Wednesday, March 31, 2004

How the CIA has taken over the AFL-CIO in Venezuela

Massive mobilizations, strikes, street conflict, hysterical mass media, social and economic disruption: Chile in 1972-73 Venezuela in 2002-04.

The AFL-CIO is once again on the scene, this time in Venezuela, just as it was in Chile in 1973. Once again, its operations in that country are being funded by the U.S. government. This time, the money is being laundered through the quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy, hidden from AFL-CIO members and the American public.

Once again, it is being used to support the efforts of reactionary labor and business leaders, helping to destabilize a democratically-elected government that has made major efforts to alleviate poverty, carried out significant land reform in both urban and rural areas, and striven to change political institutions that have long worked to marginalize those at the lowest rungs in society. And also like Allende's Chile, Venezuela's government under president Hugo Chavez has opposed a number of actions by the U.S. Government, this time by the Bush Administration.

Solidarity Center Director Harry Kamberis' background is not a typical labor background and looks suspiciously like CIA. Most of ACILS' funding comes from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), not the AFL-CIO. The NED was created by the Reagan Administration in 1983. One of the authors of the enabling legislation has said that NED was to do at least some of the work previously done by the CIA, albeit publicly: its talk appears progressive, but its actions are reactionary. One of the NED's initial directors was that well-known democrat, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon's point man in the campaign against Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende.

"...In Venezuela, the AFL-CIO has ... supported a reactionary union establishment as it tried repeatedly to overthrow President Hugo Chavez-and in the process, wrecked the country's economy."

NED quadrupled its budget in Venezuela to $877,000 in the period shortly before the coup, according to Marquis of The New York Times. In addition to the $157,377 to ACILS, NED provided $339,998 to the international wing of the Republican Party; $210,000 to the international wing of the Democratic Party; and presumably another $171,125 to the Center for International Private Enterprise, the international wing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is bad enough that ACILS gets money from NED, but it is much worse that they work to carry out the NED program.

The parallels with 1972-73 Chile are overwhelming. Just like in Chile in 1972-73, the AFL-CIO, through ACILS, is clearly engaged in an effort to destabilize a democratically elected government that disagrees with a number of positions of the US Government.

This destabilization effort is not singular, but is one component of a multiple-track endeavor that includes supporting a peasant organization that opposes land reform; an educational organization that has suggested no education reforms; an organization seeking to incite a military rebellion; a civic association that has worked to mobilize middle class neighborhoods to "defend themselves" from the poor; a civil justice group that opposes grassroots community organizations because they supports the Chavez government; a "leadership group" that supports the metropolitan Caracas police, whose behavior has become markedly more repressive over the past year; and a number of other anti-Chavez organizations, each which have received recent funding from NED.

There are three questions that beg for answers from ACILS, Harry Kamberis, and the AFL-CIO leadership in general. First, how do these efforts to overthrow a democratically-elected president-a president who is actively trying to meet the needs and aspirations of the poorest 80 percent of the population-help meet the needs of these working people? Second, how does working to destabilize the elected government of Venezuela help workers and their families in the United States? And third, if your projects such as in Venezuela are so good for American working people, why are you trying so desperately to keep U.S. trade unionists from accurately knowing what you are doing in these countries? Why, indeed?

Texas Dems Vow Unity Ticket

The leaders of the Dean, Kucinich, Edwards, and Clark campaigns met in Austin yesterday and had a conference call with the Texas desk of the Kerry national campaign.

We’ve agreed to the following concepts:
- All of us are agreed that we want a unified state convention for John Kerry in Texas. That will be achieved by all of us signing in for Kerry at State.

- Democrats who were in the campaigns of any of the nine candidates still would like to go to the National Convention and all should feel free to run for Kerry delegates or for the nine Edwards seats allocated by the primary. To do so, you will have to file an application as a Kerry or Edwards national delegate. Applications will be posted on the Texas Democratic Party website beginning late April.

- In all dealings at the State convention, no person will be prohibited or discouraged from being a party officer candidate or National Delegate because of which campaign they originally supported.

- The various campaign leaders will all have input on naming some of the At-Large delegates. There will be people who originally supported Dean (or the others) considered and elected by the Nominations Committee to be Kerry At-Large National Delegates.

On Saturday, please do whatever enables you to move through the process: You can sign in for Dean or Kerry. We urge you to support like-minded people for state delegates, so please vote for people who have been active in our efforts! Remember the basic rules, however. For instance, the more people who sign in for Dean at the door tomorrow (and if you make 15% of the County convention) the more At-Large Delegates we win to state. If you sign in for Dean, and are running for State Delegate, be sure to tell folks we are ALL going to be signing in for Kerry at the State Convention so that folks from other camps will feel free to vote for you!

From Byron - I'm amazed how eager every single Democratic Presidential candidate (with the exception of Kucinich, for now) has been to help John Kerry get elected. Howard Dean endosed Kerry and sent out an email fundraising pitch for him. Dick Gephardt is campaigning with Kerry in Missouri this weekend. Wes Clark is using his contacts and email lists to raise money for Kerry. Joe Lieberman and Bob Graham will campaign for Kerry in Florida. John Edwards has introduced John Kerry to his fundraising contacts and is raising money for Kerry himself. Even Al Sharpton has embraced John Kerry, and Dennis Kucinich has promised to support John Kerry by the convention. We're united.

A lot of Deaniacs will be at state, under the Kerry banners.

Liberal Radio

Al Franken is taking the fight to America's airwaves--and he's doing it drug-free.

Radio schedule. Randi Rhodes is also very good and I fantasize about Janeane Garofalo. Oops, did that slip out? I mean I fantasize about her being Senator, yeah, that's the ticket - Senator Garofalo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

More Bush whistleblowers

Michael Springman

WHO: Twenty-year State Department veteran, and former head of the visa bureau in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

CLAIM: He was repeatedly overruled by high-level State Department officials to issue visas to bin Laden recruits so they could receive training in the United States. Says this continued at least until the summer of 2001. (Notably, 15 of the 9/11 hijackers first entered the US through Jeddah.) Springman protested.

RESULT: Fired. Springman says he believes that the victims of 9/11 "may have been sacrificed in order to further wider US geopolitical objectives."

Sibel Edmonds

WHO: FBI translator

CLAIM: That a Turkish "spy ring" operated in the translation department with the apparent protection of FBI brass, falsifying intercepts containing explicit, actionable warnings of 9/11. That members of this ring were involved with the subjects of the intercepts. And that high-ranking officials asked her to falsify her translations and bribed her to keep quiet.

RESULT: Fired. After taking concerns to upper management, was dismissed with only one reason offered: "for the convenience of the government." Escorted from building by agents who said "We will be watching you and listening to you. If you dare to consult an attorney who is not approved by the FBI, or if you take this issue outside the FBI to the Senate, the next time I see you, it will be in jail." Told by John Ashcroft that he was invoking "State Secret Privilege and National Security" to keep what she knows from reaching the public.

Robert Wright

WHO: FBI special investigator

CLAIM: That FBI agents assigned to intelligence operations actually protect terrorists from investigation and prosecution. That the FBI shut down his probe into terrorist training camps, and he was removed from a money-laundering case that had a direct link to terrorism. Says the FBI "intentionally and repeatedly thwarted his attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation to identify and neutralize terrorists."

RESULT: Suspended and ordered to remain silent. Subject of at least three internal FBI investigations. Has written a book that the FBI is not only refusing to allow publication, but is not permitting anyone to even see it.

Lt. Col. Steve Butler

WHO: Vice Chancellor for student affairs, Defense Language Institute in Monterey.
CLAIM: In a letter to the editor of a local paper, Butler wrote "Bush knew of the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism. What is...contemptible is the President of the United States not telling the American people what he knows for political gain." During Butler’s term as chancellor, 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi was enrolled at the Defense Language Institute.

RESULT: Disciplined, lost his position and threatened with court martial.

Indira Singh

WHO: "Risk architect" consultant to JP Morgan Chase.

CLAIM: That Ptech, a software company founded by a Saudi financier on the terrorist watch list, had troubling access to sensitive US institutions, which was apparently of no concern to the institutions involved or the FBI. For instance, a "person of interest" from Ptech “had a team in the basement of the FAA for two years” before 9/11. One of Ptech’s projects gained it access to "all information processes and issues that the FAA had with the National Airspace Systems Agency."

RESULT: Warnings went ignored by institutions and the FBI. Told to keep quiet. Subject to surveillance and threats.

Colleen Rowley

WHO: FBI field agent, Minnesota office.

CLAIM: That FBI head office perversely thwarted the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, throwing up unusual roadblocks which prevented exposing the terrorist use of flight schools in the summer of 2001. That Dave Frasca of the Radical Fundamentalism Unit altered her report, rendering it impossible for the FBI to pursue the matter further.

RESULT: After 9/11, Frasca – the senior official who altered Rowley’s report and sat on the Minnesota office's request to investigate flight schools, even though he had received a similar request from the Phoenix office – is promoted and commended.


This is not the actress on Angel or Buffy. Contains nudity.

This is the actress at naked blog. Does not contain nudity.

Murder or war targets?

Does Israel have a legal right to assassinate its enemies - or are such executions war crimes? After two years deliberating, its supreme court is set to decide.

At first the assassinations were directed at people who were said to be "ticking time bombs" - individuals who were actively involved in organising terrorist attacks. But more recently the Israeli military has shifted to a wider range of targets, including figures such as Sheikh Yassin, who are leaders of militant groups rather than actual bomb-makers.

"If a terrorist - or any criminal - is threatening someone's life, then you can do everything necessary to stop him," says Sfard. "But these assassinations target people at home, sleeping in their beds, or when they're simply driving in their cars - they're not endangering anyone at the time when they're killed." To kill under these circumstances is simply execution - but carried out without any trial or proof of guilt.

el - Not only is there a debate over the targets but over the unconcern for bystanders. Yes, this applies equally to the other side.

Caribbean Won't Accept Haiti's New Gov't

The 15-nation Caribbean Community refused recognition Friday for Haiti's new U.S.-backed government amid continuing concerns over the departure of ousted leder Jean-Bertrand Aristide, senior Caribbean officials said.

The move came a day after the leaders demanded that the U.N. General Assembly investigate Aristide's claims he was abducted at gunpoint by U.S. agents when he left Feb. 29 as rebels threatened to attack Haiti's capital.

el - This got almost no news coverage in the U.S. media.

At a summit meeting last weekend in St. Kitts, leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, or Caricom, withstood U.S. pressure to embrace the new Haitian government led by Prime Minister G?rard Latortue and deferred a decision until July on whether to formally accept its legitimacy.

Air America Radio Launch Tomorrow

So tomorrow, Air America Radio will be launching at 12pm with the 'O'Franken Factor,' with Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher, formerly with Minnesota Public Radio. A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a rehearsal of the radio show in New York, and it was fun and exciting stuff. If you've heard the audio version of Al's books on tapes, it's going to be similar to that, only in a talk radio format - an infusion of comedy, interviews, and lie research.

Where can you find it? Initially, it is only launching on a few stations: NYC (WLIB, 1190AM), LA (KBLA, 1580AM), Chicago (WNTD, 950AM), Portland (KPOJ, 620AM), Inland Empire, CA (KCAA, 1050AM), XM Radio Channel 167.

There will obviously be challenges, and I have no doubt there will be some problems when the network starts off. One problem that has already surfaced is the website: has been inadequate in distributing information, and it doesn't appear as though it'll be fully functional with the features I'd like it to have on the launch date (though I've been assured it'll have streaming audio on March 31).

The NPR Debate

NPR Stations Had Pushed for Change

NPR management's decision to remove Mr. Edwards before his program's 25th anniversary in November, said other managers, seemed unnecessarily heavy-handed.

The announcement that Mr. Edwards would leave his anchor post, effective April 30, to take on a new assignment as a senior correspondent, and his statements that the move was not his idea, ignited widespread criticism. NPR, based in Washington, has received more than 17,000 calls and e-mail messages from angry listeners, its officials said. A Web site,, has generated close to 3,000 signatures.

As much as public radio stations around the country have been pressing their national partner for change, they also want many things to stay the same.

"There is a hope that NPR's focus on content will not be eclipsed by this move for new personalities," Mr. Hansen, of KUOW in Seattle, said. "You look at the media landscape with all of these bombastic hosts who tell you more about themselves than about the news. We don't need to know about the host's life or likes, we just need a facilitator who can help the show move."

As for loyal NPR listeners, who are still busy sending e-mail messages, calling Mr. Kernis and other managers and signing petitions to keep Mr. Edwards on "Morning Edition," the resounding message seems to be: Proceed with extreme caution.

Mark Forman, online petition signer No. 1,191, who listens to NPR on WFPL in Louisville, perhaps summed up the sentiment of many fellow listeners when he wrote, "This could be NPR's version of the `New Coke' debacle in the works."

Report From Houston

GOP base looks discouraged and their judges are afraid of voters.

Hawkish Clarke Turned Against Bush Failures

With 30 years experience in the US national security establishment, including high-level positions in the Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton administrations before he served in the second Bush White House, Clarke is no anti-war dissenter. He is a ruthless advocate of military and covert action in pursuit of the interests of American imperialism. This makes his testimony against the Bush administration all the more damaging.

In both his 9/11 commission testimony and his March 28 television interview, Clarke highlighted the difference between the approach of the Clinton administration to an upsurge of terrorist threats and that of the Bush administration under similar circumstances.

In the period leading up to the millenium celebrations in December 1999, US intelligence agencies reported a dramatic spike in intercepts of threatening communications involving Al Qaeda. At Clinton’s behest, his national security adviser, Samuel Berger, convened daily meetings of the highest-level security officials, including the heads of the CIA and FBI, to monitor efforts to forestall an attack. This continuous pressure, according to Clarke, led to the disruption of a planned New Year’s Eve attack on Los Angeles Airport when an Al Qaeda operative assigned to that attack was arrested attempting to cross the US-Canada border near Vancouver, British Columbia.

If an effort of similar intensity had been mounted during the summer of 2001, when intelligence intercepts about terrorist threats from Al Qaeda again began to spike, Clarke insisted, the September 11 attacks might have been disrupted or prevented.

"I do think what Clarke has done is really unprecedented in our history: somebody who served as a national security adviser to the president stepping down and, while that president is still in office, blasting him," he said. "That just hasn't been done before" . . . .

Above links from, another fine news summary.


Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers three decades ago, cited these people as part of what he sees as a new trend of those who criticize governments still in power:

-- Scott Ritter, the former lead inspector for the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) Concealment and Investigations team in Iraq.

-- Hans Blix, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector in Iraq.

-- Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, whose January book about his tenure inside the Bush administration was based, in part, on classified documents.

-- Rand Beers, who quit as President Bush's antiterrorism adviser to become John Kerry's foreign policy adviser.

-- Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who investigated whether Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger and later publicly accused the White House of manipulating his findings.

-- John Brady Kiesling, a career U.S. diplomat who resigned to protest the Bush administration's policies on Iraq.

-- Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst on the steering committee of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

-- Robin Cook, a former British foreign minister who quit and wrote a book saying the threat of Iraq was overblown.

-- Katharine Gun, a British government linguist who was charged under the British Official Secrets Act for leaking an e-mail purportedly from U.S. intelligence services asking for help spying on U.N. ambassadors.

-- Anthony Zinni, retired Marine general and former U.S. commander for the Middle East who has criticized the handling of postwar Iraq.

-- Clare Short, a former international development secretary who resigned from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government in protest after the invasion and later said she had seen transcripts of bugging of Kofi Annan's office.

-- Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired lieutenant colonel formerly assigned to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans who wrote an article critical of the war on the online site -- entitled "The New Pentagon Papers."

el - I would add Greg Thielmann. State Department intelligence analyst reponsible for weapons of mass destruction. Thielmann resigned and appeared on PBS Frontline to denounce Bush, Powell and other administration officials lies and exagerations about Iraq weapons of mass destruction.

One Reporter Apologizes, Knight-Ridder Doesn't Need To

Reporter Apologizes for Iraq Coverage

While the major media, from The New York Times on down, has largely remained silent about their own failings in this area, a young columnist for a small paper in Fredericksburg, Va., has stepped forward.

"The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there is one thing they forgot to say: We're sorry," Rick Mercier wrote, in a column published Sunday in The Free Lance-Star.

"Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered.

"Maybe we'll do a better job next war."

Mercier admitted that it was "absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post."

A team from Knight Ridder, led by two veteran editors, has supplied some of the best homegrown scoops on Iraq.

Hoyt had observed that "by and large, coverage of the war mainly amplified the official line." His bureau's coverage, he explains, "did not start from an antiwar position but from questioning the case made for a pre-emptive war. As we began exploring we found a lot more division and doubt within the government than top officials, and much of the press, were expressing.Now we feel we owe it to every single member of the military killed or wounded, their families, and the public at large, to keep exploring how and why this war happened, until the full story is out there." Knight Ridder, he says, felt a special responsibility, since it (unlike, say, The New York Times Co. and Tribune Co.) fields so many papers in military towns. As KR's own Joe Galloway once put it, "war ought to be the hardest thing a country can do."

Walcott explains that the bureau's skepticism about the case for war was sparked after checking "every single claim" made by the administration about Saddam's links to al-Qaeda and finding they simply "didn't make sense." From that, "one question led to another," he recalls.

But there's another reason KR was so "alert" (as Ben Bradlee would phrase it) when some of the other national news outlets were not. "Our sources," Walcott says, "include a large number of people at the working level in government, not on the cocktail circuit. These unglamorous people — they could be called the 'blue- collar' type — actually handled intelligence and saw it different than officials."

GOP PR Group Strikes Out In Columbia

The secretive Washington-based PR firm the Rendon Group apparently dealt the Columbian Ministry of Defense a losing hand.

According to its website, Rendon has been working closely with the Colombian Army, Navy, Air Force and National Police on "message development and dissemination, strategic communications planning, and media event planning." To those ends, Rendon created a deck of playing cards featuring Columbian "narco-terrorists" -- otherwise known as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and two other antigovernment groups. The Washington Times writes, "A State Department official ... said wanted posters in the form of playing cards are a poor fit in Colombia. In fact, he said, some diplomats were 'surprised' to find out last year that a defense contractor working in Colombia used its contract dollars to produce the decks." The State Department has blocked distribution of the decks. The Rendon Group gained notoriety for its work in Iraq -- it's credited with creating the Iraqi National Congress for the CIA in the early 90s -- and for its post-9/11 contract with the Pentagon.

Rice to testify in public, under oath

After days of intense pressure, the White House on Tuesday agreed to allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly and under oath before the commission investigating the September 11 attacks.

Daily Show Beats Fox and CNN in Ratings

This Isn't America

George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power.

Krugman - Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."

So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power. And the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies" provides more evidence of something rotten in the state of our government.

The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources — including "Bush at War," by Bob Woodward.

And new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke's main charge, that the Iraq obsession undermined the pursuit of Al Qaeda. From yesterday's USA Today: "In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures."

That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination.

Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."

This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics — even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power — to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.

To be fair, Senator Bill Frist's suggestion that Mr. Clarke might be charged with perjury may have been his own idea. But his move reminded everyone of the White House's reaction to revelations by the former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: an immediate investigation into whether he had revealed classified information. The alacrity with which this investigation was opened was, of course, in sharp contrast with the administration's evident lack of interest in finding out who leaked the identity of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame to Bob Novak.

And there are many other cases of apparent abuse of power by the administration and its Congressional allies. A few examples: according to The Hill, Republican lawmakers threatened to cut off funds for the General Accounting Office unless it dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney. The Washington Post says Representative Michael Oxley told lobbyists that "a Congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican." Tom DeLay used the Homeland Security Department to track down Democrats trying to prevent redistricting in Texas. And Medicare is spending millions of dollars on misleading ads for the new drug benefit — ads that look like news reports and also serve as commercials for the Bush campaign.

On the terrorism front, here's one story that deserves special mention. One of the few successful post-9/11 terror prosecutions — a case in Detroit — seems to be unraveling. The government withheld information from the defense, and witnesses unfavorable to the prosecution were deported (by accident, the government says). After the former lead prosecutor complained about the Justice Department's handling of the case, he suddenly found himself facing an internal investigation — and someone leaked the fact that he was under investigation to the press.

el - Reminds me of the end of Nixon's first term, people who were paying attention realized he had no principles except getting reelected. Opponents realized he was dirty, nasty, vicious, and unlawful. Nixon was reelected in a landslide anyway, mainly because there was a war on and the GOP had poisoned the mass media culture into a "us against them" mentality, running on fear and flag-waving. If you pay attention to politics and are reading this you are in the minority. Most people just catch TV sound bites or radio in the car. This is why the GOP keeps trotting out the same old lies. They figure most people haven't heard they are lies.

One thing the 9/11 Commision Should Look At

All of the plane transcripts and tapes. The airline ID'ed the hijackers early and passed the info to NORAD.

Lynne Cheney's Novel of Forbidden Love in the Old West

Our VP's wife has hidden depths
Sisters is being reissued.

Excerpts here from "a novel of the American frontier that broke new ground."

Originally published in 1981. Interesting.

Sophie Dymond had overcome nineteenth-century prejudices to succeed as publisher of a hugely popular women's magazine. But when she left New York to revisit her native Wyoming, where her sister had died mysteriously, she left her prestige and power far behind. Waiting for Sophie was a world where women were treated either as decorative figurines or as abject sexual vassals...where wives were led to despise the marriage act and prostitutes pandered to husbands' hungers...where the relationship between women and men became a kind of guerilla warfare in which women were forced to band together for the strength they needed and at times for the love they wanted. In her effort to grasp the meaning of her sister's life and death, Sophie discovers the secret that tainted her life and begins to understand the experience of the vast majority of silent, trapped women.

More than a lesbian novel it is an anti-male, anti-establishment, pro-contraception historical tale.

New Sign Of Life On Mars

The most compelling evidence yet that alien life once lived on Mars - and might still be thriving deep below the surface - has been unearthed by Nasa and European space scientists.

Two studies have confirmed the presence of methane on the red planet. On Earth, the gas is almost always produced by microbes.

Challenges to Abortion-Procedure Ban Begin

As expected - Abortion-rights proponents launched challenges in three courtrooms across the country Monday to the first federal ban on an abortion procedure since a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was established by Roe v. Wade more than three decades ago.

At issue is an act signed into law by President Bush last year that outlaws a procedure described by opponents as "partial-birth abortion," and by most doctors as "intact dilation and extraction."

The plaintiffs, including Planned Parenthood, the Federation of America, National Abortion Federation, Center for Reproductive Rights and doctors from Nebraska, New York, Virginia and Iowa, contend that the law is unconstitutional because it contains the same deficiencies as one overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

Like that law, they argued Monday, it provides no exceptions for the health of the mother and is so "hopelessly unclear" that it could outlaw more common procedures performed as early as 13 weeks gestation and thereby place an undue burden on a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion.

"Congress could easily have much more precisely defined what it sought to ban," A. Stephen Hut Jr. said in opening statements before the packed courtroom of U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey in New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in 2000 to strike down a similar Nebraska law. In Stenberg vs. Carhart, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that any such law would create an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion unless it created an exception for the mother's health and more narrowly defined the banned procedure.

Attorney General John Ashcroft stirred controversy recently when he issued subpoenas to hospitals and clinics across the country for abortion records, arguing that they are necessary to determine whether the procedures were medically necessary. But the subpoenas have been decried by the facilities and abortion-rights proponents as an intimidation tactic and an unjustifiable invasion of the privacy of patients.

Although several judges, including U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey in New York, have ordered the documents released, others, including U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco, denied the requests. A federal appeals court Monday temporarily stayed Casey's ruling that New York Presbyterian Hospital turn over the records.

True Porn Comics

Whenever I read autobiographical comics I can’t wait until the storyteller gets to the part where they have sex. It’s always the most revealing and often interesting aspect because cartoonists have the most f**ked up sex life. I think comic book creators Kelli Nelson and Robyn Chapman think the same thing and that’s why they put together True Porn. It’s a collection of almost 50 stories by independent comic books creators and the stories are all about sex.

True Porn co-editor and contributor Kelli Nelson.

On Sale At Amazon

The Heroic Bureaucrat and the Creepy Administration Villain

WP - The Wonk That Roared

Richard Clarke, rushing to the White House as hijacked planes crash into buildings on 9/11, barks into a phone: "Activate the CSG on secure video."

This is the first time we hear his voice in "Against All Enemies," and it captures the man: He issues commands, speaks in acronyms, understands the interdepartmental communications infrastructure. He knows how to run a video conference. He knows who's in the PEOC and how many minutes until the CAP is in place. He is the one who activates the COG.

Running a meeting of the Counterterrorism Security Group, Clarke is the kind of man who says, "POTUS is inbound Offutt. I need video connectivity to STRATCOM and I need them to have this PowerPoint."

(Whereas POTUS himself -- the President of the United States -- is the kind of man who says in a meeting with Clarke and others, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.")

Despite his procedural virtuosity, no one could call Clarke a pencil-pusher. No, he's pistol-packing. He writes that, late on the night of the attacks, "I had to get back to the White House and begin planning to prevent follow-on attacks. I found my Secret Service-issued .357 sidearm, thrust it in my belt, and went back out into the night, back to the West Wing."

Richard Clarke: The alpha-bureaucrat.

el - Of course, Heroic Bureacrats must battle Creepy Administration Villains.

Demonstrators Swarm Around Rove's Home

Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants.

At one point, Rove rushed to a window, pointed a finger and yelled something inaudible.

Shortly thereafter, sirens shot through the neighborhood and Secret Service agents and D.C. police joined the crowd on the lawn. Rove opened his door long enough to talk to an officer, and the crowd serenaded them with a stanza of "America the Beautiful."

After about 30 minutes of goading by protesters in English and Spanish, Rove agreed to meet with two members of the coalition on the condition that the rest of the protesters board their buses and leave his street. The group obliged.

Rove opened his garage door and allowed Palacios and Inez Killingsworth to enter. The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking.

Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry."

A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."

Fake News Parallels The Rise of Bush

NYT - Television is increasingly awash in fake anchors delivering fake news

This phenomenon has been good news for the Bush administration, which has responded to the growing national appetite for fictionalized news by producing a steady supply of its own. Of late it has gone so far as to field its own pair of Jayson Blairs, hired at taxpayers' expense: Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia, the "reporters" who appeared in TV "news" videos distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services to local news shows around the country. The point of these spots — which were broadcast whole or in part as actual news by more than 50 stations in 40 states — was to hype the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit as an unalloyed Godsend to elderly voters. They are part of a year-plus p.r. campaign, which, with its $124 million budget, would dwarf in size most actual news organizations.

When one real reporter, Robert Pear of The Times, blew the whistle on these TV "news" stories this month, a government spokesman defended them with pure Orwell-speak: "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools." The government also informed us that Ms. Ryan was no impostor but an actual "freelance journalist." The Columbia Journalism Review, investigating further, found that Ms. Ryan's past assignments included serving as a TV shill for pharmaceutical companies in infomercials plugging FluMist and Excedrin. Given that drug companies may also be the principal beneficiaries of the new Medicare law, she is nothing if not consistent in her journalistic patrons. But she is a freelance reporter only in the sense that Mike Ditka would qualify as one when appearing in Levitra ads.

George W. Bush tries to facilitate this process by shutting out the real news media as much as possible. By the start of this year, he had held only 11 solo press conferences, as opposed to his father's count of 71 by the same point in his presidency. (Even the criminally secretive Richard Nixon had held 23.) Mr. Bush has declared that he rarely reads newspapers and that he prefers to "go over the heads of the filter" — as he calls the news media — and "speak directly to the people." When the president made a rare exception last month and took questions from an actual front-line journalist, NBC's Tim Russert, his performance was so maladroit that the experiment is unlikely to be repeated anytime too soon.

There's no point in bothering with actual news people anyway, when you can make up your own story and make it stick, whatever the filter might have to say about it. No fake news story has become more embedded in our culture than the administration's account of its actions on 9/11. As The Wall Street Journal reported on its front page this week — just as the former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke was going public with his parallel account — many of this story's most familiar details are utter fiction. Mr. Bush's repeated claim that one of his "first acts" of that morning was to put the military on alert is false. So are the president's claims that he watched the first airplane hit the World Trade Center on TV that morning. (No such video yet existed.) Nor was Air Force One under threat as Mr. Bush flew around the country, delaying his return to Washington.

The "news" of the war included its fictionalized Rambo, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and its fictionalized conclusion, the "Mission Accomplished" celebration led by the president on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. (Mr. Bush said that the premature victory banner was the handiwork of the ship's crew when in fact it was the product of the White House scenic shop.) But for all that fake news, we still don't know such real news as how many Iraqi civilians were killed as we gave them their freedom. We are still shielded from images of American casualties, before or after they are placed in coffins.

Monday, March 29, 2004

World Public Opinion Poll

Growing Hostility Toward America and Its Foreign Policy - Click">Audio

A recent survey conducted in European and Arab nations by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, has found increasing hostility toward America and its foreign policy. The public opinion poll titled, "A Year After the Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists," revealed that antagonism for the U.S. has intensified among the people of France, Germany and Britain. This comes as there is growing support in Europe for foreign and military policies more independent of the United States.

In Muslim countries surveyed, resentment against the U.S. is pervasive. Majorities of those polled in four Muslim nations doubt the sincerity of the U.S. war on terrorism and believe instead that Washington's policies are aimed at controlling Middle East Oil and to dominate the world. More alarmingly, Osama bin Laden is viewed favorably by large percentages of people in Pakistan, Jordan and Morocco. The recent Israeli assassination of the wheelchair-bound Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin has undoubtedly deepened the already burning rage against America in the Arab and Muslim world.

"George Bush has taken great efforts to put forward this notion that this is a great victory for democracy. It appears from the results of this poll that the people are not buying that. His sell on that is not convincing the people of the world that the U.S. had good intentions."

US Poll - Voters Just Watch The Commercials - TV ads are powerful.

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows a remarkable turnaround in 17 battleground states where polls and historic trends indicate the race will be close, and where the Bush campaign has aired TV ads. Those ads say Bush has provided "steady leadership in times of change" while portraying Kerry as a tax-hiking, flip-flopping liberal.

The Bush campaign also has begun defining Kerry before he has defined himself. In the states where the ads have run, Kerry's unfavorable rating has risen 16 points since mid-February. In the other states, it's up just five points. The margin of error for each group of states is +/{ndash}5 percentage points.

A majority echoed the Bush ads' themes about the Massachusetts senator: 57% say Kerry has changed positions for political reasons, and 58% say their federal taxes will go up if he's elected. And the percentage who say he's "too liberal" has jumped from 29% in February to 41% now.

In contrast, there has been much less volatility in states where the ads haven't aired. Kerry held a four-point lead in them in February; Bush holds a two-point lead now.

Among Republicans, 83% believe the Bush administration's testimony before the Sept. 11 commission. Among Democrats, 76% believe Clarke.

A 53% majority now say that the Bush administration is "covering up something" about its handling of intelligence information before the attacks. Bush's approval rating on handling terrorism dropped to its lowest level since Sept. 11, though a 58% majority still express approval.

Still, Bush fares much better against Kerry than he did just three weeks ago. In early March, Kerry led by eight points. Now Bush leads by four.

CNN - Among likely voters surveyed, 51 percent said they would choose Bush for president, while 47 percent said they would vote for Kerry, within the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Three weeks ago, as Kerry was cinching the Democratic nomination with a string of primary victories, he led the president by 8 points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup among likely voters, 52 percent to 44 percent.

On the question of whether they approve of how Bush is handling the war on terrorism, 58 percent said yes -- down from 65 percent in December but still a majority.

Among Clarke's charges was that Bush and other administration officials were distracted from the pursuit of al Qaeda by their campaign against Iraq. Asked whether they thought that was the case, 49 percent of those polled said no, while 46 percent said yes, within the margin of error.

Poll respondents were also equally divided on whether the war in Iraq was part of the war on terrorism, but 56 percent said they still think the situation there was worth going to war.

Clarke has been particularly critical of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, his former boss and one of Bush's closest confidants. He has charged that she didn't "do her job" before 9/11; she has called his charges "scurrilous."

Asked about Rice, 50 percent of those polled said they have a favorable opinion of her, compared to 25 percent with an unfavorable opinion and 25 percent who were unsure.

Condoleezza Rice's Credibility Gap

Center for American Progress - Fact Checking Condi

Not only did Rice refuse to take Richard Clarke's lead and admit responsibility for her role in the worst national security failure in American history, but she continued to make unsubstantiated and contradictory assertions:

RICE CLAIM: "The administration took seriously the threat" of terrorism before 9/11.

FACTS: President Bush himself acknowledges that, despite repeated warnings of an imminent Al Qaeda attack, before 9/11 "I didn't feel the sense of urgency" about terrorism. Similarly, Newsweek reports that his attitude was reflected throughout an Administration that was trying to "de-emphasize terrorism" as an overall priority. As proof, just two of the hundred national security meetings the Administration held during this period addressed the terrorist threat, and the White House refused to hold even one meeting of its highly-touted counterterrorism task force. Meanwhile, the Administration was actively trying to cut funding for counterterrorism, and "vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism" despite a serious increase in terrorist chatter in the summer of 2001.

Source: "Bush At War" by Bob Woodward

Source: Newsweek & vetoed request

Source: Refusal to hold task force meeting

Source: Only two meetings out of 100

RICE CLAIM: "I don't know what a sense of urgency any greater than the one we had would have caused us to do anything differently. I don't know how...we could have done more. I would like very much to know what more could have been done?"

FACTS: There are many things that could have been done: first and foremost, the Administration could have desisted from de-emphasizing and cutting funding for counterterrorism in the months before 9/11. It could have held more meetings of top principals to get the directors of the CIA and FBI to share information, especially considering the major intelligence spike occurring in the summer of 2001. As 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick said on ABC this morning, the lack of focus and meetings meant agencies were not talking to each other, and key evidence was overlooked. For instance, with better focus and more urgency, the FBI's discovery of Islamic radicals training at flight schools might have raised red flags. Similarly, the fact that "months before Sept. 11, the CIA knew two of the al-Qaeda hijackers were in the United States" could have spurred a nationwide manhunt. But because there was no focus or urgency, "No nationwide manhunt was undertaken," said Gorelick. "The State Department watch list was not given to the FAA. If you brought people together, perhaps key connections could have been made."

Source: Slash counterterrorism funding

Source: CIA knew 2 hijackers in the U.S.

RICE CLAIM:“Nothing would be better from my point of view than to be able to testify, but there is an important principle involved here it is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisors do not testify before the Congress.”

FACTS: Republican Commission John F. Lehman, who served as Navy Secretary under President Reagan said on ABC this morning that "This is not testimony before a tribunal of the Congress…There are plenty of precedents for appearing in public and answering questions…There are plenty of precedents the White House could use if they wanted to do this.” 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick agreed, saying “Our commission is sui generis…the Chairman has been appointed by the President. We are distinguishable from Congress.” Rice's remarks on 60 Minutes that the principle is limited to "sitting national security advisers" is also a departure from her statements earlier this week, when she said the principle applied to all presidential advisers. She was forced to change this claim for 60 Minutes after 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste “cited examples of non-Cabinet presidential advisers who have testified publicly to Congress." Finally, the White House is reportedly moving to declassify congressional testimony then-White House adviser Richard Clarke gave in 2002. By declassifying this testimony, the White House is breaking the very same "principle" of barring White House adviser's testimony from being public that Rice is using to avoid appearing publicly before the 9/11 commission.

Source: Quote from Tony Snow Show

RICE CLAIM: "Iraq was put aside" immediately after 9/11.

FACTS: According to the Washington Post, "six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2-and-a-half-page document" that "directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq." This is corroborated by a CBS News, which reported on 9/4/02 that five hours after the 9/11 attacks, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq." The President therefore did not put Iraq aside -- he merely deferred it to a second phase, after Afghanistan. To the question of Iraq or Afghanistan, Bush replied: let's do both, starting with Afghanistan. In terms of resources, the Iraq decision had far-reaching effects on the efforts to hunt down Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As the Boston Globe reported, "the Bush administration is continuing to shift highly specialized intelligence officers from the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to the Iraq crisis."

Source: September 17th directive
Source: Rumsfeld orders Iraq plan
Source: Shifting special forces

Presented here were only the 60 minutes claims. Here is more fact-checking on her statements before she appeared.

Here is their Daily Progress Report, required reading, with more Rice lies and Bush de facto admits being negligent.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Clarke's Story Hasn't Changed

Since he talked to Time in 2002.

Justifying Invasion a Full-Time Job

Helen Thomas - President Bush says the United States and the world are safer against terrorist attacks since his invasion of Iraq.

After the bombings in Madrid and Baghdad, that is wishful thinking.

The president doesn't act like he thinks the world is safer, given the huge security entourage that accompanies him when he travels.

Byrd has persuaded Rockefeller

The political atmosphere in Washington, D.C., changed dramatically after Bush took office, said Rockefeller, who has served in the Senate since 1985. “Republicans fell totally in line since Bush came into office. They have a loyalty I have never seen before.

“They are true believers. It started with Newt Gingrich in 1994. Nothing gets in their way. Facts don’t get in their way.

“And three chairmen of major [Senate] committees were told by Dick Cheney not to investigate anything in the administration.”

On the Iraq war resolution: "If I had known then what I know now, I would have voted against it,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Friday. “I have admitted that my vote was wrong.”

The key Senate vote authorizing a war against Iraq came Oct. 11, 2003. It passed 77 to 23. The opponents included Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., an outspoken opponent of President Bush’s war plans. (The House of Representatives voted to pass a similar resolution, 296 to 133.)

“The decision got made before there was a whole bunch of intelligence,” Rockefeller said. “I think the intelligence was shaped. And I think the interpretation of the intelligence was shaped.

“You had a president who we now know was determined to go to war. He was going to be a war president,” Rockefeller said during an interview with editors at The Charleston Gazette on Friday.

Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the influence of terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida, is growing. “But only about five percent of the insurgents in Iraq are coming across the borders into the country. Most of them are homegrown.”

Domestic problems will continue to grow, Rockefeller believes, since Bush administration tax cuts could put the nation in a deficit for the next 50 years.

Tax cuts are hurting all federal social, educational and medical programs. The only agencies currently getting significantly increased funding today are military, homeland security and intelligence operations.

Rockefeller had high praise for Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief who served for 30 years under three Republican presidents and one Democratic president.

“Clarke is a master. He is not particularly liked, not a pleasant person. But he is bright, smart and tough,” Rockefeller said. “He disdains politicians of whatever stripe, whatever party. But if you have done something all your life and take great pride in it, then see it crumbling, you get angry.”

Bush team can use the word Lie, opponents cannot

The US media will repeatedly use the l-word against Bush enemies, if only to repeat the administration attacks, but never use it against the administration.

A recent example of bending over backwards to avoid connecting Bush and the l-word was the Wall Street Journal's March 22 lead story about gaps between Bush's account of his actions on Sept. 11, 2001, and the public record.

The story's headline, 'Detailed Picture of U.S. Actions On Sept. 11 Remains Elusive,' didn't give much of a clue what to expect. While avoiding the l-word or anything close to a synonym, the article told the story of how Bush and his aides made statements at variance with the verifiable record about the events of that tragic day.

The Journal article by Scot J. Paltrow gave six examples of Bush or his top aides offering Sept. 11 accounts - all portraying Bush as a decisive leader - that didn't square with the factual record.

A key question in this fall's U.S. election, however, will be whether Bush can maintain his image as a "straight-shooter" by destroying the credibility of those who question his leadership and honesty. The ferocity of the Bush assaults on former Treasury Secretary O'Neill and now former counter-terrorism chief Clarke reveals how important Bush and his political advisers see the threat from these whistleblowers.

Central to Bush's success in his new war against his ex-assistants will be whether the major news media will continue its obsequious behaviour. Bush's strategy can only work if he and his surrogates are allowed to throw around the l-word without fear that it might finally be tossed back at them.

Billionaires for Bush.

Surreal Protest-Support Rallies

The men handsome in tuxedos and top hats and the women stunning in ball gowns with elbow-length gloves, they marched boldly past the protesters. They shouted, ''We want Bush!'' One placard they held up read, ''Because He's Just Like Us.'' Hisses traveled through the body of the mob, as a policeman stopped traffic so they could cross. Applause erupted from the ranks of the flag-wavers at the arrival of such beautiful people. Pro-Bush people happily backed up, ceding the most prime piece of their ''free speech zone.'' Then it happened. Halfway across the street -- in that moment of eerie suspension as the bare flick of a police officer's hand caused the dragon of traffic to pause -- you could see the epiphany. The newcomers unfurled their giant banner: ''Billionaires for Bush.'' The revelation -- is this somebody's idea of joke? -- moved across the faces of the crowd like a wave undulating through a sports arena. Amid the hand-drawn placards, the Billionaires unsheathed their professionally printed, brightly colored laminated posters.

''Leave No Billionaire Behind.''

''Corporations Are People Too.''

The Billionaires popped corks and drank bubbly from flutes. Huge cigars and cigarette holders appeared.

When the Billionaires started a chant -- ''Tax Work Not Wealth'' -- the pro-Bush folks shouted back, ''Tax Cuts!'' But irony has a toxic effect on earnestness. The counterchant quickly faded, and right away the anger began to smolder.

As Expected - GOP donors double dipping with Nader

Nader is getting big contributions from Bush donors. Kinda like the GOP providing funding for Sharpton and advising his campaign.

Nearly 10 percent of the Nader contributors who have given him at least $250 each have a history of supporting the Republican president, national GOP candidates or the party, according to computer-assisted review of financial records by The Dallas Morning News.

No Wonder the Administration Went Nuclear on Clarke

He is a power Washington player and has been the media's main administration source for counter-terrorism stories for years. If you want the real book on Richard Clarke—minus the Bush-administration attacks and Clarke’s self-promotion—read Ghost Wars, Steve Coll’s new book on the CIA in Afghanistan. Clarke was mentioned by name in nearly 1,000 stories over the years, and he was the unnamed source for many more.

The Who's Your Daddy Party?

Dowd - I wasn't sure how to ask John Kerry, so I just blurted it out: "Is there anything we need to know about your relationship with your father?"

I didn't think the country could take another vertiginous ride on the Oedipal tilt-a-whirl. It's hard not to see the Bush unilateral foreign policy — blowing off allies and the U.N. to rewrite the ending of a gulf war his father felt had ended appropriately — as the ultimate act of adolescent rebellion.

"I know what you're saying," Mr. Kerry murmured.

The globe got whipsawed by a father-son relationship so twisty and rife with undercurrents that we're still not sure if W. was trying to avenge his father with Saddam or upend his dad's legacy in Iraq — or both. Or was he just following the gloomy, brass-knuckled lead of his surrogate father, Dick Cheney?

Even a president who was routinely referred to as adolescent criticized this White House's adolescent attitude.

"They remind me of teenagers who got their inheritance too soon and couldn't wait to blow it," Bill Clinton said. And this, he scoffed, is the "mature daddy party"?

Well, it's the party obsessed with daddy. That's for sure.

Clarke says he didn't vote for Bush

A correction to an earlier post. My respect for him goes up.

FBI translator says she was bribed not to spill beans on 9-11 cover-up

Boing Boing - Sibel Edmonds said she was hired to retranslate material that was collected prior to Sept. 11 to determine if anything was missed in the translations that related to the plot. In her review, Edmonds said the documents clearly showed that the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the country and plotting to use airplanes as missiles. The documents also included information relating to their financial activities. Edmonds said she could not comment in detail because she has been under a Justice Department gag order since October 2002.

FBI translator, Sibel Edmonds, was offered a substantial raise and a full time job in order to not go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.
Edmonds, a ten year U.S. citizen who has passed a polygraph examination, speaks fluent Farsi and Turkish and had been working part time with the FBI for six months-- commencing in December, 2001.

In a 50 reporter frenzy in front of some 12 news cameras, Edmonds said "Attorney General John Ashcroft told me 'he was invoking State Secret Privilege and National Security' when I told the FBI I wanted to go public with what I had translated from the pre 9-11 intercepts."

Salon has more. Salon has had many must read features this week and last but I find myself saving up to visit because of the commericial I have to wade through. I should use the last donation to get a subscription again except I have other pressing priorities.

Has Bush hired his own fix-it plumbers?

Shades of Nixon, historian files on Kerry's anti-war activities stolen. It would be silly for the Kerry team to steal something they should already have copious records on. This sounds more like a fishing expedition from the RNC-Bush-Cheney team, similar to Nixon stealing Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's reports.

Cerebus Tale Finally Ends

One of our era's most enduring and complex epics of fantasy storytelling came to an end this month. It was 6,000 pages long, and chronicled one man's rise through a fascinatingly imagined world, on the cusp between medieval and early industrial ages.

A couple of complications are also worth noting. First, the protagonist is not strictly a man -- in two respects. "He" is a hermaphrodite, though he thinks of himself as male, and he's also an aardvark. A talking, hind-foot walking, sword-wielding, hard-drinking, scripture-parsing aardvark, mind you.

How Chalabi Snookered Bush-Cheney Big-Time

The Bush administration's prewar claims that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of trucks and railroad cars to produce anthrax and other deadly germs were based chiefly on information from a now-discredited Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball," according to current and former intelligence officials.

Weapons inspectors hypothesized that such trucks might exist, officials said. They then asked former exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, a bitter enemy of Hussein, to help search for intelligence supporting their theory.

Soon after, a young chemical engineer emerged in a German refugee camp and claimed that he had been hired out of Baghdad University to design and build biological warfare trucks for the Iraqi army.

Based largely on his account, President Bush and his aides repeatedly warned of the shadowy germ trucks, dubbed "Winnebagos of Death" or "Hell on Wheels" in news accounts, and they became a crucial part of the White House case for war — including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's dramatic presentation to the U.N. Security Council just weeks before the war.

Only later, U.S. officials said, did the CIA learn that the defector was the brother of one of Chalabi's top aides, and begin to suspect that he might have been coached to provide false information.

el - Duh, you think?

Kay said in an interview that the defector "was absolutely at the heart of a matter of intense interest to us." But Curveball turned out to be an "out-and-out fabricator," he added.

U.S. and British intelligence officials have acknowledged since major combat ended in Iraq that lies or distortions by Iraqi opposition groups in exile contributed to numerous misjudgments about Iraq's suspected weapons programs.

A former U.S. official who has reviewed the classified file said the BND warned the CIA last spring that it had "various problems with the source."

"We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails," Powell said. He showed what he called "highly detailed and extremely accurate" diagrams of how the trucks were configured, and warned that they could spew enough anthrax or botulinus toxin "in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people."

But Kay, who sought to confirm Curveball's claims in Iraq after the end of major combat, said Powell's account was "disingenuous."

Kay added: "If Powell had said to the Security Council: 'It's one source, we never actually talked to him, and we don't know his name,' as he's describing this, I think people would have laughed us out of court."

Powell assured U.N. diplomats that two other Iraqi sources, who he said were "in a position to know," had corroborated the "eyewitness account." The CIA later said those reports arrived in December 2000 and mid-2002.

Kay said the debriefing files on the pair showed that they never had direct contact with the biowarfare trucks. "None of them claimed to have seen them," he said. "They said they were aware of the mobile program. They had heard there was a mobile program."

CIA files showed that another Iraqi defector, an engineer who had worked with Curveball, specifically denied that they had worked on such facilities, Kay said. Powell did not cite that defector.

The CIA acknowledged last month that a fourth defector whom Powell cited at the U.N., a former major in Iraq's intelligence service, had lied when he said that Baghdad had built mobile research laboratories to test biological agents. The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency twice debriefed that defector in early 2002 and reported his claims. But it then concluded that he did not have firsthand information and probably was coached by Chalabi's exile group.

In May 2002, the agency posted a "fabrication notice" on a classified computer network to warn other U.S. intelligence agencies that the defector had lied. But CIA officials said the notice was overlooked, and his information was cited both in Powell's speech and the CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to Congress.

During the summer, Kay's investigators visited Curveball's parents and brother in Baghdad, as well as his former work sites. They determined that he was last in his class at the University of Baghdad, not first as he had claimed. They learned he had been fired from his job and jailed for embezzlement before he fled Iraq.

Chalabi, now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, retains strong support in the White House. He was a guest of First Lady Laura Bush at the president's State of the Union address last January, and his organization still receives several hundred thousand dollars a month from the Pentagon to help collect intelligence in Iraq.

Condi urged to testify under oath

Not a good person behind BushThe leaders of the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks urged national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Sunday to reconsider her refusal to appear before the panel in public to rebut testimony earlier this week by former White House aide Richard Clarke.

Organizations representing families of those killed in the attacks have urged Rice to testify before the commission in a public setting.

The 9/11 Families Steering Committee issued such a statement Saturday.

"Dr. Rice should testify to set a moral precedent that is aptly warranted by the murder of 3,000 people," the statement said.

"Voluntarily coming forward to testify under oath during a public hearing without the use of a subpoena would simply set a rare, refreshing, and appropriate moral precedent for all of history to judge."

[Future President] Kerry chastised national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Saturday for refusing to testify publicly before the 9/11 commission and accused the Bush administration of conducting "character assassination" against people who say things the White House doesn't like.

"If Condoleezza Rice can find time to do '60 Minutes' on television before the American people, she ought to find 60 minutes to speak to the commission under oath," Kerry said while campaigning Saturday.

Clarke lands more blows to Bush facade

"When you're in the White House, you spin. I have no obligation any more to spin."

Former White House counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke, whose criticism of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy has triggered a ferocious response from the White House, said Sunday he supports Republican calls for declassifying testimony he gave Congress in 2002.

On Sunday, Clarke told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the release of his previous testimony will prove false any claims that his earlier testimony contradicts statements in his new book, "Against All Enemies."

"I would welcome it being declassified," Clarke said. "But not just a little line here and there -- let's declassify all six hours of my testimony."

Clarke called on the White House to end what he called "vicious personal attacks" and "character assassination" in response to his accusations.

"People on the taxpayers' rolls are engaged in a campaign to destroy me personally and professionally, because I had the temerity to suggest that the American people should consider whether the president has done a good job in the war on terrorism," he said.
Clarke also told NBC he wants even more information declassified, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission. The White House has said Rice cannot testify publicly because of her position, but the commission has disagreed and asked the administration to change its stance.

Clarke also called for a document mentioned in the commission's staff report this week to be declassified -- a "strategy paper" he sent to Rice shortly after she assumed office in January 2001. Rice and Clarke have characterized the document very differently, with Clarke insisting it shows the administration's failure to act on "urgent" calls for action and Rice saying it was largely a list of anti-terrorism steps left over from the Clinton administration.

"Let's go further," he told NBC. "The White House is now selectively finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed are covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press. Let's take all of my e-mails and memos that I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20 to September 11, and let's declassify all of it."

In his book and in testimony to the commission this week, Clarke said the Bush administration did not act on repeated warnings before September 11, 2001, that an al Qaeda attack could be imminent. He told the commission the administration considered terrorism an important issue, but not an "urgent" issue.

He reiterated that assessment on NBC, adding, "They had 100 meetings before they were willing to have one on terrorism."

Although the administration vigorously denied Clarke's assessment, Clarke quoted Bush, in an interview with reporter Bob Woodward, acknowledging that before September 11 he did not consider terrorism an "urgent" issue.

Clarke arrived at NBC armed with several documents to support his statements and rebut what the administration said about him this week.

Among them was a hand-written note the president wrote him upon his resignation in early 2003. "Dear Dick, you will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor," the note says, according to Clarke. "You have left a positive mark on our government."

Clarke said the White House should end its attacks on his credibility and focus on the issues.

"This is about the president's job in the war on terrorism," he said. "This is about how going into Iraq hurt the war on terrorism. This is not about Dick Clarke," Clarke said.

Clarke denied having been demoted by the administration, saying he asked to be transferred to a position in charge of battling cybersecurity partly due to his frustration with "the administration's lackadaisical attitude" toward terrorism.

As for Rice, he said, "I have great respect" for her. "I've known Condi a long time, I think she's a very good person."

el - Finally he says something I disagree with - I have no respect for Rice, too many lies, too little talent. Someone who lies that much and that badly is not a good person.

Modern Trench Warfare - American Politics

Whiskey Bar compare the presidential race to WW1.

Report From Local Democracy

I was an election judge for the March 9 primary. I needed the money. Turnout was abysmal. Under 10% voting and most of that early voting. The poor Democratic primary schedule had a lot to do with it. Winners get anointed too fast and then the primaries come at such a rapid clip others can't mount a challenge. Another is that the vast majority of people are too discouraged and they feel disenfranchised. Voting no longer seems a civic virtue. It makes the voter seem partly responsible for the messes. Just one of my theories you can take or leave.

We have the eVote machines. The machines are fundamentally wrong, there is no way to easily determine if the votes the central computer reports are the real votes. There are many ways to gimmick the database. In fact, the controversy over the machine really started when one writer realized that for at least one company the software seems designed for vote-stealing, disabling audit trails and keeping three sets of vote totals. These issues are unknown to most users. I will add that if you have corrupt judges they can easily add votes at the end of the day. Actually anytime during the day but you add signatures at the end to avoid embarrassment if someone finds they already voted. The only check are the signatures, which are separate books not connected to the electronic system.

I persuaded several people to stay for the caucus and that was fun except I had to turn the machines in and couldn't stay or go out for coffee. I rushed them to get done so I could pack up and leave.

Help? - the Democratic party and the county administration are understaffed and had difficulty getting workers for what they pay. I ended up with only one clerk, a close friend, for a few hours in the morning who came back to bring me lunch and to help put away the machines and deliver the paperwork later.

Yes, I was alone more time than I was with someone. I will note that even for Harris County this is very rare. Most precinct judges get their family and friends to help and have several there. I didn't decide I would work until the last couple days and got assigned as a precinct judge just before 5 PM the previous day. The September election I recruited one member from a science fiction book group to help me.

Saturday March 27 I attended the Harris County - Senate District 11 Democratic convention. This was mainly to elect delegates for the state convention. A major lesson learned was why Kucinich was staying in. While he will likely have no delegates from Texas his team had the great majority of the resolutions - all of which passed. A report from another convention confirms that almost all resolutions that were introduced at the precinct level are passed and his supporters came prepared to the precinct caucuses with downloaded resolutions so even if they don't get elected they influence the party, become positions of the party, and may be written into the party platform.

I also served on the credentials committee which was mainly signing people in. Pat in another convention became a member of the resolutions committee and saw all the precinct resolutions. Great majority were downloaded Kucinich resolutions, other downloaded or copied from special interest groups, only around 10% seemed written by an individual or at the caucus.

At my convention the resolutions that made it to the floor, there were hundreds the resolution committee was looking at (but I bet most were duplicates), were all approved. Debate on four, some opposition on three, one was amended, one was closely split but passed. The convention by a narrow majority supported Kucinich's argument to pull out of WTO, NAFTA, and similar trade treaties. Everyone would have supported that there are problems with the agreements, the problems with pulling out completely a pro-labor crowd did not want to hear. We voted on about a dozen resolutions. At the end of the meeting a motion was made to accept whatever the resolutions committee decided on all other resolutions.

Pat and I were both struck by how the Democratic party was like a club. Some long-time members really run things and sweep everybody along. They have experience with the rules and how to get what they want accomplished while moving things to the next item. I don't think anything occurred at the meeting that the few leaders didn't want. As an example Pat had a resolution that a majority of her resolutions committee didn't want, poorly written, and they voted it down. The chairwoman came back and it was her resolution so she called another vote and got it to the floor.

My website name seems a misnomer, maybe I should call this mad and angry moderate news. The one's calling themselves liberals in my party are pushing for radical makeovers regardless of political realities: lowering the retirement age, tripling minimum wage, free universal health care, withdrawal from all trade treaties, pure libertarian sounding open immigration, a cabinet department of peace, repeal everything related to the Patriot Act and similar left platforms. The only debates had to due with mandatory jail sentences on drivers who cause serious injury or death to motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians and how far to close US markets, The traffic accident resolution passed after removing mandatory jail time but making it a more serious offense then now. It likely would have been voted down or amended more except for a strong appeal from a motorcycle club member who says they buried 18 friends last year from motorcycle crashes, 17 caused by failure to yield of car drivers.

I had a private debate over gay marriages. Some of the older crowd are still unsure about that. An argument that gay partners cannot get health insurance unless the state recognizes the partnership and requires employers to offer benefits seemed persuasive. Gay related resolutions did not make it to the floor in my convention - ran out of time.

Very interesting experiences and I recommend everyone attend your caucus and move up your political participation. Saw the impressive Democratic candidate against DeLay. In between all the business candidates drop by and speak a little. There was a rumor that Morrison would be a stealth campaign. No way. He spoke like an old-style New Deal Democrat and vows to run an in-your-face campaign against the most powerful man on the Hill. Most people hadn't heard much about him but he got several standing ovations and lots of supporters.

I am now a delegate to the state convention which will be held in Houston. I haven't figured out suitable punishment yet for my brother for not voting. I should also get onto some people for not attending the caucus. It was fun. One major lesson learned was as a speaker said - talking and yelling at the TV doesn't change things. Taking some action does. We can't just talk among ourselves about how bad Bush is, we have to give the neutrals a reason to vote for us and cast doubt among those who support the GOP. Kevin Drum had an old article about how the grassroots Texas GOP must now be becoming closet revolutionary fundamentalists worse than the Taliban based on their party platform. We need to start dragging them out of the closet. Dragging some of the top Texas GOP officials out of their closets might be smart too.

Why does Middle America Not see Bush as Nasty?

President Bush is playing supercharged hardball in going after his own former anti-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke. It's a risky strategy that shows the single-mindedness of Bush and his re-election team in trying to deflect politically damaging criticism.

Loyalty is a hallmark of Bush's administration, with the president and his top lieutenants quick to turn on those who stray from the fold.

In his book "Against All Enemies,'' Clarke predicted retribution from a White House "adept at revenge.''

But Bush and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, are essentially following the same game plan that the late Lee Atwater - an early political mentor of Rove's - used to get the first President Bush elected in 1988: define and undercut an opponent early with a fusillade of negative attacks.

"This team is tough. You cross them and they go after you and raise questions about you and your credibility rather than what you have to say,'' said Thomas Mann, a scholar with the Brookings Institution.

Others who have fallen out of favor over Iraq include former economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki. All voiced concerns about either the expense or number of troops needed to occupy Iraq. All were treated dismissively by the White House. All are gone, but their estimates proved accurate.

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV drew the administration's wrath by suggesting Bush exaggerated Saddam's nuclear capabilities. A federal grand jury is investigating whether a White House official illegally disclosed that Wilson's wife was a CIA officer to get back at him.

On the domestic front, Paul O'Neill was fired as Treasury secretary in December 2002 after publicly questioning the need for additional Bush tax cuts - another core campaign issue for Bush.

Administration officials now are waging a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster, a Medicare accountant who publicly said he was forbidden by his superiors from sharing with Congress a higher - and more accurate - cost estimate for the administration's Medicare program.

John DiIulio quit as director of Bush's office of faith-based initiatives in 2002, telling Esquire magazine that "Mayberry Machiavellis'' led by Rove were basing policy only on re-election concerns. He later apologized for making what he said were rude remarks.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., stood on the Senate floor last week to urge Bush to stop the "character attacks'' on Clarke, saying they recalled scorched-earth tactics that Bush and his allies used to defeat Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the GOP presidential primary in 2000, and Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia in the 2002 midterm elections.

Iraq Total Chaos - Waiting For Civil War

Reason Magazine shows the reality in Iraq we are not getting on the news.

Sunni and Shi'ite leaders were quick to condemn the new interim constitution for its secularism. They were united in calling the Quran their only constitution. They need not have worried since what happens in the walled-off "Green Zone" of the Occupiers is a land of make believe that does not affect the rest of Iraqis living in the "Red Zone" which is the rest of the country. Westerners who work for the Occupation in the green zone rarely venture beyond its walls; Iraq is as alien to them as they are to Iraqis. Congressional staffers put in six months to spice up their resumes, former military or State Department officials fish for contracts with General Electric or KBR after they finish their stint. They don't have to deal with many Iraqis. In the Rashid cafeteria for military and civilian servants of the Occupation, non-Iraqis serve the food. When they do deal with Iraqis, they have interesting choices. The deputy minister of the interior has been diverting arms and stockpiling them privately. He is accompanied by two doting American intelligence agents. Perhaps he is their last hope, should all else fail. The minister of higher education has banned all student unions that are not ethnically or religiously based. He is forcing even Christian girls to cover their heads and instituting mandatory Islamic education.

I was with a US army unit when they went on a raid one morning. Tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees squeezed through the neighborhood walls as a CIA operator eyed the rooftops and windows of nearby houses angrily, a silencer on his assault weapon. Intelligence had intercepted a phone conversation in which a man called Ayoub spoke of advancing to the next level to obtain landmines and other weapons. Soldiers broke through Ayoub's door early in the morning, but when the sleepy man did not immediately respond to their orders he was shot with non-lethal ordnance, little pellets exploding like gun shot from the weapon's grenade launcher. The floor of the house was covered with his blood. He was dragged into a room and interrogated forcefully as his family was pushed back against their garden's fence.

Ayoub's frail mother, covered in a shawl, with traditional tribal tattoos marking her face, pleaded with the immense soldier to spare her son's life, protesting his innocence. She took the soldier's hand and kissed it repeatedly while on her knees. He pushed her to the grass along with Ayoub's four girls and two boys, all small, and his wife. They squatted barefoot, screaming, their eyes wide open in terror, clutching one another as soldiers emerged with bags full of documents, photo albums and two compact discs with Saddam Hussein and his cronies on the cover. These CDs, called The Crimes of Saddam, are common on every Iraqi street and, as their title suggests, they were not made by Saddam supporters. But the soldiers couldn't read Arabic and saw only the picture of Saddam, which was proof enough of guilt. Ayoub was brought out and pushed on to the truck. He gestured to his shrieking family to remain where they were. He was a gentle, avuncular man, small and round, balding and unshaven, with a hooked nose and slightly pockmarked face. It seemed unlikely that he was involved in any anti-American activity; but he did not protest and maintained his dignity, sitting frozen, staring numbly ahead. The soldiers ignored him, occasionally glancing down at their prisoner with sneering disdain. The medic looked at Ayoub's injured hand and chuckled to his friends, "It ain't my hand." The truck blasted country music on the way back to the base. Ayoub was thrown in the detainment center. After the operation there were smiles of relief among the soldiers, slaps on the back and thumbs up.

Several hours later a call was intercepted from another Ayoub. "Oh shit," said the unit's intelligence officer, "it was the wrong Ayoub." The innocent father of six who had the wrong name was not immediately let go so as not to risk revealing to the other Ayoub that the Americans were searching for him. The night after his arrest a relieved Ayoub could be seen escorted by soldiers to call his family and tell them he was fine, but would not be home for a few days. "It was not the wrong guy," said the units commander defensively, shifting blame elsewhere. "We raided the house we were supposed to and arrested the man we were told to." Meanwhile Army intelligence was still confounded by the meaning of the intercepted conversations until somebody realized it was not a terrorist intent on obtaining weapons. It was a kid playing video games and talking about them with his friend on the phone.

The violence is relentless. Explosions from bombs, rocket propelled grenades and artillery as well as guns firing can be heard all day and night, but their locations are usually impossible to determine, even if you are foolish enough to search for them after dark, when gangs and wild dogs own the streets. There are systematic assassinations of policemen, translators, local officials, and anybody associated with the occupiers. The pace of the violence is normal and mundane, so nobody cares. Unless an explosion is perceptibly close, it is just an echo, and nobody pauses in mid-conversation or stops chewing his kabob. Nobody in the US (and certainly nobody in Iraq) even cares much about the American soldiers dying daily, as long as the numbers on any given day are low. In the Sunni neighborhood of Aadhamiya in Baghdad there are nightly RPG and mortar attacks on the US base, and the men on the street erupt in cheers and whistles at the sounds.

Mosques are attacked every night and clerics killed, leading to retaliations against the opposite sect. Mosques now have armies of young volunteers wielding Kalashnikovs guarding them. Soon neighborhood mosques will unite to form neighborhood armies, to fight rival mosques or rival neighborhoods. (Even many journalists now travel with armed bodyguards; in at least one incident they returned fire, making them combatants). In the Sunni Hudheifa Mosque in Rasala one can purchase a magazine that praises Yazid, the early Muslim leader who killed Hussein, the martyr whom Shi'ites venerate and mourn for. This article would be enough to start a civil war if Shi'ites found it.

"We don't talk about civil war," one Sunni tribal leader told me. "We just prepare for it."