Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator    

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sick Joke: Joe Lieberman in the Dark

Tuesday, 06 February 2007

Glenn Greenwald scores again with this warts-and-nothing-else portrait of Joe Lieberman, "Profile of a Neoconservative Warrior." Greenwald plucks scarily revealing bits from a New Yorker article about Sofagunner Joe, particularly his shaky-knees fear of prodigiously breeding Muslims, (which echoes, precisely, the kind of sinister twaddle you would have heard from many Germans and Poles about the "Eastern Jews" threatening to overwhelm "civilization"), and his reliance for solid facts and figures on this threat from…Mark Steyn, the dribble-flecked peddler of he-man war porn.

I must confess something here. I honestly thought that Joe Lieberman was a cynical operator through and through, on the Dick Cheney model. Sure, he had the same bees in his bonnet about power, privilege and domination that Dick and Rummy and the boys have, but I thought that Lieberman, like that those twin terrors from Nixon's nursery, could see through his own bullshit, and knew that he was laying down a line of twaddle for the rubes while covertly pushing the Dominationist agenda.

I didn't really comprehend, until now, how genuinely ignorant, dull-witted and emotionally stunted he is. It was not only his embrace of a gormless dribble-flecker as a mentor on world-historical trends – and the fact that he even brags about getting his worldview from an agit-prop windbag – but even more the magazine's glimpse of Lieberman unplugged, at leisure, at a time when there were no cameras on him and (so Joe thought) no journalists around. Greenwald zeroes in on this passage from the story by Jeffrey Goldberg:

Lieberman likes expressions of American power. A few years ago, I was in a movie theatre in Washington when I noticed Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, a few seats down. The film was “Behind Enemy Lines,” in which Owen Wilson plays a U.S. pilot shot down in Bosnia. Whenever the American military scored an onscreen hit, Lieberman pumped his fist and said, “Yeah!” and “All right!”

I can scarcely conceive of any grown man reacting in such a way to a war movie, much less a United States senator. It not only boggles the mind, it turns the stomach to think that a mentality like this holds a position of power in a nation capable of unleashing so much destruction. I know, I know, this is horrible naivete; I know full well that the historical record of this and many other nations offers a superfluity of examples of witless ignorance at the top. And I have seen for myself, close up, the most stunted and adolescent minds wielding power at various levels of governmental and institutional hierarchy. Still, the fact that we all know that human beings commit unspeakable atrocities every day doesn't prevent us from being shocked or outraged at some new instance of this common proclivity. Likewise, this picture of a silly, stupid little man getting his rocks off on comely Hollywood stars killing people "for America" retains its power to shock and sicken.

Check out Greenwald for more on this sick joke – if you can stomach it.

Chris Floyd

Coin of the Realm: The Elite's Long History of Corruption and Betrayal

Wednesday, 07 February 2007

Same as it ever was: elitist fat-cats – sorry, well-connected, respectable businessmen – playing both sides to skim the rich, red cream of blood money sluicing through the backrooms of governments at war. You can see it today in Congressional hearings on the gargantuan corruption of George W. Bush's criminal rampage in Iraq – but it was there in the very beginning, as Mark Scaramella of the Anderson Valley Advertiser reports in a terrific piece in CounterPunch: Our Founding War Profiteers. It's an excellent, detailed slice of our largely hidden history, with a twist ending that surprises and appals in equal measure. Worth reading in full.

Chris Floyd

Catapulting the Propaganda at the New York Times

Sunday, 11 February 2007

It is interesting -- in a "watching the Hindenburg explode" sort of way -- to see the machinations behind the latest war-prop piece from Michael "Call Me Judy" Gordon in the New York Times. In "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says," Gordon breathlessly retails the "broad agreement among American intelligence agencies" that "the most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran."

Indeed, that last phrase is the entirety of his first paragraph: a bold and absolutely unqualified assertion, without even the fig leaf that usually adorns the pipelining of White House propaganda by the corporate press, the homely tag, "officials say." (Although the headline writer, perhaps a bit abashed by the way Gordon -- and the editors who approved the story -- have so quickly and cravenly reverted to their pre-war stance of servility, does append the tag. For a perfect takedown of Gordon's "reporting," see the savage wit of Jonathan Schwarz here.)

But what's most notable about the unsourced story is the way it -- and the White House -- are now trying to conflate the Iranians with the Iraqi insurgency, in much the same fashion as they merged Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the public mind. Here, the trick is to focus on Iran's alleged supply of IEDs to Iraq's Shiite militias, talking of their deadly effectiveness against American soldiers -- while scarcely noting the fact that the overwhelming number of attacks against the "Coalition of Aggression" come from the Sunni insurgents. What then are the headlines, the soundbites for the public? Iran... IEDs... deadly... insurgency... kill Americans." The intended effect, of course, is to convey the impression that Iran is driving the Iraqi insurgency that is now killing Americans in record numbers.

But the story is also significant for what it doesn't spell out, but clearly implies. Assuming for a moment the highly unlikely possibility that the Bushist security organs are actually telling the truth or even something like it in this instance -- given their repeatedly demonstrated propensity to lie and lie and lie again when the Bossman wants a war -- we are left with an extraordinary claim by the Bush Administration: that their own allies have turned against them and are now killing American soldiers with sophisticated weapons.

For who are the "Shiite militias"? They are the armed wings of the political factions that now run the Bush-backed Iraqi government, elected in an electoral process designed by the Bush Administration that guaranteed the rise of these extremist sectarian armed cliques to power. The Shiite militias ARE the Iraqi government -- or at least, they are part of that government's many contentious factions. If they have power, if they operate with impunity -- with or without weapons supplied by the long-time allies in Iran, with which most of the Iraqi Shiite factions have a relationship going back decades -- then it is because these factions have been and are now being empowered, armed, funded, trained and supported by the Bush Administration.

This is what the Bushists are tacitly admitting when they claim that the Shiite militias are fragging their ostensible American allies with Iranian weapons. They are saying that even the factions "liberated" and empowered by the American invasion are now attacking and killing U.S. soldiers, with even more virulence than the Sunni insurgents. They are saying that Bush is now "surging" more soldiers into a situation where every single armed faction in the Iraqi conflict is targeting and killing Americans, including those factions armed and funded by the Americans themselves.

This is a remarkable confession. And it represents yet another of the many overwhelming reasons to bring Bush's bloody Babylonian escapade to a halt without further delay. The most compelling reason, of course, is the fact that the invasion was a war crime from the word go and every second that it continues is a furtherance and compounding of that original sin. But even by the viscera-smeared lights of the war's own proponents, to have reached the place where the very people you have empowered are killing your troops is surely the end of the road.

But of course, this is imputing a logic to the Bushists' pipelining that it does not possess. If you pressed them, they would not admit that Gordon's story is a confession that the factions that make up the Iraqi government are now killing Americans. They are simply throwing out these charges in an increasingly frenzied attempt to "justify" their planned attack on Iran. They don't care whether there is any substance or logical consistency to the charges or not -- although they obviously realize that they will have to frame their bogus war case with slightly more plausibility this time around. (Hence Gordon's anxious, earnest assurance that some of the unsourced and unquestioned vague assertions offered in his story have come from some "American officials" from "[some] agencies [that] have previously been skeptical about the significance of Iran's role in Iraq.") They know that a "potential threat" or even "imminent threat" is no longer quite good enough to gull the rubes into another war, so they are going for the straight stuff: "Them camel jockeys is killing our boys right here and now."

No doubt Iran has all manner of skullduggery on the boil in Iran -- as do Israel and Turkey and Russia and Saudi Arabia and Syria and god only knows who else. That's the way these shadowland games are played among the moral cretins who shimmy up the greasy pole of power in almost every country. "Dirty war" has long been the name of the game -- and no one surpasses the sterling record of America and Britain in this regard. I've got a piece coming out in Truthout soon on the very dirty war that the oh-so-Christian Coalition of Bush and Blair are fighting in Iraq right now. Until then, let's just say that people who come from half a world away to invade a country without provocation and kill more than 650,000 of its people, steal its money, shatter its society and leave it open prey to murder, mayhem and extremism might want to think twice before casting stones at others for "meddling" in Iraq's affairs.

Chris Floyd

NIE on Iraq: Situation in Iraq worsening.

February 2-4, 2007 -- On January 31, 2007, WMR reported that Deputy CIA Director Stephen Kappes told a recent meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers that although he could not get into details about the situation in Iraq because of its classified nature, if people knew what was happening on the ground, they would become instantly depressed. Yesterday, the CIA delivered its classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq to George W. Bush. The report states that the situation in Iraq is spiraling out of control and paints a gloomy picture for the future of the country. Just as significant, the report does not blame Iran for the violence in Iraq, a position being advanced by the Bush neo-cons in order to justify a U.S. military attack on Iran. As with Iraq, the neo-cons are ginning up some phony intelligence from their "think tanks" in the United States and Israel to blame Iran for the civil war in Iraq.
NIE on Iraq: Situation in Iraq worsening.

Wayne Madsen Report

Tons of cash in Iraq kicked around like footballs in Iraq and Paul Bremer still walks a free man with a Presidential Freedom Medal.

February 8, 2007 -- As a follow-up to yesterday's story regarding the Schmitz family's connections to the Bush administration, a former high-level Pentagon financial official informed WMR that L. Jean Lewis, the former Kansas City Resolution Trust Corporation official who leveled unsubstantiated charges against Bill and Hillary Clinton over Whitewater, was not only Chief of Staff for Joseph Schmitz in the Department of Defense Inspector General's office but also maintained an office in the White House. Schmitz is now General Counsel for the Prince Group, the parent company of Blackwater USA.

Lewis was found to have orchestrated the Whitewater charges against the Clintons and before she could be charged with perjury before the Select Senate and House Committees on Whitewater, Lewis was provided special protection by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Lewis told FBI agent Steve Irons in August 1992 that she could "alter history" by making a criminal referral on the Clintons and Madison Guaranty prior to the 1992 election. FBI agents in the Little Rock FBI office contended that Lewis lied to the Senate Committee in denying she said she could alter history by helping to defeat Clinton. Lewis later marketed t-shirts emblazoned with "B.I.T.C.H." ("Boys, I'm taking charge, Hillary" and "Bubba, I've taken charge, Hillary') but she continued to maintain to Congress that her attempt to bring a criminal referral against the Clintons had anything to do with politics.

In 1995, Lewis fainted while testifying before the Senate Select Committee when Democrats read a latter from Charles Banks, the Republican U.S. Attorney in Little Rock, stating that Lewis' motivations against the Clintons were political. The letter stated, ""The insistence for urgency in this case [Lewis' criminal referral] appears to suggest an intentional or unintentional attempt to intervene into the political process of the upcoming presidential election."

Blackwater is under investigation by Chairman Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for being improperly awarded a $20 million security subcontract by Halliburton. The Army later forced Halliburton to return the money but after Tina Ballard, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Policy and Procurement denied that Blackwater was doing security work for Halliburton. On February 7, Ballard reversed herself and admitted that Blackwater performed security subcontract work for Halliburton. The Halliburton/Blackwater malfeasance occurred when Schmitz and Lewis were acting in tandem in the Pentagon's Inspector General's office to cover up major contract fraud involving Halliburton, Blackwater, and dozens of other firms, including "private military companies," otherwise known as mercenaries.

Tons of cash in Iraq kicked around like footballs in Iraq and Paul Bremer still walks a free man with a Presidential Freedom Medal.

The Blackwater/Halliburton revelations came after L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. viceroy admitted that $9 billion in cash drawn from the vaults of the U.S. Federal Reserve and sent to his Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) went missing, in part, because "ghost employees" had to be paid to "keep the peace." There were 363 tons of cash on 484 pallets that could fill 17 semi-trailers. Although Bremer and Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector for Iraqi Reconstruction, maintained that the "ghost employees" were Iraqis, Custer Battles, the GOP-linked firm that has been under investigation for fraud, secretly shipped $12 million in cash to Beirut on what was called its "Flying Carpet Airline." CPA official Frank Willis stated that there was so much cash at the CPA, Americans were "playing football" with it.

Wayne Madsen Report


Eli Stephens, Left I on the News

A U.S. airstrike accidentally killed eight members of a Kurdish security force and injured six others who were working at an observation point near a political office in the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi officials said Friday.(...) This was not an "accident," but the quite expected result of standard U.S. military policy, which is to shoot first and ask questions later. Note that the military claims the strike was "aimed at al Qaeda." It was not. It was aimed at people they thought they were some slight chance might be al Qaeda; that's the standard of proof they use...


ElBaradei Fears 'Chain Reaction' to Iran Conflict

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog director urged Iran and the West to avoid “an uncontrolled chain reaction” towards conflict as he prepared for short-notice talks on Friday with Iran’s national security chief.


'08 Heats Up

"FEINGOLD FOR PRESIDENT" it's the votes that count? yes

On The Issues

OBAMA, EDWARDS, Vice President?

Fumigate the PEOPLES White House,

and let HONESTY and fresh air flow in, if the

individuals residing in the White House, are

to declare themselves, the Leaders of the Free World

Obama Announces To Thousands... Clinton In New Hampshire... Romney, Brownback In Michigan... McCain Near Decision

February 10, 2007 04:31 PM

As Senator Barrack Obama (D-IL) officially announced his intention to seek his party's nomination for President, Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was making her first appearance in the early primary state of New Hampshire in ten years.

In Michigan, Republican rivals Sam Brownback (R-KS) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney each made their case for voter support at the state's Republican party convention.

CIA Analysts: Over 50% Of Bush's Iraq War Justifications Untrue

Los Angeles Times February 10, 2007 05:32 PM

As the Bush administration began assembling its case for war, analysts across the U.S. intelligence community were disturbed by the report of a secretive Pentagon team that concluded Iraq had significant ties to Al Qaeda.

Analysts from the CIA and other agencies "disagreed with more than 50%" of 26 findings the Pentagon team laid out in a controversial paper, according to testimony Friday from Thomas F. Gimble, acting inspector general of the Pentagon.


Paraplegic allegedly 'dumped' on L.A.'s skid row

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
"one world. one hospital. one patient at a time.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center1300 North Vermont Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027Phone: 213.413.3000E-mail: mailto:%20info@hollywoodpresbyterian.com
They are questioning officials from the hospital, which the LAPD had accused in an earlier dumping case that is now under investigation.
This is Bush's America

A paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in a gutter in skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly being dumped in the street by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, police said.

The incident, witnessed by more than two dozen people, was described by police as a particularly outrageous case of "homeless dumping" that has plagued the downtown area.

"I can't think of anything colder than that," said LAPD Det. Russ Long, who called the case the most egregious of its kind that he has seen in his career. "There was no mission around, no services. It's the worst area of skid row."

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they connected the van to Hollywood Presbyterian after witnesses wrote down a phone number on the van and took down its license-plate number.


Facility Becomes the First Korean-Owned Hospital in the United States (2005)

CHA Medical Group Acquires Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center; Facility Becomes the First Korean-Owned Hospital in the United States
Business Wire, Jan 3, 2005

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- CHA Medical Group today announced that it has signed a definitive purchase agreement to purchase Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center from a subsidiary of Tenet Healthcare Corporation (NYSE:THC). The transaction officially closed on December 31, 2004.

The addition of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center to the CHA Medical Group family increases to five the number of hospitals owned and operated by the group. The CHA Medical Group, under .. Kwang Yul Cha, M.D., already owns and operates four acute care hospitals with approximately 2,000 beds, two specialty clinics for Oriental medicine, a medical university and a cell and gene therapy research institute, all in Korea. In addition, Dr. Cha owns and operates two infertility medical centers in the United States and Korea, including the CHA Fertility


NYT:Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says

February 10, 2007
Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

The focus of American concern is known as an “explosively formed penetrator,” a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on American troops in Iraq.

Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers. In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.


Frozen toddler's father also faces sex charge

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A man angry his toddler daughter wouldn't go to bed knocked her unconscious and left her to die outside in single-digit temperatures, police said.

The frozen body of Nyia Miangel Page, who was about to turn 2, was found Sunday at an abandoned playground about a 10-minute walk from the family's home.

Tiny footprints in the snow suggest she had gotten up and wandered around before she died, police said.

Her father, William Lorenzo Page, 23, of Braddock, was arrested Wednesday on charges of criminal homicide, kidnapping, false reports and simple assault.

He has been in custody since Sunday, when he was charged with sexually abusing another child shortly before Nyia died.


Pelosi flies disputed plane home

Will Fox be tracking the flight live? AMEN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the subject of Republican criticism for her mode of air travel, flew home nonstop Thursday night aboard a 12-seat military aircraft set aside for use by lawmakers.
Republican House members, aided by friendly radio and television talk show hosts, created a political tempest this week, claiming Pelosi was pressuring the Pentagon for the use of an "Air Force Three" and a "flying Lincoln Bedroom." Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, however, the administration has required the speaker -- then Republican Dennis Hastert of Illinois -- to travel home and on official business using military planes for security reasons.

House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood said he had asked the Pentagon to provide a plane large enough to fly Pelosi nonstop to San Francisco, citing the security concerns.

Even the White House defended the Democratic speaker. The president's spokesman, Tony Snow, on Thursday called the criticism "unfair" and the flap "a silly story."


U.S. contractor shot by U.S. forces

1 hour, 8 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military confirmed on Saturday that American forces at Camp Anaconda, the huge air base north of Baghdad, shot and killed a civilian contract truck driver.

A spokeswoman for KBR, a contracting subsidiary of Halliburton that was formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, said the shooting was under investigation.

Melissa Norcross, the KBR spokeswoman, said the company was not releasing the name of the dead driver or a second person in the truck who was wounded "to protect the individuals' privacy."

In Baghdad, Lt. Cmdr. Bill speaks said, "There was an escalation of force incident at Camp Anaconda on Feb. 5 (Monday) that resulted in the death of a civilian contractor. The incident is under investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Division and KBR."

An escalation of force incident normally means a driver approaching a checkpoint did not respond to military orders to approach slowly and stop.

"Sadly, 98 KBR employees and subcontractors have lost their lives, and more than 430 have been wounded by hostile action while performing services under the company's government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait," Norcross said in an e-mail response to queries about the incident.

Halliburton is spinning off KBR into its own separate, publicly traded entity.


Carlyle Makes A Killing With Defense Sale

London -
We all know that making a handsome profit is the raison d'etre of private equity firms, but some seem to take the pursuit to a whole other level. The Carlyle Group raked in an 800% return on its investment on Friday when it sewed up the sale of its 10.3% stake in QinetiQ Group, the British defense research company, said to be the inspiration behind doddering gadget maven Q in the James Bond films.

Carlyle had bought a 30% stake in the company in 2002 for just £42.4 million ($82.7 million), and listed 19.7% of that last year to make nearly $400 million.

Reports said the Washington, D.C.-based private equity company had sold the rest of its stake to institutional investors. The sale was presided over by Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Cazenove and Merrill Lynch International.

The British government still holds a 19.2% stake in QinetiQ (other-otc: QNTQY - news - people ), worth around £330 million ($643.4 million), but it had reduced its 56% stake in February 2006 by listing QinetiQ on the London Stock Exchange.

That was one of the biggest privatizations Prime Minister Tony Blair had resided over since he came to power in 1997, raising some £617.5 million ($1.2 billion).

I guess the poodle is lining up his future employment


Cuyahoga Co. Elections Director Resigns (OH)

Friking 2 years to late, it is absaolutely ludicrous, that America deems fit to tell any country how to vote when they have had 2 stolen election in the last six years. Fix your own elections before you tell any other country how to vote.

POSTED: 11:37 am EST February 6, 2007
UPDATED: 1:30 pm EST February 6, 2007

CLEVELAND -- NewsChannel5 has confirmed that embattled elections chief in Cuyahoga County has resigned.

Executive director Michael Vu's ouster marks the end of a tense term that thrust Cuyahoga County and its voters in the national spotlight. Under Vu, the county weathered a botched primary election and convictions of two workers who mishandled the 2004 presidential recount.

Bob Bennett, chairman of the county Elections Board and head of the state Republican Party, said the board negotiated the departure with Vu.

"Yes, Michael is going to be leaving. But we need to have a transition period, and it's very important to us that Michael agrees to stay around and help with the (new) director, particularly having a new system, and get his feet on the ground," Bennett told The Associated Press. "We're pretty close to being finished."

Bennett would not say why the deal was being crafted or whose idea it was for Vu to leave.


Ohio food stamp use increases by 71 percent since 2000

Olbermann: If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene? Would you at least protest? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them? What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them — and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?

Bill O'Reilly Removed from NCMEC Speaker Gig

Hell Yeah, Good for You Olbermann

Bill O'Reilly Removed from NCMEC Speaker Gig

Bill O'Reilly's execrable statements made shortly after the recovery of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby have come back to haunt him again. After O'Reilly's statements, Keith Olbermann pointed out the fact that O'Reilly was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for a fundraising event held by the Florida branch of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Today, the following announcement was posted on the NCMEC website:

In response to the numerous e-mails and inquiries we have received, we are providing the following update regarding the Collier County, Florida branch fundraising dinner scheduled for March 9, 2007 in Naples, Florida. Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor, will not be a speaker at the dinner. The dinner will be held as scheduled. John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, will be the keynote speaker.

We would like to thank everyone for their comments and e-mails.


2 teens get 10 years in tortured puppy case

Civilians Slaughtered In America's Rape Of Iraq - At Least 655,000 + +

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America's Rape Of Iraq 3,118


FOCUS | Another White House Aide Fingers Cheney

David Addington, chief legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, says he was taken aback when the White House started making public pronouncements about the CIA leak investigation. "Why are you making these statements?" Addington asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett. "Your boss is the one who wanted" them, Bartlett replied, referring to Cheney. With that, "I shut up," Addington recalled recently for jurors in Libby's CIA leak trial, which begins its fourth week on Monday with Libby's lawyers calling their first witnesses.


My Thoughts on a Recent Visit to Colombia/Afghanistan

02.10.2007 Simon Jenkins

As long as rich countries consume narcotics in massive quantities it is grotesquely hypocritical to lay waste the poor countries that produce them.


Putin Assails US As "Very Dangerous"

Associated Press February 10, 2007 09:11 AM

Putin told a security forum attracting top officials that "we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations" and that "one state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.

"This is very dangerous, nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law," Putin told the gathering.


"I'm Fired Up": Obama Announces

Washington Post February 10, 2007 09:42 AM

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama formally launched his candidacy for the White House here this morning, invoking memories of Abraham Lincoln and challenging a new generation of Americans to help bridge political divisions and transform the nation.

Standing on the grounds of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his famous "house divided" speech in 1858, Obama opened what he described as an audacious campaign for president, one that barely seemed likely only six months ago -- and one that could make him the first African American ever to reach the White House.


Baghdad Operation Turns Up Little As US, Iraqi Commanders Clash

Associated Press February 10, 2007 08:48 AM

Iraqi commanders are urging the Americans to go after Sunni targets as the first focus of the military push to secure Baghdad, displaying a sectarian tilt that is delaying full implementation of the plan to drive gunmen from the streets, U.S. officers say.

American officers, interviewed at the sprawling Camp Victory base at the western edge of the capital, also acknowledge they are finding little in their initial searches of Baghdad neighborhoods _ suggesting either they received faulty intelligence or that the massive publicity that preceded the operation gave militants time to slip away.


Reuters February 10, 2007 08:44 AM

"The prospects for success are good," he said, referring to a new crackdown to curb sectarian violence in Baghdad. "Failing that, Iraq will be doomed to continuing violence and civil strife and surely that is a prospect all must strive to avoid."

"The stakes are very high," he said, after taking over command of America's 130,000 troops in the country from General George Casey.


Judge bars suit against Iraq war contractor

Whistle-blowers plan to appeal dismissal of fraud allegations
Updated: 5:31 p.m. ET Feb. 8, 2007

McLEAN, Va. - For the second time, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a military contractor that whistle-blowers accuse of scamming the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars in the first months of the Iraq war.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria ruled in favor of Fairfax-based Custer Battles LLC, which has been pilloried in Congress and elsewhere as an example of the fraud and mismanagement that plagued the occupation of Iraq under the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Dismissing a lawsuit filed by two whistle-blowers, Ellis said there was no evidence that Custer Battles committed fraud while under a $16.8 million contract to provide security at Baghdad International Airport in 2003. The ruling was issued Feb. 2 and made public Tuesday. >>>cont

Gitmo Cover-up?

by Paul Craig Roberts
Gentle reader, you are probably unaware of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's damning indictment of the Bush Regime in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, 2007, as the United States no longer has a media – only a government propaganda ministry.

Brzezinski damned the Bush Regime's war in Iraq as "a historic, strategic, and moral calamity." Brzezinski damned the war as "driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris." He damned the war for "intensifying regional instability" and for "undermining America's global legitimacy."

Finally, a voice with weight speaks. Brzezinski is a real intellect, a real expert, unlike the political hacks who have followed him in the office.

Brzezinski told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam." Brzezinski predicts "some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a 'defensive' U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan."

There is something deadly wrong with a society and a political system that permits a regime capable of such insane and criminal "leadership" to remain in power. By the time Hitler launched World War II, the German Reichstag had no power to prevent him. But we have not yet reached that point in the United States.

Brzezinski concludes his testimony with the statement that it is "time for the Congress to assert itself."

The reasons for impeaching Bush and Cheney exceed by many multiples all the reasons for impeaching every president combined in US history. The reasons have been enumerated many times and do not need repeating. If members of Congress were faithful to their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution, Bush and Cheney would already have been impeached and convicted.

The very least Congress can do at this very late stage is to make it perfectly clear in no uncertain terms that any attack on Iran under any pretext without the authorization of Congress after a careful examination of the pretext will lead to the immediate removal of Bush and Cheney from power, as will any escalation of the war in Iraq without explicit authorization by Congress.

Having delivered this ultimatum, Congress must immediately begin investigations of the Bush Regime's attack on civil liberties and the separation of powers, on the Bush Regime's use of lies and deception to lead America into a war with Iraq, on the Bush Regime's violation of the Geneva Conventions, and on the Bush Regime's plans to attack Iran.

The American people and their representatives in Congress must face the fact that criminal and dictatorial persons control executive power in the United States and immediately rectify this highly dangerous situation.


Al-Qaeda Suspects Color White House Debate Over Iran

By Dafna LinzerWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, February 10, 2007; A01

Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush's National Security Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operatives traveling through Iran on their way from Pakistan to Iraq. The suspects were caught along a well-worn, if little-noticed, route for militants determined to fight U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, according to a senior intelligence official.

The arrests were presented to Bush's senior policy advisers as evidence that Iran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders, the intelligence official said. That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects.

The strategy has sparked a growing debate within the administration and the intelligence community, according to U.S. intelligence and government officials. One faction is pressing for more economic embargoes against Iran, including asset freezes and travel bans for the country's top leaders. But several senior intelligence and counterterrorism officials worry that a public push regarding the al-Qaeda suspects held in Iran could jeopardize U.S. intelligence-gathering and prompt the Iranians to free some of the most wanted individuals.

"There was real debate about all this," said one counterterrorism official. "If we go public, the Iranians could turn them loose." The official added: "At this point, we know where these guys are and at least they are off the streets. We could lose them for years if we go down this path."

The administration's planned diplomatic offensive is part of an effort to pressure Tehran from multiple directions. Bush has given the U.S. military the authority to kill or capture Iranian government agents working with Shiite militias inside Iraq. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said serial numbers and markings on some explosives used in Iraq indicate that the material came from Iran, but he offered no evidence.
With the aim of shaking Tehran's commitment to its nuclear program, Bush also approved last fall secret operations to target Iranian influence in southern Lebanon, in western Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territories and inside Iran. The new strategy, a senior administration official said, aims to portray Iran as a "terror-producing country, instead of an oil-producing country," with links to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and death squads in Iraq. >>>cont

Rice confronted over Iran evidence

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has been confronted in congress over the US administration's failure to provide firm evidence for Iran's alleged nuclear weapons development.

Ron Paul, a Republican congressman, said: "Unproven charges against Iran's nuclear intentions are eerily reminiscent of the false charges made against Iraq."

Paul said "unproven accusations of Iranian support for the Iraqi insurgency" were also serving as a pretext for "escalating our sharp rhetoric towards Iran".

"Pressed for proof of dramatic claims of Iranian involvement in Iraq, the administration keeps promising that they are compiling it."

'Echoes of Iraq'

Paul was speaking as Rice presented the US state department's annual budget request to the congressional foreign affairs committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.

He said: "This sounds like Iraq, where accusations came first and proof was supposed to come later – only that proof never came because the accusations turned out to be false."

Paul referred to discredited allegations that Saddam Hussein's government was building weapons of mass destruction.

US officials have promised to make public what Sean McCormack, a state department spokesman, described as a "mountain of evidence" to back up allegations about Iranian involvement in attacks on US and allied forces in Iraq.

No such evidence has yet been put forward by the administration. >>>cont

'No Iran attack plan'

Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring

A second battle group has been ordered to the Gulf and extra missiles have already been sent out. Meanwhile oil is being stockpiled. Photograph: Reuters

Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites are well advanced
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Saturday February 10, 2007The Guardian
US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring.
But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision.
The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is to persuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandon ambitions for regional expansion.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, said yesterday: "I don't know how many times the president, secretary [of state Condoleezza] Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran."

But Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst, shared the sources' assessment that Pentagon planning was well under way. "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place."

He added: "We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous."

All 435 House Members Can See Iraq Intelligence -- and Talk on Iraq Next Week

By: Mike Allen February 9, 2007 01:31 PM EST
To the surprise of the Bush administration, the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to allow all 435 House members to see the classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq sent to the White House last week. The report is classified in part because it contains information about sources and methods used in intelligence-gathering.

The document will provide fuel for a House debate, scheduled to begin Tuesday, on a resolution of disapproval of President Bush’s plan to boost U.S. troop strength in Iraq. Remarkably, each House member will be given five minutes to speak. The decision to provide such broad access to the microphones is based on the fact that each member got the chance to speak before the Iraq war began, according to House leadership aides.

In announcing the vote to allow all members access to the classified portion of the NIE, the committee said those examining it “will be required to review the document in the Committee's secure offices in the Capitol and sign a secrecy oath.” The members will not be allowed to leave with notes, congressional sources said.

The White House was not informed or consulted about the decision. Such access for members is rare but not unprecedented. The document had been made available to members of several committees with jurisdiction over the intelligence community, but other lawmakers would have needed to request permission to read it. The committee had received written requests from one Republican and one Democrat, plus some other informal inquires, and decided it would be better to allow blanket access instead of voting on each request, congressional sources said.

The report runs about 90 pages, and the Office of the National Intelligence Director released 3 1/2 pages of “Key Judgments” last week. The report, called “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead,” was approved Jan. 29 by the heads of the government’s 16 intelligence agencies. It paints a generally bleak picture of conditions in Iraq and warns that without successful efforts to rein in insurgent violence and political extremism, the overall security situation “will continue to deteriorate” at current rates for the next 12 to 18 months, the period covered by the report.

The decision raised fears among some Republicans that members not used to dealing with classified information might play fast and loose with what they saw. But Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement: "It is critical that all Members of Congress understand the consensus view of the Intelligence Community on the gravity of the situation in Iraq and the consequences for U.S. troops and our long-term national security interests."

Iraqi Arabs revolt over cash offer to quit Kirkuk

By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:54am GMT 10/02/2007

Ethnic tensions in Kirkuk have escalated after Arabs were offered payments to leave the strategic Iraqi city before a referendum that is expected to approve its incorporation into Kurdish territory.

Kirkuk's oil wealth makes the city of 700,000 one of Iraq's greatest strategic prizes. Well before the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kurds declared their intention to claim a city they describe as their "Jerusalem".

According to Iraq's new constitution, Kirkuk is one of three disputed areas that must hold a referendum by the end of this year on joining the northern provinces run by the autonomous Kurdistan Reg-ional Government and its own security forces.

While no date has been set for a vote, Baghdad's decision to offer money has caused widespread alarm. In recent days Kirkuk has seen demonstrations and a spike in violence as its minorities protest against the offer of £7,000 and a plot of land elsewhere in the country to non-Kurdish residents.

Leaders of militia groups have vowed to resist "ethnic cleansing" by force if necessary. "We vehemently reject this decision," said Sheikh Raad al-Najafi, a follower of the radical Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "We will not leave Kirkuk by force or without force. If [the Kurds] try to force us out there will be dangerous reactions."

The payments have been offered by a special Baghdad government committee, the Iraqi Higher Committee for the Normalisation of Kirkuk. >>>cont


New leader takes hot seat in Iraq

February 10, 2007 08:09pm
A 54-year-old former paratrooper with an honours degree in diplomacy has taken over the toughest job in the US military, assuming control of the coalition in Iraq at a ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces.

Lieutenant General David Petraeus has told dignitaries assembled at the ceremony on the outskirts of Baghdad that Iraq was "doomed" if they failed to restore order in the country, carved open by sectarian strife.

Lt-Gen Petraeus takes over from General George Casey as head of the 140,000-strong US-led forces in Iraq. More than 130,000 of those are US troops.

But while the new commander is hailed as Iraq's best hope of peace, and is widely regarded as a deep thinker, critics of the Bush administration's new "surge" strategy say it is too little, too late.
Before the handover, Gen Casey said his greatest fear for his successor was that Iraqis would not be able to let go of the past, but would continue succumbing to a spiral of hatred and reprisals. >>>cont


As Baghdad's Sadr City thrives, Sunni areas die

Damien Cave, The New York Times

Just past the main checkpoint into Sadr City, children kick soccer balls at goals with new green nets, on fields where mounds of trash covered the ground last summer. A few blocks away, city workers plant palm trees by the road, while men gather at a cafe nearby to chatter and laugh. Sadr City is recovering, with the help of $41 million in reconstruction funds from the Shiite-led government, all of it spent since May, according to Iraqi officials, and millions more in U.S. assistance. But as Shiite areas such as Sadr City begin to thrive as self-enclosed fiefs, middle-class Sunni enclaves are withering into abandoned ghettos, starved of government services...

continua / continued

Pentagon to Extend Troops in Afghanistan

The Pentagon plans to extend its buildup of combat troops in Afghanistan - initially announced as lasting until late spring - well into next year. American troop levels, which increased this month, will remain roughly the same into 2008 rather than returning to the level that had prevailed through much of last year.


Appeals Court Blocks US Soldier From Being Tried in Iraq

A federal appeals court blocked the Pentagon on Friday from transferring Shawqi Omar, a citizen of both Jordan and the United States who once served in the Minnesota National Guard, to an Iraqi court to face charges he supported terrorists and insurgents.


Appeals Court Blocks US Soldier From Being Tried in Iraq

A federal appeals court blocked the Pentagon on Friday from transferring Shawqi Omar, a citizen of both Jordan and the United States who once served in the Minnesota National Guard, to an Iraqi court to face charges he supported terrorists and insurgents.


Gitmo Cover-Up?

Heather Cerveny, a Marine Corps sergeant, who spent a week at the Cuban base last September working as a legal aide to Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, said she was "shocked" to hear several guards from different parts of the base openly speak of mistreating prisoners. The US Southern Command investigated the claims and concluded "insufficient evidence exists to substantiate the paralegal's allegations." But Lieutenant Colonel Vokey, Sgt. Cerveny's superior officer, called the investigation incomplete and "outrageous."


Cheney Authorized Leak Campaign:

Associated Press February 9, 2007 10:29 PM

"We're a day late in getting responses to the story," Rove told a staff meeting, according to Libby's notes.

"Get the full story out," Cheney told aides, according to Libby's grand jury testimony.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Died. So Did Three American Troops.

The Dumbing Down of America, leave it to Cable and the Media
02.09.2007 Paul Rieckhoff

READ MORE: Anna Nicole Smith, Iraq

I can't stand it anymore. For the last two days, on every cable news network, it has been non stop coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Look, I am sorry she is dead. And my heart goes out to her family. Really it does. But this is not a major news story.
Not even close.

As a veteran of this war in Iraq, I beg all Americans to please keep things in perspective while the networks fill you with images of a buxom blond celebrity who was only famous for being famous.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC are all guilty of it. MSNBC (which was really getting better for a while) has been the worst. Yesterday afternoon, while a war raged in Iraq, Hammas met with Fatah in Mecca, and a House investigation into botched Iraq reconstruction efforts continued on Capitol Hill, MSNBC gave us over three straight hours of almost entirely uninterrupted coverage of the death of the spokesperson for TRIMSPA. The coverage of Smith's death has rivaled that of former President Ford's.

The week I got back home from Iraq in 2004, the number one news story in America was Janet Jackson's breast being exposed at the Super Bowl. I was flabbergasted to see that this was what the American media cared about, as my friends were taking mortar rounds and sniper fire in Ramadi and Tikrit. Now, three years later, troops are returning home to see this crap about Smith on TV 24-7.

Anna Nicole Smith died about 24 hours ago. Over the same time period, at least three of our troops and countless Iraqis have died in a war that might turn out to be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our country's history. Even as I write this, all three networks are covering a live press conference by Smith's attorney. I want to put my fist through the TV.

Wake up, America. This is not news. It does not matter. Think of our troops. Think of the Iraqis. Think of the families of people serving in Iraq right now.

You want to really support the troops? Tell the media to pay attention to the war they are fighting and dying in! Call the networks and complain, write letters to the producers, and change the damn channel.


Sen. Johnson Works From Hospital As Recovery Progresses

Associated Press February 9, 2007 05:20 PM

Sen. Tim Johnson (news, bio, voting record) is reading news clippings and starting to do some office work from the hospital, almost two months after suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage. "At this point, he has requested more contact with office and is looking for updates from staff," his office said in a statement Friday.

Spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said the South Dakota Democrat is starting slowly.


66yo wrestles anaconda off grandson

4.30am (AEDT) A 66-year-old Brazilian man wrestled with a 5m anaconda for nearly half an hour to free his grandson from the snake's crushing death grip, a newspaper reported overnight.


Eight dead in 'friendly fire' incident

5.13am (AEDT) EIGHT Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers were killed and six others wounded in northern Iraq overnight after US choppers opened fire on them in what appeared to be a "friendly fire" incident, Kurdish officials said.


Rove On Immigration: "I Don't Want My 17-Year-Old Son To Have To Pick Tomatoes"

Raw Story February 9, 2007 02:01 PM

The Corner at the National Review Online reports that at a Republican luncheon yesterday White House adviser Karl Rove was overheard explaining the Bush amnesty immigration plan by saying, "I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."
Excepts from "The Corner" article below:


Hundreds Clash At Jerusalem's Temple Mount

Associated Press DALIA NAMMARI February 9, 2007 09:35 AM

Israeli police stormed the grounds of Islam's third-holiest shrine Friday, firing stun grenades and tear gas to disperse thousands of Muslim worshippers who hurled stones, bottles and trash in an eruption of outrage over Israeli renovation nearby.

The clash at the end of noon prayers came after days of mounting tensions over the work and raised concern that protests at the site could spread to the West Bank and Gaza, as they did at the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. No serious injuries were reported.


In this world, this photo should not exist

The Ground Truth: After The Killing Ends

Trailer for documentary film about the truth of life on the ground.
This is an intimate look into the lives of our soldiers (all ranks) 'on the ground' in Iraq and Afghanistan.It follows and interviews them and their families to provide a picture of the day to day reality of these soldiers' existence and the ones who love them, on the 'battlefield' and as they attempt to return home and assume their former lives. It also reveals the indoctrination and training that goes into 'shaping' our troops into a military fighting machine.

Hacker breaks into website of Canadian nuclear agency

Incident prompts security fears

Ian MacLeod, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, February 08, 2007

A brazen hacker attacked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission website yesterday, littering it with dozens of photographs of a nuclear explosion and raising concerns about the security of information held by the nation's nuclear watchdog.

The incident was discovered about 3 p.m. by a Citizen reporter. All of the commission's current and archived news releases, dating back to 1998, were renamed as "security breaches" and, when opened, a colour photograph of a fiery mushroom cloud appeared under the heading "For Immediate Release."

An accompanying caption read: "Please dont (sic) put me in jail......oops, I divided by zero."

The pages were disabled minutes after the newspaper contacted the agency.

The incident, however, underscores concerns about information security at the commission, which regulates nuclear safety in Canada.

"The fact that it's a nuclear safety commission understandably raises eyebrows because it raises the question about the broader security of their computer systems," said Michael Geist, an Internet and e-commerce law expert at the University of Ottawa.

"The reality is that governments make a particularly juicy target because there's the prospect of broader (media) coverage and they're viewed by many within that (hacking) community as being more secure and therefore more of a challenge."

Because the hacker boldly announced himself on the site's media section, as opposed, for example, to attempting to quietly alter site information, "there's probably no reason to suspect that serious damage was done," said Brian O'Higgins, chief technology officer with Third Brigade, an Ottawa Internet security firm.

IAs old arrangement expires, Israel must decide how much aid to request from U.S...

By Shmuel Rosner

WASHINGTON - Israeli officials have been discussing over the past few months how much financial aid Israel should request from the United States in the coming years. The issue has come up for initial discussions with the Bush administration, and will be raised again at a meeting in Washington next month. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is due to make the final decision on the matter.

The Bush administration this week asked Congress for $2.4 billion in financial aid for Israeli security needs, the highest amount possible under America's current agreement with Israel.

The financial aid issue is on the table once again because the previous agreement expires this budgetary year, after being in effect for a decade.

Initial talks on a new financial aid package indicate that both the American and Israeli governments are interested in renewing the aid in an "orderly manner," as one person familiar with the issue put it, rather than returning to the system whereby Israel has to renew its aid request every year.

Israel needs to make a decision on whether to renew a request for civil assistance, and whether to ask for the current level of security assistance on a long-term basis or request more funding for the security challenges Israel faces.


Shocking! Yet another "Plot That Was Not" from the UK.....

Police forced to defend terror investigation after two freed over alleged beheading plot
· Pair faced only four hours of interrogation in a week
· Defence to seek release of seven still in custody

West Midlands police defended their anti-terror operation yesterday after it emerged that two suspects were freed without charge after being questioned for little more than four hours during their week in custody.

As one of the released men, Abu Bakr, told the Guardian that he had faced sporadic and bizarre questioning by officers in connection with an alleged plot to abduct and behead a British Muslim soldier, police said it was not uncommon for some people to be released at this stage of an operation.

West Midlands police said in a statement: "In all such operations people may be released without charge at this stage, while others may remain in custody for further investigation ... We still have a large amount of evidence seized during the searches to examine."

The two were among nine men arrested in Birmingham last week. Neither of the freed pair was questioned about any kidnap or murder plot during their seven days under arrest, according to Abu Bakr and their lawyer, nor were they asked about any British soldier. They were released when a magistrate refused to give police permission to hold them any longer. Abu Bakr said he believed he was questioned by members of the new West Midlands terrorism squad. "It was as if this was their little baby. The guy who questioned me seemed confident but the woman's hands were shaking. She seemed uneasy."

While some community leaders voiced concerns yesterday about the anti-terror operation, police and security sources said last night that the intelligence that led to the arrests was "strong" - even if it will not lead to all nine being prosecuted "on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preparation of acts of terrorism".

But defence lawyers are expected to make fresh attempts to have the remaining seven men freed tomorrow when police return to court to ask for a further extension of their detention period.


Oh no, not that again

From Where I Stand by Joan Chittister, OSB February 9, 2007
Vol. 4, No. 34

Perhaps there is no better window for an American citizen to have on the United States than to see it at a distance. Being in Europe is particularly fascinating because, except for the architecture in the old cities, we all look so much alike.

Western lifestyle has a kind of commonality about it from end to the other, from Los Angeles, to London, to Moscow. Everything is similar, if for no other reason than that the United States has managed to export its culture more efficiently than any other people since ancient Rome.

Whatever the national dress of other periods, most of that is saved for national holidays now. There are a few high hats and knee breeches left in Ireland around St. Patrick's day and some embroidered suspenders and vests in Germany around Christmas but for the most part, there's a single international uniform for teenagers now -- jeans and Nike's, NFL T-shirts and sandals -- and for adults, as well.

We eat the same foods, watch the same movies, dance to the same music and follow the same TV shows.

One major difference, perhaps, is that in Europe no one asks a political candidate what religion they are or speculate how it will affect their chances for election, which is very interesting, when you think about it. This, after all, is "the seat of Christendom" but Christendom does not run for office here.

In the United States, on the other hand, the political headlines read like a church bulletin: "Faith, Politics Cross in Immigration Debate" (Dallas Morning News,) " Religious, Secular Leaders Urged to Unite," (Austin-American Statesman) and in this week's New York Times, "Mormon Candidate Braces for Religion As Issue,"

This same week, the death of Robert Drinan, S.J., the first elected priest to the United States Congress and the man who entered the first call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, raises the question again here. What is the place of religion in U.S. politics?

Interestingly enough, the country founded to provide freedom of religion for all its citizens, to protect the church from repression by the state, to outlaw the very idea of an establishment church that had been the ruination of so much of Europe, the country that set out to erect a wall between church and state, is the country that today struggles with the issue most of all.

The problem pointed up by Pope John Paul II in his directive that priests and nuns should not be involved in politics is the mirror image of the concern raised at the time of the candidacy of John F. Kennedy for the presidency of the United States.

Then, the worry was that Kennedy would be required to do what the Catholic church required of him, whatever the position of other faiths on those same issues.

John Paul II's concern, quite correct history would say, was just the opposite. His fear was that priest-politicians, as agents of the state, would be required to follow the dictates of the state rather than the requirements of conscience in moral matters. He knew that the entanglement could be a fatal one. He knew, too, as does any amateur student of history, that priests in politics have always been a deadly brew, for church and state alike.

The fact is that religion in the modern world is to be a challenge to the conscience of the country, not a tool of the state. The democratic political process, on the other hand, is to seek the common good, not to impose one religious institution's morality on another. To keep the balance between the two positions, it must, at the same time, protect the right of every religious community to call the government to consider in its legislative process what is morally right for the country rather than simply what is expedient for it.

To question the morality, the justice, of any social position, to advocate for social reform of any issue is a religious imperative. To trap politicians into committing themselves to one church agenda rather than another, however, will, in the end, be damaging to the faith itself.

Religion is neither a servant nor an enemy of the state. The separation of church and state is not about the suppression of religious interests. It is about the protection of religious differences.

When candidates for political office promise commitment to anything other than the common good, the protection of all religions is in danger. When candidates bring a religious agenda to the office, they offend the constitution they are pledged to uphold. When churches lobby for legislation inimical to the faith of others or support candidates on the basis of their religious beliefs, they threaten the balance between democracy and theocracy.

The "family values" agenda of these last years has come dangerously close to dividing morality itself, as if some issues essential to the dignity and well-being of a family were family values but others were not. Family values are all the values that protect the full humanity of the citizenry, not simply the sexual aspects of life. Politicians, in many cases, did a much better job of realizing the moral import of multiple issues -- the minimum wage, human and civil rights, equality, war and global warming, as well as stem cell research and civil unions -- than did many a church leader.

Let's hope the new crop of headlines does not mean that we're about to have another national election based on only a few particular issues and call that religion and morality. It's not only tiresome. It may be immoral.

Europe seems to be doing just as well -- or better -- than we are on some moral issues. They seem much more devoted to saving the globe, for instance, than we are. And they never even ask their candidates what religion they are. Let alone how they'll vote as a result of it.

From where I stand, that seems to be a very good way to go. In fact, how did we ever get away from it in the first place?



(AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)

Thu Feb 8, 8:32 AM ET

MADRID (AFP) - Former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, four years after he took Spain into the 2003 US-led invasion and helped topple Saddam Hussein.


Libby Locker Room In Turmoil...

It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game

WASHINGTON (CNN)-- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers are debating whether to call Libby's former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to the stand, a source with knowledge of the lawyers' discussions told CNN on Thursday.

Libby's lawyers also are debating whether or not Libby should testify or throw in the towel and negotiate a plea, the source said. Ted Wells is arguing, "if Scooter takes the stand we are screwed," while William Jeffress is countering, "without Scooter we are screwed."

One compromise under consideration is to allow the Vice President to avoid pleading the Fifth and play video tapes of him on Meet the Press, saying:

"Tim, Scooter Libby is, he's a good man. He's a friend of mine. He's somebody--one of the most competent and capable people I've ever known. He's entitled to the presumption of innocence..."

and home videos of Scooter playing with puppies.

The source added, "as it stands now a decision has not been made about whether either will testify with the only points Wells and Jeffress agreeing on are the certainty of an appeal and mutual good fortune."

Some in the defense team believe the prosecutor's presentation has been strong and persuasive and therefore would open both Cheney and Libby to a grilling when cross-examined. This would not help to sway the jury, the source added.

Originally, it was the expectation of the defense team to put both Libby and Cheney on the stand to help buttress its case, the source said, "but that was before the
Prosecution called their first witness." <more>

posted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Just Say "No Thank You" To Graft..!

Report Detailing 25 Most Corrupt Bush Administration OfficialsWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a new report on the most corrupt officials in the Bush administration entitled "Criminals and Scoundrels: The 25 Most Corrupt Bush Administration Officials." For the first time, the report chronicles the criminal activities and misconduct of high level officials in the current administration. Using public and court records, CREW developed a comprehensive list of government officials who have abused the public trust.

CREW found and documented more than more than 160 cases of misconduct over the last six years and then narrowed the list based on type of offense, the official’s level of responsibility and the impact on the public trust. The majority of the officials in the report have been convicted of crimes, are currently under criminal investigation, or are being investigated by the inspector generals of their respective agencies. CREW’s website, www.citizensforethics.org, provides summaries of each case as well as accompanying exhibits.

Some of the egregious behavior detailed in the "Criminals and Scoundrels" report includes: personal trips on the taxpayer dime, directing contracts to benefit family and friends, using a computer to seduce a child, lying to the U.S. Senate, unauthorized possession of classified materials and taking a bribe from a defense contractors to pay a mortgage.

List -- The rampant graft and corruption in the Bush Administration is a travesty - a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

posted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Coffee Is Good Food...

You might crave some too while reading these:

February 7, 2007 Trial Exhibits


posted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald
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