Saturday, August 7

Clinton put it simply and clearly in his CBC interview:

"The Bush administration has outsourced the war against Al Quaeda to Pakistan while it went to war against Iraq. If Americans agree with those priorities, they will vote for Bush. If they do not agree with those priorities, they will vote for Kerry."

Via The Blogging of the President 2004.


This Modern World has a good summary of Reverend Moon's influence and activities:

In short: convicted felon with a declared hatred of the United States buys widespread influence, then sells nuclear technology to another avowed enemy, endangering the United States, while the president acts like there's no problem.


Kevin Drum comments on the jobs numbers:

And yet, measure them any way you want, over any period you want, and with any time lag you want, and the results hold up: Democratic presidents are better for the economy. Why?

I suspect the answer is simple: Democrats may fumble around as much as Republicans, but in the end we always end up focusing on the one thing that FDR taught us to focus on: employment. Republicans, conversely, have historically focused on a variety of conservative hobbyhorses: inflation, balanced budgets, low taxes, small government, and so forth. And while they have successfully convinced themselves that these other metrics eventually produce high employment — think "supply side" economics or various "trickle down" theories — it ain't necessarily so.

If you want a strong economy, the #1 thing to focus on is strong employment. And if you want strong employment, the #1 thing to focus on is....strong employment. Republicans either don't understand this or pretend not to — it's hard to tell which — and that's why Democrats are better for the economy.

Friday, August 6


Those who enjoyed the postings of Athenae, Holden, Tena and Pie on Eschaton while Atrios was at the DNC will be glad to know that they have their own blog called First Draft, and it should be first-rate. Give them a visit!


July payroll growth far shy of Wall Street forecasts:

Hiring by U.S. employers slowed significantly in July, according to a government report Friday, as the number of new jobs added to payrolls came in far below Wall Street expectations.

The Labor Department report showed only 32,000 new net jobs added to payrolls during the month, down from a revised 78,000 jobs that were added in June. The increase was the smallest since December, when payrolls rose by just 8,000.


These people. I saw several of them on TV last night. It's patently obvious that the entire cause for their hatred of John Kerry (and they do truly hate him) is his anti-war activities. They don't have a real basis for evaluating his military service -- it's what he did when he came back to the USA that they despise him for. The ads are totally deceptive -- when they say they "served with John Kerry," they really mean, "I was in country at the same time," not that they were on the boat with him. "We never said we were on the same boat!" Yeah, yeah, sounds like the same old "We never used the word imminent when we described the threat!" and "We never said Saddam was behind 9-11!" excuses. My good Christian mama taught me that when you deliberately deceive, it's the same as a lie.

Isn't there some legal remedy? I mean, the facts are easy to check -- Kerry's released his entire military record.

Here's the latest. A lie debunked by the liar himself.

A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam ''Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry's combat medals.

But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ''terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- one of the main allegations in the book. The affidavit was given to The Boston Globe by the anti-Kerry group to justify assertions in their ad and book.

Elliott is quoted as saying that Kerry ''lied about what occurred in Vietnam . . . for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."

The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star. Over time, some Kerry critics have questioned whether the soldier posed a danger to Kerry's crew. Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives.

Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.

''I still don't think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. ''It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."

Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel ''time pressure" from those involved in the book. ''That's no excuse," Elliott said. ''I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."

The affidavit also contradicted earlier statements by Elliott, who came to Boston during Kerry's 1996 Senate campaign to defend Kerry on similar charges, saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.


Bob Herbert addresses the topic:

No one has a clue how this madness will end. As G.I.'s continue to fight and die in Iraq, the national leaders who put them needlessly in harm's way are now flashing orange alert signals to convey that Al Qaeda - the enemy that should have been in our sights all along - is poised to strike us again.

It's as if the government were following a script from the theater of the absurd. Instead of rallying our allies to a coordinated and relentless campaign against Al Qaeda after Sept. 11, we insulted the allies, gave them the back of our hand and arrogantly sent the bulk of our forces into the sand trap of Iraq.

Now we're in a fix.

The war in Iraq has intensified the hatred of America around the world and powerfully energized Al Qaeda-type insurgencies. At the same time, it has weakened our defenses by diverting the very resources we need - personnel, matériel and boatloads of cash - to meet the real terror threats.

President Bush's re-election mantra is that he's the leader who can keep America safe. But that message was stepped on by the urgent, if not frantic, disclosures this week by top administration officials that another Al Qaeda attack on the United States might be imminent.

A debate emerged almost immediately about whether the intelligence on which those disclosures were based was old or new, or a combination of both. Nevertheless, because of the growing sense of alarm, there was an expansion of the already ubiquitous armed, concrete-fortified sites in New York City and Washington.

The pressure may be getting to Mr. Bush. He came up with a gem of a Freudian slip yesterday. At a signing ceremony for a $417 billion military spending bill, the president said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

The nation seems paralyzed, unsure of what to do about Iraq or terrorism. The failure of leadership that led to the bonehead decision to invade Iraq remains painfully evident today. Nobody seems to know where we go from here.

George W. Bush has a history of failed leadership. An officer/leader doesn't bail out on his commitment to the armed services...but George did. And someone obviously kept him from having to face the music by falsifying or destroying documents to prove it. A business leader may fail in one business, but after multiple failures is no longer considered a leader but a loser, even if daddy and daddy's friends continually bail him out. As governor of Texas, he coasted around the state leading nothing but getting in the way of progressive legislation. To have such a man not leading, but exercising power (two very different things), over a sovereign nation -- especially when it's ours -- well, that's the stuff of nightmares.

Well, our "long national nightmare" is almost over. Three more months!!!

Thursday, August 5


Good for John McCain. I'm not as big a fan of his as are many Dems, but I appreciate an honest, decent man, and he certainly is that. Like us, he's outraged by the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" ad:

Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry's military service "dishonest and dishonorable" and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.

The White House declined.

"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, comparing the anti-Kerry ad to tactics in his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.

The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.

"When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry," one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad. Thurlow didn't serve on Kerry's swiftboat, but says he witnessed the events that led to Kerry winning a Bronze Star and the last of his three Purple Hearts. Kerry's crewmates support the candidate and call him a hero.

The ad, scheduled to air in a few markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, was produced by Stevens, Reed, Curcio and Potham, the same team that produced McCain's ads in 2000.

"I wish they hadn't done it," McCain said of his former advisers. "I don't know if they knew all the facts."

Asked if the White House knew about the ad or helped find financing for it, McCain said, "I hope not, but I don't know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad."
"I deplore this kind of politics," McCain said. "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."
The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. Three veterans on Kerry's boat that day -- Jim Rassmann, who says Kerry saved his life, Gene Thorson and Del Sandusky, the driver on Kerry's boat, said the group was lying.

They say Kerry was injured, and Rassmann called the group's account "pure fabrication."

The general counsel for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee sent television stations a letter asking them not to run the ad because it is "an inflammatory, outrageous lie" by people purporting to have served with Kerry.

Iraq to Explode

This is real reporting from a real reporter. I know it's difficult to believe, but don't take my word for it:

  Iraq to Explode
Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?
......... by Robert Fisk August 03, 2004  
  The Independent
Bagdhad: The war is a fraud. I'm not talking about the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida which didn't exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I'm talking about the new lies.

For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America's puppet government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month's death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we are not told.

The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident at Saddam Hussein's "trial." Not only did the US military censor the tapes of the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of the 11 other defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to believe - until he reached the courtroom - that he was on his way to his execution. Indeed, when he entered the room he believed that the judge was there to condemn him to death. This, after all, was the way Saddam ran his own state security courts. No wonder he initially looked "disorientated" - CNNs helpful description - because, of course, he was meant to look that way. We had made sure of that. Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: "Are you a lawyer? ..Is this a trial?" And swiftly, as he realised that this really was an initial court hearing - not a preliminary to his own hanging - he quickly adopted an attitude of belligerence.

But don't think were going to learn much more about Saddam's future court appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster Ahmad and the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told the Iraqi press two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from future court hearings. And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a Milosevic, he'll want to talk about the real intelligence and military connections of his regime - which were primarily with the United States.

Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.

Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn't Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn't Bush realise this? The American-appointed "government" controls only parts of Baghdad - and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the "Prime Minister," is little more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn't get it. The disaster exists now.

When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next January? Even the National Conference to appoint those who will arrange elections has been twice postponed. And looking back through my notebooks over the past five weeks, I find that not a single Iraqi, not a single American soldier I have spoken to, not a single mercenary - be he American, British or South African - believes that there will be elections in January. All said that Iraq is deteriorating by the day. And most asked why we journalists weren't saying so.

But in Baghdad, I turn on my television and watch Bush telling his Republican supporters that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the "coalition," that they support their new US-manufactured government, that the "war on terror" is being won, that Americans are safer. Then I go to an internet site and watch two hooded men hacking off the head of an American in Riyadh, tearing at the vertebrae of an American in Iraq with a knife. Each day, the papers here list another construction company pulling out of the country. And I go down to visit the friendly, tragically sad staff of the Baghdad mortuary and there, each day, are dozens of those Iraqis we supposedly came to liberate, screaming and weeping and cursing as they carry their loved ones on their shoulders in cheap coffins.

I keep re-reading Tony Blair's statement. "I remain convinced it was right to go to war. It was the most difficult decision of my life." And I cannot understand it. It may be a terrible decision to go to war. Even Chamberlain thought that; but he didn't find it a difficult decision - because, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, it was the right thing to do. And driving the streets of Baghdad now, watching the terrified American patrols, hearing yet another thunderous explosion shaking my windows and doors after dawn, I realise what all this means. Going to war in Iraq, invading Iraq last year, was the most difficult decision Blair had to take because he thought - correctly - that it might be the wrong decision. I will always remember his remark to British troops in Basra, that the sacrifice of British soldiers was not Hollywood but "real flesh and blood." Yes, it was real flesh and blood that was shed - but for weapons of mass destruction that weren't real at all.

"Deadly force is authorised," it says on checkpoints all over Baghdad. Authorised by whom? There is no accountability. Repeatedly, on the great highways out of the city US soldiers shriek at motorists and open fire at the least suspicion. "We had some Navy Seals down at our checkpoint the other day," a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to me. "They asked if we were having any trouble. I said, yes, they've been shooting at us from a house over there. One of them asked: That house? We said yes. So they have these three SUVs and a lot of weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards the house. And later they come back and say 'We've taken care of that.' And we didn't get shot at any more."

What does this mean? The Americans are now bragging about their siege of Najaf. Lieutenant Colonel Garry Bishop of the 37th Armoured Divisions 1st Battalion believes it was an "ideal" battle (even though he failed to kill or capture Muqtada Sadr whose "Mehdi army" were fighting the US forces). It was "ideal," Bishop explained, because the Americans avoided damaging the holy shrines of the Imams Ali and Hussein. What are Iraqis to make of this? What if a Muslim army occupied Kent and bombarded Canterbury and then bragged that they hadnt damaged Canterbury Cathedral? Would we be grateful?

What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that hostage-taking is having an "effect" on reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don't clear the way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq which Mr Blair was boasting of the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?

Take the Saddam trial. The entire Arab press - including the Baghdad papers - prints the judge's name. Indeed, the same judge has given interviews about his charges of murder against Muqtada Sadr. He has posed for newspaper pictures. But when I mention his name in The Independent, I was solemnly censured by the British Government's spokesman. Salem Chalabi threatened to prosecute me. So let me get this right. We illegally invade Iraq. We kill up to 11,000 Iraqis. And Mr Chalabi, appointed by the Americans, says I'm guilty of "incitement to murder." That just about says it all.


By gum, we got ourselves a couple of "CEO presidents," didn't we? We shouldn't be surprised that BushCo are so inept at handling money. Both Bush and Cheney were disasters in business. Neither of them (nor anyone in their administration, so far as I can tell) has the first clue about management efficiency.

The Washington Note:

THUS FAR, THE COST FOR INVADING AND OCCUPYING IRAQ (not counting lives lost) is approximately $166 billion. The President has just asked for an extra $25 billion on top of his FY2005 defense appropriations request -- and most expect another $25 billion request during the next fiscal year, bringing the conservative estimate of accumulated Iraq related costs to approximately $216 billion.

When one considers that there are 14.38 million working age Iraqis, the per capita working age costs thus far amount to $11,548.00 -- and will soon rise to $15,026.00 after this next year's expenditures.

In a country where per capita GDP is $1,600.00 (and this is an overstatement since the broad swath of non-elite Iraqi society that lives closer to the $500 per year level), the amount spent just in defense dollars is staggering, nearly ten times the per capita income levels. If any significant portion of these defense resources were leaking out to average citizens and improving lives and choices, support levels for America would be far better. What is going on?

While I think that just pumping money into another country creates unhealthy dependencies, clearly American planners could have found ways to provide business loans, micro-credits, family support credits and grants, education vouchers, and other high quality social impact investments that might have won back the affections and support of Iraq's citizens. One of the reasons for the relative success of the American occupation of Japan is that we engineered land reform, breaking up aristocratic estates and getting much broader distribution of rice producing land to farming families. America knew at that time that it had to leave a new class of economic and political winners in Japan; something we have not done at all in Iraq.

The real tragedy of this situation is that despite Iraq's debt problems, and its substantial potential as a generator of hard currency through oil exports, the U.S. has nonetheless spent a vast amount of money in Iraq -- though see today's Washington Post story, "$1.9 Billion of Iraq's Money Goes to U.S. Contractors -- and not achieved security or stability there and has not succeeded in winning the support and affections of the Iraqi public whom we helped liberate from Saddam Hussein. All this money seems to be going into a black hole with little accountability for the poor returns on this investment.

At a macro level, America has 5% of the world's population and is spending roughly half of what the entire world spends on defense but is not getting the security deliverables it deserves from the Pentagon. In the case of Iraq, the U.S. is spending about 10 times the per capita GDP of the average Iraqi citizen and is largely reviled and unappreciated.

Clearly, we are not getting good returns on this taxpayer money -- and our thinking about what constitutes security and stability -- and what the U.S. should spend money on to achieve its foreign policy objectives needs to be seriously rethought. More on that soon.

From those rascally guys at Best of the Blogs:

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
-- George W. Bush, upon signing the $391 billion defense bill, 8/5/04.

Hannity on health risk of mercury to pregnant women and children: "This is silly"

Sean Hannity strikes again:

After listening to a description of the health risks of mercury to pregnant women and their children by environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and vice president of Riverkeeper, FOX News Channel host Sean Hannity dismissed the subject as "silly" despite governmental evidence of the prevalence and seriousness of the problem.

From the August 3 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes:

KENNEDY: It's coming from the power plants. We know a lot about mercury. One out of every six American women now has so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for a grim inventory of diseases, including autism, blindness, mental retardation, permanent cognitive impairment.

I have so much mercury in my body -- I recently had it tested -- that Dr. David Carpenter, who is the national authority on mercury, told me that if a woman of child-bearing years had the same levels that I did, that she her -- that she would have a child that would have permanent cognitive impairment.


KENNEDY: Now listen, the Clinton administration, recognizing this problem, classified mercury as a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act, which required those utilities to remove the mercury, 90 percent of it, within three and a half years. They can do it. It will cost less than 1 percent of the revenues of the plant.

PAT HALPIN [Filling-in for co-host Alan Colmes]: Now, Sean, you ought to be concerned about that.

HANNITY: This is silly.

Kennedy's assertion that the high levels of mercury are "coming from the power plants" is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which notes that "coal-fired electric power plants are the largest source of human-caused mercury air emissions in the U.S. Power plants account for about 40% of total U.S. manmade mercury emissions." (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, President George W. Bush is the top recipient in 2004 of both coal and electric industry contributions.)

The EPA has supported Kennedy's claim that "one out of every six American women" are "at risk," and reported that "approximately 600,000 infants are born each year with blood mercury levels higher than 5.8 parts per billion, the EPA level of concern." The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provides more information on the specific health risks for children posed by mercury: "[M]ercury's harmful effects that may be passed from the mother to the fetus include brain damage, mental retardation, incoordination, blindness, seizures, and inability to speak. Children poisoned by mercury may develop problems of their nervous and digestive systems, and kidney damage."

As Kennedy stated, and as the Associated Press noted on December 13, 2003, the Clinton administration "had listed mercury as a 'hazardous air pollutant.' The Bush administration would undo that by placing mercury ... under a less stringent category of the Clean Air Act, so it can be regulated using a program allowing companies to buy pollution credits from other plants." As The Washington Post noted on December 30, 2003, critics argue that this system allows "the White House and its allies in the utility industry" to subvert environmental standards in order to "allow power plants to continue polluting for another decade."

Later in the program, Kennedy mentioned the influence of "Latham & Watkins" in establishing the new regulations. As the Post reported on January 31, in the new rules constructed by the Bush administration to combat mercury emissions, "at least a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim" from the suggestions of Latham & Watkins LLP, a law firm representing the energy industry.


For Silmarill, who worries about the polls, William Saletan of Slate has reassuring news:

Three major media polls have been taken since the convention: ABC News/Washington Post, CBS News/New York Times, and CNN/USA Today. Prior to the convention, Kerry's favorable rating was nine points higher than his unfavorable rating in the ABC poll. Since the convention, this margin has grown to 19 points. Bush's positive margin on the same question is just two points.

In a CBS poll before the convention, the percentage of voters who were uneasy about Kerry's ability to handle an international crisis was 19 points higher than the percentage who were confident in his ability to handle such a crisis. After the convention, that margin of unease has shrunk to 11 points. Bush's negative margin on the same question is 12 points. In the CBS pre-convention poll, voters said by a 51-36 margin that the Democrats did not have a clear plan for the country. After the convention, they say by a 44-40 margin that the Democrats do have a clear plan.

In a CNN poll before the convention, voters agreed by a 12-point margin that Kerry had "the personality and leadership qualities a president should have." After the convention, the margin is 20—eight points higher than the margin for Bush on the same question. Before the convention, by a 51-43 margin, voters trusted Bush rather than Kerry "to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief of the military." Now the candidates are even. Before the convention, more voters trusted Bush than Kerry "to protect U.S. citizens from future acts of terrorism." Now more voters trust Kerry than trust Bush.



A group of Vietnam veterans who served on swiftboats alongside John Kerry's naval craft accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his military record in a television ad set to air Thursday in three competitive states.

The group, Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, says it is spending $500,000 -- a modest amount -- to run the 60-second ad in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin for a week.

The ad shows footage of Kerry in Vietnam while 13 veterans question Kerry's account of his service that led to a Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. The men criticizing Kerry served on swiftboats but not on Kerry's boat. [my emphasis]
Kerry's campaign hastily set up a conference call today in which members of Kerry's crew countered the ad's claims.

"I don't know how these guys can stretch the truth like this," said Del Sandusky, who was on Kerry's swiftboat.

How many times have I (or you) heard these guys promoed with "who served with John Kerry in Vietnam..." Yeah, right, served with -- in other words, were there at the same time but not in the boat with him and not beside him when he was saving his crewmates' lives.


Emulating Bill Maher and Michael Moore on Real Time With Bill Maherwhen they begged Nader not to run for president, I am beseeching my fellow Floridians (I still consider myself one though I haven't lived there for 30 years) to reject the campaign of that lying scumbag Katharine Harris...Harris' Words Surprise Officials:

Officials in Indiana and Washington, D.C., said they are dumbfounded by a statement U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris made about a terrorist plot to blow up a power grid in Indiana.

In making the statement during a speech to 600 people Monday night in Venice, Harris either shared a closely held secret or passed along second-hand information as fact.

A staff member of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the nation's intelligence operations, said he had heard of no such plot.

And Indiana officials in the county where the power grid is located were at a loss to explain where the information originated.

"As the sheriff of this county, I would certainly be aware of such a threat," Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Carter said. "I have no information to corroborate any of that."

In an interview Tuesday, Harris would not reveal the name of the mayor who told her about the threat or provide further details.

She said in the speech that a man of Middle Eastern heritage had been arrested in the plot and that explosives were found in his home in Carmel, a suburb north of Indianapolis.

Harris, a Republican from Longboat Key who is running for re-election, said the case was an example of the nation's success in fighting terrorism.

Carmel Mayor James Brainard and a spokesman for Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan said they had no knowledge of such a plot. Brainard said he had never spoken to Harris.


Angry at the smear job the organization "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" is performing on John Kerry and his military service, I looked into a few of the higher-profile signatories. Joe Conason has a good backgrounder on SwiftVets spokesmen John O'Neill and Merrie Spaeth. Here's just a little more on the chain of command above Kerry, all of whom consider him "unfit to be Commander in Chief":

Captain Adrian Lonsdale USCG (retired): Adrian Lonsdale remembers a young John F. Kerry as a naval officer who was a good debater, even back in his days in Vietnam. "He and I and others used to have long discussions at the officers club," said Mr. Lonsdale of Mattapoisett, a former Coast Guard officer who commanded a division in which the Massachusetts senator was attached back in 1969. "They were very spirited discussions about the war and the politics back home. He was opposed to the war but it didn't make any difference in his performance," said the former owner and still instructor at Northeast Maritime Institute in New Bedford. "He was a very good officer." Capt. Lonsdale was among a group of former Vietnam veterans the Massachusetts Democrat brought to the Charlestown navy yard recently to rebut a Boston Globe column that raised questions about Sen. Kerry's Vietnam service, particularly the Silver Star he won.

Well, he's just another flip-flopper. He was a very good officer then, but he's not fit now to be CiC.

Rear Admiral Hoffmann (retired): Captain Roy Hoffman was the commander of the Navy Coastal Surveillance Force, and it was Hoffman's decision to send Navy Swift boats up the narrow rivers in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam -- almost always without support from helicopters or artillery -- where they ran the risk of mines and were fired on almost at will by Viet Cong dug in along the river's banks. A Swift boat mission up a Mekong Delta river was a fool's errand, serving no greater purpose than showing the flag. At one point, Kerry and a fellow skipper named Don Droz protested to Hoffman's immediate superior, Area Commander Adrian Lonsdale, an act of courage in itself. Kerry told the commander: "Sir, I don't see how you can ask American troops to risk their lives when the priority in that area isn't high enough to warrant their getting certain support. I just don't think that's right." A career Navy officer, Lonsdale told Kerry and Droz he was doing what he was told and couldn't fight it.

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt (deceased, represented at SwiftVets by his son, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt): ...the fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations (CNO), Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, told me -- 30 years ago when he was still CNO -- that during his own command of US naval forces in Vietnam...young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass, by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets. "We had virtually to straight[sic]-jacket him to keep him under control," the admiral said.

[Boston Globe,
June 16, 2003:] Under Zumwalt's command, swift boats would aggressively engage the enemy. Zumwalt, who died in 2000, calculated in his autobiography that these men under his command had a 75% chance of being killed or wounded during a typical year. ...

Oh yeah, Kerry ranked up there with Calley and the My Lai massacre, but it's OK to put our men in the kind of danger referred to above for "no better reason than showing the flag."

Veterans who can't forgive John Kerry for his anti-war activities might want to give that a closer look -- looks like he was thinking of the troops' welfare even before he left the service. Certainly more than you can say for our current leadership.


Read Bruce Springsteen's op-ed column.

Wednesday, August 4

Study details wars' civilian casualties

More of the cost of war.

(Original publication: August 2, 2004)

DOBBS FERRY — The concern over innocents dying in attacks on outlaw regimes is as old as the Bible, in which God agreed with the Prophet Abraham's petition to spare Sodom if 10 righteous men could be found there. The 10 were not found.

And a study of the past 100 years of American warfare by a local professor shows the United States is edging toward a more divine standard — sparing innocents during recent military campaigns.

But Mercy College history professor Frederick Shiels, the study's author, also argues that news coverage of current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrates Americans' indifference or aversion to details about these deaths, reduced as they may be compared with previous American wars.

"People don't want to hear bad news that they themselves have caused," said Shiels, 55.

Shiels' most recent work, studying the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is part of a larger study on American wars between the 1901 Philippine Insurrection and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

He estimates that 6,000 to 8,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by the U.S. military since March 2003, when the war began. In Afghanistan, Shiels estimates, 3,000 civilians were accidentally killed by American-led coalition forces.

Shiels' estimate is relatively conservative. Other sources put the figures higher, including a June 24 Foreign Policy in Focus report that estimated 9,300 to 11,400 civilians had been killed in Iraq since the war began.
And the rest

Turning the corner?

Dubya says, "we're turning the corner," when forced to depart from his well-rehearsed roll as, "a war-time president," to lie to the American people about the worst economic performance in over 80 years. Take a closer look and see what Shrub means @ The Bush Economy


I can't believe what I just saw and heard. I walked in from work just as Anderson Cooper was giving some Republican I didn't recognize a chance to respond to what must have been an interview with Howard Dean. Anderson actually interrupted the guy's tirade against "irresponsible Democratic politicization of the war on terra" and "wild left-wing conspiracy theories" (paraphrased -- I couldn't get to the computer in time to get the words down correctly) to ask for specifics or to challenge his assertions. When The Guy started charging Kerry with agreeing with Dean's musings about BushCo's using terror alerts for political purposews, Anderson even CORRECTED him.

Is this a portent that mainstream media might be embarrassed by their performance during the period since 9-11 and be prepared to regain their journalistic credibility?



Professor Cole explains why Bush-Cheney, not the Democrats, are responsible for high gas prices:

Cheney, being an oil man, knows exactly why petroleum prices are high.

1) The Iraq War and the US mishandling of the aftermath have had a significant upward impact on petroleum prices. a) The uncertainties of the Iraq situation (and remember that the US is rattling sabres at Iran periodically, too) are adding at least $10 a barrel to the price in speculation and anxiety...b) The continued sabotage of Iraqi oil pipelines and facilities have most often limited Iraqi exports to a million barrels a day, when before the war Iraq was exporting 2.5 million...That puts the Cheney Premium on US gasoline prices at 27 percent!
2) The consolidation of the energy market in a few corporate hands has pushed up prices, and threatens to become worse. We already know that Enron, led by Bush's dear friend and patron, Ken Lay, ripped off California consumers deliberately.
3) Instead of taking steps to increase US energy efficiency in the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration has encouraged consumption. High consumption contributes to high prices...
4) There are other causes for the high prices right now, including decisions of the OPEC cartel (Cheney's friends), a strike in Nigeria, and the Russian government's dispute with Yukos Petroleum over $3 billion in unpaid back taxes. These crises are temporary and will pass, and the price will fall again. To my knowledge, the US Democratic Party is not involved in any of these crises. There is also a shortage of refineries, which has to do with decisions of the big energy corporations in the US; Cheney's friends, again.

Our wounded warriors, a gallery and photo essay of soldiers stories

Our Wounded Warriors, A Gallery and Photo Essay of Soldiers Stories

We hear about the nearly 1000 American soldiers killed in Iraq. We don't hear much from or about the many thousands that have been permanently maimed, disfigured, and disabled. Why? Because it confronts Americans with the actual cost of war. The more people see how much our soldiers are forced to pay for Bush's dirty desert war the more likely they are to question it. And once people begin to question this war of choice it is doubtful they will be satisfied with the answers. Say a prayer for these soldiers and their families and, if you have the resources, please give what you can. They deserve it. Damn do they ever deserve it.

$1.9 billion of Iraq funds go to U.S. contractors

Unbelievable. Are these guys JUST completely incompetent or are they also crooks? I know what I think! A must read:

Halliburton Co. and other U.S. contractors are being paid at least $1.9 billion from Iraqi funds under an arrangement set by the U.S.-led occupation authority, according to a review of documents and interviews with government agencies, companies and auditors.

Most of the money is for two controversial deals that originally had been financed with money approved by the U.S. Congress, but later shifted to Iraqi funds that were governed by fewer restrictions and less rigorous oversight.

For the first 14 months of the occupation, officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority provided little detailed information about the Iraqi money, from oil sales and other sources, that it spent on reconstruction contracts. They have said it was used for the benefit of the Iraqi people and that most of the contracts paid from Iraqi money went to Iraqi companies. But the CPA never released information about specific contracts and the identities of companies that won them, citing security concerns, so it has been impossible to know whether these promises were kept.

Audit sheds new light
The CPA has said it has awarded about 2,000 contracts with Iraqi money. Its inspector general compiled records for the major contracts, which it defined as those worth $5 million or more each. Analysis of those and other records shows that 19 of 37 major contracts funded by Iraqi money went to U.S. companies and at least 85 percent of the total $2.26 billion was obligated to U.S. companies. The contracts that went to U.S. firms may be worth several hundred million more once the work is completed.

That analysis and several audit reports released in recent weeks shed new light on how the occupation authority handled the Iraqi money it controlled. They show that the CPA at times violated its own rules, authorizing Iraqi money when it didn't have a quorum or proper Iraqi representation at meetings, and kept such sloppy records that the paperwork for several major contracts could not be found. During the first half of the occupation, the CPA depended heavily on no-bid contracts that were questioned by auditors. And the occupation's shifting of projects that were publicly announced to be financed by U.S. money to Iraqi money prompted the Iraqi finance minister to complain that the "ad hoc" process put the CPA in danger of losing the trust of the people.

Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., a subsidiary of Halliburton, was paid $1.66 billion from the Iraqi money, primarily to cover the cost of importing fuel from Kuwait. The job was tacked on to a no-bid contract that was the subject of several investigations after allegations surfaced that a subcontractor for Houston-based KBR overcharged by as much as $61 million for the fuel.

Harris Corp., a Melbourne, Fla., company, got $48 million from the Iraqi oil funds to manage and update the formerly state-owned media network, taking over from Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. The new television and radio services and newspaper have been widely criticized as mouthpieces for the occupation and symbols of the failures of the reconstruction effort. When it was being financed with U.S.-appropriated funds, the contract drew scrutiny because of questionable expenses, including chartering a jet to fly in a Hummer H2 and a Ford pickup truck for the program manager's use.

'Practically no Iraqi voice'
Fareed Yaseen, one of 43 ambassadors recently appointed by Iraq's government, said he was troubled that the Iraqi money was managed almost exclusively by foreigners and that contracts went predominantly to foreign companies.

"There was practically no Iraqi voice in the disbursements of these funds," Yaseen said in a phone interview from Baghdad, where he is awaiting his diplomatic assignment.

Even Iraqi officials who served in the government during the occupation complained they had little say in the use of their own country's money. Mohammed Aboush, who was a director general in the oil ministry during the occupation, said he and other Iraqi officials were not consulted about expanding the KBR contract. But he said he informed his American "advisers" at the CPA that the Iraqis felt KBR's performance had been inadequate and that he'd prefer that another company take over its work.

Aboush said he was ignored and that he believes the decision to go with KBR was political. "I am old enough to know the Americans and their interests and they are not always the same interests as the Iraqi interests," he said.

U.S. officials contend the CPA was faithful to the terms of a United Nations resolution that gave the United States authority to manage the Iraq oil money during the occupation. "We believe that contracts awarded with Iraqi funds were for the sole benefit of the Iraqi people, without exception," Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Seay, head of contracting activity for the successor to the CPA's office, wrote in a response to a critical CPA inspector general report released last week.

The CPA identified the best company for each job, said Army Lt. Col. Joseph M. Yoswa, a Defense Department spokesman. He said shortcomings in the contract-award process should be looked at in the context of the volatile work environment in Iraq, where the need for speed and security were critical.

At least $45 billion in funds
Critics of the CPA accused the occupation authority of using Iraqi money to bypass U.S. contracting rules on competition, oversight and monitoring for controversial projects.

"With American firms charging 10 times as much as Iraqi firms for construction work, with sole-source contracts being awarded, with allegations of money-wasting . . . is it likely that the CPA was doing its best to ensure Iraqi money was spent in Iraqi interests? It doesn't look like it," said Anthea Lawson, an analyst for Christian Aid, a nonprofit group that has been investigating the spending of Iraqi oil money.

Svetlana Tsalik, director of the Iraq Revenue Watch project of the Open Society Initiative think tank, said there were few clear distinctions between which pot of money -- U.S. or Iraqi -- the CPA would use to pay for reconstruction. "Whenever it had expenses that looked unpalatable for the U.S. public they would just dip into Iraqi funds," Tsalik said.

While it ran Iraq, the CPA had at its disposal at least $45 billion -- the biggest reconstruction fund since the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe after World War II. The money included $22 billion that Congress appropriated in two supplemental spending bills, and $23 billion in two Iraqi accounts, one holding proceeds from oil sales and the other seized assets, including frozen overseas bank accounts from the Hussein years.

In most cases, to spend congressionally appropriated funds, CPA officials had to coordinate with officials in Washington, keep detailed records, advertise contracts widely and conform to waiting periods for bids to come in. Some of the money was held up by a turf war between the Pentagon and the State Department over who controlled the reconstruction.

It was simpler to use the Iraqi money.
Two recently released audits point to numerous problems with the procedures the CPA used to account for, authorize and disburse Iraqi money.

The United Nations, in a report dated July 15, noted that metering of oil extracted from Iraq was not functioning so it was impossible to tell whether all of it had been accounted for. The U.N. report also criticized the CPA's program review board for authorizing funds in at least 10 cases when it lacked a quorum. The audit also noted that only one of the review board members was Iraqi, and he had attended only two of the 43 meetings held by December 2003. "Controls were insufficient to provide reasonable assurance . . . whether all [Iraqi oil-funded] disbursements were made for the purposes intended," the audit concluded.

The CPA's inspector general found in audits released last week that the occupation failed to establish "effective funds controls and accountability" for hundreds of millions of dollars that were held in cash. In fact, the investigative unit said, the keys to one of the safes that held the cash was "kept in the disbursing officer's unattended backpack."

It also studied 60 disbursements from assets seized from the former regime and found that no documentation existed for five of them, totaling $99.1 million in payments. Paperwork had not been properly filled out for items such as furniture, carpets and vases, meaning, the inspector general said, that the CPA was not able to ensure that the assets "would be available for the use and benefit of the Iraqi people."

Way to win hearts and minds, guys.

Got Mercury?

Got Mercury?

The government is doing very little(story of our lives) to inform the public about the threat mercury poses to their health. Here is a helpful site that will calculate your mercury intake. If you are a seafood buff, then this may or may not help you. It will most assuredly inform you of your mercury intake, but it will also drive the point home that if you eat a lot of seafood, there isn't much you can do to protect yourself, except change your diet. Bush and Big Coal have poisoned our food. So Sorry.
Whoever says Bush doesn't ask ordinary citizens to sacrifice isn't paying attention. He wants us to sacrifice more than most can bear. Our health...our food...the lives of our soldiers...
What will he ask for next? Or nearer the point, what will he take without our knowledge? I feel that, under this administration, a freedom taken for granted is a freedom lost.

Dick Cheney’s Legislative Accomplishments … Both of Them

I love it. Atrios points us to a press release from Kerry-Edwards that details Dick Cheney's and John Kerry's relative legislative accomplishments.

George Bush loves to attack John Kerry’s legislative record. But the fact is that 57 bills and resolutions Kerry sponsored passed the Senate and countless others have been improved because of his work, including the Clean Air Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the COPS program. In addition, Kerry has taken on the special interests and won. He fought against Newt Gingrich’s anti-labor and anti-environmental regulatory reform, he has fought to raise the minimum wage, and he has worked to shut down wasteful corporate subsidies.

Congressman John Spratt (D-SC), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, made the following remarks on a call today:

“Dick Cheney served in the Congress for 11 years. I served with him for most of these years. In that time, he only passed two bills. One was to build a flood plain on the Colorado River and the other was a bill to help a constituent. What’s even more telling about Dick Cheney’s record in the House is not what he supported but what he opposed – things like Headstart and funding for seniors. It seems pretty dishonest for Bush and Cheney to be attacking John Kerry - who passed 57 bills in the Senate – for his legislative accomplishments.”

Here, for comparison is a summary of the legislation sponsored and passed by Vice President Cheney during his 11 year legislative career.

Cheney’s Legislative Career by the Numbers
96th Congress: 4 Sponsored; 0 became Law
97th Congress: 4 Sponsored: 0 became Law
98th Congress: 8 Sponsored: 0 became Law
99th Congress:
7 Sponsored: 1 became Law
(H.R.1246 : A bill to establish a federally declared floodway for the Colorado River below Davis Dam.)
100th Congress:
7 Sponsored: 1 became Law
(H.R.712 : A bill for the relief of Lawrence K. Lunt.)
101st Congress: 1 Sponsored:  0 became Law


I predict that Howard Dean will be CRUCIFIED by the yahoos who misunderstand or just misrepresent what he was saying here to Chris Matthews last night on Hardball:

MATTHEWS:  You know, an old boss of mine, Ed Muskie of Maine, the great governor, great senator, great secretary of state, once said the only—he said this after he’d just won his last reelection as senator from Maine.  I’ll tell you, it was the most amazing statement...

He said: “The only reason to be in politics is to be out there all alone and then be proven right.”


MATTHEWS:  Do you think Howard Dean is going to be proven right that this was a bad war?

DEAN:  I think I have been proven right.  But you know, Barry Goldwater once said: “I’d rather be right than president.”  I think Barry Goldwater didn’t know what he was talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we’ll see.  Thank you very much, Howard Dean.

Dean was clearly saying, "I wish I hadn't been right -- I wish the war wasn't a bad war. Therefore, I'd rather be president than right." But unless I miss my guess, the yahoos will be screaming that crazy Howard is a megalomaniac who'd rather be president than just, correct, or whatever other synonym of "right" sounds most virtuous. Bush, of course, would surrender the presidency rather than be "wrong," which is why he never admits to being so.

The link to the transcript is here.

Tuesday, August 3


Thanks to The Smirking Chimp for pointing us to this. I'm reprinting the whole thing:

Why I Am Scared of George Bush--And Why You Should Be, Too

In the past almost four years, I have come to fear almost everything the Bush administration does. In one way or the other, it has harmed, perhaps irreparably, virtually every aspect of American life. From raising the acceptable arsenic levels in water (a little arsenic is good for us all) to logging and snowmobiling in America’s formerly treasured parks, to ripping apart the bill of rights and trampling it underfoot, to using the threat of “terrorist” attacks for political gain, to going to war on a lie and not just spending our money outrageously but being responsible for—and proud of—the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers, the maiming of thousands more (a deep and dirty secret) and the slaying of thousands (but who’s counting?) Iraqi civilians. All of this and much, much more literally keeps me awake at night, sick with fear and worry.

But nothing disturbs me more than the case of Ahmed Abu Ali.

Abu Ali is an American citizen, born in Texas in 1981. He is a resident of Falls Church, Virginia, where he lives with his parents. He was valedictorian of his 1999 graduating class in a northern Virginia high school. He attends a Saudi university where he is studying for a degree.

Last June, Ahmed was taking an exam at the International University of Medina. In stormed Saudi police who took him away to a Saudi prison where he has been since that day. It has taken a year for the story to make any sense, and during this time his family and lawyer have kept me informed about the case. However, they asked me not to write about it, for fear that it may jeopardize his potential for release.

Now that it appears their son may never come home, at least not if the Bush administration can help it, they have filed a law suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking that their son be given the same rights as the Supreme Court recently gave Guantanamo prisoners and American citizen Yaser Hamdi—the right to, at a minimum, challenge his detention. They have also given me permission, through their attorney, to write about their son’s case.

Here is the abbreviated version of the undisputed facts, according to court records and discussions with the family and attorney: Ahmed was acquainted with some of the men charged in the notorious case of the Alexandria 11, men who pled guilty or were convicted (all but one of them, and that is important, as you will see) of conspiring to fight for the Muslim cause in the constant battle between India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir. The interest in fighting for Kashmir is one that is promoted by many Muslims. The men were friends, and in the course of their friendship play paintball and shoot at targets with guns, all perfectly legal in Northern Virginia. In fact, gun use is so legal in Virginia that the legislature recently passed a law affirmatively making it acceptable (indeed promoting) the carrying of weapons into bars and restaurants.

Initially charged under the seldom-used Neutrality Act, which forbids an American from taking sides with an “enemy” of the United States, those who pled to conspiring to aid Muslims were given sentences of four to ten years in exchange for testifying against the others; the men who did not pled guilty were indicted with aiding and abetting terrorism, upping the ante to life prison terms. Of the four men who did not plead guilty to the new charges, three were convicted by Judge Leonie Brinkema and sentenced to 85 to 115 years in prison. These were men who were not a threat to the U.S., who were not anti-American, who never took up arms against any one, but who, it is true, were sympathetic to the Muslim cause. They would have fought for the Muslim cause in Kashmir, if the occasion presented itself (India and Pakistan declared a cease fire early in 2004).

One of the men who pled not guilty had been in Saudi Arabia at the same time that Abu Ali was “detained.” He was extradited to the United States, and Judge Brinkema found him not guilty. Though he is free at the moment, he expects to be harassed by prosecutors. Surely, he will be arrested and charged with something—anything to avenge his acquittal by Judge Brinkema.

Abu Ali has been visited in Saudi Arabia by the FBI and perhaps by Alexandria prosecutors. From what little we know (he has been denied an attorney, and the State Department and the Saudi government have conspired to insure that he receives no mail or visits), he was urged to confess to being part of the Alexandria 11, he refused, likely being tortured and mentally and physically abused. He was urged to renounce his U.S. citizenship, in exchange for the promise of being taken to Sweden. (He was smart not to do that; last week it was reported in the Washington Post that the U.S. government aided Swedish officials in “rendering” Saudi citizens back to Saudi Arabia where they were “tried” for “terrorism” crimes and are serving lengthy prison terms. Both maintain their innocence. )

If prosecutors had any case at all against Abu Ali, they would surely have had him extradited at the same time as Sabri Benkhala, who was acquitted by Judge Brinkema. Abu Ali has been threatened with being named an enemy combatant, but that would also mean that he would be brought to the U.S., held like Americans Padilla and Hamdi and, now, entitled to an attorney and the right to file a habeas corpus petition challenging his relief.

But that is not going to happen. The day Abu Ali’s parents filed a petition for habeas corpus and other relief, the U.S. State Department informed them that the Saudis were going to charge Abu Ali with unspecified crimes of “terror.” Days before the case was filed, the Saudis told the family that they were ready to release Abu Ali, but had to have approval from the U.S. to do so. The Saudis said they had no interest in him. The State Department, at that time, it was up to the Saudis. Clearly, no one is telling the truth. The State Department now says it cannot comment on anything, because Abu Ali never signed “privacy” forms, forms that the Saudis refused to give him (no doubt told to refuse to deliver them by the same State Department that claims they can’t obtain them from their detainee).

Here is why I am scared to death of this administration: Abu Ali will surely never come home. There is no way the U.S. government is going to let a man live to tell the tale of his capture by Saudis at the request of the U.S., his incarceration without a charge, without a lawyer, without access to his family, and, no doubt, his being subject to torture during long periods of interrogation. Maybe Kromberg wanted him at some time, found there was nothing to get him on, then told the Saudis to torture him into confession of anything that would make him extraditable. For the present time, it still takes an actual criminal charge to indict someone.

But it takes nothing but the whims of the government, to “render” an American citizen to another country and demand that that country imprison the American until it says to release him or her. But then the U.S. cannot tolerate the word getting out about the whole story, so it will have to silence Abu Ali by keeping him locked up forever (or worse) in a Saudi jail.

Let’s be clear about this—the Saudis insist that they are holding him only because the U.S. demands it.

Remember Nicholas Berg, who was beheaded shortly after his release by the U.S. government in Iraq? Remember how the U.S. insisted that it never had him in custody but that that “Iraqi police” held him? Forget for a time that the Iraqi police did nothing without the permission of and payment by the U.S. government—the police said that they had seized Berg at the demand of the U.S. and they released Berg to its custody. Finally, after Berg died, the State Department admitted the U.S. had detained him. When Berg refused the request of the U.S. government that it take him out of Iraq, when Berg insisted that he was going to leave Iraq on his own, he was murdered.

You connect the dots. Or not. But don’t turn away from the frightening truth of what your government is up to—successfully, without accountability, violating every right and privilege Americans have under U.S. and international law.

Even if the federal court orders that Abu Ali be brought to the U.S. to have a hearing, don’t expect it to happen. Accidents happen in prison, don’t they? Especially in foreign prisons. The Pentagon is even now making it near impossible for attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners to meet their clients and file the petitions the Supreme Court gave them the right to file.

Face it. Our government is imprisoning its citizens without cause and without process. Welcome to George Bush’s America.

It's also why I'm scared of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and John Ashcroft...I'm sure every one of them has weighed in on this.


Billmon has a terrific post summarizing another "amazing series of coincidences":

I'm just glad Kerry didn't get a bigger bounce in the polls from the convention, or the White House would have taken us to Defcon 1 by now.


Heightened security alert result of three-year-old intelligence:

Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.

"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don't know that."
President Bush and Vice President Cheney said in separate appearances yesterday that the new alert underscores the continuing threat posed by al Qaeda. At a news conference announcing his proposed intelligence reforms, Bush said the alert shows "there's an enemy which hates what we stand for."

"It's serious business," Bush said. "I mean, we wouldn't be, you know, contacting authorities at the local level unless something was real."
In a signal of how seriously the administration took the information, officials briefed senior media executives, including network anchors, before a Sunday news conference and briefing for reporters.
[emphasis mine]

Oh the administration took it seriously, all right, serious enough to distract media attention from the afterglow of the Democratic National Convention and bring the center of attention right back to George W. Bush, which is exactly what the alert was intended to do. How DARE Howard Dean (and others) suggest that there might be some cynical political motivation behind Tom Ridge's latest? conservative talk show hosts were screeching yesterday.

TheTimes also has the story:

Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.


What you don't hear on television news:

The situation in Iraq right now is not as bad as the news media are portraying it to be. It's worse.

A kind of violence fatigue has descended over news coverage of Iraq. Car bombings that would have made the front page a year ago get scant mention these days.

Assassinations and kidnappings have become so common that they have lost their power to shock. More U.S. soldiers died in July (38) than in June (26), but that didn't make the nightly newscasts, either.

The U.S.-led effort to restore basic services has become a story of missed goals and frustrations. Hoped-for foreign investment in Iraq's economy hasn't materialized - what company is going to risk seeing its employees beheaded on television?

Simply by staving off stability and prosperity, the insurgents are winning.

These are painful observations for me to make, because in early April, I wrote on this page that the media had been underplaying the good things happening in Iraq, and were missing the potential for a turnaround.

I still believe the first part. But when I returned to Iraq in June, I found that the situation had deteriorated so dramatically that a lot of those good things have become irrelevant.

As for the turnaround, I couldn't have been more wrong.

Monday, August 2

Experts fear South Africa's Muslim community could be a breeding ground for terrorists

South Africa, Indonesia, not to mention the Middle East...

How I long for the days when our biggest problem was "what to tell the children" about Bill Clinton's affinity for aggressive women...


This is too beautiful to excerpt. So read it all.


My fine son was good enough to tape the Bill O'Reilly-Michael Moore interview, and am I glad he did!

It's almost impossible for a progressive to "beat" one of the right-wing talk yahoos on his/her own show since they control the mikes and everything else. But Moore did a great job of silencing O'Reilly without losing one bit of cool or civility. The transcript is here.


The Case Against George:

Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.
But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has "never fully inhabited" the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can't speak but because he doesn't bother to think.


Establishment types are trumpeting America's role as global police force. Too bad the U.S. just can't afford the job.

Administration now opposes inspections as part of nuclear treaty

What is this all about?

In a shift of U.S. policy, the Bush administration announced this week that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty that would ban production of nuclear-weapons materials.

For several years the United States and other nations have been pursuing the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. At U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva this week, the Bush administration told other nations it still supported a treaty, but not verification.

The planned treaty wouldn't affect existing stockpiles or production for non-weapons purposes, such as energy or medical research. Mainly, it was designed to impose restraints on India, Pakistan and Israel, whose nuclear programs operate outside the reach of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty inspectors.

Administration officials said they made the decision after concluding such a system would cost too much, require overly intrusive inspections and wouldn't guarantee compliance with the treaty.

Administration officials declined to explain in detail how they believed U.S. security would be harmed by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.

Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

What could possibly be the motivation behind this "flip-flop?" (Gotcha, George!) Are we supposed to believe that we're so safe we don't need security inspections, or is it the money?

You gotta love BushCo priorities -- they're so very questionably aligned with "American values," as Bill Clinton demonstrated so simply and eloquently at the DNC.


Does anyone trust paperless voting machines? Or the people who administer them? Or the bosses of the people who administer them? Or the --- never mind, just read:

On November 2 millions of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some 98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.

The result could be the failure of an American presidential election and its collapse into suspicions, accusations and a civic fury that will make Florida 2000 seem like a family spat in the kitchen. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary, has written, "Automated voting machines will be easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses." Senator John Kerry told Florida Democrats last March, "I don't think we ought to have any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted." Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election," Kerry says his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes" [see Greg Palast, "Vanishing Votes," May 17].

The potential for fraud and error is daunting. About 61 million of the votes in November, more than half the total, will be counted in the computers of one company, the privately held Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska. Altogether, nearly 100 million votes will be counted in computers provided and programmed by ES&S and three other private corporations: British-owned Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, California, whose touch-screen voting equipment was rejected as insecure against fraud by New York City in the 1990s; the Republican-identified company Diebold Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, whose machines malfunctioned this year in a California election; and Hart InterCivic of Austin, one of whose principal investors is Tom Hicks, who helped make George W. Bush a millionaire.

About a third of the votes, 36 million, will be tabulated completely inside the new paperless, direct-recording-electronic (DRE) voting systems, on which you vote directly on a touch-screen. Unlike receipted transactions at the neighborhood ATM, however, you get no paper record of your vote. Since, as a government expert says, "the ballot is embedded in the voting equipment," there is no voter-marked paper ballot to be counted or recounted. Voting on the DRE, you never know, despite what the touch-screen says, whether the computer is counting your vote as you think you are casting it or, either by error or fraud, it is giving it to another candidate. No one can tell what a computer does inside itself by looking at it; an election official "can't watch the bits inside," says Dr. Peter Neumann, the principal scientist at the Computer Science Laboratory of SRI International and a world authority on computer-based risks.


The only thing good about the Florida voting fiasco is that it makes it all the harder for Jeb Bush to run successfully for president --

Well before they abruptly discarded it, Florida election officials knew they had significant problems with a database of felons they planned to use in removing voters from the rolls.

Just a week before they directed local election chiefs to begin purging ineligible voters from the list of 48,000 convicted felons, state officials documented two years of failures and breakdowns with the $2.7 million contract with database vendor Accenture.

A May 2 internal memo, ordered personally by Secretary of State Glenda Hood, details a half dozen missed deadlines and broken promises, failed software programs, repeated miscues and personnel problems.

Two months after the memo, with newspapers including The Herald detailing major flaws with the felon database that could have disenfranchised thousands, the state reversed course and told election chiefs not to use the felon list.

The problems outlined in the five-page memo do not directly foreshadow the exact glitches that forced the state to abandon the list. But the memo makes clear that the state was hitting constant hurdles in its quest to rush out a list of voters who could be deleted from the rolls.

Critics who have closely monitored Florida's voting process say the chronology shows that the state was negligent.

Sunday, August 1

TalkLeft addresses the Kerry/Edwards record on drugs:

Instapundit links to Yuppies From Zion who relies on a Matt Taibi article to claim Kerry will be tougher than Bush on drug offenses.

We disagree--we've been reporting on Kerry's (and all the Democratic candidates') positions on drug offenses and crime for the past two years on Talkleft. Here's a quick recap on Kerry:

Kerry voted "No" on increasing penalties for drug offenses (Nov 1999). The amendment he voted against would have specifically targeted the manufacturing or trafficking of amphetamines & methamphetamines and possession of powder cocaine, and set stronger penalties for dealing drugs. He voted "No" on spending international development funds on drug control. (Jul 1996) In 1994, he voted against mandatory minimum penalties for firearms offenses committed during the course of a drug crime.

He would end Ashcroft's raids on medical marijuana patients and providers.

As to John Edwards, check this out:

He also would have us shrink our bloated prison population and return its present members more successfully to society by better distinguishing non-violent drug crimes from other offenses; restoring abandoned treatment and training options; and re-enfranchising those who have done their time.

And, don't forget, Kerry opposes the death penalty, except for foreign terrorists; He has called for a federal moratorium on the death penalty pending further study; and he advocates DNA testing for every inmate facing execution.

So, don't believe it. Kerry is not going to be worse than Bush and Ashcroft on the drug war--or on crime.


Susan (she reads EVERYTHING and you should read her) of Suburban Guerrilla points us to this interesting bit of calculation that kept Michael Kinsley awake during the DNC -- Democrats vs. the GOP: Do the Math

It turns out that Democratic presidents have a much better record than Republicans. They win in a head-to-head comparison in almost every category. Real growth averaged 4.09% in Democratic years, 2.75% in Republican years. Unemployment was 6.44%, on average, under Republican presidents, and 5.33% under Democrats. The federal government spent more under Republicans than Democrats (20.87% of GDP, compared with 19.58%), and that remains true even if you exclude defense (13.76% for the Democrats, 14.97% for the Republicans).

What else? Inflation was lower under Democratic presidents (3.81% on average, compared with 4.85%). And annual deficits took more than twice as much of GDP under Republicans than Democrats (2.74% of GDP versus 1.21%). Republicans won by a nose on government revenue (i.e., taxes), taking 18.12% of GDP, compared with 18.39%. That, of course, is why they lost on the size of the deficit.

Personal income per capita was also a bit higher in Republican years ($16,061 in year- 2000 dollars) than in Democratic ones ($15,565). But that is because more of the Republican years came later, when the country was more prosperous already.

There will be many objections to all this, some of them valid. For example, a president can't fairly be held responsible for the economy from the day he takes office. So let's give them all a year. That is, let's allocate each year to the party that controlled the White House the year before. Guess what? The numbers change, but the bottom-line tally is exactly the same: higher growth, lower unemployment, lower government spending, lower inflation and so on under the Democrats. Lower taxes under the Republicans.

But maybe we are taking too long a view. The Republican Party considers itself born again in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. That's when Republicans got serious about cutting taxes, reducing the size of government and making the country prosperous. Allegedly. But doing all the same calculations for the years 1982 through 2002, and giving each president's policies a year to take effect, changes only one result: The Democrats pull ahead of the Republicans on per capita personal income.

As they say in the brokerage ads, past results are no guarantee of future performance.


The race is on:

The most recent Zogby poll shows deeper trouble for President George W. Bush beyond just the horserace.  Mr. Bush has fallen in key areas while Senator John Kerry has shored up numerous constituencies in his base.  The Bush team’s attempted outreach to base Democratic and swing constituency has shown to be a failure thus far, limiting his potential growth in the electorate.


Kerry's Battle Cry:

In the end, I choose to believe that combat teaches something -- maybe only that death is not an abstraction but an awful wound and lots of pain and, for loved ones, a closure that never comes. It is not a movie and it is not some euphemism about "the fallen," or some other way of ducking the awful reality. It is a terrible fear and an embrace of fickle luck. I think it matters that the men who took this nation to war in Iraq were never in one themselves. The odd man out was Colin Powell, who did not enlist in this war but was drafted for it. For him, as it was for Kerry, Vietnam was a life's lesson. Kerry said a lot of good things Thursday night, but he was best when he simply said he had been there:

"I know what kids go through when they're carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place and they can't tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they're out on patrol at night and they don't know what's coming around the next bend. I know what it's like to write letters home telling your family that everything's all right when you're not sure that's true. As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: 'I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way, but we had no choice.' " There is the ultimate indictment of George Bush. The 42 Americans who died in Iraq in June and the 48 or more (the final figure is not yet known) who have died in July did so because Bush chose to fight an unnecessary war. For a vast and populous country, three dozen deaths a month is not only bearable, it is virtually unnoticeable. John Kerry's task will be to give name and face to the anonymous dead, for us to see, in the confident middle-aged man he is, the occasionally terrified young man he used to be.

On Thursday, in a good speech with a great passage, he reminded us that the war in Iraq is not merely a mistake that can be rectified by some commission or another. It is a personal tragedy, one after another after another -- as immutable as a graveyard headstone.


Al Qaeda-Iraq link recanted

An al Qaeda commander who initially told interrogators that Iraq had provided chemical and biological weapons training to the terrorist organization later told CIA officers his statement was not true, according to intelligence officials.

Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan captured in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, later "changed his story, and we're still in the process of trying to determine what's right and what's not right" from his information, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. "He told us one thing at one time and another at another time."

Al-Libi's statement formed the basis for the Bush administration's prewar claim that Osama bin Laden collaborated with Iraq, according to several U.S. officials.

In an October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, for example, President Bush said: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases." Other senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a speech to the United Nations, made similar assertions. Al-Libi's statements were the foundation of all of them.

His about-face has not been made public by the CIA or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which produced a critical investigation of the intelligence community's prewar information on Iraq. The committee describes the case in pages of its report that the CIA refused to declassify.


Tim Russert took Senator Zell Miller (D-GA, only the GA Democratic Party has "divorced" him) down the same easy interview path that he customarily extends to Republicans. It was amusing, really. Tim's only good comeback, after Miller excoriated Kerry/Edwards on national security votes, was to point out that Zell has pretty much the same voting record as Kerry/Edwards on those matters. And he was oh! so timid and apologetic in tone for even bringing it up. Miller's response was revealing: he didn't vote against the Constitutional Amendments defining marriage and banning flag burning! Evidently the real source of his anger is that the liberal tag Republicans have hung on Democrats prevents Georgia Democrats from winning state races (his sentiment, not mine). Miller accused the Democrats of no longer being the "big tent" party because "they don't tolerate opposing voices," citing once again the long-debunked incident of late Governor Bob Casey "not being allowed to speak at the '92 Democratic convention" because he opposed abortion. As informed readers will remember, Casey was barred because he refused to endorse the Clinton/Gore ticket. Naturally, Little Russ let the erroneous statement stand without challenge.