Saturday, August 07, 2004

How About a War on Idiotic Incompetence

Because that would seem to be a necessary first step before we can actually address the "War on Terror," at least as long as Bush in charge. And if this "orange alert" was inspired by a political strategy to blunt Kerry's bounce or distract people from the tanking economy, it's incompetence compounded by mendacity:
The revelation that a mole within al Qaeda was exposed after Washington launched its "orange alert" this month has shocked security experts, who say the outing of the source may have set back the war on terror.

Reuters learned from Pakistani intelligence sources on Friday that computer expert
Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested secretly in July, was working under coverto help the authorities track down al Qaeda militants in Britain and the United States when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.
Security experts contacted by Reuters said they were shocked by the revelations that the source whose information led to the alert was identified within days, and that U.S. officials had confirmed his name.

"The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse," said Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane's Defense publications. "You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within al Qaeda, when it's so difficult to get these guys in there in the first place?

"It goes against all the rules of counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, running agents and so forth. It's not exactly cloak and dagger undercover work if it's on the front pages every time there's a development, is it?"

A source such as Khan -- cooperating with the authorities while staying in active contact with trusting al Qaeda agents -- would be among the most prized assets imaginable, he said.

"Running agents within a terrorist organization is the Holy Grail of intelligence agencies. And to have it blown is a major setback which negates months and years of work, which may be difficult to recover."

Rolf Tophoven, head of the Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy in Essen, Germany, said allowing Khan's name to become public was "very unclever."

"If it is correct, then I would say its another debacle of the American intelligence community. Maybe other serious sources could have been detected or guys could have been captured in the future" if Khan's identity had been protected, he said.


Blood Diamonds

Never, ever buy diamonds:
A series of witnesses place six top al-Qaida fugitives in Africa buying up diamonds in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a confidential report by U.N.-backed prosecutors obtained by The Associated Press.

The first-person accounts detailed by the prosecutors add to long-standing claims that al-Qaida laundered millions of dollars in terror funds through African diamonds before launching its deadliest offensive.

And al-Qaida is just the tip of the iceberg.


The Haves and the Have-Mores

As Bush himself has stated, they are his base. And now, it's time for them to pay up:
Lunch at the Plaza Hotel. Dinner at Le Cirque. Cocktails at the New York Stock Exchange. That's the least the Republican Party could do to welcome its top fund-raisers to the convention in New York this month. Right?

Yes, but there's just one catch. They have to pay for it.

These supporters - some of whom have raised $200,000 or more for President
or the party -- are being charged a "convention fee'' this year of up to $4,500 per person for themselves and each guest, according to a Web page run by LogiCom Project Management, the company handling the events and travel arrangements.

That's just for starters. The fund-raisers will also pay for airfare, several nights in a hotel and optional events they might choose - like a fashion show at Barneys or the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The result is that a couple could easily run up a tab of well over $10,000.

"A lot of us looked at that thing and said, whoa!'' said Bruce Bialosky of California, who raised $100,000 to become a Pioneer fund-raiser. He estimates that the convention will cost him and his family $15,000. "A lot of people just can't afford that.''


Meaningless Chatter

That the Bush admninistration is relying almost wholly on the politics of fear is plainly visible from their constant chatter about chatter.

Today, less chatter is scary:
A drop in so-called "chatter" among suspected terrorists is troubling some counterterrorism officials, who noticed a reduction in intercepted communications before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, government sources said.

Diminished communication prompted the concern because the counterterror experts don't know why suspected terrorists would be talking less. But they noted that similar reductions have happened several other times during the past few years.

Just a few months ago, more chatter was scary:
Increased Chatter About Likely U.S. Terror Attack This SummerAttorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller have scheduled a news conference for 2:00 p.m. Eastern today to discuss intelligence that has increased concern over the possibility of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

In the world they've created, nothing can yield the feeling of security save, apparently, the Boy King W. And, no, I have no idea how W inspires confidence in anyone. But that's his story, and he's sticking to it:
President Bush highlighted his leadership against homeland terror Saturday during his weekly radio address, saying he agreed with the recently completed 9/11 commission report, which concluded the United States was safer since the attacks but not safe enough.

America, he said, is "in danger" and needs him to ensure its security.

"The elevation of the threat level in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. is a grim reminder of the dangers we continue to face," Bush said.


Friday, August 06, 2004

Genetically Engineered Republicans

Scientists around the world are working for a world full of Jerry Falwells:
Meadow voles are furry little rodents who, like most creatures in the animal kingdom, aren't sexually monogamous. But several researchers at Emory University decided it would be a good idea to change all that with gene therapy. After lengthy study, the Emory crew discovered that the hapless meadow voles lacked a receptor for the hormone vasopressin that their monogamous cousins, prairie voles, possessed.
This experiment, like all such experiments related to the sexual predilections of animals, has as its implicit goal the unraveling of a human mystery. Why do some humans want to have sex with only one person at a time, while others prefer more? If these neuroscientists could prove that nonmonogamy might be eradicated with a little extra vasopressin uptake in the brain, it's undeniable that they've happened upon a huge drug market waiting to happen. People who value sexual faithfulness more than the integrity of their brains might insist on gene therapy for their future spouses. Perhaps parents who feel that monogamy is the "right" way to live could get their kids' brains altered right off the bat.

What's scary is that the experiments worked. The altered meadow voles exhibited what the scientists defined as "monogamous behavior," which is to say they chose to mate with a vole they'd mated with before even though another hot little meadow vole was waiting for them in the cage next door. Although most of the scientists who worked on the experiment have been careful to tell the press that their discoveries have no bearing on human behavior, most humans seem to think they do. Already I'm finding myself reading articles with headlines asking, "Are swingers slaves to genes?" and "Should married men get gene therapy?"

Meanwhile, in England, a government health adviser appropriately named David Nutt is promoting the idea that children in the U.K. should be immunized against drug addiction. Apparently, the Scripps Research Institute and a British biotech company called Xenova are already working on vaccines against cocaine addiction. Actually, what the "vaccines" would do is block the pleasure receptors in the brain that respond to the happy-joy feelings created by favored drugs like cocaine and heroin. Of course, these are the very same pleasure receptors that allow you to feel good when you pass a test, fall in love, or eat sugary desserts.

So if we play our cards right, we can have a whole generation of monogamous kids who don't feel pleasure.


Bush on Native American Issues

It's good to have a plain-spoken president who gets right at the heart of the issues:
Many in the crowd laughed when Bush struggled to answer a question about what tribal sovereignty means for Native American tribes in the 21st century.

"Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities," Bush replied.


More Love

Miriam of No Aura fame has pointed me to this article, spelling out just how unbelievably good Barack Obama is:

Beyond the unabashed idealism, stirring oratory skills, touching life story, and
knee-buckling smile that have made this candidate for Illinois' open Senate seat
the new beau ideal of progressive politics, it so happens that this guy is abona fide, card-carrying, bleeding-heart greenie.

And it's not as though Muckraker didn't rifle through his environmental record
going back more than a decade to try to find something off-kilter -- some
skeleton in the closet, some flaw to make him a mere mortal. But all we found were accolades and evidence of true conviction.

"Environmentalism is not an upper-income issue, it's not a white issue, it's not
a black issue, it's not a South or a North or an East or a West issue. It's an
issue that all of us have a stake in," Obama shouted. "And if I can do anything
to make sure that not just my daughter but every child in America has green pastures to run in and clean air to breathe and clean water to swim in, then
that is something I'm going to work my hardest to make happen."

Obama's commitment to environmental protection has a personal component: His
6-year-old daughter, Malia, has chronic asthma, a fact he often cites when defending the long list of initiatives he has pushed to clean up smog and air pollution in his state. And many of his constituents suffer from the same condition. "More people die from asthma attacks in Chicago than anywhere else in the country," said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago. "And Illinois has the highest African-American death rate from asthma in the country-- four times the national average."

This year, Obama made an aggressive move to stem the tide of pollution from
Illinois' coal plants -- which produce nearly 50 percent of the state's electricity -- by introducing a bill that would in effect block the Bush administration's rollback of the Clean Air Act's new-source review rules from being carried out in his state. "This is a very complex issue, but Obama took it by storm," Urbaszewski said. "He dove headfirst into all the complexities and wouldn't quit until he had a solution."

According to Jack Darin, who, as director of the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter,
has worked with Obama closely on these issues, "He's an incredibly quick study.
He's not a scientist, but remarkably adept at analyzing the details of complex
environmental issues, asking the right questions, and ultimately making the
right policy decision for public interest."


A Radical Notion

Taxing polluters, while fostering energy independence:
With crude oil prices at a record high, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry on Friday offered a 10-year, $30 billion proposal to move the nation toward energy independence.

Under the measure, aides said, American companies and consumers would receive financial aid to develop and buy more fuel-efficient motor vehicles.

In addition, it would set twin goals to have, by the year 2020, an even 20 percent of the nation's motor fuel and electricity come from alternative sources such as solar, wind, ethanol and biodiesel fuel.
The cost of the measure would be partially offset by reinstatement of a tax on polluters, aides said.

Kerry has contended greater energy independence would create jobs, provide for a cleaner environment, bolster security and make sure American soldiers do not have to go to war over Middle East oil.

And Bush's response?
President Bush has said a massive energy bill blocked by Kerry and other Senate Democrats would help reduce the demand for foreign oil largely by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.


Three Years Ago Today...

Bush received the following briefing:

Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a ...(redacted portion) ... service.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an ... (redacted portion) ... service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa'ida members -- including some who are US citizens -- have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa'ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ... (redacted portion) ... service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.


Don't Hate Him Because He's a Jackass

Gary Fine manages to miss the point completely in his editorial today. First, he asserts that Bush is indeed a stupid frat boy. Then, he insists that hating him for being a stupid frat boy is wrong. And throughout the piece, he presumes that those who hate Bush do so for past rather than current behavior:
Bush's administration is free of scandals. He has not eliminated federal programs, not even the National Endowment for the Arts. The retreats have been strategic and slight. Not to say that Democrats should agree with "W" -- but hate him?

Once again emotional juice bubbles from the springs of the past. This loathing derives from Bush's seeming life of ease. If Bill Clinton was a Zelig, present at every influential moment, George W. Bush is Forrest Gump. He has led a charmed life, in which mediocrity, error and failure have had no consequences other than to produce success. An indifferent student, Bush attended both Yale and Harvard, escaped service in Vietnam, escaped disgrace despite drunken driving, failed as an oil magnate only to be promoted to head the Texas Rangers baseball team and, lacking political experience, became governor of Texas. His family and mentors paved the way for this untalented scion of privilege. Bush was the frat boy who never grew up.

Indeed, the conclusion of the 2000 election contributed to this perception. A week before the voting Bush seemed solidly in the lead, but then Democratic operatives spread the story of Bush's youthful DUI arrest, and his support appeared to crumble. Once again, though, his irons were pulled from the fire -- by his father's Supreme Court. The outcome underlined Bush's image as undeserving heir. The frat boy triumphed; fecklessness was its own reward.

Most Americans, even most Democrats, do not abhor George W. Bush. We should be grateful for this. Yet, once again we see political animus tied to issues that are removed from policy. Judging a president's deeds and misdeeds, governing successes and blunders should provide enough ammunition for a lively debate. Why must bitterness toward the follies of youth so determine our politics?


The Bush Economy

Once again, let's all be surprised at how few jobs are being produced:
The nation's pace of hiring slowed dramatically last month, the Labor Department reported today, reinforcing the growing belief that economic growth in the United States has hit a rough patch.

The number of non-farm jobs added to the economy in July was 32,000, according to the department's payroll figures. Analysts had projected the numbers to be in the range of 215,000 to 240,000.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bankrolling Lies

Another rich Texan helping out:
A wealthy Texan and prolific Republican donor is helping bankroll a television ad assailing Democrat John Kerry's decorated military record in the Vietnam War.

Houston homebuilder Bob J. Perry has donated at least $100,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a suburban Washington-based group airing a new ad in which Vietnam veterans who served on swiftboats accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his war record.


"We Will Not and We Have Not and We Will Not"

Did McCain scare some sense (if not rhetorical skill) into them?
The White House distanced itself from a commercial by a controversial veterans' group that accuses Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry (news - web
) of lying about his service in Vietnam.

"We have been very clear in stating that, you know, we will not and we have not and
we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam," spokesman Scott McClellan said as US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) made a campaign stop here.

The advertisement by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accuses Kerry of exaggerating his bravery in the Vietnam War, lying about the first of his three Purple Hearts and lying to get his Bronze Star. Kerry was also awarded a Silver Star.

The group also charges that, by testifying against the war when he returned to the United States and alleging that US soldiers had committed wartime atrocities, Kerry betrayed US forces still in Vietnam.


Thinking of the Children

We all must ask the question, "Is our children being protected from learning?"
Parents are telling the Boyd County School District that they will take their children out school the days that diversity training classes are held.

The classes were part of an agreement reached between the school board and the ACLU to end a legal battle over the creation of Gay-Straight Alliance.

Last year the ACLU on behalf of the Alliance took the school district to court after Boyd County High School shut down all school clubs in an attempt to prevent the student group from meeting on school property.

A federal judge ordered the district to allow the Gay-Straight Alliance to meet, ruling that preventing gay students from forming the club violated their constitutional rights. (story)


Say No

AmericaBlog points out just how low a certain Democrat is willing to go to try to win. This has to stop:
In heavily Republican northern Kentucky, for example, Democrat Nick Clooney, a retired TV anchorman and the father of actor George Clooney, is running for Congress on a platform that includes support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.


War Criminals

The Red Cross is calling the Bush administration for what it is:

Repeated abuses allegedly suffered by three British prisoners at the hands of US interrogators and guards in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba could amount to war crimes, the Red Cross said yesterday.

The organisation, which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees, known as the Tipton Three, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody.

Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to their lawyers and published for the first time in yesterday's Guardian, has reignited the debate about the treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their questioning and detention.

Last night the Red Cross was joined by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture.


McCain Speaks Out

How can he continue to support the craven little man occupying the White House?
Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry’s military service "dishonest and dishonorable" and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.

The White House declined.

"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, comparing the anti-Kerry ad to tactics in his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.

The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.

"When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry," one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad. Thurlow didn’t serve on Kerry’s swiftboat, but says he witnessed the events that led to Kerry winning a Bronze Star and the last of his three Purple Hearts. Kerry’s crewmates support the candidate and call him a hero.


Bush Tells the Truth

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we,” Bush said. “They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”


Blood Money

The "free market" permits pharmaceutical companies to take taxpayer money and then do this:
The government refused to intervene Wednesday against a rapid price increase for an important AIDS drug, deciding not to override patents on Norvir in an effort to force a lower price.

Patient groups and some members of Congress had pushed the National Institutes of Health to take the unprecedented action, accusing the drugmaker of price gouging. But the NIH decided Wednesday that such an extraordinary step could have too broad an effect on the entire pharmaceutical market.

“The issue of drug pricing has global implications and, thus, is appropriately left for Congress to address legislatively,” concluded Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the NIH’s director.

Abbott Laboratories more than quadrupled Norvir’s price late last year, to $8.57 a day from $1.71.

But the impact was felt far beyond that one drug: Low doses of Norvir are used to boost the effects of other anti-HIV medicines, meaning patients taking a wide array of AIDS drug cocktails faced substantially higher bills.

The price hike came amid already vigorous debate about why Americans pay much more for most prescription drugs than do patients in Canada, Britain and other countries.

Initial research that led to Norvir’s discovery was financed in part by taxpayers, through a $3.5 million NIH grant. So the consumer group Essential Inventions petitioned the government to essentially override Abbott’s patents and grant licenses for other companies to make the medicine, too — presumably driving the price down.

A 24-year-old law gives the National Institutes of Health the right to do that, but the government has never invoked its so-called march-in rights.


Rotten Leftovers

Katrina vanden Heuvel dissects the re-animated Committee on the Present Danger, a gang of neocons who've been consistently wrong about everything:
The CPD consistently hyped the Soviet threat and argued that what counted, above all, was Soviet intent, not capabilities. (Sound familiar?) Its key members were quick to engage in redbaiting--they even criticized Reagan for recognizing the authenticity of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. charged in Foreign Affairs magazine, the CPD had made "extravagant and now abundantly disproven claims that the Soviet Union was overtaking the United States in the armsrace." In a recent New York Times editorial, the historian John Patrick Diggins pointed out, "Mr. Reagan was also informed [by Team B] that the Soviet Union was preparing for a possible pre-emptive attack on the United States." That position, said Diggins, was an "alarmist" one.(Sound familiar?)

In recent weeks, the CPD has mounted a third campaign. Reconstituted, the organization ran full-page advertisements last month in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal vowing to "raise a unified voice for a policy of national resolve in the War on Terrorism."

The latest CPD crowd is comprised of discredited hawks and hacks: Fellows from the American Enterprise Institute , and board members or fellows of several other rightwing or neocon think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the former Committee to Liberate Iraq and the National Institute for Public Policy. The majority of members, natch, are associated with policy statements by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose founding members in 1997 included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a good number of others associated with the discredited policies of the Bush Administration.

Indeed, it's fair to say that many of the current Committee members have ashameful record in foreign affairs. Take, for example, Henry Cooper, who directed the Pentagon's failed Strategic Defense Initiative in the Reagan years; Ken Adelman, who predicted that invading Iraq would be a "cakewalk" and Frank Gaffney, who in a February 2003 interview , predicted that after the invasion of Iraq was finished, Americans would witness:

"An outpouring of appreciation for [Iraqis] liberation that will make what we saw in Afghanistan recently pale by comparison. You'll see, moreover, evidence in the files and the bunkers that become available to our military--not only of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs and his future ambitions for their use perhaps and for aggression against his neighbors, but also I would be willing to bet evidence of his past complicity with acts of terror against the west which will further vindicate the course of action that this president is courageously embarked upon."

The Committee, in its third incarnation, has gotten off to a rough start. It's managing director, Peter Hannaford, a former Reagan aide, was forced to resign just a few days after the group's big bang relaunch when the New York Sun reported that his PR firm had once represented the interests of Austria's Freedom Party in Washington DC, while the Austrian neo- fascist, Joerg Haider, was the Freedom Party's leader. (Ironically, Haider paid a visit to Saddam Hussein in 2002 as a show of "solidarity" with the Iraqi dictator.)

Our world is defined by grays, but the CPD sees things in black and white: either you're with us, or out to betray us. The CPD is offering Americans a false foreign policy choice in a 9/11 world: appeasement, or escalation. As one leading member--former CIA director James Woolsey--falsely puts it, the battle against radical Islam is "World War IV."

The CPD honorary chair, Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ, Republican), subscribes to a faith-based foreign policy. (He also spearheaded President Bush's national missile defense program, which most experts believe doesn't work.) The other honorary chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, has now fully broken with his former running mate, Al Gore, and become an open and avid supporter of the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The CPD, in the end, is eager to replay old battles in a new era. Islamic terrorism is an occasion for this gang to fight again, the more so as the very nebulousness of the enemy opens up the prospect of endless conflict. But the CPD's discredited leaders deserve to be exposed, shunned and refuted as charlatans. They are more than just a blast from the past, but also a danger to America's future, a chief reason why America is bogged down in Iraq with no exit strategy in sight. America is no longer respected in the world, and if the CPD's extremist ideology prevails here at home, America will remain an object of derision and a terrorist target for years to come.


Shia Uprising

What, exactly, is this administration's plan to stop this from happening time and again? Is there a plan?
The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called for a national uprising against American and coalition forces today as a two-month truce between Mr. Sadr and the United States military appeared to collapse.

In Baghdad and Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq, insurgents loyal to Mr. Sadr prepared for clashes with American and British troops.

But the heavy fighting appeared to be mainly in and near Najaf, a Shiite holy city and Sadr stronghold 100 miles south of Baghdad. An American Marine helicopter was shot down in Najaf this morning, although the crew was reported rescued.

Later, insurgents attacked an American convoy with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire near Najaf, killing one soldier and wounding five, all from the 13th Corps Support Command, the United States military said.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dead Zone

How much longer will we just sit and accept such things?
A huge "dead zone" of water so devoid of oxygen that sea life cannot live in it has spread across 5,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico this summer in what has become an annual occurrence caused by pollution.


Two Americas

A disgrace. Not a surprise:
Inferior qualifications and less access to resources among doctors who treat black patients may contribute to racial disparities in the quality of U.S. health care, authors of a study said on Wednesday.

The study, published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, found that many of the doctors treating black patients complain they don't have the resources to adequately care for them.

"The findings paint a picture of two health systems, where physicians treating black patients appear to have less access to important clinical resources and be less well-trained clinically than physicians treating white patients," said study leader Peter Bach of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Bach and his team found that about a fifth of U.S. doctors -- 22 percent -- are treating four-fifths of the country's black population. Moreover, 86 percent of the doctors visited by white patients tended to have advanced training, versus 77 percent of the doctors who tended to treat black patients, the Bach team said.


High Gas Prices? Blame the Democrats!

Just hilarious:
Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that rising consumption and decreasing domestic production have led to high gasoline prices but also blamed his Democratic opponents and their opposition to the Bush administration's energy policies.


Washington Gets It Right

Even as Missouri chooses to taint its constitution with bigotry, Washington courts insist that all people deserve equal protection under the law:
A Washington state court Wednesday ruled today same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

King County Superior Court Judge William Downing said that the state Constitution guarantees basic rights to lesbian and gay people -- and that those rights are violated by a state law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.

The case involved eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in King County (story)

Downing's ruling went on to say that the couples must be given marriage licenses.


With Friends Like These...

More evidence that the simplistic "us versus them" War on Terror rhetoric so lavishly served up by this administration is a lie:
For months Afghan and American officials have complained that even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against Al Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and sending them into Afghanistan to attack American and Afghan forces.

Pakistani officials have rejected the allegations, saying they are unaware of any such training camps. Now the Afghan government has produced a young Pakistani, captured fighting with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan three months ago, whose story would seem to back its complaints about Pakistan.

The prisoner, who gave his name as Muhammad Sohail, is a 17-year-old from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, held by the Afghan authorities in Kabul. In an interview in late July, in front of several prison guards, he said Pakistan was allowing militant groups to train and organize insurgents to fight in Afghanistan. Mr. Sohail said he hoped that granting the interview would increase his chances of being freed. Mr. Sohail described his recruitment through his local mosque by a group listed by the United States as having terrorist links, his military training in a camp not far from the capital, Islamabad, and his dispatch with several other Pakistanis to Afghanistan.

All this makes me rather more willing to believe that Osama bin Laden is enjoying the comforts of Pakistani medical care, as reported a couple of weeks ago.


Serving While Muslim

The US military is a dangerous place to be, if you happen to be of a certain faith:

Muslim Army chaplain Capt. James Yee, frustrated by a lack of an apology for being jailed at Guantanamo Bay on espionage charges that were later dropped, is resigning from the military, his civilian attorney said on Tuesday.

Arrested last September and held in solitary confinement for 76 days, Yee was cleared in April of all charges, but the West Point graduate claims his Army career was ruined by accusations of mutiny and sedition.

"The government owes him an apology," Yee's attorney Eugene Fidell told Reuters.
In a letter to the Army saying he would resign in January, Yee said Army officials had tarnished his reputation with bogus charges and prevented him from repairing it by slapping a gag order on him.

"Those unfounded allegations -- which were leaked to the media -- irreparably injured my personal and professional reputation and destroyed my prospects for a career in the United States Army," Yee wrote in the letter, excerpts of which were provided by the lawyer to Reuters.

"I have waited for months for an apology for the treatment to which I have been subjected, but none has been forthcoming. I have been unable even to obtain my personal effects from Guantanamo Bay, despite repeated requests," Yee wrote.
Yee has been stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington state since the Army dropped all charges against him, including noncriminal convictions of committing adultery and storing pornography on a government computer, which were dismissed by Southern Chief Gen. James Hill in April.

Yee ministered to Muslim prisoners, including suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants held at Guantanamo. He and three other men were accused of operating a suspected espionage ring at the base, and could have faced a death sentence if convicted.
Yee will not speak publicly until he leaves the Army, Fidell said, citing a document he received at Ft. Lewis "which reminds him if he makes any adverse criticism of U.S. military policy, it could lead to disciplinary action."

"That order is clearly intended to chill his free speech rights and having been incarcerated once already, he doesn't feel like tempting fate," Fidell said.


The Boss Is on Board

I've been wondering whether or not he would commit. He has:
Directly entering partisan politics for the first time, rock icon Bruce Springsteen will join a loose coalition of high-profile musicians in an unprecedented early October concert blitz aimed at mobilizing opposition to President Bush.

The concert tour ranks among the most ambitious efforts ever by entertainers of any kind to influence the outcome of a presidential race. The effort, announced this morning, will send over 20 artists to perform more than 34 shows in nine battleground states during a single week in early October, hoping to not only raise money but attract publicity and sway voters.

Besides Springsteen, those participating include the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and John Mellencamp. Many of these artists have been politically active before. But Springsteen has held back from overt partisan activities, although his music has long explored working-class frustrations and other social themes in spare and poetic language.

"What we are doing here is the direct outgrowth from the ideas that I've tried to sing about for the past 25 years," Springsteen said in an interview. "Hopefully we have built up a lot of credibility with our fans over the years. There comes a moment when you have to spend some of it. This is that moment."


Air Force Tried to Toss Bush

He just didn't show up for work:

New research confirmed by RAW STORY and verified with federal law and military regulations, indicates that in late 1973 or early 1974, the United States Air Force, which supervises and whose jurisdiction supercedes the Air National Guard, attempted to discharge then-Lieutenant George W. Bush.


First Among Morons

Missouri wins the prize:
Missouri voters Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage - the first such ban since gay couples became eligible to marry in Massachusetts.

The measure passed 75 percent to 25 percent.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Another Milestone

20,000 hits.

Amazing. Thank you, to all of my readers, whether casual or repeat or compulsive.

I'd no idea my foolishness would be interesting to anyone other than me...


Pataki's Mistake

"Mistake" is putting it kindly. I couldn't sleep at night having done what Pataki has done to millions of New Yorkers:
Governor George Pataki's recent veto of the minimum wage bill passed by the New York State Senate was misguided and cruel. His decision sends a clear message: "New York State to working poor: Drop Dead." "The Governor likes to talk about opportunity and rewarding work," said Bertha Lewis, co-chair of the Working Families Party, which led the grassroots fight on the issue, "but with this veto he's
shown that he doesn't believe in any of that."

The reasons given by the Pataki Administration for the veto are laughable and often factually wrong. (Go to the WFP website for the facts.) The real reason is politics. As WFP co-chair Dan Cantor points out, "Pataki is playing to the national Republicans and the local Conservatives." After all, "what better way to make yourself known as a tough-guy than to really stick it to low-wage workers. Plus he did it on a day ­when Kerry's speech, news of the Yankees' new stadium and the MTA fare hike announcement guaranteed it would get relatively little notice. A real profile in cowardice."


Ah, Tennessee

First, we hear of the deranged GOP congressional candidate from that grand state. Now we witness their notions of national security:
Iraqis visiting on a civil rights tour were barred from city hall after the city council chairman said it was too dangerous to let them in.

The seven Iraqi civic and community leaders are in the midst of a three-week American tour, sponsored by the State Department to learn more about the process of government. The trip also includes stops in Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The Iraqis were scheduled to meet with a city council member, but Joe Brown, the council chair, said he feared the group was dangerous.

"We don't know exactly what's going on. Who knows about the delegation, and has the FBI been informed?" Brown said. "We must secure and protect all the employees in that building."

Elisabeth Silverman, the group's host and head of the Memphis Council for International Visitors, said Brown told her he would "evacuate the building and bring in the bomb squads" if the group entered.


More Bad News for Bush

People are becoming Americans specifically so that they can have a hand in tossing his ass out. I can hardly think of a better reason:

The Miami Herald reports that in Florida "almost 54,000 immigrants applied for
citizenship between October and May, a 63 percent increase over the previous eight-month period." The principle reason cited for immigrants applying is that they want to be able to vote in the upcoming election. That's amazing. The amount of energy in this race is reaching people who aren't yet citizens, and they want to become Americans to do it. This isn't just a trend in Florida.

The Herald reports "that Federal statistics show that almost half a million immigrants have sought citizenship between October and May, 32 percent morethan in the same period last fiscal year." Which party is likely to benefit from this? Well, the article quotes James Gimpel, a professor at the University of Maryland who tracks new citizen voter participation. He says that Democrats are the overwhelming beneficiaries of votes from newly-minted citizens.


Their Man in Tennessee

The true face of the Republican Party shines through:
Republican congressional candidate James L. Hart acknowledges that he is an "intellectual outlaw."

He is an unapologetic supporter of eugenics, the phony science that resulted in thousands of sterilizations in an attempt to purify the white race. He believes the country will look "like one big Detroit" if it doesn't eliminate welfare and immigration.

He believes that if blacks were integrated centuries ago, the automobile never would have been invented.

He shows up at voters' homes wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun, and tells them that "white children deserve the same rights as everyone else."

Despite his radical views, Hart may end up winning the Republican nomination because he is the only GOP candidate on the ballot in Thursday's primary.


Screwing Poor People Works!

Nader's campaign just lugged boxloads of petitions into Pennsylvania's state elections department in order to get him on the ballot there. Good for him.

But, how, exactly were these signatures obtained? Well might you ask. As reported a couple of days ago, something isn't quite right:

Ralph Nader's presidential campaign this week abruptly abandoned the Center
City office that housed its efforts to get on the Pennsylvania ballot, leaving behind a mess of accusations and a damaged building.

The office, on the 1500 block of Chestnut Street, was emptied Thursday after a raucous scene the night before.

Police were called as dozens of homeless people lined up to collect money they said they were owed for circulating petitions on the candidate's behalf.

Many of the circulators were never paid, according to outreach workers and interviews with several men who had collected signatures."

A lot of us were scammed," said Ed Seip, 52, who said he collected more than 200 signatures for Nader.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Ensconced in Austin

The Bay Area was very pleasant all around, and I do hope that I managed to blog sufficiently to address your needs whilst on the coast.

But my cats are ecstatic now that I'm home--as I hope you all are.

Regular blogging shall resume shortly, I assure you.

We didn't quite make 20,000 hits over the weekend, but it shan't be long now.


Franken Heading Back to TV

Sundance is repackaging his radio highlights:
Liberal political humorist Al Franken, once a star of "Saturday Night Live," is headed back to television next month with plans to bring his radio show to the Sundance cable TV channel, a spokesman said on Monday.

Starting Sept. 7, Sundance will package the best of Franken's three-hour weekday radio program into a one-hour telecast of highlights that will air at 11:30 p.m. the same night, with repeats at 2:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. the next morning.


Still Ridiculous

To those who still have it within them (as I did yesterday) to give this administration a moment's benefit of the doubt, stop:
Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.


Missouri to Vote on Hate Amendment Tomorrow

It's the first in a rogue's gallery of states willing to mutilate their founding documents in the name of fear and intolerant. Here's hoping they do the right thing and stop this nonsense.
There's nothing unusual about national political groups focusing efforts on the bellwether state of Missouri. But the attention this year is not only on the presidential race, but also a ballot proposal to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.

Tuesday's election will mark the first vote in the nation on the subject since Massachusetts' highest court legalized gay marriages last year. At least nine other states, and perhaps as many as 12, will vote on a similar amendment this fall.


Something Missing

A few moments comparing the way this elevated terror alert is being reported here in the states with how it is being reported abroad produces a shining example of propaganda.

The New York Times focuses myopically on the Authorities, such as Tom Ridge and some Senators:
"The terrorists want to scare us," Senator Charles Schumer of New York said at a news conference outside the New York Stock Exchange, referring to the Bush administration's declaration on Sunday of a high risk of terrorist attacks.

"If every time they made a threat we stopped doing what we're doing, they'd win, and so we feel it's almost a moral imperative for everybody to go about their jobs," he added.

"There may be a few butterflies in some stomachs, but you still go forward, you still move forward and do what you have to do."

He went on: "One thing we know: New Yorkers are a plucky group. We showed the world after 9/11 that we were not going to let terror deter us."

But he said that "you can't be too careful in the post-9/11 world."

Similar comments were made in a series of morning television interviews today by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who raised the threat level to code orange — or "high risk" — for the financial sector in New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington. It was the first time that the color-code public threat system has targeted a specific sector or region, although New York City has been on "high risk" alert since Sept. 11.

New Yorkers are bold and plucky and will not let the terrorists win yada yada yada.

Now, have a look at the Sydney Morning Herald:
Many financial institutions were reluctant to discuss their security measures, saying that merely to be identified as a potential target might draw attention to them as well. Others expressed concern that Mr Ridge had publicly identified this group, rather than warning them in private. His public action, they said, could become self-fulfilling, almost daring terrorists to attack.

"We don't want to raise our heads, because that could put lives at risk," said an official at one financial firm, who asked not to be identified.

"And I don't see what Ridge's press conference accomplished that could not have been done by calling all of these companies privately. It only increased the risk for us."

What? American businessmen dissatisfied with Bush's political machinations at their expense? Impossible! At least, you probably believe it's impossible, if you rely on the SCLM here in the U.S.


"We Are a Nation in Danger"

Just keep singing that song, Bush. It'll make it that much easier to kick you out in November.

Anyway, apparently the danger is so significant that it only took almost three years before Bush started thinking about implementing the suggestions of the committee whose formation he opposed from the start:
President Bush on Monday endorsed creation of a national intelligence czar and counterterrorism center his first steps in revamping the nation's intelligence-gathering system to help prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are a nation in danger," Bush said as he announced his position during an appearance with top administration national security figures in the White House Rose Garden.

Honestly, though, I don't think that piling on another level of bureaucracy is necessarily the most effective way of proceeding. And if this national intelligence czar is, as has been proposed, a cabinet-level position, whatever benefits derive from its added access and influence will likely be thoroughly undermined by the position's inevitable politicization.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

US Gives Up on Nonproliferation

I cannot believe this. Or rather, if it weren't this administration, I would not be able to believe it. Too expensive to require verification of compliance with nuclear agreements? Are they kidding? Why not just hand uranium to the extremists and be done with it?

In a significant shift of US policy, the Bush Administration has announced that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty to ban production of nuclear weapons materials.

For several years the US and others have been pursuing the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons.

At an arms control meeting in Geneva last week the US told other countries it supported a treaty, but not verification.

US officials, who have demonstrated scepticism in the past about the effectiveness of international weapons inspections, said they made the decision after concluding such a system would cost too much, require overly intrusive inspections and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty.

However, they declined to explain in detail how they believed US security would be undermined by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.

Arms control specialists said the change in the US position would greatly weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. They said the US move virtually killed a 10-year international effort to persuade countries such as India, Israel and Pakistan to accept some oversight of their nuclear production programs.


Patriot Act Costs ACLU Half a Million Dollars

Rather than keep a "watch list" for Ashcroft, the ACLU has chosen to withdraw from a federal program which has provided significant funding in the past.

Send the ACLU your donations directly, today!

The American Civil Liberties Union has withdrawn from a federal donation program, refusing to follow U.S. Patriot Act rules requiring use of a government anti-terrorism watch list to check employees' names, a spokeswoman said.

The ACLU stands to lose about $500,000 by pulling out of the Combined Federal Campaign, which allows federal employees to donate to various nonprofit organizations through payroll deductions, ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield said Saturday.

In 2003, the ACLU received $470,000 in such contributions.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, in a letter to CFC Director Mara Patermaster, said Attorney General "John Ashcroft and this administration have created a climate of fear and intimidation that undermines the health and well-being of this nation."

Using the watch lists, developed under the U.S. Patriot Act, is one requirement of continued program participation. The Patriot Act -- which expires in 2005 -- was passed into law in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Whitfield said the lists contain "tens of thousands of names and aliases," and it's against the ACLU's principles to use any kind of watch list."Our experience with watch lists is that they are notoriously unreliable," Whitfield said.


What? It Wasn't about Decaying Produce?

Attaturk reports that Bush, if he read anything, would not certainly want to read the upcoming Newsweek:

In mid-August, the commission that Schlesinger chairs—handpicked by Rumsfeld from members of his own Defense Policy Board—is expected to issue its final report on abuses by U.S. interrogators stemming from the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal. NEWSWEEK has learned the Schlesinger panel is leaning toward the view that failures of command and control at the Pentagon helped create the climate in which the abuses occurred.

The four-member commission's report is still being drafted and its final conclusions are not yet definite. But there is strong sentiment to assign some responsibility up the line to senior civilian officials at the Pentagon, including Rumsfeld, several sources close to the discussions say.

Funny, how those fraternity pranks, and handful of bad apples is creeping ever larger, ever higher and becoming less of a fraternity.

Hmm. "Helped create the climate," eh? Sounds almost like a systemic problem to me...


Fighting Back in New Mexico

Victoria Dunlap is a scrapper:
The attorney for a county clerk who wants to issue same-sex marriage licenses has filed motions seeking to block the attorney general's attempts to stop her.

Two motions filed this week ask the court to dismiss Attorney General Patricia Madrid's request for a permanent injunction against Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap issuing same-sex licenses.

Dunlap issued 66 same-sex licenses Feb. 20 but stopped late in the day after an advisory letter from Madrid declared such licenses illegal. (story)

One motion contends Madrid has not tried to act against the couples whose marriages she is challenging, and the other contends she failed to state a legal claim for her request for an injunction.

Dunlap contends New Mexico's constitution supports same-sex marriages and that she should be allowed to resume issuing such licenses. The attorney general contends state law limits marriage in New Mexico to a man and a woman.


Powell Has Testified in the Plame Investigation

The news just came out, though he testified before the grand jury two weeks ago:
Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to a grand jury probing whether Bush aides leaked the name of a CIA agent to retaliate against her husband, an Iraq war critic, the State Department said Sunday.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell spoke to the grand jury on July 16 about the case of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose name surfaced in a piece written by columnist Robert Novak after her husband raised questions in public about the intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

Boucher declined specific comment on the testimony but he stressed Powell had not talked to Novak about Plame. He said the secretary of state was not a subject of the investigation.

Revealing such classified information is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Connecting the leak to any of President Bush's senior aides would be an embarrassment to the president in an election year.

Several other top U.S. officials have been interviewed in connection with the investigation, including Bush himself, former CIA Director George Tenet and U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.


Stoking the Fear

They are actually using the color-coded terror meter this time, which is something of a switch:

The U.S. security alert level in Washington will be raised to 'high' from 'elevated,' CNN reported on Sunday.

The raising of the alert level in the U.S. capital will be announced shortly by Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, the network said.

The Homeland Security Department said it could not confirm the CNN report but said a news conference was planned for 2 p.m.

Again, the intelligence is "credible," but not "specific," whatever that means:

Top federal and local law enforcement officials met in New York during the weekend to discuss new intelligence about a possible al Qaeda attack against major corporations or high-profile buildings in Manhattan, a police source said on Sunday.

The New York Police Department source told Reuters that increased intelligence "chatter" from overseas of a possible fresh attack of the city prompted meetings late Friday and early Saturday between NYPD chief Raymond Kelly and Pasquale Damuro, head of the FBI's office here.
The threat was first reported by ABC News, which said the authorities were particularly disturbed that the information indicated attacks may be carried out by one or more suicide truck bombings.

Following the meetings, the NYPD issued a statement that said, "Intelligence reporting indicates that al Qaeda continues to target for attack commercial and financial institutions, as well as international organizations, inside the United States."

Generally, I am completely skeptical of such warnings, and given that this is coming just as Kerry is enjoying his post-convention bounce, there's every reason to be cynical about this one too. Maybe it's because I'm flying across the country tomorrow, but for some utterly unfathomable, intuitive reason, I suspect there may be cause to fear truck bombings in the near future. An odd hunch, and I have no idea what to make of it. My rational mind is still calling bullshit.

UPDATE: Tom Ridge is using the announcement to shill for Bush's "re"-election. My rational mind was right. I feel safer now. Thanks, Tom Ridge!


Democracy Denied

For all the hope and optimism stirred by the rhetoric of the Democratic campaign, by the poll numbers putting Kerry ahead of Bush, and by the general impression that Bush is feeling beleagured, we still have to face the fact that the election may already have been thrown.

Electronic voting has been foisted hastily upon the nation to an astonishing extent, and we were unable to do anything to stop it. The outcome may be a catastrophe:
The potential for fraud and error is daunting. About 61 million of the votes in November, more than half the total, will be counted in the computers of one company, the privately held Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska. Altogether, nearly 100 million votes will be counted in computers provided and programmed by ES&S and three other private corporations: British-owned Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, California, whose touch-screen voting equipment was rejected as insecure against fraud by New York City in the 1990s; the Republican-identified company Diebold Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, whose machines malfunctioned this year in a California election; and Hart InterCivic of Austin, one of whose principal investors is Tom Hicks, who helped make George W. Bush a millionaire.

About a third of the votes, 36 million, will be tabulated completely inside the new paperless, direct-recording-electronic (DRE) voting systems, on which you vote directly on a touch-screen. Unlike receipted transactions at the neighborhood ATM, however, you get no paper record of your vote. Since, as a government expert says, "the ballot is embedded in the voting equipment," there is no voter-marked paper ballot to be counted or recounted. Voting on the DRE, you never know, despite what the touch-screen says, whether the computer is counting your vote as you think you are casting it or, either by error or fraud, it is giving it to another candidate. No one can tell what a computer does inside itself by looking at it; an election official "can't watch the bits inside," says Dr. Peter Neumann, the principal scientist at the Computer Science Laboratory of SRI International and a world authority on computer-based risks.

The question that plagues me now is what, if anything, can be done about this? Kerry has put in place his team of 2000 lawyers to challenge election shenanigans, but can they be effective? Is the game already too far rigged to be fixed?


Muslims Nations Staying Clear of Iraq

Reader Karin has pointed me to Juan Cole's latest entry, which reports the (in my opinion) good news that the Saudi plan to start bringing Muslim troops into Iraq from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations has pretty much fallen apart before it ever got going:
Iran condemned a plan announced by Saudi Arabia for a Muslim multinational force in Iraq. Even US Secretary of State Colin Powell was lukewarm, saying it needed more study. And the countries mentioned as possible contributors all hastily backed away. Bangladesh said it was out of the question for it to send troops to Iraq except under a United Nations command. My own estimation is that no country in the global South or the Muslim world is going to provide any significant number of troops to an American-led military multinational force. They would have to report to the UN. And, the Bush administration just is not going to give the UN a command in Iraq. So, the Saudi plan is dead in the water.