Saturday, October 02, 2004

Guantanamo: A Useless Hell

According to a senior official, America's little gulag doesn't do a think to make us more secure, but it does a fine job imprisoning lots of people without trial for long periods of time:
Prisoner interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, the controversial US military detention centre where guards have been accused of brutality and torture, have not prevented a single terrorist attack, according to a senior Pentagon intelligence officer who worked at the heart of the US war on terror.

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino, who retired last June after 20 years in military intelligence, says that President George W Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have 'wildly exaggerated' their intelligence value.

Christino's revelations, to be published this week in Guantánamo: America's War on Human Rights, by British journalist David Rose, are supported by three further intelligence officials. Christino also disclosed that the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to Guantánamo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'.


Friedman Comes Roaring Back

And he nails the Iraq situation perfectly:

For all of President Bush's vaunted talk about being consistent and resolute, the fact is he never established U.S. authority in Iraq. Never. This has been the source of all our troubles. We have never controlled all the borders, we have never even consistently controlled the road from Baghdad airport into town, because we never had enough troops to do it.

Being away has not changed my belief one iota in the importance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq, to help move the Arab-Muslim world off its steady slide toward increased authoritarianism, unemployment, overpopulation, suicidal terrorism and religious obscurantism. But my time off has clarified for me, even more, that this Bush team can't get us there, and may have so messed things up that no one can. Why? Because each time the Bush team had to choose between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology. More troops or radically lower taxes? Lower taxes. Fire an evangelical Christian U.S. general who smears Islam in a speech while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army or not fire him so as not to anger the Christian right? Don't fire him. Apologize to the U.N. for not finding the W.M.D., and then make the case for why our allies should still join us in Iraq to establish a decent government there? Don't apologize - for anything - because Karl Rove says the "base" won't like it. Impose a "Patriot Tax" of 50 cents a gallon on gasoline to help pay for the war, shrink the deficit and reduce the amount of oil we consume so we send less money to Saudi Arabia? Never. Just tell Americans to go on guzzling. Fire the secretary of defense for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, to show the world how seriously we take this outrage - or do nothing? Do nothing. Firing Mr. Rumsfeld might upset conservatives. Listen to the C.I.A.? Only when it can confirm your ideology. When it disagrees - impugn it or ignore it.


Florida Election in Trouble Again

Thousands of people are going to show up at the polls only to be told they aren't really registered:
Thousands of Floridians who think they're registered to vote could be turned away at the polls Nov. 2 because their voter registration forms weren't completely filled out, officials said Friday.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood said some groups registering voters are turning in application forms with information missing, such as unchecked boxes asking whether applicants are citizens, mentally incompetent or felons.

A group that's been seeking copies of the incomplete applications in an effort to help people complete them said Hood's office, citing state law, has begun blocking them.

Given the emotions that must linger from 2000, riots wouldn't surprise me this November.


Nuclear Iraq

The New York Times has an extensive piece detailing just how the Bush administration worked itself up into a frenzy over a nuclear Iraq that doesn't exist.

Read the whole thing.


Friday, October 01, 2004

Indict DeLay

His admitted actions are sufficient to constitute bribery:
The House Ethics Committee finally released its report about allegations by Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., that the House leadership tried to win his support for the Medicare drug bill last November by offering a $100,000 bribe. (In the end, Smith voted no.) The big news is that Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, admitted that he offered to endorse Smith's son Brad, who was running for Congress at the time, in exchange for Smith's "yea" vote on the Medicare bill. According to the Ethics Committee—more precisely, its investigative subcommittee—this is a violation of House rules and warrants "public admonishment." But it may warrant a good deal more.

The Ethics Committee wasn't able to find anyone who would admit having mentioned to Smith that his vote was worth $100,000, and Smith (for reasons that are getting clearer) now contradicts his earlier statements and says no bribe—and certainly no $100,000—was ever offered. But DeLay's statement alone is grounds for indictment. United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, "Bribery of public officials and witnesses," states that a bribe can be "anything of value." There's an exception for horse-trading confined wholly to government business—you vote for my bill and I'll vote for yours—because that's constitutionally protected. But endorsing a candidate for office is not government business. There are no House committees that vote on DeLay's endorsements, or Cabinet secretaries who issue them as regulations. DeLay doesn't even have to clear them with the House speaker (who at any rate seems to take orders from DeLay, not the other way around). When DeLay endorses someone, he's speaking for himself and his party.

Would an endorsement by DeLay have been "of value" to Smith? You bet, and not simply because DeLay is a nationally recognized figure in the Republican Party. DeLay is well known to have access to enormous quantities of corporate cash (not all of it necessarily obtained legally). In the current election cycle, his PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority, has given out $775, 278. None of the other so-called "leadership PACs" controlled by members of Congress come close to spending this kind of money. A DeLay endorsement means big bucks. Smith acknowledged to the Ethics Committee this inescapable logical connection (thereby edging toward recanting his recantation) by admitting "he would have associated the offer of an endorsement with willingness to provide financial assistance in the form of contributions to his son's campaign." Well, duh.


Faux News: Now Fauxer Than Ever

Josh Marshall caught the liars at Fox red-handed, and all they can say is, "It was a joke." Fox News is the joke.

Here's the story that appeared on their website this morning:
Rallying supporters in Tampa Friday, Kerry played up his performance in Thursday night's debate, in which many observers agreed the Massachusetts senator outperformed the president.

"Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" Kerry said Friday.

With the foreign-policy debate in the history books, Kerry hopes to keep the pressure on and the sense of traction going.

Aides say he will step up attacks on the president in the next few days, and pivot somewhat to the domestic agenda, with a focus on women and abortion rights.

"It's about the Supreme Court. Women should like me! I do manicures," Kerry said.

Kerry still trails in actual horse-race polls, but aides say his performance was strong enough to rally his base and further appeal to voters ready for a change.

"I'm metrosexual — he's a cowboy," the Democratic candidate said of himself and his opponent.

A "metrosexual" is defined as an urbane male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.

Of course, Marshall knew that Kerry would never spout the very bullshit that 'wingers would use to disparage him, and so he called Fox on it. Their reply:

Late this afternoon I spoke to Fox spokesman Paul Schur who told me the following ...

“Carl [Cameron] made a stupid mistake which he regrets. And he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgment. It was a poor attempt at humor.”

So the Fox reporter covering the Kerry campaign puts together this Kerry-bashing parody right out of the RNC playbook with phony quotes intended to peg him as girlish fool and somehow it found its way on the Fox website as a news item.


Yeah, right.

My question is this: If the whole possibly forged memo snafu is enough to cause CBS to quit reporting on anything of real import until after the election, shouldn't this screw up mean that Fox should cease covering the election IMMEDIATELY?

Fair is fair.


The Plan: Keep Screwing the IRR

Even as Bush continues to insist there are plenty of troops to achieve...well, whatever it is he hopes to achieve in Iraq, plans are set to drag thousands of ex-military back in, and ship them out:
The U.S. Army, now mobilizing 5,600 former soldiers from a rarely used personnel pool to go to Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites), plans to summon a similar number next year for duty in those war zones, a senior official said on Friday.

The Army also said it plans to step up recruitment efforts to try to meet goals to sign up 80,000 new soldiers for the regular Army and 22,000 for the Army Reserve in the fiscal year that began on Friday. The Army recruiting command's chief acknowledged the wars were deterring some potential recruits.

To plug shortfalls in certain skills in units being deployed, the Army has tapped the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), made up of 111,000 people who have completed voluntary military commitments and have returned to civilian life but remain eligible to be mobilized in a national emergency.


Ron, Jr. Joined by Young Eisenhower

kent of codpiece hagiography calls to our attention another president's son joining the Kerry camp, John Eisenhower, son of Dwight:
In a rare public announcement, Eisenhower said he switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent after 50 years after losing confidence in his former party. He said Kerry has demonstrated courage, competence and a concern for tackling the "widening socio-economic gap in this country."

"There are times when we must break with the past, and I believe this is one of them," Eisenhower wrote in the opinion column published Tuesday in The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H.

The column assails President Bush (news - web sites) and the GOP for federal budget deficits, for "unilaterally" invading Iraq (news - web sites) and for infringing on personal liberties.
"The fact is that today's 'Republican' Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word 'Republican' has always been synonymous with the word 'responsibility,' which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms."

Today's whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion," Eisenhower wrote.


Snubbing Moore

Just ridiculous. On the other hand, the fact that Moore is going to show up despite being canceled on the orders of a Republican politician means more of an audience for him:
George Mason University on Thursday canceled plans to have "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore speak on campus five days before the presidential election.

The decision came after a Republican state legislator wrote a letter to university President Alan G. Merten protesting the Fairfax school's plans to pay the filmmaker $35,000 to speak on October 28.

"We just felt it wasn't the most appropriate use of (public) funds, so we decided the best thing to do was cancel," school spokesman Daniel Walsch said.

George Mason didn't notify Moore before making the decision public, Walsch said.

A message left seeking comment from Moore wasn't immediately returned to The Associated Press, but he told The Washington Post he plans to come and speak anyway.

"I'm going to show up in support of free speech and free expression," he said.


Nader Gone Mad

Well, at least his new dream seems more fitting for him than his old dream of being president:
Nader, the Reform Party candidate for president, was not allowed to participate in the debate at the Convocation Center under the rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Nader instead attended a dinner at the university faculty club. He criticized the two debaters and developed a scenario of how he would take the debate stage.

"If I could only go through the ducts and leap out onstage in a cape -- that's my dream," Nader said.


Do-Nothing President

Even as Kerry hammers Bush for his colossal failures in securing nuclear plants, chemical plants, and ports, Bush's own cybersecurity chief is resigning in frustration:
The government's cybersecurity chief has abruptly resigned after one year with the Department of Homeland Security, confiding to industry colleagues his frustration over what he considers a lack of attention paid to computer security issues within the agency.
As cybersecurity chief, Yoran and his division — with an $80 million budget and 60 employees — were responsible for carrying out dozens of recommendations in the Bush administration's "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," a set of proposals to better protect computer networks.

Yoran's position as a director — at least three steps beneath Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge — has irritated the technology industry and even some lawmakers. They have pressed unsuccessfully in recent months to elevate Yoran's role to that of an assistant secretary, which could mean broader authority and more money for cybersecurity issues.

"Amit's decision to step down is unfortunate and certainly will set back efforts until more leadership is demonstrated by the Department of Homeland Security to solve this problem," said Paul Kurtz, a former cybersecurity official on the White House National Security Council and now head of the Washington-based Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a trade group.


Yep, Kerry Won

Three polls show it:
Three post-debate polls suggested voters who watched the policy-driven
confrontation Thursday night were impressed by Kerry. Most of those surveyed
said he did better than Bush.

And if that isn't enough to convince you, even the Managing Editor of The National Review, who has a bit of a crush on Bush, thinks Bush lost:
Although the two candidates had the same amount of time, Kerry got many, many more words in. And they weren't rushed words. Kerry spoke at a good, measured pace all through.

Bush said, "We're makin' progress" a hundred times — that seemed a little desperate. He also said "mixed messages" a hundred times — I was wishing that he would mix his message. He said, "It's hard work," or, "It's tough," a hundred times. In fact, Bush reminded me of Dan Quayle in the 1988 debate, when the Hoosier repeated a couple of talking points over and over, to some chuckles from the audience (if I recall correctly).

Staying on message is one thing; robotic repetition — when there are oceans of material available — is another.

When Kerry said that our people in the military didn't have enough equipment, Bush was pretty much blasé. He showed no indignation. He might have said, "How dare you? How dare you contend that I am leaving our fighting men and women defenseless!"

I hate to say it, but often Bush gave the appearance of being what his critics charge he is: callow, jejune, unserious. And remember — talk about repetition! — I concede this as someone who loves the man.

When he talked about Iraq, he ran the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish — a little head-in-the-sand-ish. Bush is not. But he might have left that impression.


Reduce Gov't Waste: Get Rid of DeLay

As if it wasn't bad enough that he came down to Texas and orchestrated the re-redistricting fiasco that cost the state millions and produced grotesque gerrymandering (and he still couldn't get rid of Doggett! Hah!) while preventing much needed work on, say, the floundering school system, now he's wasting more of our time and money:
Republicans Thursday night said they had nothing to be ashamed of in the defeat of a proposed amendment to the US Constitution that would ban gay marriage.

The House late Thursday afternoon voted 227 to 186 in favor of the measure, short of the required two thirds majority. (story)

Nevertheless Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said the procedure "put every member" on public record and would allow voters to know where the candidates stand on the issue of marriage.

DeLay said the issue is far from dead. "We will come back and come back until this is passed," he said.

DeLay said the proposed amendment would be re-introduced in the new Congress next year.

For heaven's sake, bugman, give it a rest. Go relax and unwind at one of Scalia's orgies. You'll feel better.


An Invitation I Won't Be Accepting

If a certain Supreme Court Justice invites you over for an "intimate evening" with "a few friends," beware:
He is the conservative bastion of the US supreme court, a favourite of
President Bush, and a hunting partner of the vice-president. He has argued
vociferously against abortion rights, and in favour of anti-sodomy laws.

But it turns out that there is another side to Justice Antonin Scalia:
he thinks Americans ought to be having more orgies.

Challenged about his views on sexual morality, Justice Scalia surprised
his audience at Harvard University, telling them: "I even take the position that
sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."


Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Debates, Part I

I have to say that Bush's nervous, twitchy behavior when he wasn't speaking was odd and intriguing, but it did have the positive side effect of leading to a certain level of breakdown when it came to that "last minute" rule and its implementation.

Anyway, what I saw was a much-less boring and convoluted Kerry than ever before. He had his reponses timed quite well, got in a number of digs against Bush, and generally managed to convey his points clearly.

From the other side, Bush looked orange and hunched and twitchy and defensive. And often confused. The several times Bush just got brainlock and stared into the camera with his mouth hanging open were priceless. And they sum up exactly Bush's responses to stress situations quite vividly.

I won't deem it a blowout. That title is reserved for when GWB does, in fact, during the debate, get the blow out and set up some long rails and take em down.

But Kerry did show his intelligence and his composure. Bush showed that he can keep perhaps three phrases in his mind and repeat them ad nauseam, irrespective of context. And never quit smirking. Oh, and that when he thinks he's gotten in a good one-liner, he pauses, painfully, to wait for everyone to laugh. They don't.

And so the nation is filled with spin.

That is mine.


Hate Amendment Smacked Down

Of course it was. They just parade it around as a show for the more backward, homophobic people among their base. I am glad that there is no real hope that this vile deformation of the Constitution could possible occur, but it remains sickening that so many politicians are willing to make political theatre out of hate, even as violence against gays continues to occur far too often:
The House emphatically rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Thursday, the latest in a string of conservative pet causes advanced by Republican leaders in the run-up to Election Day.

The vote was 227-186, 49 votes shy of the two-thirds needed for approval of an amendment that President Bush (news - web sites) backed but the Senate had previously scuttled.
Oh, and special note to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett: Your historical knowledge is nil, and so you should shut the fuck up.
"God created Adam and Eve, He didn't create Adam and Steve," said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (news, bio, voting record), R-Md., on behalf of a measure that supporters said was designed to protect an institution as old as civilization itself.


Bush to U.S.: You Can't Handle the Truth

As we get ready to watch the absurdly sanitized "debate," the Bush administration is busy sanitizing the news from our dirty little war:
Thursday morning in Baghdad multiple car bombs and rocket attacks killed at least 40 people, including many children and several US soldiers. The Bush administration, The Washington Post reports Thursday, worried that negative stories like these are dominating the news headlines during an election period, has decided to send out Iraq Americans to bring what the Defense Department calls "the good news" about the situation in Iraq to US military bases.

The Post also reports that the administration is moving to "curtail distribution" of reports that show the situation in Iraq growing worse. In particular, the US Agency of International Development said this week that it will "restrict distribution" of a report by its contractor, Kroll Security International, that showed the number of attacks by insurgents had been increasingly dramatically over the past few months. Attacks have risen to 70 a day, up from 40-50, since Iraqi Prime Minister Alawi took office in June.

Whoever said that democracy requires an informed electorate?

Oh? What's that you say? The Founding Fathers?

What do they know.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal reporter's letter from Iraq tells the truth. Iraq is in bad shape, and Saddam Hussein would be elected to lead the nation if allowed to run.


Silencing Dissent

The networks are defending the pristine honor of their absolutely apolitical news programs against the taint of Michael Moore ads:

ON ANY GIVEN DAY, the major TV networks rarely demonstrate good judgment,
much less morality, when it comes to accepting a litany of nauseating advertisements. Hemorrhoid creams. Vaginal ointments. Erectile dysfunction. Army recruiting ads that portray war as a gee-whiz video game. KFC’s claim that fried chicken is the new health food. And, lest we forget, Bud Light’s farting horse during the Super Bowl.

But ads for the October 5 release of the new Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD?

Now that makes Big Media gag.

L.A. Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks’ news programming. Executives at Sony Pictures, the distributor of the movie for the home-entertainment market, were stunned. And even more shocked when the three networks explained why.

“They said explicitly they were reluctant because of the closeness of the release to the election. All three networks said no,” one Sony insider explains. “It was certainly a judgment that Sony disagrees with and is in the process of protesting.”

And protest Sony did. (Michael Lynton, the onetime Pearson publishing executive who is now chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, has privately told people he hasn’t seen anything like this since his Penguin Group published Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.) What especially galled the Sony suits was this: The networks had no problem having the DVD ads appear on their entertainment shows so long as the guidelines for R-rated content like Fahrenheit 9/11 were followed. However, Sony executives told L.A. Weekly they wanted only to market the movie’s DVD on CBS’s, NBC’s and ABC’s news shows. “But all three networks said no to straight news,” one Sony exec explained. “Then, suddenly, the networks were extending the definition of news programming to include the news magazines and the morning news shows and restricting access to those as well. That becomes very problematic to any advertiser trying to reach an adult audience.”


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

It's Only Going to Get Worse

Mental illness among Iraq War veterans is already making its appearance, and we'll be dealing with it for a long, long time:
Knight Ridder reports: "Of 168,000 service members who had served in Iraq and been discharged as of July 22, 28,000 had sought medical care from the VA, according to the department's most recent statistics. Of those, about 5,400 had mental health issues and nearly one in three of those suffered from PTSD, which results from a serious traumatic event and can cause debilitating flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and uncontrollable anger. The disorder may not show itself for years.

Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, the executive director of the VA's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, said the insurgency's ambush tactics potentially expose a greater percentage of soldiers to the kinds of stress that causes PTSD."


Patriot Act Unconstitutional

One provision of it is, at least. Just one more reason to give money to the ACLU, as they work to chip away at the government's attacks on our rights under the guise of the "War on Terror":
Surveillance powers granted to the FBI (news - web sites) under the Patriot Act, a cornerstone of the Bush Administration's war on terror, were ruled unconstitutional by a judge on Wednesday in a new blow to U.S. security policies.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, in the first decision against a surveillance portion of the act, ruled for the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) in its challenge against what it called "unchecked power" by the FBI to demand confidential customer records from communication companies, such as Internet service providers or telephone companies.

Marrero, stating that "democracy abhors undue secrecy," found that the law violates constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches. He said it also violated free speech rights by barring those who received FBI demands from disclosing they had to turn over records.

Because of this gag order, the ACLU initially had to file its suit against the Department of Justice (news - web sites) under seal to avoid penalties for violation of the surveillance laws.

Think about that last part for a moment. They had to file suit under seal to avoid being penalized. Undue secrecy, indeed.


More Evil from Our "Ally"

Pakistan is a hellish nation for women, and we are doing nothing to change that:

In June 2002, the police say, members of a high-status tribe sexually abused one of Ms. Mukhtaran's brothers and then covered up their crime by falsely accusing him of having an affair with a high-status woman. The village's tribal council determined that the suitable punishment for the supposed affair was for high-status men to rape one of the boy's sisters, so the council sentenced Ms. Mukhtaran to be gang-raped.

As members of the high-status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers.

In Pakistan's conservative Muslim society, Ms. Mukhtaran's duty was now clear: she was supposed to commit suicide. "Just like other women, I initially thought of killing myself," said Ms. Mukhtaran, now 30. Her older brother, Hezoor Bux, explained: "A girl who has been raped has no honorable place in the village. Nobody respects the girl, or her parents. There's a stigma, and the only way out is suicide."

Meanwhile, villagers say that relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place by slaughtering her and her entire family. I walked to the area where the high-status tribesmen live. They denied planning to kill Ms. Mukhtaran, but were unapologetic about her rape.

"Mukhtaran is totally disgraced," Taj Bibi, a matriarch in a high-status family, said with satisfaction. "She has no respect in society."

So although I did not find Osama, I did encounter a much more ubiquitous form of evil and terror: a culture, stretching across about half the globe, that chews up women and spits them out.

We in the West could help chip away at that oppression, with health and literacy programs and by simply speaking out against it, just as we once stood up against slavery and totalitarianism. But instead of standing beside fighters like Ms. Mukhtaran, we're still sitting on the fence.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

They Just Keep Breaking the Law

As if it's not enough that they illegally spent our money to foist their deformation of Medicare on us, now they're just going to the source and illegally screwing sick people. Oh well:
The Bush administration violated the law by allowing private insurers to limit choices of some patients in a small trial program of managed health care under Medicare, congressional investigators said.

Preferred provider organizations, which offer members a network of discounted health care providers, have enrolled 105,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 19 states.

In some cases, insurers refused to pay claims for home health visits, nursing care, dental work, routine physicals and other services obtained from providers who were not part of the PPO network, the Government Accountability Office said.

"By law, these plans should have been required to cover all services in their benefit packages even if those services were obtained from providers outside the plans' provider networks," GAO said.

The administration was wrong to waive the requirement, GAO said.


AWOL Spreads

It appears that W's work ethic is being emulated throughout the land:
Thirty percent of former U.S. soldiers who have been called back to duty involuntarily to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed to report on time, and eight have been declared AWOL, the Army said Tuesday.

The Army's problem with mobilizing soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a seldom-tapped personnel pool, is another sign of the difficulty the Pentagon is encountering in maintaining troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So far, the Army has mobilized 3,664 people from the IRR to active duty, but 1,085 have not reported on time to the Army post to which they were assigned, said Julia Collins, a spokeswoman for the Army Human Resources Command.


American Indians Aren't Worth the Money

That's what Bush thinks.

Kerry has another vision:
Presidential candidate John Kerry continues to trumpet a plan that he says will eliminate health care inequalities faced by the American Indian population.

The Bush administration counters that the plan is too costly and they defend the record of the past four years.

“George Bush’s administration has failed to address the health care crisis facing Native Americans,” Kerry said. “While Bush’s budget plan cuts funding for important minority health programs, John Edwards and I have a plan to ensure that all Native Americans, whether they live on reservations or in urban areas, have access to quality, affordable health care.”


Victory in Massachusetts

The homophobes are tucking tail and running:
A key legislative backer of the proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage and establish civil unions yesterday all but declared defeat, saying that Finneran's exit from Beacon Hill was the final straw in an effort that already was in trouble because the state has legalized same-sex marriage with little of the uproar predicted by opponents.

"It is pretty much over," said Senate minority leader Brian P. Lees, a Springfield Republican who cosponsored the amendment with Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini. The House and Senate, sitting in a constitutional convention, must vote a second time in the next session before it could go to the voters on the 2006 ballot.

"In fact, there will be a question as to whether the issue will come up at all," Lees said. He said the issue has faded to the "back burners of Massachusetts politics," because few problems have surfaced with the implementation of the Supreme Judicial Court's decision to legalize gay marriage.

"With the fact the law has been in effect for a number of months and with the change in the House leadership, it would appear any change in the constitution to ban marriage is quickly fading," Lees said.

Link via The Liquid List.


Bush's War

At the U.S. military hospital on a wooded hilltop here, the cost of the Iraq war is measured in amputated limbs, burst eyeballs, shrapnel-torn bodies and shattered lives.

They're the seriously wounded U.S. soldiers who arrive daily at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a growing human toll that belies American election talk of improving times in Iraq.
They're convinced U.S. soldiers will be fighting, dying and getting maimed in Iraq for many years to come.
Hecker retired from the military years ago but recently left his lucrative private practice in Detroit to save lives at Landstuhl.

"I'm here for him — nobody else," he says, pointing to the soldier. "I didn't come here for my government."He pauses, then blurts out: "Bush is an idiot."

Immediately, he regrets having said that about the U.S. president, and makes clear he's been under enormous stress.

He describes taking a bullet out of the neck of an 18-year-old soldier six days ago, a wound that left the young man a quadriplegic.

"It's terrible, terrible, terrible," Hecker says. "When we talked to him, he just cried."

"If it was me, I'd tell them to take me off the machine," he says. He then considers his job and adds, "I'll never be the same mentally." .
In another room, 23-year-old Mark Romero from the army's Third Brigade is also nursing a broken arm. A mechanic who served 11 months in Iraq, he snapped a bone trying to stop a 230 kilogram metal door from falling on a fellow soldier.

Lodged in his back is a piece of shrapnel from mortars that rained through the roof of the gym at the U.S. base in Mosul, northern Iraq, while Romero was working out.

He says the question constantly asked by soldiers is: "What are we doing there?".
If Americans understood what was really going on in Iraq, they'd pressure Bush to be clearer about "why we're really fighting," he says.

"The war on terror wasn't in Iraq till we went there," he says. "We initially went there to topple Saddam (Hussein) and then all these damn terrorists came in."

As a soldier, he describes himself as "almost a political prisoner" in the sense that he can't express himself on whether he believes U.S. soldiers should stay in Iraq.

But his 33-year-old wife, Cheryl, has no qualms about speaking her mind.

"The army is not going to like what I have to say, but I think we have no business being there," she says about Iraq.

She too comes from a family with a long military tradition and works as a civilian at her husband's military base in Texas. She voted for Bush in 2000, but now says Democratic challenger John Kerry will get her support.

"I will definitely vote for Kerry, not because I prefer Kerry over Bush but because I don't want Bush back in office. I'm hoping that if Kerry takes office, we'll be pulling out" of Iraq, she says.

Cheryl believes Bush misled the country to war, arguing he diverted resources from far greater threats to U.S. interests, including the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Asked why Bush launched the war, she says: "I think he wanted to fill his dad's shoes. I think he felt he had something to prove."

If the point of the war was to remove Saddam from power, then Bush's father, former president George Bush, should have done so in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which Daniels also fought.

Increasing Cheryl's anger is the fact the army did little to help her contact her wounded husband.

She paid for her flight to Germany, and is staying at the Fisher House, a privately funded agency that offers virtually free accommodation in Landstuhl to the families of injured soldiers.

Infuriated by what she sees as a misleading president, an unnecessary war and a heartless military, Cheryl vows to break the Daniels' family tradition of serving their country. Her 12-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter are already talking of enlisting one day, but Cheryl won't hear of it.
"We've paid our dues," she says.


In a Nutshell


Bush Loses Crawford

Even the town that houses Bush's "ranch" is disowning the punk-ass chump:
A tiny weekly newspaper that bills itself as President Bush's hometown paper has endorsed John Kerry for president, saying the Massachusetts senator will restore American dignity.

The Lone Star Iconoclast, which has a weekly circulation of 425, said in an editorial dated Sept. 29 that Texans should rate the candidates not by hometown or political party, but by where they intend to take the country.

"Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding Iraq," the editorial said.

The Iconoclast, established in 2000, said it editorialized in support of the invasion of Iraq and publisher W. Leon Smith promoted Bush and the invasion in a BBC interview, believing Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Instead we were duped into following yet another privileged agenda," the editorial said.


Come Again?

Okay, I understand that the situation in Florida is all kinds of screwed up as far as trying to have an actual valid election in November, but the first sentence of this story--which seems to me to be good news, as it indicates that the courts, at least, are trying to prevent massive fraud--seems way off base:
Florida's attempts to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election fiasco took another hit late Monday when federal judges ordered a lower court to hear a lawsuit demanding that electronic voting machines be equipped to print receipts for voters.

While it was unclear whether any ruling on the lawsuit would be issued before the Nov. 2 presidential election, electoral reform activists and state officials alike warned on Tuesday that with barely a month to go, there would not be enough time to comply anyway.

"It's not just, get a machine and hook it up," said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, the state's top election overseer.

In a decision handed down Monday evening, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Florida district court's rejection of the lawsuit and ordered the court to rehear the case.

Nash said redesigned machines that could print a receipt would have to be certified, mass produced, purchased by county election authorities, and then poll workers would have to be trained to use them.

"So many things have to be put in place in order for that to happen and that would not be something that would be viable for the November election," she said.

The state government, run by President Bush's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, said on Tuesday the decision by the appeals court was "procedural" because it merely addresses the court's jurisdiction and not the merits of the case.

But U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat who brought the suit demanding printable receipts so voters could verify their ballots were accurately recorded, viewed the ruling as a victory for voting rights.

So, what, bringing a lawsuit against dangerously flawed e-voting technology somehow enhances the likelihood of an election snafu?

I don't get it.


Death in Wyoming

The bitter irony is that they are setting up a waiting list for people who simply don't have much time left unless they get into the program:

A program that helps HIV and AIDS patients in Wyoming with care and drug costs is running short of money and will stop accepting new patients after Thursday, officials said.

"We didn't feel we could continue to take people," said Kurt Galbraith, the
HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health.
The state program will maintain a waiting list for new applications received starting Oct. 1, but it is unknown when the program will be able to consider adding any new individuals, Galbraith said. There are 87 patients in the program now.



The Catholic Church sinks to new depths as the very Catholic nation of Spain surges ahead in offering justice to its citizens:
In its strongest condemnation yet of Spanish government plans to legalize gay marriage the Roman Catholic Church said it was akin to releasing a "deadly virus" into Spanish society. The cabinet of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero this week is expected approve the gay marriage legislation and send it directly to Parliament.

A vote is expected early next month and the bill is expected to pass despite opposition from conservatives and the Church. Once it becomes law the first marriages could take place early next year.

"This legislation is imposing a virus on society, something false that will have negative consequences for social life," declared Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, the official spokesperson for the Spanish Bishops Conference.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Nothing Says Jesus Like a Smackdown

In an age of "holy wars," how apropos:
Fistfights broke out yesterday between Christians gathered on the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ.

"There was lots of hitting going on. Police were hit, monks were hit ... there were people with bloodied faces," said a witness in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, reputed to be Golgotha where Christ was crucified, and the site of the tomb where he was buried.

The punch-up erupted during a procession to mark the discovery in 327 by Helena, mother of Constantine, of the True Cross.

A Greek Orthodox cleric said Franciscans had left open their chapel door in what was taken as disrespect. Priests and worshippers hit one another at the doorway dividing Orthodox and Franciscans, said a police spokesman.


Wake Up, People!

I am so sick of this not being a front-page issue, every bloody day. We are talking about life and, far too often, death:
In the past four years, Americans have spent an ever-growing portion of their paychecks on health care and for the most part gotten less for their money, forcing millions into the ranks of the uninsured or personal bankruptcy, according to government figures and several independent assessments.


A Thought for the Debates

I think this idea might fly, if Kerry were to state in very simple terms what Corn here states more intricately--that Halliburton, and Cheney, profit massively, while our soldiers are not being taken care of as promised:

To knock Bush off message, Kerry will need to come into the debates with a message for which Bush is unprepared. And Kerry will have to hammer away on that message until it supplants Bush's mantras in the mind of the voting public.

So what should Kerry talk about? One word: Halliburton.

Kerry should make the crony capitalism that has allowed Vice President Dick Cheney's corporation to become the dominant player in the management of the botched occupation and reconstruction of Iraq a part of every answer to every question. The Democrat should explain to Americans, again and again and again, that one of the primary explanations for the fact that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has turned out badly is the determination of this administration to assure that Halliburton be the primary profiteer in the region.

No corporation has gained more from the invasion of Iraq than Halliburton. Since the war began, it has moved from No.19 on the U.S. Army's list of top contractors to No. 1. Last year, the company pocketed $4.2 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars. And that's merely the take so far; the company's Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) subsidiary has collected what the Washington Post describes as "one of the contracting plums of the war: a classified no-bid deal worth up to $7 billion to do the restoration work."


More on the "Tribunals"

Not only are these tribunals for the detainees haphazard messes as far as procedure is concerned, they are likely to do serious harm to our relations with our last friend in the world:
The United States is to put the remaining four Britons held in Guantánamo Bay as suspected terrorists through "backdoor trials" within a month, according to US military papers seen by the Guardian.

The documents reveal the Britons will be presumed to be enemy combatants by the handpicked US military officers hearing their cases before they start, have limited rights to call witnesses, have no lawyer, and that hearsay evidence can be used against them.

The decision comes despite the US agreeing last year with the attorney general Lord Goldsmith that the Britons will not face military commissions. The detainees' lawyers said some of the tribunal's features are even worse than the military commissions, which human rights groups condemned.

It represents a second snub by the US to Tony Blair over Guantánamo, as the prime minister today prepares to address Labour's conference, with the Iraq war and his closeness to US president George Bush concerns for delegates.

In June the Guardian revealed the prime minister had directly asked Mr Bush to return the four Britons, a request that was rejected.

The Pentagon documents come from US court hearings where lawyers for the Britons are trying to challenge their detention before civilian courts, a move the Bush administration is resisting.

US military documents outline the rules for the combatant status review tribunals, a new process announced by the Pentagon in July after the Supreme Court ruled Guantánamo Bay was subject to the jurisdiction of US courts.

Is there any law Bush isn't willing to subvert? Is there any alliance he is not willing to trash?



I am not so optimistic as to expect this schism to have any real impact in this election, or in any elections in the near future. However, the division between the fiscally conservative social liberals they parade around for the nation to see, and the social conservatives who wield massive power over their fundie base may well, in time, prove as damaging to the Republicans as the labor left versus cultural left did to the Democrats in the sixties and after.

We need to work this seam, clearly evidence now in Arnold-land:
The Rev. Lou Sheldon wasn't thrilled when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation requiring health insurance policies to offer equal coverage to partners of gay and lesbian workers. Sheldon, a conservative activist and president of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition, grew more upset after Schwarzenegger approved legislation allowing hypodermic needles to be sold with no prescription as a way to slow the spread of AIDS.

But then, when Schwarzenegger approved a bill Wednesday to expand the definition of hate crimes -- which conservatives fear will lead to prosecutions of those who condemn homosexuality -- Sheldon declared war.

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must not be too troubled by what he's called 'girlie men' because he's just signed a bill into law that maintains 'sex' in California to include drag queens, cross-dressers and transsexuals," Sheldon announced in a written statement. "Schwarzenegger has sided with the homosexual and drag queen lobby in muddying the biological realities of male and female."


We're Killing More of Them

More innocent civilians, that is, than the insurgents are:
An exclusive report from Knight Ridder's Washington office, which has gained much renown for this sort of thing in the past year, revealed Saturday that U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis, most of them civilians, as attacks by insurgents.

The statistics were compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

Iraqi officials said about two-thirds of the Iraqi deaths were caused by the U.S. side and police; the remaining third died from insurgent attacks.

These civilians have families, and those families probably are not moved to be more pro-American by having their relatives blown to pieces by us.


GWB: Two Election Fiascos for the Price of One

Jimmy Carter isn't shy about speaking his mind. And he says we are looking at a repeat of 2000 in Florida:
After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American electoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act's key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes.

The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely, even as many other nations are conducting elections that are internationally certified to be transparent, honest and fair.

Well, even if our democracy is falling apart here, at least we managed to get the ball rolling in Iraq, right? That's what Bush just said.

Alas, Bush is "exaggerating":
Adam Entous of Reuters is too polite to put it this way, but the conclusion is easily extracted from his article that Bush played fast and loose with the facts on Iraq last week.

Bush said that the UN electoral advisers are on the ground. In fact, there are only a handful there because it is so dangerous. Voter registration hasn't been conducted. Almost no preparations have been made, and the poor security situation may prevent them from being accomplished.Bush spoke of 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers & police.

In fact, only 22,700 Iraqi troops and police have received even minimal training, and only a few thousand are fully trained.

The article is worth reading in full, and by the time you get to the end it is clear that Bush was either lying or ignorant, neither of these being a good posture for a president.


Destroying Due Process

In the name, of course, of the "War on Terror," Congress is putting together some hasty meetings to sneak in all sorts of provisions that had been included in Patriot Act 2, which was protested into oblivion last year, but keeps coming back in bits and pieces. Deeply disturbing bits and pieces.

The ACLU is none too happy:
The proposal would increase the government’s powers to secretly obtain personal records without judicial review, limit judicial discretion over the use of secret evidence in criminal cases, eliminate important foreign intelligence wiretapping safeguards and allow the use of secret intelligence wiretaps in immigration cases without notice or an opportunity to suppress illegally acquired evidence.

The legislation would also grant the Department of Justice expanded administrative subpoena power - the authority to seize records and compel testimony in terrorism cases without prior review by a court or grand jury. The ACLU warned that S. 2679 would erode already diminished judicial oversight on this broad and intrusive power, and would allow access to confidential records without individual suspicion of wrongdoing.

The ACLU also noted that the proposal could actually hurt America’s anti-terrorism efforts in its call to expand crimes eligible for the death penalty. Many nations that have abolished the death penalty are unwilling to extradite or provide evidence in federal terrorism cases if the suspect could be subjected to the death penalty as a result of their cooperation with the United States.

S. 2679 builds on many of the most troubling provisions of the Patriot Act. To date, more than 352 American communities, encompassing nearly 54 million Americans nationwide have passed resolutions asking Congress to revisit the Patriot Act and oppose any further expansion of the law.

"Across the nation, people are demanding that lost freedoms be restored," said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "Liberals and conservatives alike do not want the government to further expand upon the Patriot Act without a thorough review of its effectiveness."


Laying the Groundwork

As Capitol Banter points out, it looks like they've sent Kennedy out to start the softening-up work on Bush and the neocons, in advance of Thursday's debate.

And Kennedy pulls no punches:
"The president's handling of the war has been a toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance, and stubborn ideology. No amount of Presidential rhetoric or preposterous campaign spin can conceal the facts about the steady downward spiral in our national security since President Bush made the decision to go to war in Iraq. If this election is decided on the question of whether America is safer because of President George Bush, John Kerry will win in a landslide.

"What is helping to unite so many of the Iraqi people in hatred of America is their emerging sense that America is unwilling not just unable to rebuild their shattered country and provide for their basic needs. Far from sharing President Bush's unrealistically rosy view, they see up-close that their hope for peace and stability is receding every day. Inevitably, more and more Iraqis feel that attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, even if they would not resort to violence themselves.

"The Bush Administration's focus on Iraq has left us needlessly more vulnerable to an Al Qaeda attack with a nuclear weapon. The greatest threat of all to our homeland is a nuclear attack. A mushroom cloud over any American city is the ultimate nightmare, and the risk is all too real. Osama bin Laden calls the acquisition of a nuclear device a "religious duty." Documents captured from a key Al Qaeda aide three years ago revealed plans even then to smuggle high-grade radioactive materials into the United States in shipping containers.

"If Al Qaeda can obtain a nuclear weapon, they will certainly use it on New York, or Washington, or any of America's other major cities. The greatest danger we face in the days and weeks and months ahead is a nuclear 9/11, and we hope and pray that it is not already too late to prevent. The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely."


The Poisoning of a Nation

The Iraqis are going to have to live with the tons and tons of depleted uranium we've dumped on their country for a long, long time.

And they are already starting to feel its effects:
Muthanna Al Hanooti, co-founder and director of public relations of Life For Relief and Development (Life), a humanitarian group based in Detroit, Michigan, said the Dubai Aid City (DAC) will help facilitate the delivery of aid to the war-torn country.

"The security concerns remain," said Al Hanooti, who has spent nine months in Iraq since the US-led invasion. "The rise in the incidence of cancer in Iraq is largely blamed on the extensive use of uranium-tipped armour-piercing weapons."

He did not mention specific figures but said: "Every family in Iraq knows a member who is suffering from one kind of cancer or another. There has been a disproportionate amount of deformities in newborns, too. There has to be a thorough study of these cases."


Iraq: Getting Worse

An average of seventy attacks per day!?
Less than four months before the planned national election, attacks against US troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that used to be relatively peaceful.

More than 250 Iraqis and 29 US military personnel have died in attacks in the past two weeks, according to data from Iraq's Health Ministry and the Pentagon.

A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the US Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day.

By contrast, some 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28.


Intervening in the Third World

It's sad that that phrase in and of itself now carries ominous overtones, at least for me, in light of Bush's destructive bumbling.

But Britain may well be doing something right and helping the poorest nations get out from under their crushing debt. And Kerry, when president, will try to do the same:
Britain is planning a new effort to help poor countries reduce their huge debts by offering to pay off 10 percent of the total owed to international agencies and challenging other nations to follow suit, said Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the Exchequer.

In an address on Sunday to an advocacy group called the Trade Justice Movement, Mr. Brown also plans to repeat an earlier proposal that the International Monetary Fund should revalue its vast gold reserves, currently priced at a tenth of their market value, and use the proceeds to cancel some third world debt, according to a text of his remarks published Saturday in The Guardian and later confirmed by the Treasury.

The issue is rising once more on the international agenda because a previous mechanism for debt relief, set up in 1996 by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, is to be renewed in December for two years. James D. Wolfensohn, the president of the World Bank, said Friday in Washington that the White House had devised a plan to cancel some third world debt, Reuters reported. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, has also promised to lead efforts to cancel the debts of impoverished countries if he is elected.


Pseudo-Tribunals Under Attack

The "process" under which alleged terrorists face tribunals meant to decide their fate is so murky that no one really knows what the rules are. As nearly as I can discern, the procedures are a mish-mash of civilian and military courts; beyond that, who knows?

Hardly a proper way to proceed, I think anyone would have to agree:
The United States is coming under increasing pressure to abandon the military commission it set up to try alleged terrorists, including Australian David Hicks.

US officials privately acknowledge that the process is in turmoil and say substantial changes will be made to restore its credibility, Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported today.

The newspaper said some of the commission members were likely to be changed as an inadequate translation system improved.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told the newspaper Australia had raised concerns with the US authorities and expected changes would be made to meet American assurances that the process would be fair.

The latest criticism within the US comes from deputy chief judge of the US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Sharon Shaffer, who is defending a detainee.

Colonel Shaffer has filed a motion urging the government to drop the process altogether and begin again using standard military court-martial procedures, the newspaper said.

She said the military commission was an archaic system, its flaws could not be fixed and it would not provide a fair trial.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Who's Next?

Plans are being made for conflicts with Syria and/or Iran. Of course, contingency plans have to be in place for all such countries, but given the neocons' dreams, such planning takes on ominous overtones:
Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries. (Syria is regarded as a major route for jihadis entering Iraq, and Iran appears to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons.)


An Interesting Switch

I cannot recall a single alteration of troop deployment schedules that did anything but extend duty, so this is a pleasant surprise. If they do it, that is. And, the effects of such a change on the tactical and strategic realities of Iraq are hard to predict:
Fearing a sharp decline in recruiting and troop retention, the Army is considering cutting the length of its 12-month combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, senior Army officials say.

Senior Army personnel officers, as well as top Army Reserve and National Guard officials, say the Army's ability to recruit and retain soldiers will steadily erode unless combat tours are shortened, to some length between six and nine months, roughly equivalent to the seven-month tours that are the norm in the Marine Corps.

But other Army officials responsible for combat operations and war planning have significant concerns that the Army - at its current size and as now configured - cannot meet projected requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan unless active duty and reserve troops spend 12 months on the ground in those combat zones.


Kerry Nails It; Reality Backs Him Up

Very nice:
Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry ripped into President Bush on Sunday for saying he had no regrets over his "Mission Accomplished" speech on Iraq and would do it again.

Kerry, expressed outrage after Bush's statement in an interview with Fox News in which he was asked if he would still have shown up in a flight suit for that May 1, 2003 speech aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of California.

"Absolutely," Bush was quoted as saying in excerpts of the interview, which is to air this week.

And very bad:
Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday said anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world had increased and the insurgency in Iraq was worsening, but the United States was taking action to improve security ahead of elections.

Call me crazy, this mission don't quite sound "accomplished" to me.


The Quandary in Iraq

Even as we are trying to build up Iraq's National Guard, hoping that it can relieve American troops of security duties, there is no way of ensuring that the Guard will work in American interests:
Two car bombs wounded American and Iraqi troops west of the capital Sunday and a few hours later the U.S. military announced the arrest of a senior Iraqi National Guard commander on suspicion of ties to insurgents, underscoring the challenges to building a strong Iraq security service capable of restoring stability.

The National Guard is the centerpiece of U.S. plans to turn over security responsibilities after elections slated for January and guardsmen have been targeted repeatedly by insurgents who are trying to undermine Iraq's interim government and drive out the U.S.-led coalition.

But the threat may not only come from outside the force. Guard Brig. Gen. Talib al-Lahibi, who previously served as an infantry officer in Saddam Hussein's army, was detained Thursday in the province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, a U.S. military statement announced.

The statement provided no details, but said he was suspected of having links to militants who have been attacking coalition and Iraqi forces for 17 months. Al-Lahibi was the acting head of the Iraqi National Guard for Diyala province, said Maj. Neal O'Brien, spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division.


Planning Is for Girly Men

So says Arnold:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday vetoed a bill requiring electric utilities to develop long-range plans for meeting energy needs, a requirement backers said would ease the spike-and-drop pattern of California energy supply.


Third Party Candidate

Now this is a campaign that has some serious obstacles to overcome:

Overthrown Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was arrested by US forces last December, reportedly plans to run as a candidate in the Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2005.

Saddam's lawyer Giovanni di Stefano told Denmark's B.T. newspaper that Saddam decided during one of their discussions that he would declare his candidacy for the elections.

Stefano said that there was no law that prevented Saddam from appearing on the ballot. He added that Saddam hopes to regain his presidency and palaces via the democratic process.