Wednesday, June 25, 2003

THE OTHER 9/11 MEMORIAL -- While the World Trade Center memorial has gotten all the attention, Pentagon planners have quietly been going forward with plans for their own memorial for those who died that day in northern Virginia. It is called "Light Benches" and 'the design is composed of 184 16-foot-long benches, arranged in parallel rows under clusters of maple trees on the nearly two-acre site. Both the organization and number of the benches ties the memorial to that specific day -- the rows are angled toward the Pentagon's west facade precisely on the path taken by the attackers, and 184, of course, is the number of deceased victims.

'This identification of site and event is further intensified by linking each bench with an individual victim, whose name is to be incised on the narrow end face of a bench.'

The architechts eschewed a traditional look for the benches, instead opting for a design that makes them look, as The Post wrote, like diving boards. Appropriate, I suppose, since there will be a narrow band of water beneath each bench. Fortunately, the designers incorporated a great number of trees into the memorial, thus not permitting the odd-shaped benches (which I like) to completely dominate the site.

Making the entire memorial even more interesting is that a halogen lamp will be built into each lamp, giving the site an eerie and almost otherworldly glow, I suspect. It should be impressive in daylight and even more striking after nightfall.

It should be open by 9/11/04. I look forward to my first trip to the memorial and I shall definitely be bringing my cameras with me.
'DOCTOR' McLAUGHLIN's TV TANTRUM -- Right wing tele-screamer and former fallen priest John McLaughlin has been harshly critical of D.C. government the last few days, even suggesting, outrageously, that home rule be rescinded. 'Immediately after the blizzard, city officials didn't grant the TV host preferential treatment when minions for "Dr. McLaughlin," as they refer to their boss, repeatedly phoned and demanded that a snowplow be deployed to McLaughlin's residential street in the pricey Massachusetts Avenue Heights neighborhood.'

'"Is Dr. McLaughlin a medical doctor? If so, we might have dug him out for a medical emergency," (city spokesman Tony) Bullock said sarcastically. He added that "One on One" producer Matthew Faraci -- whom he derided as "McLaughlin's chief twit" -- kept phoning city officials "to dig out the good doctor's driveway." Faraci told us he phoned once or twice. But Bullock continued: "Dr. McLaughlin jumped up and down to have special accommodations for him at a time when we were transporting the police officers and medical personnel for people who needed emergency attention.'

Not even 'Dr' McLaughlin's co-workers were buying On "The McLaughlin Group," panelists Tony Blankley and Eleanor Clift answered the host's blasts with a stout defense of the District's snow-removal performance. And panelist Pat Buchanan noted, "John, what I conclude is that they did not dig you out until Friday, is that correct?"

Thursday, June 12, 2003

SOME NASTY AND HORNY WOMEN IN INDIA -- Very nasty.
THE MARRIAGE REVOLUTION -- The Supreme Courts of several states are or will be considering the issue of same-sex marriage in the months ahead. The Canadian province of Ontario has already begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex partners after the provincial high court ruled that to deny homosexuals the right to marry is a violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Clearly, some huge changes in marriage law and the culture of matrimony are on the way--and those changes are most welcome and long overdue in my opinion. The Boston Globe has an interesting article on the future of marriage--an institution that has changed and evolved over the years far more radically than you might imagine and the right-wing would want to admit.
THE WAGES OF DECEIT -- The Bush regime's blatant lies about WMD in Iraq will have far-reaching consequences.
The British Parliament is now preparing an inquiry into the intelligence that formed the foundation of the argument for going to war against Iraq, the idea, to quote President Bush’s State of the Union message, that “Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction.”

Democrats in the U.S. Congress, for reasons not hard to fathom, want to do the same, though Republicans, again, predictably, say such hearings are not warranted. Whether hearings are eventually held may depend on the Democrats’ ability, or willingness, to raise a stink about the issue. The existence of a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, makes it likely the pressure will continue.

In Britain, meanwhile, where Prime Minister Tony Blair convinced his own Labor Party to support the war by citing such intelligence, the inquiry is likely to be an ugly reckoning and a chance for Labor Party opponents of the war who felt muzzled by their leader to strike back.

The Economist, the British newsweekly, even suggested that this could mark the beginning of the end for Blair, who previously has been unassailable as a politician. As the magazine points out, “Tony Blair’s power lies in his persuasiveness. But persuasion depends on trust; and, if that goes, so does the basis of Mr. Blair’s power.”

In the longer term, even if President Bush avoids congressional hearings on the alleged politicization of intelligence, he may still find it difficult to avoid being cast as “the boy who cried wolf” the next time the United States feels the need to act pre-emptively.
FAT AMERICANS GETTING FATTER -- More than three in five Americans are overweight, and nearly one in three is obese, meaning they carry so much extra weight that their health is at real risk. Instead of waging war on Iraq, perhaps we should be waging war on our gigantic fat asses.
BLIX DENOUNCES U.S. "SMEARS," PRESSURE -- Hans Blix, the outgoing head of UNMOVIC and the chiefs weapons inspector for the United Nations for the last three years is lashing out at the Bush regime in response to a smear campaign organized against him by members of the administration and the Pentagon.
In an interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper, Mr Blix said there were US officials who had "spread things around, of course, who planted nasty things in the media".
...
According to Mr Blix, as the US build-up for an invasion of Iraq intensified, US administration officials had leaned on his weapons inspectors to use more damning language in their reports on Iraq.
This is what the Bush regime does with those who argue with it--and especially those who have the facts on their side. Rather than admit their error, the Bush regime resorts to character assassination--again and again. Whether demonizing Hans Blix as a dupe of Saddam Hussein or accusing Senate Democrats of being unpatriotic, the Bush regime responds to policy challenges with vile and false attacks. What a cowardly gang of thugs they are, those who have come to rule our country.
MARK SHIELDS SKEWERS TOM FRIEDMAN -- As many of you probably know already, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has been writing that it is okay if the Bush regime deceived us about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (or lack thereof) because the Iraq War was just on other grounds. In other words, "liberating" Iraq is so important that it justifies the government deliberating misleading the American people about a subject as important as war and death. Columnist Mark Shields was one of many offended by Mr Friedman's...well, offensive viewpoint.
According to Friedman, "The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world ... and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble."

Tell me, Tom, exactly whom do you know professionally or socially in Washington who was urging his or her children to leave their "hardship duty" on Ivy League campuses "to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world" to "make clear that we were ready to kill and to die?"

It was not anybody in the civilian leadership on the Bush war councils or Cabinet. Of the 535 tigers on Capitol Hill who voted fearlessly to go to war, exactly one -- South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson -- had a son in the enlisted ranks of the U.S. military at war.

Did I miss the nation's leadership summoning all of us to collective sacrifice for the common good? Patriotism in 2003 did not demand that we use less, or pay more for, gasoline. Just put an Old Glory decal on your SUV and a flag pin in your lapel while pushing for a bigger tax-cut.

As of this writing, 177 U.S. service members have died in the Iraqi operation. According to the Pentagon, 12 of them -- 11 Marines and one soldier -- were among the 37,000 non-citizens in military service from nations such as Mexico, Guatemala and the Philippines. Their mothers never were invited to a White House state dinner. Their fathers were not Pioneers for Bush. They wrote no soft money checks. Born not to privilege or pedigree, these fallen warriors were among the small minority of us who truly "were ready to kill and to die." To pretend that the rest of us were also "ready to kill and to die" dishonors their courage and their sacrifice.

In a democracy, the informed consent of the people depends upon citizens' free access to the truth. If Friedman is right that the administration's weapons of mass destruction "imminent threat" was primarily a political cover story, then Americans were urged to make the most solemn of all judgments -- the decision to go to war -- primarily for reasons more synthetic than authentic. Now, after the fact, supporters of the pre-emptive war argue that it is OK if even for demonstrably wrong reasons the United States did the "right" thing.
Thank you, Mr Shields. Too many in the elite media have been unwilling to go after Mr Friedman for his outrageous views on this subject. Perhaps they are too polite. Perhaps they don't want to offend a friend. Perhaps they're intimidated by Mr Friedman's room full of awards. But someone in the elite media has to attack Mr Friedman for his vile viewpoint on this matter. Finally, someone has.
READERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS -- Jules Witcover, columnist for the Baltimore Sun, writes that his readers have been e-mailing him some good questions about the Bush regime and their lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Take it away.
One e-mailer writes: "You ask whether Bush's case was built on deception? Do Marylanders like crab cakes? It is abundantly clear from recent remarks by Secretary [of Defense Donald H.] Rumsfeld that the whole WMD argument was a gigantic hoax and fraud. He is now left to arguing that the Iraqis may have destroyed them. ... These people just lie. Why don't you just come out and say it?"

Another asks: "If Bill Clinton was impeached because he lied about having sex with an intern, shouldn't George W. Bush also be impeached for the much more serious lie of inventing the case for war against Iraq out of whole cloth?" And another: "Mr. Bush is a liar. I don't buy the spin that his intelligence was giving him wrong information. The CIA wasn't convinced about Iraq, and we all know how he discredited [U.N. chief inspector Hans] Blix."

Finally, another reader writes: "I find it odd that you do not utter the word 'impeach' in your articles. About the missing WMD which were the rationale for going to war in Iraq, Senator [Robert C.] Byrd is right to keep looking at the Constitution. If the Republicans were right to hound and clamor for impeachment of President Clinton because he 'lied' about his personal life, lying about reasons for going to war and putting many lives at risk is so much more egregious and serving of impeachment. Why the silence?"
Amen to all that.
THAT EXPLAINS THE TAX CUTS -- Now I've finally figured out why Mr Bush has been treating rich people like they are an extinct species, lavishing one tax break after another upon this benighted class of creatures. Apparently, there are not as many millionaries as there once was. Boohoo.
A SICK, SICK STORY -- A teenage girl in Britain apparently ran off with a convicted rapist. She's back with her family now and everyone seems well. However, the story contains this vile bit of information about the man this 16-year-old girl ran off with.
Barton, 23, jailed for 12 years in 1996 for raping a 92-year old woman close to her late husband's grave, was in custody this afternoon in connection with bail offences.
Bleecchhh!
YET ANOTHER RIGHT-WING HYPOCRITE PERVERT -- Their numbers are growing to such levels that it is hard to keep track of them these days, but we certainly have a prize pig here, with anti-abortion fanatic and criminal John Burt of Florida.
An opponent of abortion who had strong ties to the gunmen and bombers who waged deadly violence against clinics here over the past two decades was arrested Tuesday on charges that he molested a resident at the girls home he owns.
...
Burt is accused of assaulting a 15-year-old resident of Our Father's House, the home for troubled teenage girls that he owns in nearby Milton. He is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, lewd or lascivious conduct and three counts of lewd or lascivious molestation.
This cretin has a history of lawbreaking and a predeliction for violence.
When protests and violence made Pensacola the center of the national abortion debate in the 1980s and 1990s, Burt was at the forefront. He often was accompanied by "Baby Charlie," which he said was a preserved fetus wrapped in a blanket, until it was buried after a funeral service.
...
When two young couples bombed three Pensacola abortion clinics on Christmas Day 1984, Burt led pickets supporting the bombers outside the federal courthouse.

Burt spent 141 days in jail for resisting arrest without violence for pushing his way into the clinic and breaking equipment in 1986. His probation on that charge was revoked two years later when he took a would-be bomber to case a clinic.

In May 1993, one of Burt's followers, Michael Griffin, fatally shot Dr. David Gunn of Eufaula, Ala., as he arrived at Pensacola Medical Services. Burt was leading a demonstration on the other side of the clinic.
U.S. TO OCCUPY IRAQ FOR 'YEARS' -- So says Senate Foreign Relations Chair Richard Lugar (R-IN). And why would that be, you ask?
Lugar said prewar plans for Iraq's reconstruction were obviously not adequate. U.S. forces have failed to get electricity and water service restored in many portions of Iraq and there have been open disagreements over which Iraqi groups should run the country in the future.

"Some of the first steps are fairly halting," he said.

Academics who follow Iraq said the extent of security and infrastructure problems that American military forces are encountering is forcing the Bush administration to scrap plans for a quick withdrawal.

"It's the reality on the ground that is making the change," said Andrea Lopez, an assistant professor of political science at Pennsylvania's Susquehanna University. "I don't think they thought out how hard it would be to get people in place."

She said the administration faces daunting problems in creating a new government out of Iraq's 22 million people since the majority population of Shiite Muslims was frozen out of Saddam's Sunni-controlled government.

Lopez warned there would be even worse consequences if the Bush administration leaves Iraq a weakened and divided Middle East power, with neighboring Syria, Iran and Turkey having interests in Iraq. "A destabilized Iraq would be a great breeding ground for terrorists," Lopez said.

She said problems in forming a new Iraqi government means the Pentagon will have to keep the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for another six months to a year and follow with years of occupation to guarantee order and stability. "It's a long, hard path," she said.

Robin Leeds, a senior analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington think tank, said she cannot detect any U.S. efforts to bring Iraqis into government even on municipal and provincial levels, or a start to making any transition to Iraqi self-government.

"There's not one sign of democracy building in that country," she said. "I think the longer we do not embrace democracy, the longer we will be there."
This is a sobering article, containing exactly the sort of concerns the Bush regime should have considered before invading, but did not. Some of us were warning about just these problems, but rather than address these valid issues, the Bush regime and its right-wing allies in the media preferred to tar us all as traitors.
AMERICAN SOCIALIST HERO -- Ever wonder what the human face of socialism would look like? Well, here it is.
“When you turn on talk radio today, what you hear almost a hundred percent of the time is right-wing talk, and the only debate is between the extreme right wing and the right wing,” Sanders said. “And that seems to me to be absurd.”

When he speaks about Republican radio hosts, Sanders, pondering their dominance, gets increasingly aggravated — and louder.

“I do not have a problem with Rush Limbaugh (he pronounces it Limbo), Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly,” he said, but by the time he reached the end of his lengthening list, he was apparently ready to scream. “G. Gordon Liddy, OLLIE NORTH, BOB DORNAN, PAT BUCHANAN, on and ON and ON and ON. …”

“I don’t have a problem with them,” he said again, not wholly convincingly, “but I believe the American people have a right to hear the other side of the story and they’re not.”

Sanders plans to welcome both liberals and conservatives on his show. For his first broadcast he interviewed The Nation magazine columnist Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?

For his second show, he invited Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and for his third, his guests included Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Jeff Faux, the founder of the Economic Policy Institute.

Sanders, who won’t reveal the names of future guests but said they’ll likely be colleagues, sees himself as the liberal answer to a conservative onslaught. He loves the fact that on the day after his show aired, Limbaugh criticized him, and he brags about a recent screaming match with ABC Radio’s Hannity.

Sanders reasoned: “I guess the right wing gets a little bit nervous.”
Go get 'em, Bernie. As far as the Right Wing is concerned, mercy is for the weak. Fight fire with fire. Rep. Sanders seems to have plenty of fire.
SO MUCH FOR THE ROADMAP -- The long week of peace is over.
Israeli army radio reports the army has been ordered to 'completely wipe out' the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, a day after a suicide bomber killed 16 people on a Jerusalem bus.

Israeli helicopters killed nine Palestinians in strikes on militants after the bombing, leaving the US-backed peace "roadmap" in tatters.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi says no Hamas leader is safe.

The army order, which directs the military to use "whatever means necessary," was issued following a meeting of Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz with the army's top command shortly after the attack.

It is directed not only at the infrastructure of the organisation, but at its leadership, with everyone, "from the lowliest member to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin," a Hamas founder and its spiritual guide, as a legitimate target.
It's hard to blame the Israelis for wanting to destroy Hamas utterly--it's what we'd do, after all--but this sure as Hell isn't going to help Mr Bush's roadmap get any further. It's probably already dead, though General Powell heads to the Middle East on June 22 to try to get it back on life support.
ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF SHINSEKI RESIGNS -- And takes a few not-so-veiled parting shots at Mr Rumsfeld. Remember, it was General Shinseki who told Congress that several hundred thousand U.S. soldiers would be needed to occupy Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowtiz, responded that General Shinseki's estimate was "wildly off the mark." Events, as we have seen, have proven General Shinseki correct.
U.S. CHOPPER SHOT DOWN IN IRAQ -- Irregular Iraqi forces shot down a U.S. helicopter gunship in western Iraq. The AH-64 Apache helicopter is the first U.S. aircraft to be brought down by hostile fire since Mr Bush announced an end to the Iraq War. In further developments, the Iraq War is still over and don't you forget it, buster!
YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Don't be a girly boy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

HILLARY'S NEW BOOK SETS RECORDS -- Go, Hillary, go! Every single copy you sell just drives the bastards nuts.
BUSH TAKES US ALL BACK TO DEFICITLAND -- And he takes us further down the rabbit hole than we've ever been before. The Congressional Budget Office estimates we're heading for a record-breaking $400 billion budget deficit. In case you were wondering, that not only tops the previous record ($290 billion under Pappy Bush), but blows it all to pieces. (Which, incidentally, is what it is also doing to our economy and the solvency of Social Security.)
LIEBERMAN, KERRY TOP DEMS -- The latest Gallup poll puts Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in a dead heat with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) for the top spot among Democratic presidential candidates. Senator Lieberman, who benefits from enormous name recognition, but has failed to raise as much money as expected, holds a three percentage point lead over Senator Kerry, within the poll's margin of error. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) is in third place.
Gephardt attempted to jump-start his campaign in late April by announcing an ambitious healthcare reform proposal. But the latest Gallup Poll, conducted May 30 through June 1, indicates that this move has not yet given Gephardt the momentum he is looking for. If anything, his support appears to be down slightly. He now stands at 14%, compared with 16% in April, and significantly lower than the 20% he recorded in March.
It is hard to know which matters more right now, these sort of national polls or the early polls of caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Rep. Gephardt is leading in Iowa while Senator Kerry holds a slight lead over Howard Dean (D-VT) in New Hampshire. In all the early polls, however, Senator Kerry is doing well and that must be a good thing.
ONE WAR HERO FOR ANOTHER WAR HERO -- Former Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), a triple-amputee war veteran who was ousted from his seat last year after a campaign tarring him as a coward by Mr Bush and his equally combat-averse ally Saxby Chambliss, has endorsed Senator John Kerry (D-MA) for president.
Cleland, who now teaches at American University in Washington, said he believes Kerry, of Massachusetts, is the kind of person who can bring the country through its current troubles.

"He's my fellow Vietnam veteran," Cleland said in a telephone interview from his university office. "He and I bled and almost died on the same battlefield and he's got the qualities we want in a president with our country threatened from terrorists abroad and with the economy."
Senator Kerry and Senator Cleland are good friends and share many common experiences. For all Democrats who respect the contributions Max Cleland has made to this country as a soldier, a cabinet secretary, and a senator, this is an important endorsement.
ROADMAP TO HELL -- Well, it'll be looked back upon as a golden age--that week when Mr Bush's roadmap to peace in the Middle East looked good. Events, as we know, have caught up to Mr Bush's good intentions. A vicious suicide bombing has killed at least 15 and wounded about 70 in Israel today. This is almost certainly the work of a group like Hamas, which pledged its defiance in the face of the roadmap and remains committed to its goal of the violent extermination of Israel. It didn't take Mr Sharon's government long to respond, as they attacked Palestinians in Gaza, killing at least seven, including a top Hamas militant. Mr Bush, who rapped Mr Sharon on the knuckles yesterday for the Israeli government's heavy-handed attack on Hamas in Gaza two days ago, has weighed in against the suicide bombing--naturally--but omitted the criticism of Israel this time. It's not hard to blame him. Considering our own policies towards terrorism, the U.S. government cannot really criticize the Israelis when they act forcefully in response to a suicide bombing. This roadmap is taking everyone right back over familiar territory.
CONASON ON "THE CLINTON WARS" -- Joe Conason, who has written himself at length about the right-wing conspiracy to destroy the Clinton presidency, chimes in with one of the few fair assessments of Sidney Blumenthal's page-turner, "The Clinton Wars".
The book also contains revealing remarks by former House impeachment manager James Rogan, and scathing recollections of Mr. Starr from a couple of his former prosecutors. Meanwhile, the press—whose poor performance is revealed in the pages of The Clinton Wars—won’t report any such troubling news. They were never much interested in that side of the Clinton story—and still aren’t.
Amen. In some ways, the most devastating indictment of the Clinton years is against the elite media, which turned in a shameful performance that will be judged harshly by the next generation of journalists, people who do not have a personal stake in the despicable events of the right-wing conspiracy.
CONGRATULATIONS ONTARIO -- The Supreme Court of the Canadian province of Ontario--Canada's largest--ruled that the legal definition of a marriage as restricted to a union of a man and a woman violated the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The
the Ontario Appeal Court declared prohibitions against homosexual marriage unconstitutional. ''The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays, because it limits the range of relationship options open to them,'' the court said.
Gay and lesbian couples are already taking advantage of the ruling and the first marriage licenses to homosexuals have been distributed. This is a day of justice for everyone, not just gays, in North America. I hope this fresh air of tolerance and equal treatment before the law spreads throughout the continent.
AT LEAST 3200 CIVILIANS DIED IN IRAQ WAR --
At least 3,240 civilians died across Iraq during a month of war, including 1,896 in Baghdad, according to a five-week Associated Press investigation.

The count is still fragmentary, and the complete toll — if it is ever tallied — is sure to be significantly higher.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

BAGHDAD IN CHAOS -- About two months after U.S. forces seized Baghdad, the the city is still in chaos and its inhabitants beginning to wonder when or if things will get much better.
Shop owners still watch over their goods with automatic weapons and lock up at dusk for fear of looting because of an electricity shortage that is meeting just over half the city's needs. Pregnant women give birth at home because hospitals lack adequate supplies.

Many streets are still considered unsafe after dark and traffic seizes up for hours each day because street lights aren't working, and roads leading to key US installations have been closed for security reasons.

The continuing problems -- especially in Baghdad, which US forces have controlled since April 9 -- have left most residents criticizing the American-led rebuilding effort.

''Why aren't the telephones working?'' says N.B. Mammo, an eye surgeon who recently launched a citizens-watch group in Baghdad. ''Why the delay in essential services? Why aren't buildings that were looted brought back to a functioning level? The US is far too competent to have not anticipated these things. When the lights go out in New York, people loot.''
...
In nearby Fallujah and Tikrit, where US soldiers are coming under attack almost daily, vacuums of authority are being filled by local leaders, including Islamic extremists who want to build Iraq into a theocracy like neighboring Iran.
...
Under Hussein the regime ladled out generous subsidies as insurance against local unrest, and US advisers say such price supports should be phased out gradually. But try telling that to Saud Al Shammari, a grain farmer in northwest Iraq who last month was informed that his grain harvest would fetch a mere $105 per ton compared with the $205 he earned under the old regime.

''How will we pay the banks?'' Shammari says. ''We don't accept America and its free markets. They are hurting us, so we will do something to hurt them.''
I'm still waiting for the carpet of flowers the Iraqis were supposed to throw at our feet.
TENET THE FALL GUY FOR NO WMD? -- If the Bush regime cannot turn up any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, some unlucky soul will have to take the fall for it--either with their job or through merciless attacks in the press. Early indications are that the Bush regime has selected CIA Director George Tenet to take the blame.
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer outlined Bush's support for Tenet — an appointee of President Bill Clinton's — as administration officials emphasized that it was Tenet who had produced the pre-war intelligence assessments relied on by Bush to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The White House effort to put daylight between the president and Tenet's intelligence estimates raised the possibility that the Bush administration was preparing to blame Tenet for a growing credibility gap created by the lack of hard evidence to support Bush's pre-war claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
...
Separately, Raymond McGovern, a retired 27-year CIA veteran who serves in the leadership of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, said some retired intelligence officers see the Bush administration positioning Tenet as the fall guy for allegedly flawed intelligence.

"The smart money says he's being set up," said McGovern in an interview.
...
McGovern, the retired intelligence analyst, said he doubted the Bush administration would jettison Tenet. The CIA chief remains "too useful where he is," McGovern said.

Tenet, who has close ties with both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, has been willing to cooperate with Bush administration efforts to portray suspected Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs as an imminent threat to the United States justifying military action, McGovern said.

Sacking Tenet would risk the CIA chief telling "all he knows" about pre-Sept. 11 CIA warnings on al-Qaida that went unheeded by the White House, McGovern added.
On the one hand, this story elicits some sympathy for Mr Tenet among all fair-minded readers. On the other hand, Mr Tenet did prostitute his career for the Bush regime by supporting these outlandish claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he's probably only getting what he deserves. The question is: Will Mr Bush, Mr Cheney, Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Wolfowitz, and Mr Powell get what they deserve?
ADOPT A CAT -- June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month at the ASPCA. If you love cats this wouldn't be a bad time to prove it again by coming to the rescue of one of our furry friends. They are all God's creatures and He'll love you more for it. Promise.
COMRADE SUPERMAN -- What if Superman's spacecraft had landed in Russia rather than Smallville, USA? A comic book addresses that question you've probably never asked and the results are interesting. Truth, Justice, and the Soviet Way!
A PRIEST AND A RABBI WALK INTO A BAR... -- Here's a joke I heard, guaranteed to elicit a chuckle from most of you and outrage from one or two...

A shepherd is herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of the dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie leans out the window and asks the shepherd,

"If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"

The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully-grazing flock and calmly answers, "Sure."

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his IBM Thinkpad and connects it to a cell phone, then he surfs to a NASA page on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system, scans the area, and then opens up a database and an Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas. He sends an e-mail on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a 150 page report on his hi- tech, miniaturized printer, then turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1,586 sheep".

"That is correct, take one of the sheep," says the shepherd. He watches the young man select one of the animals and bundle it into his car. Then the shepherd says: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give it back to me?"

"Okay, why not," answers the young man.

"Clearly, you are a consultant" says the shepherd.

"That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answers the shepherd. "You turned up here although nobody called you. You wanted to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you don't know crap about my business. Now give me back my dog."
KRISTOL: WMD 'MISSTATEMENTS' WERE MADE -- Uber-neocon hawk Bill Kristol, has admitted that Mr Bush and General Powell made 'misstatements' about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"We shouldn't deny, those of us who were hawks, that there could have been misstatements made, I think in good faith," Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told "Fox News Sunday."

Asked, by whom, the leading Iraq war backer explained, "By the president and the secretary of state, [statements] that will turn out to be erroneous."

Kristol stressed that he didn't believe charges from Bush administration critics that the president had deliberately distorted WMD intelligence.

But the leading neoconservative writer and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle added, "I hope [the WMDs] are found but I'm very skeptical.

"We have interrogated a lot of people and we haven't found a single person who said he participated in disposing, destroying the stock of weapons of mass destruction. Or in hiding them."

Kristol said that Saddam probably "did bluff a little bit" when it came to acknowledging he possessed WMDs in 1998, saying that "[U.S.] intelligence estimates were wrong, too."

"I don't think we need to be apologetic about the war," Kristol insisted. But he said the U.S.'s inability to uncover significant quantities of Iraqi WMDs means that the war may not have been as necessary and urgent as previously believed.

"People like me, who were hawks, said the war was both just, prudent and urgent," he said. "I think just and prudent - fine. But it is fair to say that if we don't find serious weapons of mass destruction capabilities, the case for urgency, which Bush and Blair certainly articulated, is going to be undercut to some degree."
For some reason Mr Kristol omits Mr Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz from his list of people who made 'misstatements' about Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, another (and more accurate) word for 'misstatements' in this context would be 'lies.'
WAXMAN: 'EXPLAIN WHY YOU CITED FORGED EVIDENCE'-- Below is the text of Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) letter to Mr Bush about the fraudulent claims the White House has made regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the political abuse of intelligence and our intelligence agencies. I think it important enough to include in its entirety. To see the extensive footnotes attached to the letter, please go to Congressman Waxman's website.

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Increasing questions are now being raised within the United States and around the world about whether you and other senior U.S. officials misrepresented the evidence regarding Iraq's nuclear weapons capability. In response, investigations have been launched and your spokesman has stated that everything you said was "valid."[1]

As these investigations move forward. I urge you to explain why you cited forged evidence about Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear materials in your State of the Union address on January 28, 2003.

I first wrote to you about this matter on March 17, before the Iraq war had begun. As I explained in that letter, your own intelligence experts at the CIA questioned the veracity of the nuclear evidence at the same time that you and other senior Administration officials were repeatedly using the evidence as a major part of the case against Iraq. Yet despite the seriousness of this matter, the only response I received was an ambiguous one-page letter from the State Department that raises far more questions than it answers.

News reports this weekend were filled with accounts of how carefully Secretary Powell prepared for his February 5 address to the United Nations, spending nearly a week at CIA headquarters going over his remarks to ensure their accuracy. But there is no speech given by any government official that is more carefully constructed than a State of the Union address. The State of the Union address takes weeks—not days—to prepare, and every line is reviewed by a myriad of high-ranking officials. That a President could cite forged evidence in such an address on a matter as momentous as impending war should be unthinkable.

There are many complex issues that are now being raised by our failure to date to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These need to be examined closely in the coming months. But explaining your statements in the State of the Union should not take months of investigation—just candor. With the credibility of the United States being called into question around the world, I urge you to address this vital matter without further delay.

The Evidence in Question
The allegation that Iraq sought to obtain nuclear material from an African country was first made publicly by the British government on September 24, 2002, when Prime Minister Tony Blair released a 50-page report on Iraqi efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. As the New York Times reported in a front-page article, one of the two "chief new elements" in the report was the claim that Iraq had "sought to acquire uranium in Africa that could be used to make nuclear weapons."[2] According to the Washington Post, the evidence included "a series of letters between Iraqi agents and officials in the central African nation of Niger."[3]

It is now conceded that these letters were rudimentary forgeries. Recent accounts in the news media explain that the forgers "made relatively crude errors that eventually gave them away—including names and titles that did not match up with the individuals who held office at the time the letters were purportedly written."[4]

The world did not learn that this evidence was forged, however, until March 7, 2003, when the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, released the results of his analysis of the evidence. Reportedly, it took IAEA officials only a matter of hours to determine that these documents were fake. Using little more than a Google search, IAEA experts discovered indications that should have been evident to novice intelligence officials. As a result, Director ElBaradei reported to the U.N. Security Council that the documents were "in fact not authentic."[5]

We also now know that the CIA was not incompetent in this matter—it had consistently expressed significant doubts about the validity of these documents. Press reports are replete with statements by CIA officials who warned about the lack of credibility of this information.[6] As the Washington Post reported on March 22, CIA officials "communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence."[7] According to another CIA official, "it's not fair to accuse the analysts for what others say about our material."[8] Indeed, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof revealed that Vice President Cheney's office became aware of the evidence early in the process and dispatched a former U.S. ambassador to Niger to investigate. On February 22, 2002—nearly a year before your State of the Union address—the ambassador "reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged."[9]

The Use of the Forged Evidence
Despite the doubts of your own intelligence experts, you and your most senior advisers asserted repeatedly over a period of months that Iraq attempted to obtain nuclear material from Niger. The State Department featured the evidence in its written response to the Iraqi weapons declaration in December.[10] National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice made this allegation again on January 23, 2003,1[1] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeated this allegation on January 29, 2003,[12] and senior officials continued to repeat this claim in contacts with press outlets. As a result of the emphasis given the evidence by senior Administration officials, the nuclear evidence was featured on national network news and front-page articles in major national newspapers.[13].

The most prominent use of the forged nuclear evidence occurred during your State of the Union address to Congress. You stated: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."[14] As I wrote you on March 17, your statement was worded in a way to suggest that it was carefully crafted to be both literally true and deliberately misleading at the same time. The statement itself may be technically accurate, since this appears to have been official British position. But given what the CIA knew at the time, the implication you intended—that there was credible evidence that Iraq sought uranium from Africa—-was simply false.

This was not the only time you emphasized Iraq's nuclear threat. Just four days before Congress was scheduled to vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, you claimed that Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.[15] You also raised the ominous specter of a "mushroom cloud" if the war resolution was not adopted.[16] On March 17, just days before the war began, Vice President Cheney said: "We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.[17]

These statements played a pivotal role in shaping congressional and public opinion about the need for military intervention in Iraq. I voted for the congressional resolution condemning Iraq and authorizing the use of force. Like other members, I was particularly influenced by your views about Iraq's nuclear intentions. Although chemical and biological weapons can inflict casualties, no threat is greater than the threat of nuclear weapons and no subject requires greater candor.

The Ambiguous State Department Response
In order to obtain information about your Administration's reliance on the forged nuclear evidence, I wrote to you on March 17, 2003. As I stated in that letter, it is hard to imagine how this situation could have developed. The two most obvious explanations—knowing deception or unfathomable incompetence—both have immediate and profound implications. Consequently, I urged you address the matter without delay and provide an alternative explanation, if there was one.

Unfortunately, to date I have received only a cursory, one-page response from the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. Although this April 29, 2003, letter asserts that the Administration acted "in good faith," the letter in fact further confuses the situation and raises additional questions.

The State Department letter makes clear that the nuclear evidence from Britain that you cited in your State of the Union address was the evidence that was "discredited" as a forgery. The letter also indicates that this evidence was "available to the U.S." The response thus appears to rule out the unlikely explanation that the CIA did not know the basis of the British evidence when you gave your State of the Union address. But the letter does not begin to explain why you used the obviously forged evidence in your State of the Union address.

The letter says that another Western European nation relayed similar information about Iraq's nuclear program to the United States privately. But the letter acknowledges that the United States did not know the basis of this information until March 4, over a month after the State of the Union, at which time the United States learned that the information was based on the same forged documents. Moreover, the letter reveals that during the period prior to March 4, U.S. intelligence officials were aware that the information might be based on the same discredited information provided by the British and "sought several times to determine the basis for the ... assessment, and whether it was based on independent evidence not otherwise available to the U.S." No explanation is offered for why it took so long to learn the basis of the reporting from this "Western European ally."

At its core, the argument in the State Department letter is ludicrous. U.S. intelligence officials knew that the available Niger evidence was unreliable and based on forged documents. Despite this, the State Department argues that it was acceptable for the United States to use this information as a central part of the case for military action in Iraq, because the United States received reporting from another nation. In essence, the argument seems to be that it is permissible to use fake evidence so long as the evidence can be attributed to another source.

The State Department response also raises questions about the CIA's role in reviewing and clearing various Administration statements relating to the Niger allegation. The letter states that the written information about the forged nuclear evidence provided to the United Nations on December 19 "was a product developed jointly by the CIA and the State Department." But this is contradicted by other published accounts. Just last weekend, the Washington Post quoted a senior intelligence official as saying that the "only" statement that was "reviewed by the intelligence agencies in detail and backed by detailed intelligence" was Secretary Powell's February 5 speech before the United Nations.[18] In fact, according to one administration official, when the State Department document was issued on December 19, "people winced and thought, 'Why are you repeating this trash?' "19

Conclusion
Mr. President, I recognize that you have many demands on your time and that there are many issues that you cannot address. But this issue should be different. The credibility of the United States is now in question.

To date, you have offered no explanation as to why you and your most senior advisers made repeated allegations based on forged documents. Yet your entire pre-emption doctrine depends on the ability of the United States to gather accurate intelligence and make honest assessments. This matter raises fundamental issues that cannot be ignored. So I again request that you respond to my March 17 letter and the additional questions raised in this letter.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member
GUERRILLA WAR IN IRAQ GROWING -- Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation of their country are organizing and beginning what looks like a guerrilla war against U.S. forces in the country.
Attacks on American troops are growing in frequency and sophistication across central Iraq, a crescent of discontent and hostility where many Iraqis remain opposed to the U.S. occupation of their country.

Almost every day, well-organized groups of assailants using assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars are ambushing U.S. Army convoys, patrols, checkpoints, garrisons and public offices used by troops to interact with the civilian population.

In response, U.S. forces are trying to crush resistance through house-to-house searches, arms seizures and deadly force, in some cases with fatal consequences for innocent bystanders.
...
The persistence and evolution of tactics is giving the violence the appearance of a guerrilla movement. In the last two weeks, eight U.S. soldiers have been killed and another 25 wounded, according to Pentagon announcements and news reports. The numbers of Iraqis killed, wounded or apprehended number in the dozens.
What's it like to be an American soldier in this sort of situation? I'll let one of them describe it: "We've got to be on our toes all the time. Eyes open, scanning the buildings. It's not tanks and infantry we're fighting anymore. It's something more hidden," said Staff Sgt. Fred Frisbie, a military policeman.

One American soldier summed up the situation thusly: "You can't tell friend from foe." Indeed. Just what some of us had always feared.
MORE DELAY CORRUPTION -- The Washington Post is calling for a Justice Department investigation of the campaign donations made by the now-failed Kansas firm Weststar to Republican Congressional candidates at the behest of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and others.
As Post writer Thomas B. Edsall reported last week, the Westar executives believed, as is evident from documents disclosed in a federal investigation of the company, that their donations to political groups linked with the four key Republicans would cause Congress to exempt their firm from a federal regulation they regarded as troublesome. Whether the campaign contributions were a quid pro quo for legislative action on a measure sought by Westar should not simply be a subject of debate between press secretaries and the media. Given the political game plan described by Westar executives and the subsequent legislative action that was taken, the matter warrants prompt investigation by the Department of Justice.
...
It was Westar Vice President Douglas Lawrence who advised executives of the firm, in a company e-mail, that with respect to getting a provision they wanted in the energy bill last year, "We have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table, which has been approved by David [Wittig, then Westar's chief executive], the total package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual), and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)." Mr. Lawrence also wrote, "Right now, we have $11,500 in immediate needs for a group of candidates associated with Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin, Joe Barton and Senator Richard Shelby." Mr. Lawrence's e-mail said Mr. DeLay's "agreement is necessary before the House Conferees can push the language we have in place in the House bill." He said Mr. Tauzin and Mr. Barton "are key House Conferees on our legislation. They have made this request" for contributions to other Republican candidates "in lieu of contributions made to their own campaigns." With regard to Sen. Shelby, Mr. Lawrence wrote that the Alabama senator, "our anchor on the Senate side," had "made a substantial request of us for supporting" Tom Young, Sen. Shelby's chief of staff, who was running for a House seat from Alabama in 2002.

So last year 13 Westar officials coughed up $31,500 in individual, or "hard money," contributions that went to selected Republican candidates. Westar gave $25,000 in corporate "soft money" to the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, a political committee with strong ties to Mr. DeLay, reports The Post's Tom Edsall. And what next? The provision sought by Westar was inserted in the energy bill last September by Rep. Barton. Democrats tried to strip the amendment out but lost in a party-line vote, with Mr. DeLay, Mr. Barton and Mr. Tauzin supporting the Westar amendment. Two weeks later, it was disclosed that a grand jury was investigating Westar. The provision was dropped from the bill.

The Justice Department can't let this matter drop.
What do you know: The Washington Post's editorial page got one right. I guess even a broken clock is correct twice a day.
FRENCH TROOPS SAVE OUR BACON -- I don't think we'll hear Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly talking about this:
With rebel forces bearing down on the Liberian capital, French helicopters swooped in Monday to rescue more than 500 Americans, Europeans and other foreigners.
And where is Uncle Sam during all this?
Liberians came out of their shacks and watched silently as the helicopters flew back and forth. Some headed to the U.S. Embassy, pleading for rescue from the United States, which many Liberians still see as their country's big brother.

''When will you be helping us? We are terrified,'' Marcus Kollie said.
Hey, back off, Liberia! We're busy in Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction won't just appear on their own, you know!
TOM DELAY'S CORRUPT POWER PLAY -- The New York Times editorial page aptly describes the revolting use of the federal government (the Department of Homeland Security and at least one FBI agent) by the Republican party to apprehend Democratic state legislators from Texas who were fleeing Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) plot to gerrymander the map of Texas:
The recent dust-up over Republican attempts to gerrymander the Texas Congressional map had an overlay of old-fashioned political silliness and skulduggery. What is coming to be known as the Tom DeLay Power Perpetuation Act failed famously when more than 50 statehouse Democrats fled to Oklahoma, where they hid out until the bill died, depriving the Republican majority of a quorum. But it turns out that officials in Washington and Austin, desperate to round up the Democrats, made a platoon of Keystone Kops out of federal and state law enforcement agents. That is no laughing matter.

The new Department of Homeland Security was called in on the case as if it were the patronage police and the dissenting Democrats were terrorists. Mr. DeLay's office breathlessly passed along detailed intelligence on the fugitives. More than 1,000 hours were devoted to the two-day search by 54 Texas officers. At least one F.B.I. agent appears to have been involved in the search.

The fact that federal agencies were involved in the partisan squabble is outrageous. Investigators usually assigned to track down terrorists or drug smugglers were sent off to try to find a small plane that had ferried one of the missing Democrats out of Texas. Documents relating to the search were later destroyed — in theory because the search did not involve a crime. Democrats are well within their rights to demand state and federal inquiries.
The paper then goes on to note how this sort of vile scheme would have been regarded by the GOP and the national media if it had happened during President Clinton's tenure. I think we know the answer to that question!
KRUGMAN ON FIRE -- As usual, The Most Important Columnist in America (The MICA) hits the nail on Bush's head, noting that
dishonest salesmanship has been the hallmark of the Bush administration's approach to domestic policy. And it has become increasingly clear that the selling of the war with Iraq was no different.

For example, look at the way the administration rhetorically linked Saddam to Sept. 11. As The Associated Press put it: "The implication from Bush on down was that Saddam supported Osama bin Laden's network. Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks frequently were mentioned in the same sentence, even though officials have no good evidence of such a link." Not only was there no good evidence: according to The New York Times, captured leaders of Al Qaeda explicitly told the C.I.A. that they had not been working with Saddam.

Or look at the affair of the infamous "germ warfare" trailers. I don't know whether those trailers were intended to produce bioweapons or merely to inflate balloons, as the Iraqis claim — a claim supported by a number of outside experts. (According to the newspaper The Observer, Britain sold Iraq a similar system back in 1987.) What is clear is that an initial report concluding that they were weapons labs was, as one analyst told The Times, "a rushed job and looks political." President Bush had no business declaring "we have found the weapons of mass destruction."
...
It's now two months since Baghdad fell — and according to The A.P., military units searching for W.M.D.'s have run out of places to look.

One last point: the Bush administration's determination to see what it wanted to see led not just to a gross exaggeration of the threat Iraq posed, but to a severe underestimation of the problems of postwar occupation. When Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, warned that occupying Iraq might require hundreds of thousands of soldiers for an extended period, Paul Wolfowitz said he was "wildly off the mark" — and the secretary of the Army may have been fired for backing up the general. Now a force of 150,000 is stretched thin, facing increasingly frequent guerrilla attacks, and a senior officer told The Washington Post that it might be two years before an Iraqi government takes over. The Independent reports that British military chiefs are resisting calls to send more forces, fearing being "sucked into a quagmire."

I'll tell you what's outrageous. It's not the fact that people are criticizing the administration; it's the fact that nobody is being held accountable for misleading the nation into war.
Thank God for Paul Krugman. At least someone isn't afraid to write and speak the truth in this country!
YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Tax cuts for the rich--everywhere!
IDIOTIC GOP ATTACK ON KERRY WILL BACKFIRE -- Just how witless are GOP attack operatives? Well, check this out:
Have you ever found yourself wondering if Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is really Thurston Howell III, the Gilligan's Island millionaire? No? Well, you will soon if Republican strategists follow through with their prankster plans for the 2004 presidential race. "We'll gig 'em whenever and wherever we can," says one source. The idea is simple: Send an "attack mascot" to primary and caucus appearances of leading Democratic White House hopefuls to heckle and unnerve the candidates. Initial plans by GOP strategists focus on Kerry, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Edwards, and Sen. Joe Lieberman. Just this weekend, Edwards will be met in his home state with a Welcome Wagon, a dig at how much time he has been away campaigning. The most original is the Kerry gag mascot: somebody dressed as Howell, the lock-jawed dim bulb who inherited his wealth. In his straw hat: a $150 price tag to represent his barber's fee. Suggests Kerry spokesman David Wade, the GOP "should lay off the Gilligan's Island imagery before we cast George W. Bush as Gilligan in the remake."

Monday, June 09, 2003

WEAPONS INSPECTORS KILLING TIME -- This Associated Press story provides one of the most damning indictments of the weapons of mass destruction snipe hunt the Bush regime is engaged in right now in Iraq.
"It doesn't appear there are any more targets at this time," said Lt. Col. Keith Harrington, whose team has been cut by more than 30 percent. "We're hanging around with no missions in the foreseeable future."

Over the past week, his and several other teams have been taken off assignment completely. Rather than visit suspected weapons sites, they are brushing up on target practice and catching up on letters home.

Of the seven Site Survey Teams charged with carrying out the search, only two have assignments for the coming week - but not at suspected weapons sites.

Lt. Col. Ronald Haan, who runs team 6, is using the time to run his troops through a training exercise.

"At least it's keeping the guys busy," he said.
Most Americans still don't seem to care. Not yet, anyway.
WHY DO HUMANS HAVE NO FUR? -- Other mammals are covered in fur. Why are we different? Well, one reason is to avoid parasites, but in the end, it all boils down to sex, of course. Mother Nature does seem like a bit of a pervert at times.
A CHEEKY PHOTO SHOOT -- Prudish Americans told photographer to take his racy photo shoots somewhere else. So he did.
MANKIND HAS A 50/50 CHANCE OF SURVIVAL -- Our odds are lengthening...
The demise of civilization has been predicted since it began, but the odds of keeping Planet Earth alive and well are getting worse amid a breakneck pace of scientific advances, according to Martin Rees, Britain's honorary astronomer royal.

Rees calculates that the odds of an apocalyptic disaster striking Earth have risen to about 50 percent from 20 percent a hundred years ago.

The 60-year-old scientist, author of the recently published "Our Final Hour," says science is advancing in a far more unpredictable and potentially dangerous pattern than ever before.

He lists as mankind's biggest threats: nuclear terrorism, deadly engineered viruses, rogue machines and genetic engineering that could alter human character. All of those could result from innocent error or the action of a single malevolent individual.

By 2020, an instance of bioterror or bioerror will have killed a million people, Rees contends.
Some people might find Mr Rees a bit of a downer, but I think he'd be great fun at parties. It's the ultimate hypothetical parlor game: When and how will the world end? This guy is a blast, metaphorically speaking, of course.
KERRY GETS AN "A" -- The New Republic has given Senator John Kerry (D-MA) an A grade for political courage in its latest installment of the TNR Primary. Read about it.
TOM TOMORROW ON -- Re-writing the history of the Bush regime's case against Iraq.
IRAQI GENERAL: IRAQ HAD NO WMD -- Saddam Hussein's intelligence agencies conducted extensive research on weapons of mass destruction, but did not produce any such weaponry, says an Iraqi general who spoke to the London Times on the condition of anonymity. "I challenge anyone in Iraq, from north to south, to find anything," said the unnamed general.
"The laboratories were hidden in basements in houses around Baghdad with teams of just three or four people," said a general who procured supplies for the programme through an international network of front companies.

"But it was all just theory. The aim was to keep us up to date and ready so that if the [United Nations] sanctions were lifted or we needed to produce chemical or biological weapons again, we could start up immediately."
The Times of London, owned by Mr Rupert Murdoch, must be part of the Liberal Media conspiracy, I suppose.
BRIT JOURNALIST CALLS IRAQ WAR A 'TRICK' -- Patrick Seale, a prominent liberal British journalist and author of "Asad," a biography of the late dictator of Syria, writes in an Arab newspaper that President Bush and Prime Minister used a 'false trick' to lure the U.S. and Britain into war with Iraq.
CANNIBALISM HAUNTS NORTH KOREA -- Refugees from the Stalinist prison/country are reporting that cannibalism--including parents eating their children--is on the rise in North Korea after another bad harvest and steep cuts in international food aid. This, not Iraq, is the world's most vile and dangerous country--and has been for some time. Why do I write that? Well consider that
North Korea has threatened to counter United States plans for massive military enhancements on the Korean peninsula with a "corresponding powerful deterrent force."

The threat was issued late Saturday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in response to an 11 billion-dollar US plan to boost the war capability of American troops in South Korea.
ANOTHER G.I. DIES IN IRAQ -- Mr Bush tells us the Iraq War is over. He should tell that to the Iraqis, some of whom--at least--think there is still plenty of reason to fight and kill American soldiers. Another U.S. serviceman died in Iraq today, this one at a military checkpoint near the Syrian border.
YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Compassionate conservatism comes to Iraq.
TOP AL QAEDA: NO TIES TO IRAQ -- Top captured leaders in Al Qaeda (not including Osama Bin Laden, of course, who has not been found no matter how much Bush and his media allies try to make us forget that li'l factoid) are telling their U.S. debriefers that Al Qaeda had no ties to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, despite claims to the contrary by the Bush regime.
Two of the highest-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in American custody have told the C.I.A. in separate interrogations that the terrorist organization did not work jointly with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, according to several intelligence officials.

Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda planner and recruiter until his capture in March 2002, told his questioners last year that the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's government had been discussed among Qaeda leaders, but that Osama bin Laden had rejected such proposals, according to an official who has read the Central Intelligence Agency's classified report on the interrogation.

In his debriefing, Mr. Zubaydah said Mr. bin Laden had vetoed the idea because he did not want to be beholden to Mr. Hussein, the official said.

Separately, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Qaeda chief of operations until his capture on March 1 in Pakistan, has also told interrogators that the group did not work with Mr. Hussein, officials said.

The Bush administration has not made these statements public, though it frequently highlighted intelligence reports that supported its assertions of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda as it made its case for war against Iraq.

Since the war ended, and because the administration has yet to uncover evidence of prohibited weapons in Iraq, the quality of American intelligence has come under scrutiny amid contentions that the administration selectively disclosed only those intelligence reports that supported its case for war.

Bill Harlow, a spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, declined to comment on what the two Qaeda leaders had told their questioners. A senior intelligence official played down the significance of their debriefings, explaining that everything Qaeda detainees say must be regarded with great skepticism.
I'm not sure why everything Al Qaeda detainees say must be regarded with great skepticism. After all, what's their interest in protecting the reputation of Saddam Hussein? These men are captured. Their future includes only lifetime captivity or death--that's it. There is nothing Saddam Hussein can or ever will do for them. There is nothing Saddam Hussein's associates--however many may be left--can or will ever do for these captured Al Qaeda leaders. In other words, these men have nothing to gain by lying for Saddam Hussein. If they say they had no ties to Iraq, I'm inclined to believe them. I think most people will be, too, which probably explains why we are learning of this from intelligence leaks, rather than from the Bush regime itself.
SON OF SENATE MAJORITY LEADER ARRESTED -- By way of Atrios we learn that the son of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has been arrested for DUI and possession of alcohol by a minor. The lad is 17 years old. One thing is clear: Bill Clinton MUST be to blame for this! How else to explain this lack of family values?
KERRY LEADS CLOSE RACE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE -- A new Zogby poll has Senator John Kerry (D-MA) leading former Governor Howard Dean (D-VT) for the New Hampshire primary. Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is a distant third at 10 percent.
WORDS OF WISDOM -- "The chances of finding a job are about as good as finding weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi desert -- slim and none, and slim just left the building."
- Will Ferrell, in his Harvard University speech

Saturday, June 07, 2003

NEW BUSHISM -- "I'm the master of low expectations."—Aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003
Thanks, as always, to Slate.
SLATE PROFILES -- John Kerry (D-MA).

Friday, June 06, 2003

DIA CONTRADICTS BUSH ON IRAQI WMD -- From The Agonist via Stratfor comes this: A September 2002 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report indicated that there was "no reliable information" that proved that Iraq possessed chemical weapons, Bloomberg reported June 6, citing a summary of the report. However, the report did indicate that Iraq probably had stockpiles of chemical agents. "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has -- or will establish -- its chemical warfare agent production facilities," the report said. The report also indicated that the DIA believed Iraq had stockpiles of biological agents, but did not have the evidence to prove it. "Iraq is assessed to possess biological agent stockpiles that may be weaponized and ready for use," the report continued. "The size of those stockpiles is uncertain and is subject to debate. The nature and condition of those stockpiles also are unknown." The report, titled "Iraq: Key Weapons Facilities -- An Operational Support Study," was initially detailed in the June 9 edition of U.S. News & World Report.

COMMENT: I also saw this just moments ago on CNN, but can find no evidence of it at CNN.com. I'll keep checking until I find confirmation.
USA TODAY: BUSH TAX CUT IGNORES MANY -- But not the wealthy, you can be damn sure of that. While the middle class and working poor get the shaft, the wealthy interests that have bankrolled Mr Bush's political career are well-cared for.
details of the plan that emerged this week show millions of ''struggling'' taxpayers aren't getting any promised benefits.

Those shortchanged include low-wage individuals and families with children, including members of the U.S. military. The law's fine print also reveals that middle-income families will bear a heavier tax burden because they get less-generous breaks than those making more than $200,000.
...
Among those left out of the tax cut:

* Singles. Some 8.1 million taxpayers would get nothing under the new law, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that advocates for the poor. Most are unmarried, have no dependents and make less than $14,000 a year. They pay as much as $600 in income taxes, plus Social Security (news - web sites) and Medicare levies. Also denied relief are some singles who have children or care for elderly relatives. Those with two dependents make as much as $54,200 and pay $5,200 in income taxes.

* Working poor. Although the law increases the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000, that doesn't benefit an estimated 6 million working families whose incomes are so low that they don't pay income taxes. Yet these are the very low-wage families that are supposed to be protected by current tax policy so they don't slip back onto welfare rolls. Plans to expand the child tax credit to include them had been in the Senate version of the tax bill, but were dropped to preserve corporate tax-avoidance schemes.
...
Yet some lawmakers in the House want to blow another hole in a deficit headed for a record $400 billion this year. They will help the working poor only if higher-income groups get an additional $100 billion in new tax cuts. And they won't identify spending cuts or new revenue to offset the costs.
Hail to the Thief.
UMEMPLOYMENT UP IN MAY -- Yes, the Bush economy just marches onward and downward.
The nation's unemployment rate climbed to 6.1 percent in May, the highest level in nine years, as businesses cut 17,000 jobs in a weak economy struggling toward recovery.

The rate was up one-tenth of a percentage point from April, peaking at a level not seen since the country was emerging from the last recession, the Labor Department (news - web sites) reported Friday.
There's only one thing to be done about this: Iran must be invaded!

Thursday, June 05, 2003

THE EXECUTIONER IS ALL RIGHT TONIGHT -- Read this story about a Saudi Arabian executioner who has lopped off countless heads with his sword, which was helpfully provided by the government, of course. I think you'll find much of his language very similar to the rantings of our own home-grown religious fanatics. I'll write it again: the Christian fundamentalists in America have far more in common with the Islamic fundamentalists in Arabia than they do with their own fellow citizens.
FOOLED INTO WAR -- Columnist Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a few words about how the Bush regime deceived the American public into fighting a war for reasons the government was too gutless to reveal.
The claim that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction posed an immediate threat to the United States was a sham. It will still be a sham even if some U.S. Army corporal outside Baghdad is stumbling across tons of anthrax right this very minute.

But don't take my word for it. When worried advocates of the war start claiming that it doesn't really matter whether WMD are found, they're saying the same thing I am:

WMD were just the excuse. They were never the reason. The Bush administration hyped WMD because it did not trust the American people with its true rationale for war, which was the launching of a crusade to remake the Middle East.

Once you've reached that understanding, though, what do you do with it? Here at home, we can -- and, in fact, must -- debate what it means to our democracy to have been fooled into war by our own government.
As I wrote yesterday, no democracy can long survive if its government is permitted to lie about matters of life and death and get away with it.
AL QAEDA AFTER THE BIG STUFF -- While the U.S. is diddling around in Iraq, our most dangerous enemies, Al Qaeda, are quietly but persistently pursuing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons--the so-called NBC of doomsday machines.
Al-Qaeda is working to acquire biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, the CIA said, as G8 leaders backed a US plan to thwart terrorist attacks involving aircraft and radioactive "dirty bombs."

"Al-Qaeda and associated extremist groups have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks," the US Central Intelligence Agency said in a report obtained by AFP Tuesday.

The report -- entitled "Terrorist CBRN: Materials and Effects," referring to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons -- noted that several al-Qaeda-associated groups have tried to carry out attacks in Europe "with easily produced chemicals and toxins best suited to assassination and small-scale scenarios." A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the report contained information that had been available "for years" and was merely intended as a "reference tool."

The unclassified report -- dated May 2003 -- noted that a review of an al-Qaeda document found in Afghanistan last summer "indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin and VX."
Not only is the Bush regime devoting far too little attention to Al Qaeda, but it is also devoting far too little attention (and treasure) to Homeland Defense, which remains a sick joke. Let's hope the joke isn't on all of us.
RUSSIA, CHINA PLAGUED BY POLLUTION -- As much as 15% of Russia is environmentally devastated, according to President Vladimir Putin, but it appears his government will not sign the Kyoto treaty, which includes new limits on pollution. No wonder President Putin and Mr Bush get along so well.

Meanwhile, in China: China's two biggest waterways are facing an unprecedented pollution crisis with water shortages and the massive Three Gorges Dam threatening to devastate the Yellow and Yangtze rivers, officials said Thursday.
HOWELL RAINES RESIGNS -- New York Times executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned today after weeks of battering controversy due to reporter Jayson Blair's fraudulent reporting and another reporter's improper use of the byline. The begs the obvious question: What will Micky Kaus write about now?
SLATE PROFILES -- Florida Senator Bob Graham, a sober and respected public servant who has become the presidential race's most intriguing conspiracy theorist.
BRITS MOVE TO DE-POLITICIZE INTEL AGENCIES -- Stunned by shocking allegations (and the increasing likelihood) that Iraq intelligence was misused by the political authorities in London and Washington to inflame war fever in both countries, the British government and the intelligence agencies have agreed to purify their intercourse and how the intelligence is used and presented to the public.
MI6 and MI5 chiefs have sought the government's assurance that it will never again pass off as official intelligence information which does not come from them.

They are also insisting that any information used by Downing Street claiming to be based on intelligence should be cleared by them first.

Their demands, which the government has bowed to, reflect deep unease in the intelligence community about the government's attempt to use secret information to push its case for military action against Iraq.

Senior officials in the security and intelligence services made it clear that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not as great as ministers suggested.
Le'ts hope the U.S. govenrment will eventually prove equally vigilant against the politicization of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. With Mr Bush in the White House and the GOP controlling both houses of Congress, I'm not terribly hopeful at the moment. A new Democratic president, however, must make it a top priority.
THE RETURN OF CLASS WARFARE -- Actually, it never went away, but Michael Kinsley has a superb article on Mr Bush's savage war against the middle class and working poor.
MORE IRAQ CHAOS -- There has been another attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah, Iraq. One American soldier is dead and five are wounded after unknown assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at our guys. The number of dead since Mr Bush "ended" the Iraq War is starting to pile up.

And via The Agonist comes this cheerful little gem from Stratfor:
"The problem is not, as the administration has argued, that pacifying a country like Iraq takes time. The problem is that the curve does not clearly run in favor of the United States. It's not that things are not getting better fast enough; it's that things are getting worse. Moreover, no one seems to have a clear idea of how to cope with the guerrilla war or eliminate the Shiite threat. At this moment, it would appear that the strategy is to endure both. That's not a great strategy."
Hey, no kidding, Stratfor. Too bad this sort of thing wasn't considered by the U.S. government before the war began. Those who did consider it were treated like cowards and traitors. Expect the chickenhawks to now blame the war doubters for undermining U.S. morale with their "carping" over the situation in Iraq--and the lack of weapons of mass destruction.
BUSH CAUTIOUS ON WMD IN 'HEATHEN' LANDS -- The peacemaking part of his Mideast tour at an end, Mr Bush turned his attention to the far more important matter of public relations, slying over Iraq and trying to identify himself with people willing to do something he never would: fight for the United States of America.
Bush today showed a new caution in his language about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons when he spoke to hundreds of camouflage-clad troops this morning at the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, where Gen. Tommy Franks ran the war. He omitted his previous claim that such weapons will be found, although his aides still predict they will be.
Fortunately, the military prepared the troops for Mr Bush, with this unusual admonition:
Sgt. Major Dwight Brown told the troops before Bush's appearance, "I don't want any damn catcalls from the crowd. We have the president of the United States coming to tell us what a great job we did destroying those heathen up in northern Iraq."
Heathens? Is that what they're teaching the troops over there? What is this, the 18th century?
BUSH ECONOMY STUMBLES BACKWARD -- The Dow Jones has been moving upward lately, overinterpreting a few pieces of economic news that are less bad than what we've gotten used to. In other words, the market is poised for a fall. Now it gets its excuse: bad unemployment and manufacturing numbers.
The number of American workers filing new claims for jobless benefits climbed to a five-week high last week as companies coped with an economy that is struggling to get back on firm footing.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 16,000 to 442,000 for the work week ending May 31. The increase pushed claims to their highest level since the week ending April 26.

In another report, orders to U.S. factories fell 2.9 percent in April from March, marking the largest decline in 17 months, the Commerce Department said. The decrease was a lot deeper than the 1.8 percent drop economists were forecasting.

Manufacturing, which has slashed jobs and cut production, has been a major trouble spot for the economy.
Right about now Karl Rove must be thinking it's time for another invasion.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

SPURS IN 6 -- Book it.
IT'S FUNNY 'CAUSE IT'S TRUE -- Behold the Bush regime's candidates to replace Christine Todd Whitman at the Environmental Protection Agency.
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE PRESIDENT -- I mean, the man who should be president.
IS BILL FRIST RETIRING IN 2006? -- Daily Kos alerted me to this story about the possible retirement of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Why would Senator Frist be retiring after 2006 and what evidence is there that he's planning to do it? Well, for one thing, Republicans like Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) are already seriously raising money to run for the Senate that year. Why would someone like Rep. Wamp give up a safe seat in the House to run in the primaries against a popular Senator like Bill Frist? Answer: He almost certainly would not. That means Republicans, like Wamp and others, think Senator Frist's seat will be open that year. As for why he would do such a thing, my bet is that Senator Frist, like most occupants of that debating chamber, views himself as president-to-be. Noting how being Majority Leader of the Senate crippled Bob Dole's campaign for president in 1996, stepping down in 2006 in preparation for a 2008 run at the White House would make sense.
WOLFOWITZ: OIL MADE IRAQ WAR NECESSARY -- Paul Wolfowitz, the #2 man in the Pentagon and notorious uber-neocon hawk, has committed the sin of what journalist Michael Kinsley called inadvertenly telling the truth. At an Asia security conference in Singapore this past weekend, Mr Wolfowitz told the delegates that oil made the Iraq War necessary.
Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."
...
His latest comments follow his widely reported statement from an interview in Vanity Fair last month, in which he said that "for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction."
The truth is slowly coming out. Drip drip drip.
MARTHA STEWART HAS BEEN INDICTED... -- ...for alleged securities fraud and obstruction of justice. If you care.
BUSH REGIME COMPROMISES INTEGRITY OF OUR SPOOKS -- On May 30, 2003, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote a sensational column about how the Bush regime has violated the precious integrity of our intelligence services by demanding false, misleading, and incomplete information about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. This column is important enough, I think, to include here in its entirety. Read it all.

On Day 71 of the Hunt for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned up.

Maybe we'll do better on Day 72. But we might have better luck searching for something just as alarming: the growing evidence that the administration grossly manipulated intelligence about those weapons of mass destruction in the runup to the Iraq war.

A column earlier this month on this issue drew a torrent of covert communications from indignant spooks who say that administration officials leaned on them to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and deceive the public.

"The American people were manipulated," bluntly declares one person from the Defense Intelligence Agency who says he was privy to all the intelligence there on Iraq. These people are coming forward because they are fiercely proud of the deepest ethic in the intelligence world — that such work should be nonpolitical — and are disgusted at efforts to turn them into propagandists.

"The Al Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons issue were the only two ways that you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S.," notes Greg Thielmann, who retired in September after 25 years in the State Department, the last four in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "And the administration was grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."

The outrage among the intelligence professionals is so widespread that they have formed a group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, that wrote to President Bush this month to protest what it called "a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions."

"While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been deliberately warped for political purposes," the letter said, "never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorize launching a war."

Ray McGovern, a retired C.I.A. analyst who briefed President Bush's father in the White House in the 1980's, said that people in the agency were now "totally demoralized." He says, and others back him up, that the Pentagon took dubious accounts from émigrés close to Ahmad Chalabi and gave these tales credibility they did not deserve.

Intelligence analysts often speak of "humint" for human intelligence (spies) and "sigint" for signals intelligence (wiretaps). They refer contemptuously to recent work as "rumint," or rumor intelligence.

"I've never heard this level of alarm before," said Larry Johnson, who used to work in the C.I.A. and State Department. "It is a misuse and abuse of intelligence. The president was being misled. He was ill served by the folks who are supposed to protect him on this. Whether this was witting or unwitting, I don't know, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

Some say that top Pentagon officials cast about for the most sensational nuggets about Iraq and used them to bludgeon Colin Powell and seduce President Bush. The director of central intelligence, George Tenet, has been generally liked and respected within the agency ranks, but in the last year, particularly in the intelligence directorate, people say that he has kowtowed to Donald Rumsfeld and compromised the integrity of his own organization.

"We never felt that there was any leadership in the C.I.A. to qualify or put into context the information available," one veteran said. "Rather there was a tendency to feed the most alarming tidbits to the president. Often it's the most ill-considered information that goes to the president.

"So instead of giving the president the most considered, carefully examined information available, basically you give him the garbage. And then in a few days when it's clear that maybe it wasn't right, well then, you feed him some more hot garbage."

The C.I.A. is now examining its own record, and that's welcome. But the atmosphere within the intelligence community is so poisonous, and the stakes are so high — for the credibility of America's word and the soundness of information on which we base American foreign policy — that an outside examination is essential.

Congress must provide greater oversight, and President Bush should invite Brent Scowcroft, the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a man trusted by all sides, to lead an inquiry and, in a public report, suggest steps to restore integrity to America's intelligence agencies.
"WHAT WE LOST..." -- "Blackhawk Down" author Mark Bowden, a bis supporter of the Iraq War, believes he was duped by the Bush regime and he isn't happy about it. What's more, he doesn't think you should be happy about it either.
I trusted Bush, and unless something big develops on the weapons front in Iraq soon, it appears as though I was fooled by him. Perhaps he himself was taken in by his intelligence and military advisers. If so, he ought to be angry as hell, because ultimately he bears the responsibility.

It suggests a strain of zealotry in this White House that regards the question of war as just another political debate. It isn't. More than 100 fine Americans were killed in this conflict, dozens of British soldiers, and many thousands of Iraqis. Nobody gets killed or maimed in Capitol Hill maneuvers over spending plans, or battles over federal court appointments. War is a special case. It is the most serious step a nation can take, and it deserves the highest measure of seriousness and integrity.

When a president lies or exaggerates in making an argument for war, when he spins the facts to sell his case, he betrays his public trust, and he diminishes the credibility of his office and our country. We are at war. What we lost in this may yet end up being far more important than what we gained.
Mr Bowden has got it right. An administration that is permitted to lie about the most important issues of life and death and get away with it will only reward our scandalous tolerance with more lies. And more lies. And it sends a signal to all future administrations that the public no longer expects or even wants honesty on the most critical issues of the day. No democracy can survive such disinterest and cynicism for long.