Saturday, July 24, 2004

The Homeland Is Secure
Secure from random Chinese women, at any rate:

A Homeland Security inspector who forcibly subdued a Chinese tourist he mistakenly believed was involved in marijuana smuggling was charged Friday with violating her civil rights, officials said.

The incident occurred late Wednesday at the U.S.-Canadian border in Niagara Falls, after Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian.

Officer Robert Rhodes, mistakenly believing the woman standing nearby was involved, allegedly sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her against a wall, kneed her in the head as she knelt on the ground and struck her head on the ground while holding her hair, according to witnesses.
The woman, whose name was not released, was treated at a hospital and released.

An agent who interviewed the victim through an interpreter several hours later noted in an affidavit that her eyes were nearly swollen shut, and she had bumps and bruises on her face and head.

A telephone number listed for Rhodes was disconnected Friday.

In a statement written by Rhodes as part of normal procedure, he said the Chinese woman and two other women ran when he asked them to come into the inspection station. He said he grabbed the nearest one and sprayed her with pepper spray when she swung her arms at him, then the woman scratched his arm and they both fell to the ground.

Rhodes could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of violating the woman's civil rights.
I mean, even if she had pot on her, would this have been in any way justified?


A Most Troublesome Ally
The number of confidential and unnamed sources in this story--plus the fact that it cites an editor of Moonie UPI--makes me more than a little wary, but if it were true, I would be rather less than surprised:

Pakistan's intelligence officials knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, a well-known American analyst has said, based on a ''stunning document'' that he claims was given by a Pakistani source to the 9/11 Commission on the eve of the publication of its report.

The document, from a high-level, but anonymous Pakistani source, also claims that Osama bin Laden has been receiving periodic dialysis in a military hospital in Peshawar, says Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor-at-large of the news agency UPI.

''The imprints of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from 9/11 - where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan,'' Borchgrave cites the confidential document as saying.


The Mainstream Media Get It Right
The Army report is a whitewash:

Two leading U.S. newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, are calling a U.S. Army report on the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan a "whitewash."

In editorials Saturday, the two newspapers note that a 300 page summary of the report identifies 94 suspected or confirmed cases of abuse of prisoners, including the deaths of at least 20 prisoners, higher numbers than previously made public. The newspapers quote the study as concluding that the abuses were not "systemic," but instead the work of low ranking soldiers acting mainly without supervision.

The Times called some of the report's findings "comical." It also criticized the timing of the report's release, on the same day as the final report from the 9/11 Commission, which received widespread news coverage.

The Post editorial says the Army report goes against earlier independent findings by the Red Cross and a previous Army probe. It calls for a further investigation by an outside authority.


North Korea Not Cooperating
Who can really believe that this administration, with its half-hearted, ham-handed approach to the problems in Korea, will ever make any real progress there?  Their only policy has been to name them "evil," and then to retreat to the very policies for which the right lambasted Clinton:

North Korea appeared Saturday to reject the Bush administration's offer last month of a gradual lifting of sanctions and of economic aid from neighboring countries in return for a rapid dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program. But, as is often the case with North Korea, it was far from clear that the government's statement was definitive.

As recently as Thursday, senior United States officials were saying they had heard no official response to the offer, which had marked a significant change of course for the Bush administration. That prompted speculation that North Korea was awaiting the outcome of the presidential election in November, perhaps figuring that no deal would be possible before then.

But on Saturday, through a Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea said Mr. Bush's plan, which was conveyed last month in Beijing, was "a sham offer" because it required North Korea to disarm and submit to intrusive inspections before it could get the full benefits of economic concessions from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

posted by rorschach @ 5:15 PM  


Bush to Consumers: GFY
Once again, the Republicans are pursuing "tort reform," which is just a code word for taking away the rights of citizens to defend themselves against the harmful actions of corporations.  This time, the target is people harmed by drugs or medical devices:

The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices.

The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In court papers, the Justice Department acknowledges that this position reflects a "change in governmental policy," and it has persuaded some judges to accept its arguments, most recently scoring a victory in the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

Allowing consumers to sue manufacturers would "undermine public health" and interfere with federal regulation of drugs and devices, by encouraging "lay judges and juries to second-guess" experts at the F.D.A., the government said in siding with the maker of a heart pump sued by the widow of a Pennsylvania man. Moreover, it said, if such lawsuits succeed, some good products may be removed from the market, depriving patients of beneficial treatments.

In 2002, at a legal symposium, the Bush administration outlined plans for "F.D.A. involvement in product liability lawsuits," and it has been methodically pursuing that strategy.

The administration's participation in the cases is consistent with President Bush's position on "tort reform."

posted by rorschach @ 4:46 PM  


No Small Distinction
David Brooks gets it right about why the Bush administration has it so wrong:

After spending 360 pages describing a widespread intelligence failure, the commissioners step back in their report and redefine the nature of our predicament.

We're not in the middle of a war on terror, they note. We're not facing an axis of evil. Instead, we are in the midst of an ideological conflict.

We are facing, the report notes, a loose confederation of people who believe in a perverted stream of Islam that stretches from Ibn Taimaya to Sayyid Qutb. Terrorism is just the means they use to win converts to their cause.

It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory.

When you see that our enemies are primarily an intellectual movement, not a terrorist army, you see why they are in no hurry. With their extensive indoctrination infrastructure of madrassas and mosques, they're still building strength, laying the groundwork for decades of struggle. Their time horizon can be totally different from our own.
This is why it is utterly crucial--more so than it ever was to remove Saddam Hussein from power--to win hearts and minds.  This is why the way it an absolutely unforgiveable blunder, and one for which Osama bin Laden will be thanking the Bushes for a long, long time.

posted by rorschach @ 3:50 PM  


Friday, July 23, 2004

Workers Win New York State
All states should follow suit.  Or, better yet, the federal government should just go ahead and make the minimum wage $10 or so:

This past week, the New York State Senate took the historic and long overdue step of passing a bill to raise our state minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 an hour. This is a tremendous victory for the more than one million workers who will directly benefit from this increase if it is signed by Governor Pataki. At a time when low-wage jobs are failing to keep pace with price increases, it could literally mean the difference for many families. It's also a victory for the Working Families Party's hard work and the effective grassroots organizing the coalition has been doing for the last six years.

Given that the supposed "job creation" being touted by the Bush administration is, when not totally imaginary, largely composed of minimum-wage jobs, this is more needed than ever.

posted by rorschach @ 6:04 PM  


GOP Going After the Catholics
They just don't stop trying to use religion to their advantage:

The Republican National Committee has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election, a use of personal information not necessarily condoned by dioceses around the country.

posted by rorschach @ 5:17 PM  


Florida, Backwards Again
By this rationale, then, can people born as hermaphrodites marry either sex, regardless of the sex assigned to them as newborns?

Florida's ban on same-sex marriages bars a woman who became a man through surgery from marrying a woman, a state appellate court ruled in a complex divorce case.

The ruling, issued by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, determined that for legal purposes, male and female refer to "immutable traits determined at birth" and cannot be changed through gender-reassignment surgery.
This decision is utterly unjust and abhorrent to any notion of justice and fairness.

posted by rorschach @ 3:08 PM  


More National Guard Gamesmanship
What convenient timing.  What an unbelievable load of crap:

The Pentagon on Friday released payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, saying its earlier contention the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."

The records cover July through September of 1972, when Bush was working as a campaign volunteer in Alabama. The future president had been transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama unit so he could stay in Alabama.

The release came days before Democrats began their national convention in Boston to officially nominate Sen. John Kerry as their presidential candidate

Just to be clear on this point:  Bush is a deserter:

Like records released earlier by the White House, the newly released computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no guard service for Bush during those three months.

posted by rorschach @ 2:11 PM  


More Bad News for Bush
A key hope of the Republicans is that they can draw in the Latino vote by talking about values.  Doesn't look like they're buying that line:

62% to 30%, Latinos favor John Kerry over George Bush according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's a national number, and what makes it more interesting is that the polling indicates that Latinos are not making their choices based on the single issue of immigration, though that subject favors Democrats 80% to 20%.

Latinos are more concerned about the issues that affect all Americans. They list education as their primary concern, followed by the issues of jobs and health care.

posted by rorschach @ 1:39 PM  


Spreading the Fear, Again
The Republicans are courting the NASCAR dads again, of course, but in a novel manner:

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Friday warned top executives of major American sports organizations that al Qaeda may strike soon -- possibly at large sports events.

In a seminar for commissioners and other top officials of professional and amateur sports organizations, Ridge and other Homeland Security officials asked for help in ensuring safety at and around major sporting events.
The group included National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue, National Basketball Association deputy commissioner Russ Granik and other top officials from Major League Baseball, NASCAR and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

posted by rorschach @ 1:36 PM  


Halliburton Posts a Loss
That the corporation managed to lose money even as the government is shovelling money into its pockets is astonishing.  You'd think George W was in charge:

Halliburton Co., embroiled in controversy over its work for the U.S. government in Iraq, on Friday posted a quarterly loss due to charges from a troubled Brazilian oil project and asbestos litigation.

The world's No. 2 oil field services company, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, said the charges offset gains from robust oil exploration and production activity around the globe.

The Houston-based company posted a second-quarter net loss of $663 million, or $1.51 per share, compared with net income of $26 million, or 6 cents a share, a year earlier.

posted by rorschach @ 1:33 PM  


Why do they even pretend to make an effort?  After snubbing the NAACP, Bush has the nerve to say these things?

U.S. President George W. Bush asked black voters to rethink their support for Democrats by posing questions to the National Urban League, including whether the Democratic Party takes ``African American voters for granted.''

``It's a fair question,'' Bush, a Republican, said during a speech to the Urban League's annual conference in Detroit. ``I know a lot of politicians assume they have your vote. But did they earn it and do they deserve it?''

posted by rorschach @ 1:25 PM  


Recruitment Is Up
An image keeps recurring to me, of a warped version of the old Uncle Sam poster, one with Bush's face superimposed, and with the words changed to, "I Want You to Join al-Qaeda."

"I don't have any idea of what we're trying to do out here. I don't know what the (goal) is, and I don't think our commanders do either," he said. "I feel deceived personally. I don't trust anything (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld says, and I think (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz is even dirtier."

That's a quote from Staff Sgt. A.J. Dean, who sums up the morale on the ground in Iraq. Soldiers are tired of risking their lives for reasons they no longer understand and are increasingly angry at their government for forcing them to do so.

Their rising disillusionment bodes ill for the Pentagon. The Iraq war has turned into a great recruiting poster for the Al Qaeda but also the worst kind of advertising for the U.S. military. Both the military reserves and the regular Army are witnessing a sharp drop in their pool of recruits.
And the poster would be most accurate if done in the style of Edvard Munch.

posted by rorschach @ 2:51 AM  


The Meaning of Sovereignty
The real meaning: From now on, whenever we attack, the report of the attack will always include the phrase "conducted-in-coordination-with-the-Iraqi-government."

Today, for example:

American forces launched a "precision strike" Friday on insurgents tied to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the restive western Iraqi city of Fallujah, the U.S. military said.

The military said in a statement sent to The Associated Press that the attack was conducted in coordination with the Iraqi government

How did that attack go?  Well, depends on whom you ask:

Based on multiple sources of intelligence, the attack targeted 10-12 terrorists with known ties to the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi network of foreign terrorists," the statement said.

"The anti-Iraqi forces were struck while in the courtyard of a house; the house was left intact," the statement added.

In what appeared to be the same incident, Dr. Kamal Al-Ani, of Fallujah hospital, said five civilians -- including three children -- were injured Friday morning after an American warplane fired a missile that landed in the garden of a house in the Jubail neighborhood, south of Fallujah.

The U.S. military reported no casualties.

"We were sleeping in the morning when a U.S. missile hit our house," said Saddam Jassim, the owner of the house targeted in the attack, said as he and his brother were clearing debris caused by the missile attack.

"We have nothing to do with resistance or al-Zarqawi. These are pretext used by U.S. military to terrorize the people in Fallujah because U.S. soldiers are unable to face the insurgents."

posted by rorschach @ 1:08 AM  


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Cognitive Dissonance

Even as Bush is touring the nation proclaiming economic recovery, Washington Mutual, J.P. Morgan, Capitol One, Mitsubishi, and Eastman Kodak are taking a hatchet to their workforces, cutting over ten thousand jobs in just three days.

posted by rorschach @ 11:59 PM  


Kucinich Is Calling It Quits
And in doing so, he is endorsing Kerry as the only real option for defeating Bush.  Would that Nader would take a lesson:

Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich plans to endorse John Kerry for president today, ending his long-shot bid for the nation's highest office only days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

Kucinich is expected to fly to Michigan for a joint appearance with Kerry, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at a Na tional Urban League conference in Detroit.

posted by rorschach @ 11:05 PM  


For Want of a Bullet...
The grand schemes of the neoconservatives for reshaping the world by invading Iraq somehow failed to include what would seem to be a rather important detail:

The U.S. military has assembled the most sophisticated fighting arsenal in the world with satellite-guided weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles that shoot Hellfire missiles. But as billions of dollars have poured into the technology for futuristic warfare, the government has fallen behind on more mundane needs -- such as bullets.

The protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and heightened combat training with live ammunition have left the military short of small-caliber bullets. To offset the squeeze, the Army is taking unusual stopgap measures such as buying ammunition from Britain and Israel. It is also working to increase domestic production.

"The big complex programs don't do any good if there aren't bullets for the rifles," said Marcus Corbin, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a research group based in the District.

Shortages in basic battlefield gear struck soon after the start of the Iraq war, when combat forces outfitted in high-tech uniforms ran short of body armor and armored Humvees. The tight supplies of bullets reflect a shutdown of factories in recent years and the unexpected level of resistance in Iraq, industry analysts said. The Army relies on one plant for its small-caliber ammunition, sharply limiting its options.
We went to war with one factory for small-caliber bullets?

posted by rorschach @ 10:53 PM  


History, Repeating
Let's see, we've got a strongman in charge of Iraq (ostensibly).  And we want Iraq to be able to defend itself against its enemies, such as Iran.  So, we're going to sell Iraq lots of weapons.

US President George W. Bush issued a memorandum Wednesday to the State Department that formally allows Iraq to receive material, service and assistance from US arms makers under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.

"I hereby find that the furnishing of defense articles and services to Iraq will strengthen the security of the United Statesand promote world peace," Bush said in the document.

The United States will rely on the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act in making Iraq eligible for arms saleson a case-by-case basis, the report said.

The Bush administration has cleared the way to sell arms to Iraq just as it does to other allies, local media said.
Where have I heard this song before?


posted by rorschach @ 10:02 PM  


The Army Admits to Accepting Prisoner from Vigilantes

American military officials in Afghanistan said Thursday that they had accepted but later released an Afghan prisoner handed over to them in May by an American now accused of running his own freelance antiterrorism campaign.

The United States military had previously denied having worked with the American, Jonathan K. Idema, a former Green Beret who has said he was working in Afghanistan with the approval of senior Pentagon officials. Mr. Idema and two other Americans are being tried by the Afghan government on charges of hostage-taking, operating a private jail, entering the country illegally and illegal weapons possession.

American military officials said they took the Afghan man into custody because Mr. Idema identified him as a terrorist wanted by American forces. But interrogators determined that the Afghan was not the suspected terrorist Mr. Idema claimed him to be, and freed the man early this month.

posted by rorschach @ 9:29 PM  


A Victory for the Whales
The commercial whaling ban in intact for now:

The International Whaling Commission's annual meeting closed Thursday with a small but significant victory for countries that want to maintain a ban on commercial whaling well into the future.

During the closing moments of the four-day meeting, the IWC put the brakes on what had seemed unstoppable momentum to set a deadline of June 2005 for agreeing new whaling rules which could spell the end to the 18-year-old ban.

"We have derailed a runaway train toward the resumption of commercial whaling," said Sue Lieberman of conservation group WWF.

posted by rorschach @ 9:23 PM  


Omar Sheikh to Be Hanged
And who is Omar Sheikh?  And why is he to be hanged?

Omar Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant, is waiting to be hanged in Pakistan for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit - of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Both the US government and Pearl's wife have since acknowledged that Sheikh was not responsible. Yet the Pakistani government is refusing to try other suspects newly implicated in Pearl's kidnap and murder for fear the evidence they produce in court might acquit Sheikh and reveal too much.

Significantly, Sheikh is also the man who, on the instructions of General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), wired $100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. It is extraordinary that neither Ahmed nor Sheikh have been charged and brought to trial on this count. Why not?

Ahmed, the paymaster for the hijackers, was actually in Washington on 9/11, and had a series of pre-9/11 top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the national security council, and with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. When Ahmed was exposed by the Wall Street Journal as having sent the money to the hijackers, he was forced to "retire" by President Pervez Musharraf. Why hasn't the US demanded that he be questioned and tried in court?

posted by rorschach @ 7:33 PM  


More on Abuses by the Military
The latest report says 94 cases.  Oh, but nothing "systemic."  Right:

Thirty-nine prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since the fall of 2001 and there have been 94 cases of proven or suspected abuse, the Army said Thursday in a broad new report giving a more precise and higher estimate of the scale of the abuse.

The Army inspector general's report also gives new details about the alleged abuses, including evidence that troops conspired to make Iraqi prisoners jump off a bridge, that one interrogator hit a prisoner in the head during questioning and that a sergeant told subordinates to "rough up" detainees.

Still, the Army report concludes there were no systemic problems that caused or contributed to the abuses.

posted by rorschach @ 5:37 PM  


Anti-Gays Versus "Activist Judges"
If only these people had been in charge of the House back when anti-miscegenation laws were falling, perhaps we would now be living in a world Trent Lott could be proud of:

The Republican-led House voted Thursday to prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize gay marriages sanctioned by other states.

The Marriage Protection Act was adopted by a 233-194 vote, buoyed by backing from the Bush administration. Last week, the Senate dealt gay marriage opponents a setback by failing to advance a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.

Federal judges, unelected and given lifetime appointments, "must not be allowed to rewrite marriage policy for the states," Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., said.

Democrats said the bill was an election-year distraction, calling it an unconstitutional attack on gays in America and the federal judiciary. They said it would set a precedent that Congress could use to shield any future legislation from federal judicial review.

Farewell, separation of powers.

posted by rorschach @ 1:58 PM  


Spain Is Way Ahead of Us
Even though 95% of Spain is registered as Catholic, the nation's people support gay marriage and have a government that wants to legalize it:

Despite warnings from the Pope that same-sex marriage will lead to the destruction of traditional families and threats by Spanish bishops to the country's politicians, nearly 70 percent of the population supports gay marriage a new poll has found.

The survey, released Thursday by the Center Sociological Investigations showed Spaniards overwhelmingly supported plans by the new Socialist government to legalize gay marriage.

The poll also found that  more than 75 percent of those questioned thought the law should give homosexual couples exactly the same rights and obligations as heterosexual partners.

posted by rorschach @ 1:39 PM  


Absolutely Twisted

If you've been reading this blog for any little length of time, you'll recall this story about the Army's policy of forbidding abortions to servicewomen at military facilities even if they pay for the abortion themselves.

Hold onto your hats, as they say, and read this:

The U.S. Army has long lured recruits with the slogan "Be All You Can Be," but now soldiers and their families can receive plastic surgery, including breast enlargements, on the taxpayers' dime.

The New Yorker magazine reports in its July 26th edition that members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free -- something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills.

"Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible," Dr. Bob Lyons, chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio told the magazine, which said soldiers needed the approval of their commanding officers to get the time off.

Between 2000 and 2003, military doctors performed 496 breast enlargements and 1,361 liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents, the magazine said.

posted by rorschach @ 12:14 PM  


Dems Keeping Up the Fight
It's always such a happy thing to be able to type those words without irony.  And they are keeping it up:

U.S. Senate Democrats blocked three more of President Bush's judicial nominees on Thursday, raising to 10 the number they have stopped in a battle sure to extend until at least November elections.

In what have become campaign slogans, Republicans again branded Democrats "obstructionists," and Democrats accused Bush of trying to tilt the courts with "right-wing extremists."

"It is the American people, I believe, who in a little more than 100 days, will next vote on this issue," said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.
Damn right we will, Cornyn.

And as far as being "obstructionists," well, keep this in mind every time the Republicans spout that nonsense:

Democrats said they have tried to cooperate with Bush, noting they had joined Republicans in helping confirm nearly 200 of his other judicial nominees.

posted by rorschach @ 12:08 PM  


Sovereign Iraq, Secure Borders
Maybe in some other reality.  We went in, smashed the nation, handed "sovereignty" back to a hastily-formed government, all in order, supposedly, to drain the swamps where terror breeds.  That's going very well.  In fact, it's going so well that foreign combatants are streaming in, getting some practical, real-world experience in fighting and killing Americans:

Iraq demanded on Wednesday that its neighbors do more to halt any infiltration of foreign fighters across their borders.

At a meeting of foreign ministers from the region, officials also agreed that interior ministers and security officials would meet in Tehran to discuss security in greater detail, but no date was set.

The main point pursued by Iraq was to seek help from its neighbors in preventing foreign militants from heading to Iraq to fight the emerging government and American forces there.

posted by rorschach @ 12:12 AM  


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Essential Reading

Dan Briody's new book, The Halliburton Agenda, details the corporation's long history of war profiteering.  It's nothing new to the Bushes:

On January 12 1991, Congress authorised President George HW Bush to engage Iraq in war. Just five days later, Operation Desert Storm commenced in Kuwait. As with the more recent war in the Gulf, it did not take long for the US to claim victory - it was all over by the end of February - but the clean-up would last longer, and was far more expensive than the military action itself. In a senseless act of desperation and defeat, Iraqi troops set fire to more than 700 Kuwaiti oil wells, resulting in a constant fog of thick, black smoke that turned day into night.

It was thought the mess would take no less than five years to clean up, as lakes of oil surrounding each well blazed out of control, making it nearly impossible to approach the burning wells, let alone extinguish them. But with the fighting over, Halliburton angled its way into the clean-up and rebuilding effort that was expected to cost around $200bn (£163bn) over the next 10 years.

posted by rorschach @ 11:48 PM  


Borrowing against the Future to Fund Destruction Today
How many mortgages are these people going to take out on America?

The Bush administration underestimated the 2004 cost of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by $12.3 billion, a report released on Wednesday found, fueling criticism that the war was badly planned.

advertisementThe shortfall is forcing the Defense Department to shift funds from other uses, including pushing expenses from the 2004 fiscal year into 2005, in a move likely to boost war costs further down the line, Congress’ investigative arm found.

posted by rorschach @ 7:46 PM  


Piling It on the Reservists
General Schoomaker says we have plenty of troops:

Spending money on a permanent increase in Army troops would hamper efforts to modernize the service, the Army's top general said Wednesday.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker renewed the Pentagon argument that the military can get through the current high level of deployments with temporary increases such as mobilizing more National Guard and Reserve forces and encouraging more soldiers to re-enlist at the end of their duty.

The Bush administration agrees:

The Army is asking some National Guard troops serving in Iraq to volunteer to stay on active duty beyond a statutory two-year limit for such service, officials said on Wednesday, in a fresh sign of the strain on the U.S. military amid operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said "we don't plan at the moment" to extend such reserve troops involuntarily beyond the two-year limit, but added "one should never say never."

"The country's at war," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing. "There's no doubt but that we have mobilized significant numbers of (National) Guard and Reserve forces, and that the facts on the ground will determine what it is we do."

Here's an idea:  Why not avoid army expansion by not prosecuting unnecessary and illegal wars?  How's that for a plan?

posted by rorschach @ 3:17 PM  


Blatantly Hypocritical, Even for Him
He has outdone himself (via The Raw Story):

O’Reilly scolds those who out gays, then calls judge a lesbian

The (registration-restricted) Chicago Tribune reports that Fox conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly, who once scolded those who out gays, called a judge a lesbian on his program. He then refused to identify his sources.

Fox News Channel’s star talk-show personality, Bill O’Reilly, says he is uncomfortable with the practice of outing gay political figures–except, it seems, when he is doing the outing.

On his show Monday night, O’Reilly chastised guest Michael Rogers for maintaining a Web site publicizing the names of gay staffers working for politicians who oppose gay marriage.

“We’re uneasy with this kind of exposition,” O’Reilly said. “Somebody’s personal sex life should have nothing to do with any kind of a policy.”

But on the same show–and for at least the third time in the last year–O’Reilly described one of the justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court as a lesbian, a claim that the justice herself, through a spokeswoman, denies.

On shows in November, last week, and again on Monday, O’Reilly has referred to “the lesbian judge on the Supreme Court who dissented” in the court’s landmark ruling in favor of gay marriage. O’Reilly has never named the judge, but of the three dissenting justices in that case, only one–Justice Martha B. Sosman–is a woman.

“Justice Sosman is not a lesbian,” said court spokeswoman Joan Kenney. “We don’t know where Bill O’Reilly got that information, but it is not correct.”

Sosman declined an interview request.

A Fox spokesman said O’Reilly stands by his claim, which is based on “more than one independent source.”

The spokesman declined to identify those sources, citing confidentiality.

posted by rorschach @ 1:43 PM  


Suing the Polluters
An interesting legal tactic, and if the federal government continues to shirk its duty, we'll see more of this sort of thing:

Eight states and New York City sued five large utilities today that are the country's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas that scientists have linked to global warming.

The effort is the first by local governments to try to force companies outside their jurisdictions to curb gas discharges blamed for rising global temperatures and sea levels. Officials involved in the suit said they had acted to force cuts in the gases because the federal government has not.

By the way, I find the proposed defense rather hilarious.  "It's not us, it's all those people who, like, breathe and drink beer!"

The plaintiffs plan to base the suit on federal common law of public nuisance. The common law, they said in a news release, "provides a right of action to curb air and water pollution emanating from sources in other states."

Lawyers and lobbyists for energy companies said the plaintiffs would have a hard time making a case that carbon dioxide was a pollutant, and they noted that the gas flowed not only from power plants, but was also in exhaled breaths and the bubbles rising from open beer containers.

posted by rorschach @ 12:22 PM  


Looks like the great Christian nation of America isn't so Christian after all.  In the interest of fairness, we should follow public opinion and vote the Protestant whackjobs out of the White House as soon as possible:

New statistics on religious diversity show the USA's historic Protestant majority has plummeted to 52%, and by the end of 2004 it may no longer be the nation's dominant religious group.

The percentage of Americans who said they belong to one of several Protestant denominations, such as Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran, or who called themselves "non-denominational Protestants," hovered around 62% from 1972 until 1993, according to the General Social Survey. It was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Then the number fell steadily to 52% in 2002, survey director Tom Smith says.
"Since colonial times, the United States has been a Protestant nation. But perhaps as early as this year, the country will, for the first time, no longer have a Protestant majority," Smith said in a report Tuesday.

And agnosticism and atheism are the waves of the future:

A steep rise in the number of people who said they currently have no religion: 14% in 2002, up from 9% in 1992. It's even higher for younger people: Among those born in 1980 or later, 27% said they have no religion. "Each succeeding group is less religious than the preceding," Smith says.

posted by rorschach @ 11:53 AM  


Lying about Iraq
Although the writing makes it rather unclear who exactly is doing the lying, it seems to be these "several Republicans" rather than the New York Times itself:

Mr. Bush has other factors potentially in his favor, several Republicans said. The economy is showing signs of strengthening, though it remains an open question whether that is happening in time to change voter attitudes about how Mr. Bush is managing the economy. In Iraq, the transfer of sovereignty has led to some reduction in American casualties.

At any rate, this claim about Iraq is flat-out false, as anyone who reads knows:

Nearly as many U.S. soldiers lost their lives in Iraq in the first half of July as in all of June, even as Iraqi insurgents seemed to have shifted their focus from attacking U.S. targets to aiming instead at Iraqi security forces and government officials.

The relatively high rate of U.S. military casualties has dimmed hopes that the handover of power to the Iraqi government would help stabilize the country and reduce pressure on U.S. soldiers.

.June was substantially less violent for U.S. and coalition troops than the two preceding months, fueling hopes that U.S. casualties were declining. However, military officials and defense specialists are increasingly concerned that the guerrilla war could last for years and that the number of dead could climb into the thousands.

.Since the June 28 handover of power, the 160,000 coalition forces have lost averaged more than two deaths a day, among the highest rates of loss since the war began 15 months ago. By Saturday, 36 U.S. soldiers had died this month, compared with 42 last month, according to an analysis of official statistics by The Boston Globe.

posted by rorschach @ 11:04 AM  


They Don't Need No Education
Our federal government is doing its part to ensure the continuation of the American underclass:

Funding is being eliminated for a federal program that pays the children of migrant workers across the country to stay in school instead of working in fields.

The Department of Labor program pays some young people minimum wage to stay in school while migrating with their parents, who travel across the country looking for seasonal farm work.

Coordinators in 31 states and Puerto Rico were told there was no money to operate the program this year, leaving them to find alternate sources, petition Congress or drop the program.

"This is a remarkable abandonment of the most vulnerable youth," said David Strauss, executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. "I don't know what's going to happen to those kids."

Repeated telephone messages left this week for Labor Department officials weren't returned.

posted by rorschach @ 10:53 AM  


More Hostages
Unsurprising, and horrible.  And before the right-wingers start proclaiming that the Philippines are to blame, can I respectfully suggest that the situation in Iraq involves slightly more than a few dozen troops leaving a few weeks early?:

A militant group said Wednesday it had taken six more hostages -- three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian -- and would behead them if their countries did not immediately announce their intention to withdraw their citizens from Iraq.

posted by rorschach @ 9:48 AM  


Outfoxed is Number One
The tremendous popularity of documentaries this year is a striking and very positive development.  It reminds me of the aftermath of World War II; during the war, reports of what was going on in Europe and the Pacific were thoroughly sanitized for public consumption.  Once the war ended, novel after novel came out, each proclaiming itself the "true" story of the brute realities of war.  They sold very well because people were sick and tired of being fed half-truths about the world.

Have Americans finally grown sick and tired of the pabulum cranked out by mainstream corporate media?  It would seem so.

The controversial US documentary, Outfoxed, which claims to uncover the Republican bias of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, has become the top-selling DVD on, as the liberal political campaign behind the film gathers pace in the US.
Film-maker Robert Greenwald's documentary, which does not yet have a theatrical release deal and is only available to buy via the internet, has outsold movies including The Passion of the Christ, Cold Mountain and Starsky & Hutch since going on sale last week.

Amazon has ordered more than 6,200 copies of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, which has shot to the number one spot in the online retailer's DVD sales list, according to Variety.

posted by rorschach @ 8:30 AM  


Shady Dealings in Afghanistan
The vigilantes arrested in Afghanistan for illegally imprisoning suspected militants claim that they were in fact working for the U.S. government:

An American arrested in Afghanistan with two countrymen for illegally detaining people he suspected of being Islamic militants said Wednesday he was working for the U.S. government, and he had evidence to prove it.

Jonathan "Jack" Idema said he had been in frequent contact with the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies in the course of his work tracking Islamic militants in Afghanistan, including al Qaeda members.

"We were working for the U.S. counter-terrorist group and working with the Pentagon and some other federal agencies," Idema told reporters before the opening of his trial.

"We were in contact directly by fax and email and phone with Donald Rumsfeld's office," he said, referring to the Secretary of Defense.

The U.S. military and NATO peacekeepers have said the group was not acting on behalf of, or in conjunction with, their forces.
Blurring the lines between troops and "contractors" can only lead to more such ambiguous, possibly illegal, situations.

posted by rorschach @ 6:18 AM  


Emeril Lagasse Sued by Clear Channel for Airing Shows on Cooking
No, not really.  But it is just as ridiculous:

Clear Channel Communications Inc. on Wednesday plans to file suit against Howard Stern and his distributor, Infinity Broadcasting, claiming the shock jock breached his contract by airing indecent programs, a source close to the company said.

The source said Clear Channel will file a $3 million countersuit to a $10 million lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan by Stern's One Twelve company and Infinity.

posted by rorschach @ 6:12 AM  


Dems Blocking Justices
They really need to hold the line on this through November.  The sorts of partisans and fanatics that the Bush administration has been lining up to get on the bench have no place there, and number seven is no exception:

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a seventh Bush administration judicial nominee and got ready to possibly stop an eighth, reigniting a partisan battle certain to intensify as November elections near.

On a largely party-line vote of 53-44, Republicans fell seven shy of the needed 60 to end a procedural hurdle against President Bush's nomination of William Myers, whom Democrats oppose as a threat to the environment.

The president wants to put Myers, a Boise, Idaho, attorney who has worked as U.S. Interior Department solicitor general and as a beef- and mining-industry lobbyist, on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee's top Democrat, said: "William Myers epitomizes the anti-environmental tilt of so many Bush nominees. He should not be confirmed."
There are now about two dozen judicial nominees pending, and it is uncertain how many the Senate will confirm before this Congress comes to an end in January.

With concerns that many will be left hanging, Republicans are considering making a big push for confirmation before Election Day, said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.

"You'll see a rather high-profile effort to try to get as many confirmed as possible," Cornyn said.

posted by rorschach @ 6:00 AM  


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Suing Ashcroft over Gay Marriage
More good news:
A lesbian couple from Bradenton who were married in Massachusetts sued the federal government Tuesday to have their union legally recognized in the rest of the country.

The suit was filed against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in federal court in Tampa.

The couple's attorney, Ellis Rubin, has filed five previous suits in state and federal courts challenging the ban, but Tuesday's was believed to be the first to attempt to compel the federal government and other states to recognize a union that occurred in a state where same-sex unions are legal.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Rev. Nancy Wilson, a Metropolitan Community Church minister, and Paula Schoenwether, a family marriage counselor. The two have been together for 27 years and were married July 2 in Massachusetts, the only state where same-sex marriages are recognized.

posted by rorschach @ 4:11 PM  


I Am Speechless
Don't people get struck by lightning for untruths as egregious as this?
After launching two wars, President Bush said on Tuesday he wanted to be a "peace president" and took swipes at his Democratic rivals for being lawyers and weak on defense.

With polls showing public support for the war in Iraq in decline, the Republican president cast himself as a reluctant warrior as he campaigned in the battleground state of Iowa against Democrat John Kerry and his running mate, former trial lawyer John Edwards. Bush lost the state in 2000 by only a few thousand votes.

"The enemy declared war on us," he told a re-election rally. "Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

Bush has called himself a "war president" in leading the United States in a battle against terrorism brought about by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.

"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind," he said in February.

Despite a surge in attacks in Iraq and U.S. warnings that al Qaeda is plotting another major strike, Bush said U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had already made America safer, and that his re-election would let him finish the job.

"For a while we were marching to war. Now we're marching to peace. ... America is a safer place. Four more years and America will be safe and the world will be more peaceful," Bush said.

posted by rorschach @ 2:02 PM  


Another Iraqi Governor Killed
How do they find people willing to replace these guys?
The interim governor of the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Hazem al-Ainachi, was shot dead by unidentified assailants Tuesday as he was heading to work, Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite news TV reported.
On Monday a senior defence ministry official was shot dead in Baghdad, while a week ago the governor of the northern city of Mosul, Ussama Kachmul, was killed by insurgents.

posted by rorschach @ 1:57 PM  


Bush Administration Kills Thousands Worldwide
There's just no excuse:
The Bush Administration decided this past week to withhold all $34 million of congressionally approved funding for the United Nations Population Fund. The fund is the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs.
This is the third year in a row the administration has blocked the funding.
According to Women's ENews, the U.N. agency estimates the $34 million could have helped prevent as many as two million unwanted pregnancies and nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and over 77,000 infant and child deaths around the world. The money would also have been used to improve maternal health and HIV-prevention efforts.

posted by rorschach @ 1:50 PM  


Maine Registry
It begins in ten days.  Another victory for the good guys:
With ten days to go until until Maine officially begins recognizing same-sex couples dozens of gay and lesbian pairs are busily making plans for commitment ceremonies.

On July 30 Maine's domestic partner law goes into effect.  It provides inheritance rights, next-of-kin status, victim's compensation, and guardian and conservator rights to domestic partners.

posted by rorschach @ 11:38 AM  


Wasting More Time and Energy
Another note from the Department of Don't They Have More Important Things to Do?
A proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw the burning of the American flag won the approval on Tuesday of a Senate Judiciary Committee split largely along party lines.

Raised by some Republicans as a mark of patriotism this election year, the measure passed on a 11-7 vote and was sent to the full Senate for final congressional approval. While the Senate has repeatedly rejected such measures in the past, both sides predict a razor-close vote this time.
What do the Republicans have against the Constitution?

posted by rorschach @ 10:56 AM  


"Fake" News Beats "Real" News
If you need more evidence that our major news media are a tremendous joke, here it is:
CBS News President Andrew Heyward said yesterday that he tried to be good-natured when the Television Critics Association decided to give Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" - a comedy series - the award for best news and information program Saturday night.

posted by rorschach @ 9:41 AM  


Hanging America Out to Dry
More on the  negative impact of the Iraq misadventure on the security of the homeland:
With tens of thousands of their citizen soldiers now deployed in Iraq, many of the nation's governors complained on Sunday to senior Pentagon officials that they were facing severe manpower shortages in guarding prisoners, fighting wildfires, preparing for hurricanes and floods and policing the streets.

Concern among the governors about the war's impact at home has been rising for months, but it came into sharp focus this weekend as they gathered for their four-day annual conference here and began comparing the problems they faced from the National Guard's largest callup since World War II. On Sunday, the governors held a closed-door meeting with two top Pentagon officials and voiced their concerns about the impact both on the troops' families and on the states' ability to deal with disasters and crime.

Much of the concern has focused on wildfires, which have started to destroy vast sections of forests in several Western states. The governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, said in an interview after meetings here Monday that the troop deployment had left his National Guard with half the usual number of firefighters because about 400 of them were overseas while a hot, dry summer was already producing significant fires in his state.

posted by rorschach @ 8:37 AM  


A Defeat for the Sex Police
Don't these people have anything better to do?
A Texas woman charged with violating obscenity laws for selling a sexual toy and explaining to her customer how to use it has had the case against her dismissed, court officials said on Monday.

Joanne Webb, a mother of three and a former schoolteacher in the town of Burleson near Forth Worth, was facing up to a year in jail after she sold a vibrator at a private party to two undercover police officers posing as a married couple.

The case received national attention because it touched off a debate on whether a person should be jailed for selling vibrators to adults.

Johnson County Attorney Bill Moore said in a statement that his office last week asked a judge to dismiss the case in order to prevent the county from wasting resources on it.

Texas law allows for the sale of sexual toys as long as they are billed as novelties. But when a person markets the items in a direct manner that shows how they are used in sex, it is considered criminal obscenity.

posted by rorschach @ 5:53 AM  


Monday, July 19, 2004

Good News from North Carolina
They couldn't muster the support any more than the U.S. Senate could, and their state amendment to ban gay marriage is dead:
The North Carolina legislature has adjourned allowing a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to die.

Lawmakers stated a 19 hours final sitting to finish work on several bills, but attempts by Republicans to force through the amendment failed when the Democratic leadership refused to allow the legislation to come to a vote.

Gay civil rights group  Equality North Carolina proclaimed victory as the gavel came down on the final sitting of the legislature.

 "This victory sends a message that our community can effectively mobilize to stop discriminatory state constitutional amendments," said Ian Palmquist, Equality North Carolina's executive director of programs. 

posted by rorschach @ 8:28 PM  


Hell on Earth
The Sudan is nightmarish:
Arab militias in Sudan are gang-raping and abducting girls as young as eight and women as old as 80, systematically killing, torturing, or using them as sex slaves, an Amnesty International report said on Monday.

Militias known as Janjaweed, which rights groups say are backed by the government, have been fighting rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region since last year, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"When we tried to escape they shot more children," one woman identified only as A. told Amnesty researchers.

"They raped women, I saw many cases of Janjaweed raping women and girls. They are happy when they rape. They sing when they rape and they tell us that we are just slaves and that they can do with us how they wish."

posted by rorschach @ 7:56 PM  


Useful Obfuscation
The fog of war serves the interests of the American government quite nicely by preventing the truth about what is going on over there from getting back to us:
US air strikes are becoming "uncoverable", as the growing insurgencies across the two countries make more and more highways too dangerous for foreign correspondents. Senior US journalists claim that Washington is happy with this situation; bombing wedding parties and claiming the victims were terrorists--as has happened three times in a year--doesn't make good headlines. Reporters can't be blamed for not travelling--but they ought to make it clear that a Baghdad dateline gives no authenticity to their work. Fallujah is only 25 miles from Baghdad but it might as well be 2,500 miles away. Reports of its suffering could be written in Hull for all the reliability they convey.

Here, then, is the central crisis of information in Iraq just now. With journalists confined to Baghdad--several have not left their hotels for more than two weeks--a bomb-free day in the capital becomes a bomb-free day in Iraq. An improvement. Things might be getting better. But since most journalists don't tell their viewers and readers that they cannot travel--they certainly don't reveal that armed "security advisers" act as their protectors--they do not see the reality of cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samara, which are now outside all government control. Indeed, US Marines are no longer allowed into the centre of Fallujah, which is now run by the Fallujah Brigade, made up of former Baathists and current insurgents. The Independent does not use security advisers in Iraq, armed or otherwise.

posted by rorschach @ 5:07 PM  


Will all Creationists Please Shut Up Now?
I know, I know.  Wishful thinking.  They'll probably just focus on the term "divorce" and declare that evolution undermines the sanctity of the family, or something equally reasonable.
But still, this is very exciting:
Scientists are staking out part of Britain's coastline to monitor the apparent birth of a new species - an exceptionally unusual chance to record evolution in action.

Research on the "fossil coast" of Yorkshire in north-eastern England - famous for a string of geological breakthroughs - has discovered two colonies of sea-snails that are almost certainly dividing to form a distinct new species.

The grey-brown rough periwinkle Littorina saxatilis is described modestly by the team as "unremarkable and lacking charisma", but it stands to earn a place in the textbooks.

"We are increasingly certain that we are seeing one species become two," said John Grahame, a biologist at Leeds University, who is the leader of the project.

The snail is found by the million on beaches. Two different "morphs" of Littorina saxatilis occupy different areas of foreshore, and are moving steadily apart after centuries of communal life and interbreeding.

The Leeds team has established genetic differences between the separated colonies and evidence that "divorce", in evolutionary terms, is imminent.

- the holy grail of speciation - is evidence that the morphs are becoming reproductively isolated and no longer freely interbreeding," Dr Grahame said.

Observations will continue while DNA-testing techniques build up a more detailed picture of the snails' genes than has been possible in the past.

"The point of no return, when we can truly say a new species has been born, will come when there is no interbreeding at all, and no gene-flow between the morphs," Dr Grahame said.

posted by rorschach @ 4:34 PM  


Safire Is a Lying Hack
Laura at War and Piece spells it out better than I could have done:
Bill Safire didn't do his research. And misspeaks, numerous times:

. . .State Department intelligence also was dubious, reports the Senate, more so in October when an Italian journalist brought in a bunch of phony documents somebody was trying to sell him about a Niger uranium transaction. This outweighed the report of a top security official in the French Foreign Ministry, who told U.S. diplomats in November 2002 that "France believed the reporting was true that Iraq had made a procurement attempt for uranium from Niger."

Two months later, with no objection from C.I.A., the famous 16 words went into Bush's 2003 State of the Union.

But when word leaked about the fake documents — which were not the basis of the previous reporting by our allies — Wilson launched his publicity campaign, acting as if he had known earlier about the forgeries.

What did Safire get wrong here?

-- The Italian journalist was not a "he."

-- The forged Niger docs were indeed the chief basis for Italy's reporting to the US on the Niger uranium claims.

-- The French report was based on the forged Niger uranium docs.

-- Reports from the fake documents were the chief source of the previous reporting to the US by the Italians, and partly by the British as well, on the Niger uranium issue.

posted by rorschach @ 2:16 PM  


He Must Be Stopped
Do we really want to give this guy the opportunity to screw the world up even more?
Bush has promised that if re-elected in November he will make regime change in Iran his new target.

Bush named Iran as part of the Axis of Evil along with North Korea and Iraq almost three years ago. A US government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that military action would not be overt in changing Iran, but rather that the US would work to stir revolts in the country and hope to topple the current conservative religious leadership.

The official said: “If George Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran.”

posted by rorschach @ 1:48 PM  


Submitted for rumination.  This:
President Bush said on Monday the United States was trying to determine whether Iran was involved in the Sept. 11 plot and accused the government of harboring al Qaeda leaders.

And this:
Oil field services company Halliburton Co. said on Monday its Cayman Islands unit with operations in Iran had received a subpoena from a grand jury earlier this month.

"In July 2004, Halliburton received from an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas a grand jury subpoena requesting the production of documents. We intend to cooperate with the government's investigation," Halliburton said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been cooperating since 2001 with the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control in an inquiry into its operations in Iran.

posted by rorschach @ 1:45 PM  


Just Look Mean
Another bit of evidence that the Bush administration just has no idea what it is doing:
The National Guard and Reserve troops often have lacked proper equipment. For example, it wasn't until fifteen months after the invasion of Iraq that all troops received Interceptor body armor. Harper's gives anecdotal evidence of equipment issues faced by the Reserves: One Oregon National Guard soldier relates how he "was told to man a .50-caliber machine gun that had been jury-rigged on top of a Vietnam-era truck, but wasn't given a single round of ammunition during a dangerous convoy. 'They told me just look mean,' the soldier said."

posted by rorschach @ 1:14 PM  


End the Execution of Juvenile Offenders
The Supreme Court has an opportunity to do it this fall:
Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, the American Medical Association and 48 nations are among those who lobbied the Supreme Court Monday to end the execution of killers who committed their crimes before age 18.

The United States is among only a handful of nations that allow the practice. The high court will reconsider this fall whether such executions are constitutional.

"By continuing to execute child offenders in violation of international norms, the United States is not just leaving itself open to charges of hypocrisy, but is also endangering the rights of many around the world," said a friend of the court filing Monday on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize winners, including former President Carter and former Soviet President Gorbachev.

"Countries whose human rights records are criticized by the United States have no incentive to improve their records when the United States fails to meet the most fundamental, baseline standards," it said.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks to reporters at the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow.  The 25-nation European Union, plus Mexico, Canada and other nations argued that execution of juvenile killers "violates widely accepted human rights norms and the minimum standards of human rights set forth by the United Nations."

posted by rorschach @ 12:52 PM  


Republicans Pitching In
Nader may make it onto the Michigan ballot, with a little help from his right-wing "friends":
With the apparent assistance of the state Republican Party, Ralph Nader appears likely to secure a spot on the Michigan presidential ballot. But Democrats are calling for him to withdraw and are threatening to file a complaint against the Republicans, charging that they contributed illegally to the Nader campaign.

Mr. Nader had gathered 5,400 signatures on petitions in Michigan but stopped collecting them over a month ago, deciding instead to go after the nomination of the Reform Party. After he stopped the petition effort, though, a split within the Reform Party made it uncertain that he would get the nomination.

But last Thursday, the deadline for submitting signatures, more than 50,000 signatures were submitted on behalf of Mr. Nader. The state requires 30,000 signatures.

It appears that it was the Republican Party that stepped in to help Mr. Nader. It is widely believed that if Mr. Nader is on the ballot in Michigan and other states, he would draw more votes from John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee, than from President Bush.

posted by rorschach @ 12:29 PM  


Kerry is making the very smart move of preparing a line of attack against any election "difficulties" that may come up in November:
Mindful of the election problems in Florida four years ago, aides to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, say his campaign is putting together a far more intricate set of legal safeguards than any presidential candidate before him to monitor the election.

Aides to Mr. Kerry say the campaign is taking the unusual step of setting up a nationwide legal network under its own umbrella, rather than relying, as in the past, on lawyers associated with state Democratic parties. The aides said they were recruiting people based on their skills as litigators and election lawyers, rather than rewarding political connections or big donors.

Lawyers for the campaign are gathering intelligence and preparing litigation over the ballot machines being used and the rules concerning how voters will be registered or their votes disqualified. In some cases, the lawyers are compiling dossiers on the people involved and their track records on enforcing voting rights. The disputed 2000 presidential election remains a fresh wound for Democrats, and Mr. Kerry has been referring to it on the stump while assuring his audiences that he will not let this year's election be a repeat of the 2000 vote.

"A million African-Americans disenfranchised in the last election," he said at the N.A.A.C.P. convention in Philadelphia on Thursday. "Well, we're not just going to sit there and wait for it to happen. On Election Day in your cities, my campaign will provide teams of election observers and lawyers to monitor elections, and we will enforce the law."

posted by rorschach @ 9:38 AM  


I saw the film last night with several friends, and it was as infuriating as expected.  No new information, really, but a nice reminder of what sort of media environment we have to contend with these days.
I did like the attention given to Glick's run-in with Blowhard O'Reilly, and to Glick's very smart preparation for that confrontation.
Anyway, if you missed it, and are wondering what Fox's modus operandi is, just go read this from Tom Tomorrow.

posted by rorschach @ 8:43 AM  


We Got the Fear
On its face, of course, the new plan to send agents out across the nation is a grand idea.  I mean, ever since the color-coded terror-warning system went up, local law enforcement has generally been without a clue as to what any given threat level meant they should actually do.
But if this administration were serious about this program, it would have happened a couple of years ago.  At this point, can there be much doubt that its primary raison d'etre is to stoke the flames of fear, in the hopes of a heartland panic-vote for Bush?
The Central Intelligence Agency has begun a series of terrorism briefings for state and local law enforcement personnel, for the first time dispatching counterterrorism experts to cities and small towns to warn of the possibility of an attack by Al Qaeda this year, government officials said this week.

posted by rorschach @ 8:25 AM  


Lies and the Lying Liars
If you didn't see the Sunday news shows, Liberal Oasis runs down the myriad untruths soiling the airwaves yesterday.


posted by rorschach @ 8:19 AM  


Against the Whalers
Although some would have us believe that our own ability to eat plenty of tasty fish means that we need to kill off some ravenous whales, it's just not true:
Whales and dolphins are not depleting the world's fish stocks despite the sea mammals' enormous appetites, according to a scientific study unveiled at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference on Monday.

The study, partly funded by U.S.-based group Humane Society International, counters arguments put forward by pro-whaling nations that whales, protected under international law, devour valuable fish stocks that could be used to feed humans.

Some whaling countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland, have suggested controlled killing of such animals would help reduce the growing strain on the fishing industry.

"The bottom line is that humans and whales and other mammals can co-exist, there's no need to wage war on them," said Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Canada and co-author of the report.

"There is certainly no need to blame marine mammals for the collapse of fisheries."

posted by rorschach @ 6:04 AM  


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Why Do Bolivians Hate America?
They're voting in their own interest, against the interest of corporations.  We should take a lesson:
Bolivians voting in a referendum Sunday overwhelmingly supported President Carlos Mesa's plan for the government to exert greater control over U.S. and other foreign gas companies.

With 66.4 percent of the vote sampled by the government, 87 percent of voters approved a referendum measure that would repeal a 1996 law permitting foreign energy companies to exploit Bolivia's vast and virtually untapped natural gas reserves.

In addition, 92 percent supported a proposal for Bolivia to take back ownership of natural gas at the wellhead, meaning that oil companies would be paid for pumping the oil but would not own it.

The changes would need legislative approval. Final results were not expected before Monday.
"Today the mandate from the people is for a strong state," Mesa said Sunday night, telling Bolivians a new economic era was beginning. Until now, Bolivia has followed U.S.-backed economic policies favoring open markets and little government regulation of business.

posted by rorschach @ 8:57 PM  


When Do We Invade?
There is no connection, as they say, but there's much more connection than there ever was between Iraq and 9/11. 
I am relieved that our government is full of spineless bullies who don't dare attacking anyone who could mount a military defense.
Iran allowed at least eight of the 9/11 hijackers to transit through its territory before the terror attacks, but there is no evidence of a direct connection between Tehran and the 9/11 plot, acting CIA Director John McLaughlin said Sunday.

posted by rorschach @ 8:43 PM  


Sharon: All Jews Should Move to Israel
I think this might cause some population problems  if people took him up on it, personally.  And I think that the message that all Jews should flee the rest of the world is, perhaps, counterproductive:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has urged all French Jews to move to Israel immediately to escape anti-Semitism.

He told a meeting of the American Jewish Association in Jerusalem that Jews around the world should relocate to Israel as early as possible.

But for those living in France, he added, moving was a "must" because of rising violence against Jews there.

France's foreign ministry said it had asked Israel for an explanation of the "unacceptable comments".

French Jewish leaders, interviewed on France-2 Television, said Mr Sharon's remarks were unhelpful.

"These comments do not bring calm, peace and serenity that we all need," said Patrick Gaubert, of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra). "I think Mr Sharon would have done better tonight to have kept quiet."

"It's not up to him to decide for us," said Theo Klein, honorary president of Crif, which represents French Jewish organisations.

posted by rorschach @ 8:35 PM  


Tide Turning Against Whales
Quite bad.  When you've taxed the environment to its limit, you need to move on to some other job:
Anti-whaling countries have held sway for more than two decades at International Whaling Commission meetings but new members could change that on Monday, delighting hunters and disgusting conservationists.

"The world will know if once again the IWC will be little more than a whalers' club," said Susan Lieberman of WWF International, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, a leading campaigner against the hunting of the huge marine animals.

Japan, which views whaling as a noble tradition and whale meat as a prized delicacy, is frustrated by an IWC moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in force since 1986 when the world faced the near extinction of whales like the giant blue.

posted by rorschach @ 1:48 PM  


All in a Day's Bloody Work
More slaughter:
A U.S. air strike on a house in Falluja killed 11 Iraqis including women and children on Sunday, doctors said, in the latest of a series of attacks on buildings believed to be sheltering guerrillas and foreign militants.

Doctor Ahmed Ghanem told Reuters 11 bodies had been brought to Falluja general hospital after the bombing in the southeast of the city, which reduced the house to rubble. The U.S. military confirmed it had launched air strikes.
Right.  Guerrillas, foreign militants, women, children.  They all look alike to the bombs, after all.

posted by rorschach @ 2:56 AM  


American Torture Reduces Charges Against 9/11 Suspect
If reasons based in morality don't sway you against torture, realpolitik should:
German prosecutors are preparing to drop all the most serious charges against the only man convicted for the 11 September attacks, because they fear that crucial American evidence was obtained by torturing detainees.

posted by rorschach @ 2:04 AM