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Saturday, May 27, 2006

A comment left at post Battle Cry for Theocracy

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Hey, I am a minister of a church in the U.S. and I work with youth. I cannot stand this organization and I have been reading a lot of great posts about it on various blogs. It is disgusting Fundamentalism.

Yet, what has alarmed me equally is the amount of stereotyping that people are willing to buy into regarding the Christian faith.

First, there is NO WAY that the vast, vast majority of Christians would stand for the sort of Levitical violence against women or others that you quote above. In fact, that is precisely why the Fundamentalists argument that they take the Bible literally is soooo foolish. If they did, they would probably be giving all their possessions away, and embracing AIDS victims, and fighting for peace and justice. They read the Bible selectively. We all read selectively. No one is going to stone virgins, that is such a foolish argument. The last things that Christians want to do is reinstate Old Testament Law....trust me. It makes for a convenient club, but c'mon.

Second, nearly every blog post I have read on this warns of "rising fascism", or a "growing theocracy", or some other bullshit. People need to pause and read some legitimate religious studies and stop watching the news and reading reactionary garbage. Look around, you are villifying a group of idiots for being fearful and reactionary, and you are using reactionary language and inaccurate characterizations that operate on fear.

The reality is that most "evangelicals" don't want a theocracy at all. In fact, they tend to be pretty staunch defenders of religious freedom. Second, most "evangelicals" don't even believe half of what is considered to be standard "evangelical" dogma. Studies show they don't know what they believe in most cases. Just because some idiot named Ron Luce can fill a stadium doesn't mean a whole lot. Those kids don't know what they think. They buy into the lights and the show and think (for a while) that its legitimate. Its a charade of power. And unfortunately, you are being taken in by it too. The reality is that evangelicals are not the unified, monolithic, and ignorant army we want them to be. Let's find other reasons to hate them. Reasons based in reality and not base stereotypes.

Also, why is it o.k. to say, "I have no idea why any woman would want to be a Christian or a Muslim"? For starters, that is a devaluing assessment of the cultural context out of which they come. Second, I suspect it involves some pretty base stereotypes about "those" women. Like, "they" don't think, or aren't as independently minded. Only arrogant Westerns could value individual independence so highly. Who am I to prescribe that value on another culture or sub-culture, even if that culture might be in my own backyard. Rachel, there are plenty of mujerista, feminist/liberationist, and LGBT Christian women and men out there and plenty of Christians that suppourt them. Let's all stop the stereotyping, or we will risk becoming similar to the thing we hate.


Hey I am a mother and grandmother, and house mother to youths from all over the world. Referring to the organisation you cant stand, I am assuming that you are talking about Battle Cry and yes I agree that it is disgusting Fundamentalism.

Yet what has alarmed me equally is where are the voices, of the true Christian Faith in America today. As an outsider, who has followed your countries politics very very closely since the Supreme Court handed Bush the Presidency in 2000, because that decision has effected my own Country and the Free World so decisively, I have not heard their voices raised at all.

I heard their voices raised so loudly, not allow John Kerry to accept the sacrement, A man who defended his Country when called on, and more than likely lived a moral life. Where were they when your so called President declared war on a unarmed nation, with their lies, Hey I have waited and waited to hear their voices raised.

All the voices I have heard raised is the Fundamentalist Crazies, everywhere on Fox Cable the Media before the 2004 elections, Where were the voices of the true Christian Faith asking the Questions about this war, that should have been asked by the Church of God on this Earth, they where silent. A silence which is unforgivable, as far as I am concerned.

But we certainly heard plenty from the crazies, that is for sure they where everywhere, in your face including the drug taking, drunk, you call a President flouting his so called Christianity, Well if that is Christianity, I say it sucks and can do without it, my faith is with my God and no sleeze that can lead Nations to war, without questions from the Church. What can be expected from our youth if they are the only voices, they are hearing.

Where have the voices of the church been, to stop the war in Iraq that has decimated the lives of so many innocent families of that country , of so many innocent families in America, of so many innocent families of the coalition. where were the voices.

You say that no way the vast, vast majority of christians would stand for the sort of Levitical violence against women or others that I quote above, Well I say they have accepted it, I say the Church has allowed it to be accepted, because that and worse is happening in Iraq, and your White House is up the asses of the deviate Heads of States that are committing these crimes.
I dont read the Bible selectively I dont read the bible at all, all I know is that you try to live a Christian life, a good life look after your family to the best of your ability, and accept the next person as you would like to be accepted yourself, that is all I believe is asked of you.

I am just posting what is happening out there, If the church had stood up to the the deviates in the White House, I sure as hell would have posted that also, But all I hear about is Georgie being a Born again Christian who had something like 80% approval rating not so long ago, who goes and blows Afganistan and Iraq off the face of the earth, for no crimes that they had committed against our Countries that I know of, robs them blind of their heritage, their oil, and anything else he can lay his hands on, that puts money in his coffers.

And I dont want to hear that Afganistan committed the destruction of the Trade Centres and killed so many of your citizens, because 15 of the 19 culprits for that deed where Saudi Arabians, and Georgie certainly loves the Saudis.

Just wanted to put my thoughts to paper, on your post minister. Welcome to Rebelle Nation.

Hey Minister I beleive this message says it all, what kind of message is going out to the youth of America, sorry no disrespect meant, just my thoughts on the matter

Cheney Speaks to Students Behind Podium When He Should Be Behind Bars

Cheney, addressing our graduates as if he has earned the right to tell American youth what it takes to be successful in America today. The only reason Cheney is not talking from behind bars is because of a completely corrupted Bush GOP government, and most of America knows this. It does send a message to our youth when such criminals are asked to speak as symbols of this country's leaders.

Country music singer Toby Keith performs for troops during his fourth USO tour in Iraq May 27, 2006. REUTERS/Dave Gatley/USO/Handout


A memorial honoring troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, on Santa Monica beach in Santa Monica, Calif., Saturday, May 27, 2006. Veterans for Peace,

Los Angeles Chapter, organized installing 2,758 crosses, stars of David, and crescents for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. (AP Photo/Stefano Paltera)


Officials say 100,000 people have registered as 'displaced' in the three months since the Samarra bombing. But many more go uncounted,

quietly seeking refuge with family or heading abroad. The Displacement Ministry says, 14,607 families - - 100,000 people, other officials say - - have applied for aid in three months. Picture taken May 23, 2006. TO ACCOMPANY FEATURE IRAQ-REFUGEES REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz

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Copter down in Iraq; 2 Marines missing :

A U.S. Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter crashed in an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq on Saturday, and two crew members were missing, the U.S. military said. Hostile fire was not suspected as the cause.

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Olmert should have stayed Home

By Mike Whitney Ehud Olmert never should have been invited to Washington. He shouldn't have been given a platform to spout his defiance of UN resolutions. The Bush administration does the country a disservice by rewarding leaders who ignore the international community and carry out their own self-serving agenda.

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William Greider | Rise and Fall of the Enron Boys

By William Greider The Nation
Thursday 25 May 2006

Normally, I am a "bleeding heart" when it comes to long prison terms, but an appropriate sentence for the Enron boys might be six trillion years. Kenneth Lay with his million-dollar smile and Jeffrey Skilling with the cold, confident eyes of a viper made their company into the symbol and showpiece for a glorious era. It was the hyper-modern and market-efficient "new economy," in which the concept of wealth falling out of the sky became briefly hip and widely believed in respectable circles.

Enron led the way. Lay and Skilling showed us how it's done. And when Enron fell, the great national delusion turned to catastrophe. Unwitting investors lost $6 trillion overall. Millions of innocent bystanders lost much more in terms of their lives. So let Skilling and Lay now serve as symbol for the shame of modern American capitalism. Let these guys do the time for all those others, the corporate titans and financial con men, who got away.

Justice sometimes proceeds in strange ways. I am opposed to public hangings and other forms of scapegoating, but perhaps this time we need a spectacular ritual sacrifice to amplify the point made by that swift, sure conviction in Texas. These men in the good suits are criminals - criminals! - who must be made to set an example for all ambitious people who toil in business and finance.

These two thugs looted pension funds and destroyed the personal savings of families. They stole money from the rest of us, not to mention from government and other non-glamorous business enterprises. They rigged energy markets to drive up prices and bilk defenseless consumers (an old-fashioned swindle borrowed from nineteenth-century robber barons and newly decriminalized by deregulation). They swallowed viable, productive companies and wrecked them, especially wrecking the livelihoods of their employees. And, worst of all, they were best pals with politicians and political leaders as well as the most prestigious names in banking and finance - connections the Mafia would die for!

Sorry, am I shouting? My exuberance over this verdict is a mixture of joyous fulfillment and lingering doubts about the impact. Since the meltdown of the stock market in 2001 and the avalanche of scandalous revelations that followed from hundreds of corporations, I have thought the political system and the financial system and even the public at large did not sufficiently get the message. The pervasive rot in American capitalism is much deeper than acknowledged. The various forms of fraud by which millions of people are separated from their money continue in practice, often blessed by law itself.

Still flourishing, likewise, are the leading Wall Street firms - Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, to name a few - that showed Lay and Skilling how to do the fancy financial footwork, converting "debt" into "revenue," so that stock analysts could tout Enron's rising "profit". This was fraud too, but nobody from the banks went to prison (they paid millions, even billions, for no-guilt settlements with government and injured investors). Message to America:

Don't rob the Seven Eleven with a six-gun. Rob the general public with pen and computer.

Congress, meanwhile, claimed to "toughen" financial laws, but they did not get reform halfway done. Now the Chamber of Commerce and other front groups are back in Washington insisting that the rather mild reform measures be scrapped too. They may very well succeed, if the public is not aroused. The media can take care of that. They will be describing this verdict as "an end of the era."

Wrong again. The era of corporate corruption, financial swindling and blue-sky illusions is not over. The players are merely paused, waiting for the marks to re-enter the casino. Perhaps Kenny Boy's conviction will remind people that the game is still fixed and those guys in good suits are the dealers.

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FOCUS: The New York Times | One Man's Constitutional Crisis

"Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives have achieved an almost unprecedented level of bipartisanship in denouncing the FBI's search of a congressman's office." The New York Times ponders, "... where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years."

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'Gunfire' false alarm sparks panic in the US Capitol

Fri May 26, 7:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Tactical teams wearing flak jackets and police sniffer dogs swarmed through several US Congress buildings after an erroneous report of gunfire forced a lockdown of the sprawling Capitol office complex.

A US lawmaker admitted to being the source of the mistaken report of gunfire that sparked the mayhem amid worries that an armed intruder was on the loose in Congress, leading authorities to shut down parts of the legislative office complex for hours.

Republican Representative Jim Saxton (news, bio, voting record), speaking to Fox television, said he was in an elevator at the garage level of the Rayburn House Office building, when he heard what he thought was gunfire.

"I heard what I thought to be between six and ten shots," the Republican lawmaker said.

"It sounded exactly like gunfire to me. It was not of a backfire nature. It was the sharp crack as comes out of a weapon."

Saxton continued: "I dove back into the elevator, rushed back to my office and asked my chief of staff to report what I had seen or heard to the Capitol Hill Police, which she did, and that started the chain of events that unfolded over the course of the day."

The report prompted police to lock down the Capitol dome building and Rayburn for more than five hours, while they searched in vain for a possible gunman, trapping lawmakers, visitors and office workers in the congressional complex. >>>cont

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Iraqi National Guard Watches Murder of Olympians in 'Forbidden' Clothing

From Ned Parker in Baghdad

THE coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad, apparently for wearing shorts, in a district where Islamic radicals have started to enforce brutal, Taleban-style law.

Hussein Ahmed Rashid was shot at close range with two of his players, Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda, in the al-Saidiyah neighbourhood, a national Olympic Committee official said.

One of the players, wearing shorts, had left the car to drop off some items at a laundry. When he returned to the vehicle, gunmen in a grey saloon car swerved and blocked the players’ car, witnesses said.

Three men in civilian clothes surrounded the car and ordered the passengers to get out. When they refused, one of the men produced a revolver and shot the players. The coach sat helplessly in the back while the assailants dragged out the players’ bodies and dumped them in the road. Then one of the assailants cocked a handgun and shot the coach in the head.

The dead men were wearing green sports jerseys emblazoned with the word “Iraq”. One of the shirts bore an Olympics patch.

An Iraqi National Guard checkpoint was about 100m from the site of the ambush, but the soldiers did nothing, witnesses said. They added that gunmen had used the same car in the past two months during attacks on the owner of an electrical parts shop and a pedestrian. Local people suspect that the murders have been carried out by the Islamic militants roaming al-Saidiyah and the adjoining district of al-Amariyah.

Radicals have been leaving leaflets at homes, forbidding women to drive or go outside without being veiled. The leaflet also warns men not to wear shorts or dress in T-shirts bearing images or English writing.

In addition, the leaflet forbids men from wearing goatee beards and anyone from buying mayonnaise. The leaflet threatens violators with death.

Islamic militants hold immense power in western and southern Baghdad, and they have been known to kill barbers who give American-style haircuts. The area is regarded as being as off limits to Westerners, where a visit can spell instant death.

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Al Gore Takes Cannes by Storm -- Will the Oval Office Be Next?

Over the weekend, I flew from Washington to Cannes. In Washington, the talk was all about 2006. In Cannes, the talk is all about 2008.

That's because even with Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Penelope Cruz, Jamie Foxx, and Halle Berry here for the film festival, the hottest star in town is Al Gore.

In Cannes for the European premiere of his powerful global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has been surrounded by adoring crowds and deluged with interview requests. He told me that he gave 23 back-to-back-to-back interviews on Sunday, Hollywood junket-style (all on only one hour's sleep), and had another 23 scheduled for Monday. "This is my second visit to Cannes," he said. "The first was when I was fifteen years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists -- Sartre, Camus... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!" Which may explain his pitch-perfect French accent.

It's clear that the film, and the engaging "New Gore" on display both in the film and his public appearances promoting it, have connected with people in a big way.

The film is an environmental punch in the gut. Gore 2.0 is a revelation, and a critical smash.

When asked at his press conference how he should be addressed, he replied "Your Adequacy."

"Hanks himself could not have delivered the line more smoothly," gushed The Guardian. The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby labeled him "a hero." Time's Anne Marie Cox called him "a rock star." New York magazine touted his "amazing comeback." And even Fox News' Roger Friedman described him as "funny and relaxed." Talk about killer reviews.

Of course, as potent as the film is (Friedman says the minds of skeptics "will be changed in a nanosecond" and Franklin Foer says "it will certainly change elite opinion"), the other reason is the "Will he or Won't he?" speculation about 2008.

He's saying no -- but you can hear the "Run, Al, Run" chant growing louder.

"Democrats are looking everywhere to find their presidential candidate," Graydon Carter told me. "But the solution may be right under their noses."

And I think that the pressure on Gore to run will only increase as we move toward 2008.

Sure, that's a lifetime away in politics. And the shelf-life of movie buzz isn't very long -- I doubt people will be debating the relative merits of X-Men 3 and The Break-Up two months from now, let alone a year and a half.

But the debate over global warming is only going to heat up -- and Gore has a whole campaign planned to ensure that it does.

"We are planning to train a thousand people to be able to deliver the presentation all over the country," he told me, "so we can more quickly reach the tipping point."

With An Inconvenient Truth likely to move the discussion about global warming toward critical mass -- and the White House and the oil companies and the likes of Sen. James 'Global Warming is a Hoax' Inhofe making a mockery of the crisis -- the issue, with Gore as its leading spokesman, will remain in the spotlight.

So at no moment between now and the Democratic convention in the summer of 2008 will those eyeing the Democratic nomination be able to fully relax about not having Gore as a potential rival.

Because of his unique position in the political landscape -- i.e. the 2000 White House winner who wasn't allowed to move in -- and because of the platform his environmental moral crusade provides, Gore won't have to abide by the standard running-for-president timetable. He won't have to hit the usual marks of when to form an exploratory committee, when to officially announce, when to show up in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Instead, he can lay back, bide his time, continue doing what he's doing -- and is so clearly passionate about -- and perhaps be able to chart a path to the Oval Office while avoiding the things about politics that he says "feel toxic" to him.

So today's repeated denials don't really mean very much. Not because he doesn't mean it, but because so much can happen between now and the convention.

Especially if it appears that Hillary is close to securing the nomination. Then the pressure for him to enter the race -- to act as the anti-Hillary -- will increase significantly.
But it's not just that so many Democrats fear a Hillary-led ticket.

The pressure on Gore to run will continue to grow because watching him speak out so eloquently, so passionately, and so personally on this issue -- in other words, displaying real leadership -- is like suddenly being served a steak after a steady diet of fast-food burgers. It's a stark reminder of just how far we've lowered the bar on what we expect from those we elect.

It's as if we've been so pummeled by ersatz candidates espousing focus-group approved piffle that we've come to accept as normal the idea that if you are going to be in politics you are going to have to sell out -- shaped and molded by campaign consultants and pollsters, your ideals and principles wrung out by the very process of becoming a candidate. Each disappointment (et tu, John McCain?) is like a wound, and the scar tissue that remains has desensitized us.

When people are exposed to the new Gore -- authentic, funny, self-deprecating -- you can almost feel their relief and surprise as they suddenly come to face to face with what a real leader could be.

Even major skeptics like myself (and I've never been shy about attacking Gore, as you can see here, here, here, and here) can't help but be affected. It's why he suddenly finds himself surrounded by people all but begging him to run.

And here's an interesting grace note from Cannes: One of the films generating the biggest buzz at the festival is Climate, by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Despite its title, the film has absolutely nothing to do with global warming or climate change. Rather it's the story of a man's inner change. Festival audiences have been mesmerized by the powerful rendering of his transformation.

Is this a cinematic omen of things to come in 2008?

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US Military Bracing For Major Iraq Scandal Over Civilian Killings...

Associated Press ROBERT H. REID May 27, 2006 at 07:36 PM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, Iraq

The U.S. military is bracing for a major scandal over the alleged slaying of Iraqi civilians by Marines in Haditha -- charges so serious they could threaten President Bush's effort to rally support at home for an increasingly unpopular war.

And while the case has attracted little attention so far in Iraq, it still could enflame hostility to the U.S. presence just as Iraq's new government is getting established, and complicate efforts by moderate Sunni Arab leaders to reach out to their community -- the bedrock of the insurgency.


Photos are said to show Iraqi victims:

The pictures are said to show wounds to the upper bodies of the victims, who included several women and six children. Some were shot in the head and some in the back, according to congressional and defense officials.

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White House invokes privilege in spy cases

White House wants NSA suits dismissed

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 27 minutes ago

NEW YORK - The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets.

In papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the legality of the spying program without disclosing classified information that could be of value to suspected terrorists.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte invoked the state secrets privilege on behalf of the administration, writing that disclosure of such information would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.

The administration laid out some of its supporting arguments in classified memos that were filed under seal.

The government's motion, widely anticipated, involves two cases challenging an NSA program that allows investigators to eavesdrop on Americans who communicate with people outside the country suspected of terrorist ties.

In New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights has asked a judge to stop the program, saying it was an abuse of presidential power. The American Civil Liberties Union'name and other groups filed a similar lawsuit in Detroit.

For decades, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been required to seek court approval before using electronic surveillance on Americans. That was not done by the NSA in the program at issue, but President Bush' has said the eavesdropping was made legal by a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the administration's motion "undemocratic."

Ample safeguards could be put in place to allow the case to continue without disclosing classified information, he said. The center has also argued that the court already has enough information to decide whether the program was legal.

"The Bush administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument," Kadidal said in a written statement. "Can the president tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the president accountable for breaking the law."

Justice Department attorneys said in their legal brief that the legality of the president's actions could only be properly judged by understanding "the specific threat facing the nation and the particular actions taken by the president to meet that threat."

"That understanding is not possible without revealing to the very adversaries we are trying to defeat what we know about them and how we are proceeding to stop them," they wrote.

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Kerry still fighting Swift Boat Veterans about wartime service

RAW STORYPublished: Saturday May 27, 2006

Senator John Kerry is still battling the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth about his wartime service during the Vietnam conflict, according to a front page story in Sunday's New York Times.
The Times reports that Kerry's supporters have compiled 'new evidence' to back the accounts contested by critics from the right.

One photograph posted by The Times online at this link shows Kerry sporting a bandaged arm shortly after being injured in a battle which earned him a Bronze Star, when - according to the Swift Boat Veterans - Kerry was "never wounded or bleeding from his arm."

"They lied and lied and lied about everything," Senator Kerry tells The Times. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"

Excerpts from the article written by Kate Zernike:
Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry's failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.

But among those who were on the frontlines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry's wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry's side, however, have gathered new evidence to prove their case.

The Swift boat group continues to spend money on Washington consultants, according to public records, and last fall it gave $100,000 to a group that promptly sued Mr. Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, for allegedly interfering with the release of a film that was critical of him.
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.

The Hardest Word

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by the Guardian/UK
by Scott Ritter

One has to wonder as to what must have been going through the minds of those who were advising George W Bush and Tony Blair to "come clean", so to speak, about their respective shortcomings regarding the conduct of the war in Iraq. With over 2,460 American and 106 UK soldiers killed in Iraq (not to mention untold thousands of dead Iraqis), the two people in the world most responsible for the ongoing debacle in Iraq displayed the combination of indifference and ignorance that got them neck deep in a quagmire of their own making to begin with.

President Bush kicked himself for "talking too tough", while the British prime minister ruminated on the decision to disband the Ba'athist infrastructure that held Iraq together in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. Neither expressed any regret over the decision to invade Iraq in the first place.

Bush made no reference to the exaggerated and falsified claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he and his loyal ally bandied about so freely in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Blair, recently returned from a visit to Baghdad where he met with the newly appointed prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, did not reflect on the reality that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein was a more peaceful and prosperous land before British and American troops overthrew the Iraqi president and condemned Iraq to the horrific reality of insurgent-fed civil strife.

"Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing," Bush remarked, although he was quick to add, "Not everything has turned out the way we hoped". That, of course, could qualify for the understatement of the year. For his part, Blair spoke of faulty judgements, perhaps the greatest of which was to underestimate the scope and intensity of the insurgency, which he in typical fashion characterized as fighting against the democratic process, as opposed to struggling against an illegal, illegitimate and unjust occupation.

Blair shared his reflective insights at moment when the people of the United Kingdom were wrestling with new revelations concerning how he misled their attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, into putting forward a legal finding that enabled Britain to go to war with Iraq void of a second United Nations security council resolution. Blair had apparently told Lord Goldsmith that Iraq was in "material breach" of its obligations, despite the fact that no new intelligence on WMD had been unearthed, and UN weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq receiving total cooperation from the Iraqi government. Not a peep from the prime minister on this matter, though.

For his part Bush waxed eloquently about the cost of war to America. "No question that the Iraq war has, you know, created a sense of consternation here in America," the president said. "I mean, when you turn on your TV screen and see innocent people die day in and day out, it affects the mentality of our country." He added: "I can understand why the American people are troubled by the war in Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the sacrifice is worth it and it's necessary."Of course, the president remained mute as to the current visit to Iraq by the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, who in the light of recent accusations of excessive force on the part of Marines fighting a life and death struggle in the Anbar province of Iraq, were cautioned to kill "only when justified". Some 717 Marines have lost their lives in the fighting in Iraq, most in the violence-prone Anbar province, where the Iraqi insurgency is particularly deeply entrenched. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment are accused of slaughtering scores of innocent Iraqis in the aftermath of a fire-fight that followed a deadly attack on the Marines by a road-side bomb. In the middle of a conflict not of their making, fighting an enemy as deadly and resolute as they themselves are, the Marines are now lectured by general's to destroy only that which needs destroyed, kill only those who need killed, as if war was ever that easy.

Instead of focusing on the horrific reality of the unmitigated disaster that these two politicians are solely responsible for inflicting on their own respective armed forces and the people of Iraq, Bush deflected any talk about bringing American troops home. "I have said to the American people, 'As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down,'" he said. "But I've also said that our commanders on the ground will make that decision." Blair dutifully chimed in that, in the aftermath of his Baghdad visit, he "came away thinking that the challenge is still immense, but I also came away more certain than ever that we should rise to it."

Both politicians were playing to their respective electorates, Blair in an effort to forestall his inevitable departure from government, Bush trying against hope to prevent a democratic landslide in the mid-term elections upcoming in November. But they both forgot that, to paraphrase an old military saying, "the enemy has a vote, too." And the Iraqi insurgency votes on a daily basis, its ballots counted in the bodies of those killed because of the violence brought on Iraq thanks to the decision by Bush and Blair to invade.

That decision, based upon lies and deceit, and done in pursuit of pure power (either in the form of global hegemony, per Bush, or a pathetic effort to ride Bush's coattails in the name of maintaining a "special relationship", for Blair), underscores the reality that when it comes to Iraq, both are resting on a policy that is as corrupt as one can possibly imagine.

Void of any genuine reflection as to what actually went wrong, and lacking in any reality-based process which seeks to formulate a sound way out of Iraq, these two politicians are simply continuing the self-delusional process of blundering down a path in Iraq that can only lead to more death and destruction.

Perhaps the advisors of Bush and Blair thought they were going to put a human face on two leaders who had been so vilified over the Iraq debacle. If so they failed. The joint press conference was little more than a pathetic show where two failed politicians voiced their continued support of failed policies, which had gotten their respective nations embroiled in a failed war. To quote Blair: "What more can I say? Probably not wise to say anything more at all."

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and Marine Corps intelligence officer. He is the author of "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein."
© 2006 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.

Impeachment? No. Impalement!

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by The Progressive
by Will Durst

I don’t know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, rightwing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infra-structure destroying, buck passing, hysterical, criminal, history defying, finger pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clearcutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture out-sourcing, election fixing, women’s rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, jingoistic, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, inbred, inept, insipid, incapable, incompetent, ineffectual, insolent, insincere, know-it-all, snotty, pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless, avaricious, noxious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish, brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony deprived, consciously depraved, conceited, perverted, peremptory invading, thirty-five day vacation taking, bribe soliciting, hellish, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell headed, ethics eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana busting, Halliburtoning, narcissistic, undiplomatic, blustering, malevolent, demonizing, Duke Cunninghamming, hectoring, dry drunk, Muslim baiting, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing, science disputing, faith based advocating, armament selling, nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, insane, unscrupulous, lily livered, greedy (exponential factor fifteen), fraudulent, delusional, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating, betraying, chickenhawk, sell out, quisling, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling, smirking, bastardly, voting machine tampering, sociopathic, cowardly, treasonous, Constitution shredding, oppressive, vulgar, antagonistic, trust funding, nontipping, tyrannizing, peace hating, water and air and ground and media polluting (which is pretty much all the polluting you can get), deadly, traitorous, con man, swindling, pernicious, lethal, illegal, haughty, venomous, virulent, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty, yellowbelly, hypocritical, Oedipal, did I say evil, I’m not sure if I said evil, because I want to make sure I say evil . . . EVIL, cretinous, slime buckets in the Bush Administration that I could just spit.

Impeachment? Hell no. Impalement. Upon the sharp and righteous sword of the people’s justice. Make it a curtain rod. Because it would hurt more.

Yes, political comic, writer, actor, radio talk show host Will Durst received a thesaurus for his birthday, but he didn’t need it.

© 2006 The Progressive

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The Irony of Iraq

Published on Friday, May 26, 2006 by the American Prospect
by Harold Meyerson

In the beginning, neoconservatism was a movement of onetime liberals enraged at the wave of violence and disorder that overtook the cities in the 1960s. Riots convulsed urban America in that stormy decade, crime rates soared, student radicals seized campuses. How could anyone see all this, the first generation of neocons inquired, and still remain a liberal?

For it was all the liberals' fault. Wafted along by their vaporous good intentions, indifferent to any unintended consequences those intentions might engender, wrapped up in their dizzy notions of the perfectibility of humankind, the liberals (at least, as the neos caricatured them) crafted criminal codes devoid of punishment, welfare programs requiring no work. In the world the liberals made, civic order took a back seat to individual rights, and as order vanished, the urban middle class vanished with it, abandoning once-vibrant neighborhoods for the safety of the suburbs. A neoconservative, the movement's founding father, Irving Kristol, famously observed, was a liberal who'd been mugged by reality. While liberals dithered, neoconservatives argued first and foremost for more cops.

Fast-forward four decades and we've come full circle. The neocons have refocused their attention on foreign policy and, in championing the Iraq war, have come to embody everything they once mocked and despised in '60s liberals.

Bolsheviks in the cause of their vaporous intentions, so bent on ignoring reality that they dismissed and suppressed all intelligence that prophesied the bloody complexities of the post-Hussein landscape, they conjured from nowhere and guaranteed the world an idealized postwar Iraq.

The sharpest irony was their stunning indifference to the need for civic order. When the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, said that the occupation would require many hundreds of thousands of troops to establish and maintain the peace, he was publicly rebuked by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the administration's foremost neocon, and quickly put out to pasture. When the first U.S. official to take charge in post-invasion-Iraq, Jay Garner, called for a massive effort to train Iraq's police and restore order, he was summarily dismissed. When looting far more widespread than anything the United States had ever known swept Iraq's cities after Hussein's fall, Don Rumsfeld shrugged and said, "Stuff happens" -- a two-word death sentence for the possibility of a livable Iraq.

And now, just as middle-class Americans fled the cities in the wake of urban disorder, so middle-class Iraqis are fleeing, too -- not just the cities but the nation. In a signally important and devastating dispatch from Baghdad that ran in last Friday's New York Times, correspondent Sabrina Tavernise reports that fully 7 percent of the country's population, and an estimated quarter of the nation's middle class, has been issued passports in the past 10 months alone. Tavernise documents the sectarian savagery that is directed at the world of Iraqi professionals -- the murders in their offices, their neighborhood stores, their children's schools, their homes -- and that has already turned a number of Baghdad's once-thriving upscale neighborhoods into ghost towns.

Slaughter is the order of the day, and the police are nowhere to be found. "I have no protection from my government," Monkath Abdul Razzaq, a middle-class Sunni who has decided to emigrate, told Tavernise. "Anyone can come into my house, take me, kill me, and throw me into the trash."

Irving Kristol initiated neoconservatism at least partly in revulsion at the disorder of John Lindsay's New York. Now his son William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and the single leading proponent (going back to the mid-1990s) of invading Iraq, has helped convert neoconservatism into a source of a disorder infinitely more violent than anything that once disquieted his dad. To do so, he and his fellow war proponents ignored all credible information on the actual Iraq and promised an Eden more improbable than anything that '60s liberals ever imagined. "There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America," he told National Public Radio listeners in the war's opening weeks, "that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's been almost no evidence of that at all," he continued. "Iraq's always been very secular."

He wasn't entirely wrong. Iraqi professionals were disproportionately secular. Now they are packing up their secularism and taking it to other lands. The war, and the failure to establish order that led to the barbarism that's driving Iraqis away, can't be laid solely on the neocons' doorstep, of course. These second-generation neos needed a trio of arrogant, onetime CEOs -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- to actualize their vision. But actualize it they did, and the ideologues whose forebears once argued that the drugged-out Bronx was a monument to liberal folly have now made blood-drenched and depopulating Baghdad the monument to their own neocon obsessions.

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of The American Prospect.

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The Few, The Proud, The Murderers

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by Pierre Tristam/Candide's Notebooks
by Pierre Tristam

Of course the first line of defense, for those craven enough to defend atrocities just because Americans commit them, is to say that Iraqis do worse. And in fact the U.S. military, after lying about the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year, then lying about the number of Iraqis killed, then covering up the massacre until a Time magazine article made it impossible to keep lying, attempted that very line of defense: As Time reported in March, “Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Time the involvement of [military investigators] does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who ‘placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves.’” All lies, of course. There were no insurgents hiding among civilians. There was no crossfire. The Marines weren’t defending themselves. They were out on a rampage, murdering at point-blank leisure, logding bullets in the heads of women and children, My Lai-style.

There is one buried quarter truth in Michelle Martin’s official story (odd, how her name rhymes with the name of that most craven of right-wing bloggers, to whom apologizing for brutality, as long as it’s camouflaged in stars and stripes, is a back-seat shtick), though it doesn’t justify what happened in Haditha: When you train men not only to kill but to become sub-human drones who dehumanize their enemy in turn, and when you place them in situations where they want to see nothing but sub-human creatures, you can’t expect them not to act the part they’ve been trained to act.

I keep remembering that Bob Herbert column in the Times last May, relating the story of Aidan Delgado, a U.S. soldier who served in Iraq: “He wasn’t happy when, even before his unit left the states,” Herbert wrote, “a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans. ‘He laughed,’ Mr. Delgado said, ‘and everybody in the unit laughed with him.’ The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: ‘Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people’s heads.’ He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice. ‘I said to them: ‘What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?’ And they responded just completely openly. They said: ‘Look, I hate being in Iraq.

I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.’’ ‘Haji’ is the troops’ term of choice for an Iraqi. It’s used the way ‘gook’ or ‘Charlie’ was used in Vietnam. Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.” (The full column is available here.) The banality of evil doesn’t have to rise to the level of genocide to find its stage. To the contrary.

Evil at its most routine is localized affair, the more debased for being either completely out of sight and accountability, or for being tacitly, happily condoned by its executioner’s posse. The Haditha massacre stands out only because in its case someone was there to report it. But who doubts that these atrocities aren’t routine, or that a soldier’s swift kick in the chest of a six year old boy is any less of an atrocity, considering what that soldier would do to an adult if can be such a brute toward children?

What’s almost as repulsive, though in this case only ink is being spilled, not blood, is the way the subsequent reporting about the massacre is being laid out. The New York Times this morning, with its usual, but in this case nauseating, restraint in balance’s name, pulls a classic example of mitigating atrocity with qualifiers. The lead paragraph refers to a small number of marines carrying out “extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians,” establishing right away the rogue-soldier theory that was attempted in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib. The downplaying of U.S. torture as an institutional rather than an exceptional strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan was successful, at least in the public’s mind. The evidence suggests otherwise. It does so as well when it comes to wanton killings, whether it’s the trigger-happy soldiering at Iraqi checkpoints or the killing of civilians in allegedly collateral circumstances. Yet you can see the Haditha massacre’s dowplaying game already in full swing. The Times has the story over two columns above the fold, but to the left of a four-column spread about the Enron verdict. Enron is news. It isn’t bigger news than the massacre of twenty-four Iraqis at the hands of U.S. marines. Not by any stretch of journalistic calibration. But such are the tastes for news in the United States that business porn will always outplay patriotism’s barbarity. Americans don’t want to know what their soldiers are doing in their name in Iraq. The cost to Iraqis is immense. It’s more devastating, especially in human terms, than anything Enron ever did. But it’s safer to focus on old-fashioned homegrown corruption and malfeasance. In that sense Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are doing the American public a favor, in distractions and entertainment, and the public is grateful. They may be bad guys, but they’re our bad guys, and they’re providing cover for what our supposedly good guys, our supposedly heroic soldiers, under the leadership and don’t-mess-with-Texas-encouragement of their apologist-in-chief, are doing in Iraq.

For the record, the Los Angeles Times’ lead about the massacre had none of the New York Times’ daintiness. It was to the point: “Marines from Camp Pendleton wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.” The Washington Post, spokespaper to American militarism, ignores the story altogether. One more point about the Times story. The very last paragraph raises the prospect of yet another massacre, though it reads like an afterthought: “The Marines also disclosed this week that a preliminary inquiry had found ‘sufficient information’ to recommend a criminal probe into the killing of an Iraqi civilian on April 26 near Hamandiyah, a village west of Baghdad.” But isn’t the discovery and uncovering of atrocity always an afterthought, if even that?

© 2006 Pierre Tristam

Secular Iraqis Unimpressed by New Government

Published on Friday, May 26, 2006 by OneWorld.net

SAN FRANCISCO - Many secular Iraqis have been expressing their displeasure with the new Iraqi government that was sworn-in Saturday and introduced with much fanfare by politicians in Washington, Baghdad, and London this week.

"All Iraqis know this government is totally irrelevant to the realities that they're facing," said Houzan Mahmoud, the international representative of the left-wing Iraqi Freedom Congress, an umbrella organization of workers' and women's groups that opposes both the U.S.-led occupation and Islamist control of Iraq.

"It's a government of rightist militias who are terrorizing people on the ground," she added, noting the government is dominated by the same religious, Shi'ite, political parties that have been in power since 2005.

Since then, representatives of those parties' militias have been taking to the streets beating up religious minorities and people who sell alcohol while forcing women to cover their heads.

"These are militias representing groups based on religious sects and ethnic backgrounds, just engaged in trying to increase their own power," Mahmoud said.>>>cont

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Iranian-Backed Militia Groups Take Control of Much of Southern Iraq

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by Knight Ridder
by Tom Lasseter

BASRA, Iraq - Southern Iraq, long touted as a peaceful region that's likely to be among the first areas returned to Iraqi control, is now dominated by Shiite Muslim warlords and militiamen who are laying the groundwork for an Islamic fundamentalist government, say senior British and Iraqi officials in the area.

The militias appear to be supported by Iranian intelligence or military units that are shipping weapons to the militias in Iraq and providing training for them in Iran.

Some British officials believe the Iranians want to hasten the withdrawal of U.S.-backed coalition forces to pave the way for Iran-friendly clerical rule.

Iranian influence is evident throughout the area. In one government office, an aide approached a Knight Ridder reporter and, mistaking him for an Iranian, said, "Don't be afraid to speak Farsi in Basra. We are a branch of Iran."

"We get an idea that (military training) courses are being run" in Iran, said Lt. Col. David Labouchere, who commands British units in the province of Maysan, north of Basra. "People are training on the other side of the border and then coming back."

British military officials suspect that the missile that was used to shoot down a British helicopter over Basra on May 6 came from Iran. Five British soldiers died.

"We had intelligence suggesting five surface-to-air missile systems being brought over from Iran only seven days before it went down," said Maj. Rob Yuill, a British officer based in Basra.
Yuill said that the information suggested that the missiles were destined for the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Bassem al-Samir, a senior official in the Sadr office in Basra, denied that his organization was involved in the helicopter attack.

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Support for a Challenger to Longtime Sen. Joe Lieberman Indicates Tensions Over Iraq War

Published on Saturday, May 27, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times

Strong Signs of Rift Among Democrats
by Ronald Brownstein

WASHINGTON — The liberal challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) escalated Friday when the political arm of MoveOn.org, an influential online advocacy group, endorsed the political newcomer opposing his bid for renomination.

Gaining the support of MoveOn's political action committee was Ned Lamont, a businessman who wants to unseat Lieberman largely because of the veteran lawmaker's staunch support for the war in Iraq.

While the online poll was being conducted, Lieberman was at a Washington dinner receiving an award from the Committee on the Present Danger, the hawkish foreign policy group whose membership includes prominent conservatives and leading supporters in both parties of the Iraq war.

The group announced its backing after polling MoveOn's members in Connecticut.
MoveOn has emerged as a leading voice for left-leaning activists, and the endorsement marks the first time that its PAC has sought to unseat an incumbent Democratic senator.

"Lamont's message resonated with members who want a senator who will stand up to President Bush on key issues and represent the views of most people in Connecticut," said Eli Pariser, executive director of the MoveOn PAC.

With the endorsement, the group will seek to raise money and generate volunteers for Lamont among MoveOn's 3.2 million members nationwide.

Lamont earlier this week gained an endorsement from Democracy for America, a liberal grass-roots group that Howard Dean established as his campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination foundered. Dean gave up his leadership role when he became chairman of the Democratic National Committee last year, but the group is headed by his brother, Jim Dean. >>>cont

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AT&T leaks sensitive info in NSA suit

By Declan McCullagh Staff Writer, CNET News.com -->
Published: May 26, 2006, 9:39 AM PDT

Lawyers for AT&T accidentally released sensitive information while defending a lawsuit that accuses the company of facilitating a government wiretapping program, CNET News.com has learned.

AT&T's attorneys this week filed a 25-page legal brief striped with thick black lines that were intended to obscure portions of three pages and render them unreadable (click here for PDF).

But the obscured text nevertheless can be copied and pasted inside some PDF readers, including Preview under Apple Computer's OS X and the xpdf utility used with X11.

The deleted portions of the legal brief seek to offer benign reasons why AT&T would allegedly have a secret room at its downtown San Francisco switching center that would be designed to monitor Internet and telephone traffic. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the class-action lawsuit in January, alleges that the room is used by an unlawful National Security Agency surveillance program.

"AT&T notes that the facts recited by plaintiffs are entirely consistent with any number of legitimate Internet monitoring systems, such as those used to detect viruses and stop hackers," the redacted pages say.

Another section says: "Although the plaintiffs ominously refer to the equipment as the 'Surveillance Configuration,' the same physical equipment could be utilized exclusively for other surveillance in full compliance with" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The redacted portions of AT&T's court filing are not classified, and no information relating to actual operations of an NSA surveillance program was disclosed. Also, AT&T's attorneys at the law firms of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Sidley Austin were careful not to explicitly acknowledge that such a secret room actually exists.

A representative for AT&T was not immediately available to comment. >>>cont

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Bill Bennett: “What Broke My Heart Is When [Bush] Said, 'I Need To Be More Sophisticated.' What Is This, Kerry Talk?”…

New York Times ELISABETH BUMILLER May 27, 2006 at 11:33 AM
READ MORE: George W. Bush

What happened to the Texas swagger?

Maybe it went the way of his poll numbers. Maybe this is a newly reflective President Bush. Or maybe the first lady had her say.

Whatever the case, when Mr. Bush said at a news conference on Thursday night that he regretted some personal mistakes, like declaring "bring 'em on" in 2003, he seemed a little like the chastened husband who finally admitted he had done something wrong. Whether it worked or not depends on whom you ask.


NASA Investigating Mysterious Glowing Clouds, Possibly Caused by Global Warming...

New Scientist Maggie McKee May 27, 2006 at 11:39 AM
READ MORE: 2006, Global Warming

Glowing, silvery blue clouds that have been spreading around the world and brightening mysteriously in recent years will soon be studied in unprecedented detail by a NASA spacecraft.

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission will be the first satellite dedicated to studying this enigmatic phenomenon. Due to launch in late 2006, it should reveal whether the clouds are caused by global warming, as many scientists believe.


Has Poverty in Venezuela Fallen or Risen Under President Hugo Chavez?

By Mark Weisbrot
t r u t h o u t Press Release

Thursday 25 May 2006

New paper looks at data, corrects misreporting.

Over the past year, the statement that poverty in Venezuela has increased under the government of President Hugo Chávez has appeared in scores of major newspapers, on major television and radio programs, and even journals such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. These statements have only rarely been contested or corrected. [See Appendix to the paper] for samples of this misreporting on poverty in Venezuela].

An Issue Brief released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research looks at the numbers and concludes:

The household poverty rate was thus reduced by nearly 5 percentage points, or 12.9 percent, from 42.8 percent in the first half of 1999 (when President Chavez took office) to 37.9 percent in the second half of 2005. Since the economy has continued to grow rapidly this year (first quarter growth came in at 9.4 percent), the poverty rate is almost certainly significantly lower today.

There is no evidence that the Venezuelan National Institute of Statistics has changed its methodology, so these numbers are directly comparable. The most recent figures are about what would be expected as a result of the rapid economic recovery.

Most of the erroneous reporting on this issue results from using numbers gathered in the first quarter of 2004. These numbers reflect sharp increase in the poverty rate caused by the severe economic downturn of 2002-2003.

Since the preliminary poverty numbers for 2005 were released in September 2005, it is not clear why the out-of-date, early 2004 numbers have continued to be widely used. The early 2004 numbers quickly became out of date because of the rapid growth of the Venezuelan economy in 2004 (17.9 percent) and 2005 (9.4 percent), which pulled millions of people out of poverty.

The reduction in poverty noted above, since 1999, measures only cash income. This, however, does not really capture the changes in the living standards of the poor in Venezuela, since there have been major changes in non-cash benefits and services in the last few years - for example health care is now provided to an estimated 54 percent of the population. The paper looks briefly at the impact of these changes.

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Sadr's Militia Tightens Grip on Healthcare

Since a Sadr loyalist was named health minister last year, longtime ministry employees say members of his movement have been packed into the Health Ministry's Facility Protection Service. Doctors and nurses in Baghdad hospitals complain - always asking that their names not be used - that administrative posts have gone to unqualified members of his movement.

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Bush Democracy Doctrine, 2003(?)-2006, R.I.P.

By Jim Lobe
Inter Press Service

Wednesday 24 May 2006

Washington - Less than 18 months after U.S. President George W. Bush declared in his 2005 Inaugural Address his unequivocal commitment to the "ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world", tyrants, particularly in the Islamic world, are taking heart.

From North Africa to Central Asia, top U.S. officials are busy embracing dictators - and their sons, where appropriate - even as they continue to mouth the pro-democracy rhetoric that became the hallmark of the administration's foreign policy pronouncements, particularly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq failed to turn up evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda.

Particularly notable in just the past month have been White House receptions for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's heir-apparent, his son Gamal; the praise lavished by Vice President Dick Cheney on Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a recent visit to Almaty; and last week's normalisation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"You add up all the pieces, and the message to the world is, 'We have a lot of other business than just democracy in this region'," according to Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) here. "And that business means friendly relations with all sorts of autocrats."

Whether due to the ever-tightening oil market, the sweeping electoral victories by Islamist parties in Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, or geo-strategic manoeuvring against Iran, Russia and China, the administration now appears to have all but abandoned its "freedom agenda" in favour of a new "realism" not much different from that practiced by successive U.S. administrations during the Cold War.

And, in a scenario familiar to veterans of Washington's Cold War machinations against democratic but suspiciously left-wing governments, the administration is focusing its efforts at "regime change" against those Middle Eastern governments which, besides Israel, enjoy the greatest popular and electoral legitimacy in the region - namely, Iran and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Moreover, the administration's neo-conservative supporters, who were the first to justify the Iraq invasion as part of a grand strategy to "transform" the Middle East into a democratic region presumably far more hospitable to Israel and the West, have become noticeably less enthusiastic, particularly since HAMAS's sweeping election victory in the PA.

They now argue that the administration was wrong to press free elections on the region's rulers as a way of promoting democratic change in the absence of years, perhaps decades, of gradual liberalisation.

"...(A)n intense focus on holding elections everywhere as quickly as possible ...has been a mistake because, although elections are part of the democratic process, they are never a substitute for it," wrote former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky whose 2004 book, "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror", was personally and repeatedly endorsed by Bush himself as the inspiration for his 2005 Inaugural Address.

That address marked the high point of the administration's freedom rhetoric, which Bush had launched in earnest in February 2003 in a speech at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he first cited an analogy between the democratisation of occupied Germany and Japan and what Washington intended for Iraq.

During her confirmation hearings as secretary of state on the eve of the 2005 inaugural, Condoleezza Rice also insisted that Bush had "broken with six decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the hope of purchasing stability at the price of liberty."

"As long as the broader Middle East remains a region of tyranny and despair and anger," she argued, "it will produce extremists and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends."

Indeed, for some months after the inaugural, it appeared that the policy was more than mere rhetoric.

Encouraged by the momentum created by the ballot victory of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the smooth running of elections in Iraq in January and the subsequent "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, the administration exerted unusually strong pressure on the elder Mubarak to release jailed opposition leader Ayman Nour and enact major constitutional changes. It also pressed Saudi Arabia and the emirates on their reform programmes, and even gave up access to a key military base in Uzbekistan, a strong ally in the "global war on terror", after the massacre last May of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in Andijan.

As the situation continued to go downhill in Iraq, Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood did particularly well in elections in Lebanon and Egypt, respectively, and tensions with Iran arose after the upset win of right-wing candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, Washington's enthusiasm began to fade.

The Palestinian election in January - which Washington had insisted go forward despite Abbas' and Israel's concerns that HAMAS would win - appears to have marked a turning point. As noted shortly afterward by the chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, "There is no evidence that that we or anyone can guide from afar revolutions we have set in motion."

In the last few months, the return to Realpolitik has been remarkable, even if the rhetoric remains largely unchanged.

"It will be business as usual," said Marina Ottaway, another democracy specialist at the Carnegie Endowment. "I think we can expect that the rhetoric and the funding for democracy-promotion activities through the Middle East Partnership Initiative - activities that are not dangerous to the regimes in power - will continue, but what we aren't going to see too much of is high-level pressure on those governments to carry out reforms ...and certainly not pressure on any country to rush into elections."

"What has happened is what the realists predicted - that Israel and pro-American regimes in the region would be threatened by the democracy drive," said Anatole Lieven, a foreign policy specialist at the New America Foundation.

"If you try to carry out democratisation while pursuing policies that the vast majority of Muslims detest and in countries where economic development is stagnant, democracy will of course lead to anti-American radicalism," he added.

In addition to the strength of Islamist parties throughout the Middle East, the growing competition with Russia and China over energy supplies and pipelines and the looming confrontation with Iran also help explain the administration's fading enthusiasm for democratisation, particularly in the Gulf and among Iran's Central Asian neighbours, such as Azerbaijan.

"The administration is trying to convince these countries to be allied with us against Iran," noted Ottaway. "When you want them to help you, it's not a good time to be critical."

Indeed, almost exactly one year after the Andijan massacre, the Pentagon is urging a major reassessment of relations with Uzbekistan, apparently in hopes of regaining access to the Khanabad air base, particularly in light of Russia's recent success in acquiring access to bases there.

Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service

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Playing the Impeachment Card

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective

Thursday 25 May 2006

All in all, the framers would probably agree that it's better to impeach too often than too seldom. If presidents can't be virtuous, they should at least be nervous.

- Joseph Sobran

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan is a small and soft-spoken man. One gets the definite sense upon meeting him that here is a man who could probably have made a fortune in Hollywood, had he chosen a different direction in life, playing the role of the wise and kindly grandfather. He wound up in public service, and today - if you listen to Karl Rove and the GOP - he is easily the most terrifying man in America.

Back on May 10th, Howard Fineman wrote for MSNBC: "Then there is the attention being paid - and it's just starting - to obscure Democratic characters such as Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. As of now, only political junkies know that Conyers, an African-American and old-school liberal from Detroit, would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats regain control of the House. Few know that Conyers has expressed interest in holding hearings on the impeachment of the president."

A direct-mail piece from Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) popped up several days ago. In the mailer, Dole warned that unless the faithful donate money for the midterm elections, rampaging Democrats were going to, "increase your taxes, call for endless investigations, Congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of President Bush."

A Fox News online editorial acknowledges the very real possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House, and proposes several steps the Democrats should take in such an event, in order to do right by the country. "Step one," reads the Fox editorial, "would be for the Democratic leadership to definitively put to rest any loose talk of impeaching President Bush. They should say in one and two syllable words that impeachment will not happen once they are in the majority and thus take away a potential rallying cry for the beleaguered Republicans."

This may be, when all is said and done, one of the funniest moments in time in all of American political history.

Approval ratings for the Bush administration are at historic lows, and approval ratings for the Republican Congressional majority currently languish in a root-cellar beneath those historic lows. There are 159 days until the November 7th midterm elections, and the Republican majority has absolutely nothing to run on. The economy? They say it is strong but no one believes them, and rising gas prices don't do their arguments any favors. Immigration? This is a self-inflicted brawl that has ripped a wide rift down the middle of the Republican coalition. National security? Iraq.

On top of this big three, the White House and the Republican Congressional majority are also walking around with NSA domestic spying, the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, the now-axiomatic belief that Bush left New Orleans to die, and a half-dozen other millstones hanging around their necks.

The White House can't shed these millstones, because just about all of these catastrophes came out of 1600 Pennsylvania. The Republican Congressional majority can't shed them, because they stapled themselves to this White House a long time ago, and there are no pliers in the world large enough to extricate them from that association.

The abandonment of Congressional oversight is a lot of the reason we are in such a sorry state, and that abandonment was authored by Republicans who were stupid enough and opportunistic enough to trust that Bush and his people would lead them to the promised land of a permanent majority. This won't be forgotten by November.

Beyond that, few people are going to rise in response again to the waving of the bloody shirt of September 11. The Cunningham and Abramoff scandals continue to grow, chopping down Republicans left and right. The GOP's usual electoral strengths - morality and security - are gone, and the Republican base is abandoning them. The cupboard is just about empty.

What's left? Vote for us, or else we'll be held accountable! That's just funny.

Usually, the Republican National Committee has to roll out horror stories about mandatory abortions, the planned annihilation of every Bible in the land, and the prospect of Jack and Joe's civil union eviscerating the sanctity of millions of unhappy marriages everywhere. To be sure, these themes will be played throughout the upcoming election seasons, but clearly the GOP overmind is not confident that the masses will dance to the tune.

Thus, the warning: if the Republicans lose in November, Bush will be impeached, and the Earth will immediately thereafter hurtle into the sun. This isn't just a lot of smoke and scare-tactics, however. The Republicans are genuinely worried about what will happen if the Democrats re-take the House in November. They have ample cause for concern.

Beyond the specter of John Conyers doing an impersonation of Peter Rodino should Conyers become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - in an interesting historical quirk, Conyers sat on the Judiciary Committee when Rodino shepherded it through drafting the three articles of impeachment against Nixon, and voted "Yes" on all three articles - lie a number of other House Democrats whose rise to a chairmanship would be devastating to the White House.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sits on the Committee on Government Reform, and will become chairman should the Democrats re-take the House in November. Waxman, in 1998, founded the Special Investigations Division within the minority offices on this committee, "to conduct investigations into issues that are important to the minority members of the Government Reform Committee and other members of Congress."

There are more than fifty investigations that have been performed and continued to be performed by Waxman's Special Investigations Division. Among these are investigations into the torture at Abu Ghraib, Cheney's notorious energy task force meetings, a variety of Halliburton payoffs, electronic voting, the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and the vast scandal surrounding administration abuse of Iraq intelligence and the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

There is enough meat on that bone to keep Rep. Waxman, armed with subpoena power, busy as a beaver for the foreseeable future. It is also worth noting, when considering the formidable arsenal of information Waxman can bring to bear against the Bush White House, the legacy of Dan Burton.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) became notorious as chairman of Government Reform during the Clinton administration. He fired off enough subpoenas to fill an oil tanker, almost all of them inspired by baseless and scurrilous accusations. Without actually proving much of anything, beyond the fact that subpoena power is an astonishingly large stick to hand to someone, Burton managed to keep the Clinton administration tied in knots for years.

Burton was throwing mud. Waxman will be throwing fire, if handed the opportunity. Beyond Waxman and Conyers, there will be Barney Frank chairing the House Financial Services Committee. There will be Louise Slaughter chairing the House Committee on Rules. There will be Charlie Rangel chairing the Ways and Means Committee. This list goes on, and on.

As amusing as the GOP's fear of impeachment is, the truth is that this Constitutional doomsday device is the least of their worries. Conyers does not have to impeach George W. Bush to throw a few torpedoes into the side of the Republican battleship. All he has to do, along with Waxman and the other chairs, is investigate with subpoena power. Tell the truth in public hearings with the principals under oath. Let the facts come to light in a way we have not seen for many years.

The result of this would be an even greater Democratic Congressional victory in 2008, and an incredible series of obstacles for any Republican presidential nominee to overcome. A drumbeat of truth about Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton, Plame and all the rest of it would have every Republican who has ever uttered Bush's name in public fleeing for their lives. The long-sought permanent majority lusted after by the GOP would be transformed into a cemented minority, reminiscent of the shattered state of the Republican party in the aftermath of Watergate.

All of this only comes to pass, of course, if the Democrats re-take the House. What was considered an incredible long-shot even a few months ago has become an even-money proposition. Nothing is guaranteed by any stretch, and events may well transpire that swing the electorate back in favor of Bush and his Congressional allies. The fiasco that is electronic voting and the Help America Vote Act will stand in favor of the GOP come November, as it always has. If the Democrats want to win in November, they will have to work harder than they ever have before.

For now, it is enough to be amused by the smell of fear emanating from the GOP. This newest tactic - warning people about the potential for impeachment - begs one simple question: if they have nothing to hide, what are they afraid of? The answer, clearly, is John Conyers. He is, you'll hear soon enough, a terrifying man.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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British Attorney General Told to Reveal All

By Daniel Bentley
The Independent UK

Thursday 25 May 2006

The Attorney General's office was ordered today to disclose information leading to his advice on the legality of invading Iraq in 2003.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas upheld requests for an explanation of Lord Goldsmith's statement to Parliament on 17 March in that year.

In a letter to the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, Mr Thomas said the Attorney General's confidential advice to the Government, on 7 March, had been "significantly more equivocal in nature".

He added: "There is a public interest in establishing the extent to which published statements are consistent with fuller advice that had been given."

The Attorney's General's office was served with an enforcement notice upholding complaints under the Freedom of Information Act.

The notice required publication of a disclosure statement containing "the substance of information" which led to Lord Goldsmith's written answer to the House of Lords on 17 March.

Mr Thomas said today that it was an "exceptional, complex and sensitive case" which had raised many issues.

He went on: "My conclusion is that the balance of the competing public interest tests calls for disclosure of the recorded information which led to, or supported, the concluded views which were made public by the Attorney General in his 17 March statement.

"As the Government chose to outline an unequivocal legal position, on such a critical issue at such a critical time, the balance of the public interest calls for disclosure of the recorded information which lay behind those views.

"By this means the public can better understand the background and rationale behind that published statement and the extent to which reliance upon those final conclusions was in fact justified.

"But I have also concluded that the arguments for maintaining the exemptions are sufficiently powerful that the balance of the competing public interests does not require the disclosure of those parts of the requested information which were of a preliminary, provisional or tentative nature or which may reveal legal risks, reservations or possible counter-argument.

"Nor is disclosure needed where it would prejudice the UK's relations with other countries."

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Justice Department Probe Foiled

An internal Justice Department inquiry into whether department officials - including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft - acted properly in approving and overseeing the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program was stymied because investigators were denied security clearances to do their work. The investigators, however, were only seeking information and documents that were already in the Justice Department's possession.

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Officials put death toll in 6.2 magnitude earthquake which hit Java, Indonesia at 2,275.

An Indonesia government agency said 2,275 people have died in the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked central Java early Saturday morning, with most of the fatalities centered in a district just south of the popular and historic tourist destination of Yogyakarta.


Hundreds treated for injuries at hospitals

Quake cracks airport runway

Earthquake shakes Indonesia's central Java
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