years in the US Marines, including three years putting new recruits through boot camp, Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey hardly questioned his role. But what he saw in Iraq changed that.


"In a month and a half my platoon and I killed more than 30 civilians," Mr Massey said. He saw bodies being desecrated and robbed, and wounded civilians being dumped by the roadside without medical treatment. After he told his commanding officer that he felt "we were committing genocide", he was called a "wimp".

Mr Massey, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression, left the Marines in November. Back home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, he says the cause of the uprising in Iraq is that "we killed a lot of innocent people".



HOW TO STOP TORTURE: BAN PICTURES OF IT


Mobile phones fitted with digital cameras have been
banned in US army installations in Iraq
on orders from Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today. Quoting a
Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that
some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib
prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.



Texas Concedes - UU Is A Church


The Victoria Advocate reports that Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn has reversed her earlier stand and that a Unitarian Universalist church in Denison on the Texas-Oklahoma border will get tax-exempt status.

The status was denied, the state said, because the church "does not have one system of belief."

Stunned church officials said it was the first time in U.S. history that any state had denied tax-exempt status to the Unitarians because of their religious philosophy. Father-and-son presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams are among past adherents of the Unitarian church.

Jesse Ancira, the comptroller's general counsel, sent a letter Monday to Dan Althoff, board president of the Denison church, informing him of the change.

"Comptroller Strayhorn asked that I review the file on your congregation's application for tax exemption," Ancira wrote. "After reviewing the submitted application ... it is my opinion that the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church is an organization created for religious purposes and should be granted the requested tax exemption."

Strayhorn's spokesman Mark Sanders said Strayhorn directed her staff to review the decision after questions were raised.

"She asked her general counsel to look into the matter, and he overruled earlier staff decisions," Sanders said.

el - So she is blaming this on "staff decisions." Anything to avoid saying I was wrong I guess.

Thanks to Jennifer and Carol for the alert.

Original Fort Worth Star-Telegram story on reversal.

Links to Biblical Unitarians - Bible based

The Unitarian Universalist Association Modern

The American Unitarian Conference There is a God, there is but one God.

Universalism - from Wikipedia



Monday, May 24, 2004

'Spray and slay': are American troops out of control in Iraq?


UK Press increasingly critical of the U.S. military

This story also elaborates on why reuters might be more unwilling to believe the US military.


Thanks to the persistence of one or two news organisations that have lost employees in Iraq, these deaths are among the few to have been independently investigated. After an award-winning cameraman, Mazen Dana, became the second Reuters employee to be killed, the agency hired a security company and carried out an exhaustive inquiry which found few differences of fact with the military investigation, but which differed radically on the conclusions.

The soldier who shot Mr Dana claimed he had made "sudden movements" which made him think the cameraman was about to fire a rocket-propelled grenade, that he was blinded by the sun at the time, and that he could not distinguish at a distance of 75 metres between an RPG and a television camera.

Despite pages of evidence proving the sun was not in the position claimed, and photographs demonstrating the visible difference at 75 metres between a camera and a large weapon, the US military is sticking to its finding that the journalist's death was "justified based on the information available ... at the time".

If an organisation with the international clout of Reuters cannot get the Pentagon to admit an error might have been made, the survivors of last week's slaughtered wedding party have even less chance that their version of events will prevail. But the incident illustrates several of the concerns expressed about the operations undertaken by US forces in Iraq, including their ignorance of Iraqi culture, their isolation from local people and their over-dependence on firepower.

"The British military tends to have far more open dealings with the local population than the Americans," said Christopher Bellamy, professor of military science at Cranfield University. "While the British rely more on local intelligence to warn them of trouble in advance, US forces have a 'stand-off' posture, which means trouble tends to erupt without warning. As a result they need to deliver enormous amounts of firepower to overcome it."

Eleanor Goldsworthy, UK forces specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the approach taken by British forces in Iraq was: "If we behave, we earn their goodwill." The American attitude, by contrast, was: "If they behave, they earn our goodwill." And if they don't, others might add, US forces will punish them - the policy that appeared to be adopted when the Marines moved on Fallujah last month in the wake of the deaths of four American private security men.

The insistence of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on a "war lite" policy, said Professor Bellamy, meant that "American forces have to make up in firepower what they lack in manpower". Because US soldiers specialised early in their careers, and received less overall training than their British counterparts, the majority were not effective combat troops, and had to be protected by those with the appropriate training.

"The philosophy is almost that of the wagon train, and tends to lead to the 'spray and slay' behaviour we have seen," said the analyst.


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