Saturday, August 28, 2004

Spy Investigation Larger Than Reported?

Knight-Ridder suggests that the impression that the Israeli spy in the Pentagon story is just about one person (an impression I feel may have been the goal of the leak, actually) is wrong. More is going on here:
An FBI probe into the handling of highly classified material by Pentagon civilians is broader than previously reported, and goes well beyond allegations that a single mid-level analyst gave a top-secret Iran policy document to Israel, three sources familiar with the investigation said Saturday.

The probe, which has been going on for more than two years, also has focused on other civilians in the Secretary of Defense's office, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, but who have first-hand knowledge of the subject.

In addition, one said, FBI investigators in recent weeks have conducted interviews to determine whether Pentagon officials gave highly classified U.S. intelligence to a leading Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, which may in turn have passed it on to Iran. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi has denied his group was involved in any wrongdoing.

The linkage, if any, between the two leak investigations, remains unclear.

But they both center on the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official.
In a statement issued late Friday, the Pentagon said it "has been cooperating with the Department of Justice on this matter for an extended period of time. It is the DoD (Department of Defense) understanding that the investigation within the DoD is limited in its scope."

But other sources said the FBI investigation is more wide-ranging than initial news reports suggested.

They said it has involved interviews of current and former officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department.

Investigators have asked about the security practices of several other Defense Department civilians, they said.


Terrorist Bomb in Massachusetts

But since the perpetrators likely are white fundamentalist Christians, rather than nonwhite fundamentalist Muslims, we aren't hearing much about it:
An explosion that blew out a number of windows at a Boston-area laboratory specializing in stem-cell research was caused by a pipe bomb, local police said on Friday.

No one was wounded in Thursday's early morning blast at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Amaranth Bio, which says on its Web site its technology is focused on organ regeneration and that it is working on cures for diabetes and liver disorders.

In a statement, Watertown police confirmed the explosion was the result of a pipe bomb and said they believe someone broke into the facility.


Unwelcome in the World

That's what Bush's policies have made us:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, citing urgent business at home, has canceled his visit to Athens to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, the State Department announced Saturday. An aide to the secretary said Mr. Powell did not want to encourage anti-American protests that would distract from the ceremony.

The announcement came after a demonstration in Athens on Friday involving 2,000 people protesting the planned visit disintegrated into a rock-throwing melee. At least three people were injured, and the police fired tear gas to break up the crowds.


Granny D

The 94-year-old campaign finance reform activist is running for Senate in New Hampshire, and she has just added Trippi to her campaign. Adam Reilly has an interesting piece about her candidacy:
New Hampshire – Forget the Bush twins and the Kerry girls. Put Teresa and Laura out of your mind. The most intriguing woman of this election season may well turn out to be Doris Haddock, the 94-year-old New Hampsherite better known as Granny D.


The Man in Black

If only the Republicans would actually listen to the messages of his songs, then I wouldn't be so bothered by this. Just one more bit of hypocritical showboating by the GOP:
A planned tribute to late country star Johnny Cash at next week's Republican convention in New York has attracted harsh criticism from some fans.

Cash, who died in September, never revealed his political leanings.

"I find this really offensive, for his name or his memory to be used like this," said fan Erin Siegal, a 22-year-old student from Brooklyn.

Her campaign hopes to attract 500 fans to protest outside the tribute at Sotheby's auction house on Tuesday.

"A lot of his political songs really represented issues the Republicans don't really seem to care about very much," Ms Siegal said.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,But is there because he's a victim of the times

Cash often sang about the poor and imprisoned and said he wore black all the time to symbolise the downtrodden people of the world.

That's the "poor and imprisoned," not the "haves and the have-mores."


The Most Powerful Man in Iraq

No, it's not Allawi, the man installed by the "most powerful nation on earth." If you feel as though this whole situation is just setting up an ensuing situation, in which this man may very well turn tremendous force against us, then you are afflicted with something called "historical awareness."
By ending the country's most dangerous political standoff after just one brief round of negotiations, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani proved again this week that he's the most powerful political figure in Iraq.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Bad Vibes

The upcoming Republican National Convention seems to be sending out waves of psychic dysphoria, resulting in bizarre and disturbing behavior.

First this:
A New Jersey game called "Wack the Iraq," where players fire paintballs at people dressed as Arabs, has drawn ire from Arab groups after the city failed to convince the operator to change its name this summer.

Then this:
Small toys showing an airplane flying into the World Trade Center were packed inside more than 14,000 bags of candy and sent to small groceries around the country before being recalled.

I mean, really, what is going on with people? Is Nyarlathotep speaking at the convention or something?


Spy in the Defense Department

An Israeli spy high up in the Defense Department may have influenced American policy on Iraq and Iran. Just brilliant:
The FBI believes there is an Israeli spy at the very highest level of the Pentagon, CBS News reported on Friday. The Israeli embassy immediately denied the report.

The network said federal agents believed the spy may have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy on Iran and Iraq.

"The FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to ... roll up someone agents believe has been spying not for an enemy but for Israel, from within the office of the secretary of defense," the network reported.

Any guesses as to who the spy might be?

UPDATE: The spy works for Feith.

UPDATE: More information, from the Washington Post:

The official under investigation wasn't named by those familiar with the situation, but was described by them as a desk officer in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia Bureau, one of six regional policy sections. The official under scrutiny was described as a veteran of the Defense Intelligence Agency who moved to the Pentagon's policy branch three years ago and had been nearing retirement.

UPDATE: Commenter Karin points out (via Atrios) that it's one of two, either Harold Rhode or Larry Franklin.

The next question is, will the mole turn stool pigeon? Harold Rhode once refused an interview with Mother Jones thus:

Rhode refused to be interviewed for this story, saying cryptically, 'Those who speak, pay.'

But then, the FBI has a little more weight to throw around than a liberal magazine.

MORE: Check out War and Piece for some inside info.



Thailand's troops are heading home:
Thailand's troops prepared to withdraw from Iraq on Friday after completing a year-long humanitarian mission in the war-torn country, officials said.

Thailand withdrew about 80 soldiers and some equipment from Iraq earlier this month and the rest of the contingent of 443 troops will join them at Camp Virginia in Kuwait, said Major-General Palangoon Kraharn.


Random Terror "Alert" Number 248

There they go again, just making stuff up:
Al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups may be considering attacks against Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States, U.S. law enforcement officials said.

Citing reports of "suspicious activity" at VA hospitals in Colorado and Bethesda, Maryland, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin on Thursday urging law enforcement agencies around the country to be vigilant.

The agencies stressed they had no credible information about any specific planned attacks.



Remember, the actions of the United States and its puppet regime are making this man very popular:

At least 25 charred and bloated bodies were discovered in the basement of a religious court set up by Iraqi rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf's Old City, police said today.

The bodies were brought up to ground level by police and Iraqi national guardsmen and could be seen lying in the courtyard, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.

"We entered the building which was being used as Moqtada Sadr's court and we discovered in the basement a large number of bodies of police and ordinary civilians," said the deputy head of the Najaf police, General Amer Hamza al-Daami.

"Some were executed, others were mutilated and others were burned."

A pungent odour of death hung over the courtyard where the bodies lay, their clothes soiled and muddy, the AFP correspondent said.

An array of beer cans littered the ground and a national guardsman said: "Look with your own eyes - they drank beer and then they killed."

The consumption of alcoholic drinks is strictly forbidden under Islam.

One witness, Rahri Hussein, said he was close to the mausoleum when "a young man asked everyone to come to the court building because he said he was tortured there and he was convinced that there were prisoners still being held in there.

"When we got down there we found only two people alive, the uncle of the police chief and a boy. The rest were just dead bodies."

Adel al-Jazairi, the uncle and driver of Najaf police chief Ghaleb al-Jazairi, was kidnapped by militiamen on August 8.

Of course, the presence of beer cans is extremely odd. I have no idea what to make of it. The whole thing could be an effort to discredit Sadr...


"Punk Politics"

Garrison Keillor tears into the monstrosity that the GOP has become:
In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

There's much more.



This headline is classic:
Army Reports Find Officers Responsible, but Not Culpable, in the Abu Ghraib Scandal


Armed and Dangerous

Take this man's gun away, please:
A leading trainer of chaplains told a group of students last week that he cannot "tolerate homosexuality" and that homosexuals "should be killed."

David C. Vorce is President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Chaplains (IFOC), and a retired Marine and police officer.He is also currently a Bishop within his church. IFOC trains people to serve as chaplains in various institutions and settings.

At a training seminar in Pontiac, Michigan, last week Reverend Mark Bidwell, Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit was one of Vorce's students. Bidwell is gay and MCC Churches serve mostly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members.

Vorce told the class that he always carries a gun and extra "ammo". When asked why, he responded to the class "Because if I start shooting I'm gonna keep on shooting."

The fact that he may have had a gun with him during the class was unsettling to Rev. Bidwell especially after Vorce made the following comment when the topic of homosexuality came up in the seminar: "That's the one thing I cannot tolerate is homosexuality. The Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination and they should be killed."


Just in Time for the Convention

A brilliant exhibit is opening in Manhattan; all Republicans should be required to go take a look:
They may be graphic, funny or serious, but the posters in a new exhibit in Manhattan all have a very clear message: peace.

“It’s a way to express a message in a very short and effective manner,” said James Mann, the editor of the exhibit.

Dozens of “in-your-face” works line the walls of Chisholm Gallery in Chelsea, as part of a new exhibit called “Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated.” It grew out of a recently-published book of the same name.

“There were a lot of posters made in the 60s for the anti-Vietnam War movement,” said Mann. “And in the last year or two you've seen a lot of artists responding to the policies of the Bush administration and obviously the September 11th attacks and Afghanistan and Iraq, and I felt there was a need to document this mass phenomenon.”

Local and international artists contributed to the show in an attempt to make their personal views public.

“I knew there were going to be a lot of people down here for the [Republican National Convention],” said co-curator Nadxi Mannello. “It's a great time to show this work. It's not something that gets seen. It's ripped off street corners. It doesn't get a lot of attention, generally, and there are people that have been doing this for years.”

People like Ward Sutton, a cartoonist for the Village Voice. His work is called "That's Entertainment."

“It is a soldier covered in patches that are insignias from media and entertainment companies,” he explained. “The point I was trying to raise in this piece is that the way that the war has sort of perversely become almost a form of entertainment to the viewing public.”

Another work shows doves defecating on a tank. It’s called “Peace of ____” – well, you fill in the blank.

And for all of us who can't afford to get to New York City, we can still buy the book.

(Full disclosure: I've never met James Mann, but he is the brother of a very good friend of mine.)


Tell Us How You Really Feel

A bit of truthtelling up north:
Canadian Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish had said she hated "damned Americans" and called them bastards in the run-up to the Iraq war.

She found a new moniker, idiots, on Wednesday in discussing the planned U.S. missile defense system.

"We are not joining the coalition of the idiots. We are joining the coalition of the wise," the Liberal legislator told a small group of demonstrators.

Parrish, who had to apologize for her "bastards" remarks last year, at first denied using the word idiots, and when reporters pointed out they had her remarks on tape, she said: "I don't mean Americans are idiots."

Parrish then begged reporters not to use the remarks: "Please guys don't put that on tape," she said. "I already got into trouble once.... Really, please, I've had enough trouble."

Four hours later, however, she hardened her line.

"The last one was a really stupid thing to say," she told Reuters. "Bastards is an inappropriate word. Idiots is a term people use in everyday conversation," she told Reuters.

"They tortured people in Iraq, they (the Iraqis) have no weapons of mass destruction. Could somebody explain to me whether you think they're idiots or geniuses?"



Okay, it's bad enough that they are wreaking havoc upon the very notion that we are a democracy. Do they have to be so obvious about it?
At a time when there is much controversy over electronic voting and some election experts are raising concerns about the integrity of such voting, should the leading manufacturers of electronic voting machines be wining and dining state and local officials responsible for conducting elections? Well, they are.
At this week's national conference, election officials have been able to attend panels on the Help America Vote Act, ethical dilemmas, recounts, voting for the blind and disabled, and elections litigation. (At one panel, according to an audience member,Representative Bob Ney, a Republican, was applauded when he dismissed demands for auditable paper trails for electronic voting, noting that a rigged electronic machine could also be fixed to produce a misleading paper trail. ) But in the hallways of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, voting machine manufacturers--including the companies that have drawn the most criticism--have been plying their wares. And to impress the local officials at the conference, three leading manufacturers of voting machines have been paying to make sure the attendees--the government employees who decide what voting machines are purchased--have a swell time.

According to the center's program for the conference, the conference's welcoming reception on August 26 was underwritten by Diebold Election Systems. The next day, a scheduled "Dinner Cruise on the Potomac and Monuments by Night Tour" was cosponsored by Sequoia Voting Systems. And Election Systems and Software (ES&S) agreed to pick up the tab for the final day's "Graduation Luncheon and Awards Ceremony."

Well, they bought us dinner. I guess we have to let 'em f*ck us now.


Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of "Swift Victory"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's pretty much what Bush is saying he's doing in Iraq now, right?
President Bush (news - web sites) said for the first time on Thursday he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be" after U.S. troops went to Iraq (news - web sites), The New York Times reported. The insurgency, he maintained, was the unintended result of a "swift victory" that led to Iraqi troops disappearing into the cities and mounting a rebellion.



The fight is not going well in New Mexico, but I just have to say that Victoria Dunlap is truly amazing in her resolve:
A State District judge has rejected an effort by Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Dunlap has been battling New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid since February over the constitutionality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
Dunlap says she has no intention of giving up. she now has 10 days to file an answer to Madrid's amended complaint, which asks a judge to prohibit Dunlap from issuing same-sex licenses unless or until state laws change or until the practice of not doing so is ruled unconstitutional.


No Democracy for Immigrants

The damage that can be done with the mere stroke of a pen--without even a rubber-stamp from a Congress that has been so very willing to give it--is appalling:
Cutbacks of civil liberties of immigrants have been in effect long before 9/11. New legislation passed by Congress after the Oklahoma bombing (even though the culprits there were not recent immigrants) instituted mandatory detention of immigrants with any criminal convictions, even minor convictions, and the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The law also removed judicial review of Immigration judges.

After 9/11, more laws were enacted that affected immigrant rights, legalized by interim policy and regulations passed by the Department Of Justice (and Homeland Security since March 2003). Attorney Sin Yen Ling of the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund says, "The reason all this was not done through the Patriot Act is simple. When you pass a law, Congress has to vote on it. If you pass interim regulations, it's much easier. You can do it without any public scrutiny."

Among the interim regulations passed are the following, all of which have had a chilling effect on free speech in immigrant communities:

1. Material Witness/Special Interest Cases, under which approximately 5,000 Muslim men were detained and placed in secret detention

2. The Absconder Initiative listed individuals with outstanding deportation orders and placed them on the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) list.

3. Special registration: Citizens of 25 countries (all majority Muslim, except North Korea) were required to register with the INS. This program has now been suspended in the face of public protest.

4. SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System): This tracks all foreign students in US and scrutinizes them for potential terrorist threat.

5. Sealed Protective Order: This places gag orders on immigrants in removal proceedings, preventing them from talking to anybody, including the press.

6. Voluntary Interviews: These target recent Muslim immigrants, initially conducted by the FBI, and later transferred to local agencies (such as NYPD's newly formed Counter Intelligence or Terrorism Task Force). These interviews were conducted after 9/11, during the initial invasion of Iraq, and again in July in conjunction with the Orange Alert.

7. A new requirement that hospitals have to collect information on immigrant status before providing Medicaid, and the expectation that police will now question people on immigrant status.

Of the approximately 5,000 Muslim men who were detained after 9/11, only three were charged with any crime, and only one was indicted. But if the intention was to silence dissent, the dragnet succeeded. Knowing that they can be arrested, interrogated, detained, deported or denied citizenship on the smallest of charges, immigrants are now fearful about participating in public protests, even if it is a protest to defend their own rights.



The unnerving near-simultaneous plane crashes in Russia were no accident after all:
Terrorists may have brought down one of the two Russian airliners that crashed within 40 minutes of each other killing all 89 passengers and crew on Tuesday, Russian security services said today.

Investigators revealed the presence of explosive traces in the wreckage of the Tu-154 aircraft which crashed in southern Russia shortly after leaving Moscow killing 40 people, according to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency.

One group of militant Muslims is claiming responsibility:

A claim of responsibility for the downing of two Russian planes appeared on a website known for militant Muslim comment on Friday.

The statement, which accused Russians of killing Muslims in Chechnya, was signed 'The Islambouli Brigades'. A group with a similar name has claimed at least one previous attack, but the legitimacy of the group and the authenticity of such statements could not be verified.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Good Day in California

For the LGBT community:
The California legislature approved five pieces of LGBT pro LGBT measures this week, believed to be a record for any state body in the country.

The legislation approved ranges in subject from insurance equality to hate crimes and support for same-sex relationships.

Equality California, the state's largest gay rights group, said it is optimistic that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign the three bills. The two resolutions do not need the governor's signature.


Pinochet Immune No More

It's long past time he was held accountable:
The Chilean Supreme Court's decision to deny Augusto Pinochet immunity from prosecution for past human rights violations is an important victory for accountability, Human Rights Watch said today. The court decided by a narrow 9-8 vote to uphold a lower court's ruling that the former dictator could be prosecuted for abuses committed in the 1970s.

Today's ruling is an important step toward holding Pinochet accountable for the abuses his regime committed. He can no longer use his status as a former head of state to shield himself from justice.

"Today's ruling is an important step toward holding Pinochet accountable for the abuses his regime committed," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "He can no longer use his status as a former head of state to shield himself from justice." On May 28 the Santiago Appeals Court ruled that Pinochet be stripped of his immunity to face trial for kidnapping, illegal association and torture. The case was brought by relatives of 20 victims of "Operation Condor," a joint operation of the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay in the 1970s that entailed collaborating to "disappear" dissidents, as well as to kidnap and smuggle them to their home countries for torture, interrogation and imprisonment.


Huge Victory for Choice

Bush's so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban is unconstitutional:
A federal judge ruled that a ban on a type of late-term abortion violates the US Constitution.

The New York judge ruled on a federal ban, signed into law in 2003 by US President George W. Bush (news - web sites).

A judge in San Francisco also found the ban unconstitutional earlier this month, and a Nebraska court is considering the ban's legality.


The Poverty President

Another miserable failure:
Last year, more Americans lived in poverty, more children were poor, and more people lacked health insurance than in 2002.

That message, reported by the US Census Bureau yesterday, was expected, but the increases confirm a troubling trend for the economy and a challenge for the incumbent president in an election year.

The numbers confirm a third straight year in which poverty rose and a gap in health coverage widened. Political analysts and partisans of both political parties rushed to put their stamp on the news.


Mortar Hits Mosque

Every such incident inflames passions against the West, and makes every last one of us less safe. Honestly, can that be argued? And is there any chance that the continuing occupation of Iraq by the U.S. will not entail further such incidents?

I'd say "hopefully not at Najaf," but I'm too tired for hope just now.
Demonstrators surrounded the Kufa mosque Thursday after at least nine people were killed and dozens were wounded in what was believed to be a mortar attack, according to eyewitnesses and a local official.

The mosque took two direct hits and another mortar or rocket hit just outside the mosque as hundreds of demonstrators had rallied inside and outside the holy site, witnesses said.

Video of the scene showed numerous casualties, although the Interior Ministry could not confirm how many were killed or injured.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Muslim Scholar Barred from U.S.

Bush officials cited his "scary Muslim-holiday name, you know, the one where you don't eat" as the cause for their concern:
A prominent Muslim scholar from Switzerland was supposed to begin teaching a seminar on Islamic ethics at the University of Notre Dame on Tuesday, but he did not show up for his first class because the State Department revoked his visa.

University officials said an American diplomat telephoned the scholar, Tariq Ramadan, this month at his home in Geneva and told him that his permission to work in the United States, which was approved earlier this year, had been revoked. They said the diplomat offered no explanation.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, Dean Boyd, said his agency had given the State Department information about Mr. Ramadan. He declined to say what it was.
Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Mr. Ramadan's visa was revoked under a legal provision that bans espionage agents, saboteurs and anyone the United States "knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity." She said she could not provide any details about Mr. Ramadan's case.
In Geneva, Mr. Ramadan said he hoped the United States would reconsider its decision. "If I really had something to hide, would really I be trying to go the States?" he asked in an interview with Reuters.

Mr. Ramadan had already sent his furniture to Indiana and enrolled his children in school there. Scott Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, where Mr. Ramadan was to teach at Notre Dame, said: "I worry about the implications for academic freedom and more generally for freedom of speech and the openness of American society. A secondary, more subtle level of concern is about how ready we are as a society to hear a discourse that is authentically Muslim, not an extremist discourse but one that is critical of U.S. policy."


A Victory for Labor

It is remarkable in the era of Bush to see a governmental department working for what is right rather than what fits the neocon worldview, but there it is.

Unfortunately, this victory comes just on the heels of Bush's sweeping eradication of overtime for millions of workers:
The United States Department of Labor announced yesterday that it had reached a $1.9 million settlement with a contractor for the Target Corporation after finding that the contractor had not paid overtime to hundreds of immigrant janitors who often worked seven nights a week cleaning Target stores.

Several janitors said in interviews that the Target contractor was doing much the same as contractors for Wal-Mart had done before an immigration raid at Wal-Mart stores last October - making late-night janitors work nearly 365 days a year, without paying overtime or Social Security and other taxes.


Voter Discrimination: New, Improved

What a repulsive situation. How dare we have the arrogance even to pretend to be committed to the spread of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, when these sorts of things are going on here?
Julian Bond, the board chairman of the civil rights group NAACP, voiced special concerns about attempts to turn away minority voters.

"Minority voters bear the brunt of every form of disenfranchisement, including pernicious efforts to keep them away from the polls," Bond said in a statement.

The statement said the report, by the NAACP and People for the American Way Foundation, found that the kinds of voter intimidation found in the past -- discriminatory literacy tests, poll taxes and physical violence -- have been supplanted by other methods, including:

-- a plan in Kentucky to place "vote challengers" in African-American precincts during the upcoming elections;

-- the use of armed, plainclothes officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to question elderly black voters in Orlando as part of a state investigation of voting irregularities in the city's 2003 mayoral race, which critics said intimidated black voters, potentially suppressing this year's turnout;

-- the barring of Native Americans from voting in South Dakota's June primary after they were challenged to provide photo identification, which is not required by state or federal law.



Atrios commenter Jenny from the Blog points out the preparations underway in New York City in advance of the convention:
In case their discontent isn't already clear, protesters are spelling it out. "Stop Bush Now" signs and other anti-GOP messages are appearing throughout the city well before delegates arrive for the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday.

Bright blue tarps, painted with glaring yellow letters, are going up on dozens of rooftops in Brooklyn, under the flight paths into busy New York airports. Thousands of delegates and convention guests peering down at the city might see messages like "No more years" and "Re-defeat Bush."


Grass > Freedom

This argument is just ridiculous. The park can be re-sodded; what can be done to restore our rights of freedom of speech and assembly?
More than 200,000 people expected to protest on the eve of the Republican National Convention will not be able to rally in Central Park.

A state judge ruled Wednesday that the city does not have to allow United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of groups opposing the Bush administration, to hold a Sunday demonstration in Central Park. The protest group is "guilty of inexcusable and inequitable delay" by waiting until Aug. 18 to file its lawsuit, state Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silbermann ruled. The city opposed having the rally in Central Park, saying the group was too large and would damage the lawn.

Leslie Cagan, head of the protest group, called the ruling "a slap in the face of our constitutional rights."


Tell Us Again Why You Stick with This Party?

The Log Cabin Republicans are calling bullshit on the GOP's hypocrisy:
"Our party can't have it both ways. We can't have the folks sitting in this room crafting a vicious mean-spirited platform, and then our party trying to put lipstick on the pig by sticking Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger in prime time." - Christopher Barron, spokesman, Log Cabin Republicans (the largest gay Republican group), on CNN, Aug 25, 2004


Taking Up the Fight in Connecticut

I guess they are taking Cheney's recent words to heart:
A lawsuit challenging Connecticut's refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was filed Wednesday in New Haven Superior Court.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Boston-based group that won marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts, launched the suit on behalf of seven couples from across Connecticut who were recently denied marriage licenses in Madison, Connecticut.

"This case presents a historic opportunity for Connecticut," said Mary Bonauto, GLAD's Civil Rights Director. "Marriage is both a profound personal commitment and unique legal relationship that provides enormous protections to families. As a simple matter of equality, it is time for Connecticut to end this discrimination against same-sex couples and their families."

The plaintiff couples, who have been in committed relationships for between 10 and 28 years, many of them raising children, contend that only marriage will provide them with the protections and benefits they need to live securely as families.

Meanwhile, anti-gay forces are trying to roll back domestic partner rights in California:

A law granting same-sex couples nearly identical legal rights and responsibilities as married spouses hangs in the balance after a Superior Court judge heard arguments Tuesday on whether the measure should be upheld or overturned.

Lawyers for two sets of plaintiffs opposed to marriage rights for gay couples want the law thrown out, claiming it violates the spirit and intent of a 2000 ballot initiative approved by voters that holds California will only recognize unions between a man and a woman as valid.


No Connections

Well, maybe one or two:
The Bush campaign's top outside lawyer, who said on Tuesday that he had given legal advice to the group of veterans attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War record, said today that he was resigning from the campaign because his activities were becoming a "distraction" to Mr. Bush' re-election efforts.

The lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, said that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, called him last month to ask for his help and that he had agreed. The group has criticized Mr. Kerry's war record and his antiwar activism in a book, television commercials and appearances on various news programs, especially on cable.
The Kerry-Edwards campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, said today that Mr. Ginsberg's resignation "confirms the extent of those connections."

"Now we know why George Bush refuses to specifically condemn these false ads," she said. "People deeply involved in his own campaign are behind them, from paying for them, to appearing in them, to providing legal advice, to coordinating a negative strategy to divert the public away from issues like jobs, health care and the mess in Iraq, the real concerns of the American people."



Once upon a time, we really were liberators greeted with flowers, not occupiers greeted with bullets:
With French and American flags, vintage military vehicles and heartfelt memories, Paris on Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of its liberation from the occupying Nazis the day the French capital recovered its honor after four years of hardship and shame.


GOP Versus Cheney

Mixed signals:
Republicans crafting the party's platform backed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Wednesday in a sharp contrast to efforts to put the party's more moderate face on display at next week's convention.
The platform's "strong" support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages came one day after Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, broke with the president on the issue. Cheney said the matter should be left to individual states.

Republican gay and abortion rights activists said the platform called into question the motives for featuring prominent moderate Republicans in prime speaking roles next week.

"This was a chance to unite the party and demonstrate that the GOP's inclusiveness doesn't end with the prime time speaking lineup," said Ann Stone, chairwoman of Republicans for Choice. "It was their chance to show George Bush as a uniter not a divider, but clearly they have failed."


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Dangerous Brinksmanship

If we attack the shrine, then no matter what happens in the battle, we will have suffered a tremendous loss. Shi'ite Islam will be turned against the U.S. in a manner never before seen, and that's saying something:
As American forces pressed new attacks on guerrillas loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the interim Iraqi government ordered Mr. Sadr to surrender immediately or face an attack on his headquarters at the shrine of Imam Ali.

In an overnight assault, marines attacked a building in the inner ring of Najaf's Old City, less than 400 yards west of the shrine. The assault was first time that American forces had tried to take and hold ground inside the inner ring, instead of simply attacking and leaving.



Little information available, but this is unnerving:
Russian authorities have ordered security to be tightened at all the
country's airports after a passenger plane crashed and another went missing late
on Tuesday, local news agencies reported.

According to other sources, the two planes went missing within minutes of each other.


Geneva Convention

Will Israel choose to treat the Palestinians better? Unlikely, but we can hope. Then, who knows, maybe even the United States might follow their lead and take international law seriously:
Hoping to avoid sanctions, Israel's attorney general wants Israel to consider applying to Palestinians the Fourth Geneva Convention safeguarding the treatment of occupied people, a spokesman said Tuesday.

It was another sign of emerging Israeli disquiet about the risk of international sanctions following a World Court decision in July that declared illegal its West Bank barrier built across Palestinian farmland.

Israel has said previously the Geneva Convention's clauses on occupation do not apply to it because Jordanian and Egyptian control over the West Bank and Gaza before 1967 was not internationally recognized.
But Israel is seen as unlikely to embrace the Convention in the near term as this could be tantamount to recognizing that its Jewish settlement enterprise is illegal.

A senior security source criticized the opinion. "We have not changed our diplomatic or political point of view. If Israel were to adopt the convention in its own context, it would tie the military's hands in fighting terrorism," he said.

However, a senior political source said Mazuz's stance reflected Israeli concerns "about repercussions from the World Court decision because of the effect on international public opinion."



They're doing their best to keep Rumsfeld clear of the mess that developed under his command:
The U.S. military judge hearing charges of prisoner abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison rejected a request Tuesday for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to submit to an interview, but said he would reconsider if the defense could show a Rumsfeld link to the case.

Meanwhile, another soldier is admitting his guilt:

An army reservist accused of sexually humiliating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison will plead guilty to charges of abuse, according to a statement his lawyer released Monday. Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick would be the second of seven American soldiers charged in the mistreatment scandal to enter that plea.

"I have accepted responsibility for my actions at Abu Ghraib prison," he said in the signed statement. "I will be pleading guilty to certain charges because I have concluded that what I did was a violation of law."

He expressed hope that other army personnel "who contributed to or participated in the chaos that was Abu Ghraib will also come forward and accept responsibility."


Cheney: Soft on Gay Marriage?

Apparently Dick really does want to let us Cheney ourselves as we see fit. I take it this means he also approves of man-on-dog action and tete-a-tetes with box turtles.

Whatever will the fundies think?
Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday said gay marriage should be left up to the states, a reversal of his last statement on the subject and a return to his original position while running in 2000.
"Freedom means freedom for everyone," the Vice President said.

"People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage."


Toxic Nation

And no, I'm not talking about the poisonous political atmosphere created by the Swift Boat Liars. This is something rather more important:
States issued 3,094 advisories in 2003 — up from 2,800 the previous year — because of polluted fish, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday in its annual report on fish advisories.

As a result, the EPA said, more than one-third of the nation’s lakes and nearly one-fourth of its rivers contain fish that may be contaminated with mercury, dioxin, PCB and pesticide pollution.


Our "Ally"

America pretends to favor democracy in Afghanistan, and yet we remain allied with Pakistan. Absurd, or it would be if we really wanted free and fair elections in Afghanistan:
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, promised Monday that his country would not allow Islamic militants to disrupt the Afghan election from Pakistani soil, but Western diplomats in Afghanistan charged that Pakistan was, in fact, a sanctuary for Afghan militants.

While Mr. Musharraf, playing host to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, vowed that anyone seeking to act against Afghanistan from his soil would be stopped, the diplomats said Pakistan was turning a blind eye to just such activity.

"They are training, financing and organizing these operations on Pakistani soil," said a Western diplomat in Kabul, the Afghan capital. "There is evidence from people who have been picked up in Afghanistan that they are receiving training in Pakistan."



As a prosecutor, he really should have known better than to lie so publicly:
A group of Vietnam veterans who protested outside the county courthouse Monday said French implied he had firsthand knowledge of Kerry's war actions when in fact he had heard about what Kerry did from friends.

In an interview with The Oregonian newspaper last week, French said he relied on the accounts of three other veterans in making the statement about Kerry and did not personally witness the events. French did not return two messages left at his office Monday.

"As a senior assistant district attorney, you know as well as we do that that kind of ridiculous statement would never pass muster in a court of law," veteran Terry Kirsch said of French's account.

"We question your fitness to serve as an enforcer of the law after swearing to facts in a legal affidavit that you do not know to be true," he said.

Before recording the ad, French signed an affidavit that said: "I am able to swear, as I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief."



Since debating claims of military service is all the rage these days, what say we talk about this nonstop for the next couple of weeks:
In 1978, Bush, while running for Congress in West Texas, produced campaign literature that claimed he had served in the US Air Force. According to a 1999 Associated Press report, Bush's congressional campaign ran a pullout ad in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that declared he had served "in the US Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard where he piloted the F-102 aircraft."

Bush lost that congressional race, but twenty-one years later, the AP questioned him about the ad. The news outlet had a good reason to do so. Bush had never served in the Air Force. He had only been in the Air National Guard. But when AP asked Bush if he had been justified in claiming service in the Air Force, Bush, then the governor of Texas and a presidential candidate, said, "I think so, yes. I was in the Air Force for over 600 days." Karen Hughes, his spokeswoman, maintained that when Bush attended flight school for the Air National Guard from 1968 to 1969 he was considered to be on active duty for the Air Force and that several times afterward he had been placed on alert, which also qualified as active duty for the Air Force. All told, she said, Bush had logged 607 days of training and alerts. "As an officer [in the Air National Guard]," she told the AP, "he was serving on active duty in the Air Force."

But this explanation was wrong. Says who? The Air Force. As the Associated Press reported,

The Air Force says that Air National Guard members are considered 'guardsmen on active duty' while receiving pilot training. They are not, however, counted as members of the overall active-duty Air Force.

Anyone in the Air National Guard is always considered a guardsmen and not a member of the active-duty Air Force, according to an Air Force spokeswoman in the Pentagon. A National Guard member may be called to active duty for pilot training or another temporary assignment and receive active-duty pay at the time, but they remain Guard members.

Our Commander-in-Chief doesn't even know what service he was in. That's reassuring.


Cooper to Talk

The journalist cited for contempt in the Plame case has agreed to make a statement after all:
Contempt of court orders against Time magazine and one of its reporters were dismissed after the journalist agreed to give a statement to prosecutors probing the Bush administration leak of a covert CIA officer's identity.

In a statement Tuesday, Time said reporter Matthew Cooper agreed to give a deposition after Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, personally released Cooper from a promise of confidentiality about a conversation the two had last year.


Just Brilliant

This is the way to win a war: start sending in troops that are only somewhat trained. Don't worry, a few of them actually get to practice using the weapons upon which their lives will depend in Iraq!

Under growing pressure to ship Marines to Iraq, the Marine Corps is cutting in half the rigorous field combat training it gives units preparing to deploy, senior officers say.
. . .
The exercise, called a CAX in Marine lingo, has been shortened from 23 to 11 days, Col. Blake Crowe, operations officer for the Marine Corps Training Command at Quantico, Va., said in an interview.
. . .
But money is short, and so is time. Staff Sgt. Don Allen, a combat instructor, said his trainees watch demonstrations of the M203 grenade launcher, the Squad Automatic Weapon and the .50-caliber machine gun, but not everyone gets to actually fire the weapons.

"It's financial," said Allen, a combat engineer who fought in Iraq last year with the 8th Marines. "I wish I had the money for them to shoot actual rounds. When I went through this training in 1995, we all shot every weapon."

Link via ddjangoWIrE.


Monday, August 23, 2004

Mere Appearance

The Sydney Morning Herald nails it:
There is the appearance of justice in the newly furnished courtroom where David Hicks will finally be allowed to plead his guilt or innocence tomorrow, almost three years after US forces in Afghanistan bundled him on a plane and flew him to the Guantanamo Bay military jail.

When he arrives in this stark building, Hicks will be without his shackles and orange jump suit, dressed in civilian clothes for the first time since his capture. He will sit in one of the red leather chairs at the defence table with his three lawyers. To his right will be the military prosecutors.

In front of him will be five US military officers led by Colonel Peter Brownback III, sitting against a backdrop of the five flags of the US military services.

This is no ordinary court room. The converted World War II command centre sits inside a sterile security perimeter on a dry, ragged hill overlooking the blue waters of Guantanamo Bay.

Here, a full and fair trial, as one of the military's legal officers said bluntly, needed to be "consistent with our national security".
So far, security is winning. There will be no photographs allowed of Hicks or the other three defendants, two Yemenis and a Sudanese. Even the court sketch artist has not yet been given permission to draw a portrait of the accused.
Legal observers from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, who peppered the military briefers with questions, emerged from the court room deeply concerned.

"The system is not fair, not impartial and not independent," said Sam Zarifi, deputy director of Human Rights Watch. "If it comes up with a fair decision it will be in spite of itself."

At the crux of the complaints about this experiment is that, unlike a court martial, its decisions cannot be appealed to a civilian court. These decisions include whether evidence that the defence alleges is obtained by torture will be admissible in the court.

But the deeper issue is that the commission, according to Hicks's defence lawyers, including his military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, is a dangerously flawed legal proceeding.

I had no idea that these kangaroo courts have no right of appeal to civilian court, whereas actual courts martial do. It disgusts, but does not surprise me.


Blocking the Wall

A bit of good news, as a court recognizes what Israel's barrier wall is doing to the Palestinians in its way:
Israel has announced a one-year delay of a large section of its West Bank barrier, citing a Supreme Court ruling that chunks of the structure cause too much hardship on the Palestinians.

Defence Ministry official Danny Tirza, one of the barrier's planners, told Israeli lawmakers yesterday that Israel will spend $US6.6 million ($9.14 million) rerouting a 60-kilometre stretch of barrier from the Jewish settlement of Elkana to Jerusalem.

He said the section wouldn't be completed until the end of 2005, a year behind schedule, according to meeting participants.


In Memoriam

American Leftist reminds us that today is (yet another) day of infamy, marking the anniversary of the state-sanctioned murder of Sacco and Vanzetti by the United States:

Seventy seven years ago today the state of Massachusetts killed the Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, for a crime they did not commit. From Sacco's last letter to his 14-year-old son, Dante:

... But remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don't you use all for yourself only, but down yourself just one step, at your side and help the weak ones that cry for help, help the persecuted and the victims,because they are your better friends; they are the comrades that fight and fall as your father and Bartolo fought and fell yesterday for the conquest of the joy of freedom for all and the poor workers. In this struggle of life you will find more love and you will be loved.


Florida Republican Fired for Being All Uppity

The Florida Republicans truly are a bunch of incompetent morons, and now they are getting sued for some blatant racism against one of their own workers:
A former field director is accusing the Florida Republican Party of racial discrimination in a federal lawsuit.

Nadia Naffe also named the Republican National Committee and Bush-Cheney '04 in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Tampa.

Naffe says she was fired from her job, which she held from August 2003 to April of this year, after she complained about being assigned to work with blackorganizations, events and issues. Naffe, 25, of Tampa, was the only black field director at the time. She said she was told, ``You understand your people.''

After refusing the assignments, Naffe said she was called insubordinate and ``not a team player.'' The lawsuit says she contacted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and was soon after fired.

Emphasis added. Link via The Raw Story.


Iraqi Soccer Coach for Truth

Bolstering the statements made recently by his players, coach Adnan Hamad speaks out:
Iraq's Olympic soccer coach Adnan Hamad takes Bush to task for his campaign ad touting a free Iraq.

From Reuters via Washington Post: "You cannot speak about a team that represents freedom. We do not have freedom in Iraq, we have an occupying force. This is one of our most miserable times," he said. "Freedom is just a word for the media. We are living in hard times, under occupation."

He said the violence which continues to afflict Iraq, more than a year after Bush declared major combat there was over, meant the team could not fully enjoy its success. "

To be honest with you, even our happiness at winning is not happiness because we are worried about the problems in Iraq, all the daily problems that our people face back home, so to tell you the truth, we are not really happy," he said.


Good Gay News Goes Global

Positive events in Nepal and South Africa.

More good news here in the US too, please!



At first I could not decide whether this was a parody or not, but the author is in fact quite serious. Sometimes, I feel sorry for such people; their world must be a terrifying place, where every political protestor is a potential terrorist-rapist bent on infecting all Americans with AIDS or something.

But then I read passages such as the one about the sections of New York "unfit for human habitation" and know that "human" here is code for "white," and my pity passes, replaced with rage:

NEXT WEEK, people who hate Republicans plan to release swarms of mice in New York City to terrorize delegates to the National Republican Convention.

Republican-haters plan on dressing up as RNC volunteers, and giving false directions to little blue hair ladies from Kansas, sending them into the sectors of New York City that are unfit for human habitation.

They plan on throwing pies and Lord knows what else at Republican visitors to the city. Prostitutes with AIDS plan to seduce Republican visitors, and discourage the use of condoms, according to liberal journalist Ted Rall.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be issuing buttons that read “Peaceful Political Activist,” which will entitle the bearer to discounts at The Bronx Zoo, the Museum of Sex, Applebee’s, plays such as “Mamma Mia” and “Naked Boys Singing,” and other random entertainment venues.

By wearing these buttons, and obtaining these nifty little discounts, the mice-releasers, pie-throwers and AIDS-spreaders are entering into an implicit agreement and the rest of society: “Give me $5 off a chicken entree at Applebee’s, and I promise not to terrorize you.” That oughtta work. Not.

Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security should hand out buttons at the convention that say “Peaceful Islamic Radical.” All the scary-looking guys with fertilizer on their shoes, wires coming out of their pockets, and duct-tape visible under their shirts can walk around with these buttons, enjoying nice-priced margaritas and reduced-admission live sex shows before they blow up Madison Square Garden.
Protestors are complaining already that the FBI is visiting them and sowing intimidation. Who cares? As long as they’re not planning to break the law, protestors should have no reason to fear inquiries from law enforcement officials.

Bloomberg is calling for a sensitive war on protestor-terrorists, the way John Kerry is naively calling for a more sensitive war on international terrorists. Instead of manufacturing smiley-face buttons to pin on potentially unruly protestors, Bloomberg should be manufacturing plastic handcuffs.

Oh, and for the record, it's Republicans who discourage condom use and who are therefore guilty of infecting more people with AIDS.


Bush's War: Making Iran Rich

With enemies like Bush, who needs friends?
Iran may want peace for Iraq, but the instability plaguing its war-ravaged neighbour suits the Islamic oil power's bottom line just fine - for now.

Concerns about the violence in Iraq and unabated demand sent New York's main oil contract soaring above US$49 (S$84) a barrel last Friday for the first time - and racing towards the symbolic US$50 mark.

'Given the increased revenues from crude exports, hiking oil prices will be to the benefit of Iran,' Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh acknowledged last week.

'The higher the oil price, the more profitable oil industry development projects,' said Mr Zanganeh, whose country is the second-largest producer in the 11-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel and has claimed the No. 2 position in world crude reserves based on new oil discoveries.

According to the authorities, Iranian oil revenues totalled US$8 billion between March and July, a full US$1 billion more than forecast in the budget.

Experts now expect oil prices to leap past the US$50 psychological barrier.


Let's Be Swedish

The Swedes have developed a plan for helping their long-term jobless get back into the workforce, and it's a plan I would love to see implemented here, for more reasons than one:
Stay home from work, laze about or travel, while collecting 70 per cent of your salary - an illusion?

Not in Sweden, where the government will pay workers to take a guilt-free year off and replace them with the long-term unemployed, who will get their foot in the door of the job market.


Juan Cole Lets Loose

The abject ridiculousness of the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry has generated a brilliant rant from Juan Cole:
The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life. He has never lived in a war zone. If some of John Kerry's wounds were superficial, Bush received no wounds. (And, a piece of shrapnel in the forearm that caused only a minor wound would have killed had it hit an eye and gone into the brain; the shrapnel being in your body demonstrates you were in mortal danger and didn't absent yourself from it. That is the logic of the medal). Kerry saved a man's life while under fire. Bush did no such thing.

What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently. At what point he became addicted to cocaine, in addition to demon rum, is unclear.

The history of alcoholism and cocaine use is a key issue because it not only speaks to Bush's character as an addictive personality, but tells us something about his erratic and alarming actions as president. His explosive temper probably provoked the disastrous siege of Fallujah last spring, killing 600 Iraqis, most of them women and children, in revenge for the deaths of 4 civilian mercenaries, one of them a South African. (Newsweek reported that Bush commanded his cabinet, "Let heads roll!") That temper is only one problem. Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much. He has clearly gone on enjoying killing people on a large scale in Iraq. Cocaine use permanently affects the ability of the person to feel deep emotions like empathy. Two decades of pickling his nervous system in various highly toxic substances have left Bush damaged goods. That he managed to get on the wagon (though with that pretzel incident, you wonder how firmly) is laudable. But he suffers the severe effects of the aftermath, and we are all suffering along with him now, since he is the most powerful man in the world.


The Aussies Knew

Too bad they couldn't have clued Bush in on the effects of the Iraq invasion (not that he'd have listened any more than did their PM):
The Federal Government was warned repeatedly by intelligence analysts before the Iraq war that the conflict would harm the war on terrorism by fanning Islamic extremism and spurring terrorist recruiting.

An investigation by the Herald, which has included interviews with several serving and retired intelligence figures, has uncovered that John Howard and his senior colleagues were briefed on the dangers, verbally and in written reports.

Yet the Prime Minister told Australians on the eve of the conflict that the war would lessen the terrorist threat, contradicting his intelligence advice.


Just in Time for Labor Day

Rolling back overtime:

The changes mark the first major overhaul of the federal overtime law in more than 50 years.

The Labor Department says the new rules will strengthen overtime rights for 6.7 million American workers, including 1.3 million low-wage workers who were denied overtime under the old rules.

But groups, including the AFL-CIO, say the rules will bar 6 million workers from getting time and a half. There's a Capitol Hill protest of the rules scheduled Monday.

In Saturday's Democratic Party radio address, vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards blasted the rules.

"Why would anyone want to take overtime pay away from as many as 6 million Americans at a time when they need that money the most?," Edwards asked.


"Fundamentally Unfair"

After having kept these people locked away for months and years, our government now grants them the privilege of being "tried" under a system that has not been used in six decades, a system that gives them not a prayer of acquittal:
Four suspected al Qaeda terrorists will face military trials this week at the Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in historic legal proceedings that have not been conducted by the U.S. government since World War II and are unlike anything most Americans face in the criminal justice system.

Hearsay evidence will be allowed. Conversations between defendants and lawyers can be monitored in some circumstances. Exculpatory evidence can be kept secret from suspects. And appeals will go to a panel selected by the same government official who helped establish the commissions: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Military defense lawyers and human rights activists have condemned the proceedings as "fundamentally unfair."
Defense attorneys assigned to the cases say the composition of the commissions and their rules and procedures will make it difficult, if not impossible, for their clients to get fair trials. They also say the president, the secretary of defense and the attorney general have all proclaimed publicly that the defendants are terrorists and the "worst of the worst,'' statements possibly prejudicing the military officers who will serve as jurors.

"Most people are extremely hostile toward terrorists and I understand that, but people should worry about this," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel, a military attorney assigned to defend one of the suspects. "These commissions are a lie behind the claim that all men are created equal, that we are innocent until proven guilty, that we as a society believe in the rule of law above all else."

President Bush issued an executive order Nov. 13, 2001, reviving a military justice system that has not been used in nearly 60 years. Bush said the commissions, which have been used to try the Lincoln assassination conspirators, Nazi saboteurs and Japanese war criminals, would permit the government to use a blend of secret and public hearings to try foreigners charged with committing, threatening or aiding terrorist acts.
"Structurally, I think there are serious questions," said Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington lawyer who specializes in military legal issues. "This is not the military justice system. . . . It's an antique that's being rolled out of a museum case."


Sunday, August 22, 2004

A Slight Problem

For all the talk of return of sovereignty and the Iraqization of the conflict toward the end of America being able to pull out with a "clean" conscience (far too late for that, of course...), working to secure the country just isn't a job that many people seem to want:
Iraq's security forces, ordered to prepare for an offensive against the Mahdi Army in Najaf, have been plagued by a desertion rate that exceeded 80 percent.

A U.S. report warned that Iraqi Interior Ministry troops remain unprepared to fight Shi'ite or Sunni insurgents and could not be deemed reliable. The report, published before the current showdown in Najaf, said the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, renamed the Iraqi National Guard, has not been trained to fight insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons.


Playing Politics with the West Bank

So, I suppose this is a signal to Sharon that he can do whatever he feels like doing and not have to worry about Bush raising a fuss:
The Bush administration has signalled approval of growth in some Israeli settlements in the West Bank in a policy change aimed at helping Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The New York Times quoted unnamed officials as saying the administration now supported construction of new homes in some settlements as long as the expansion does not extend into undeveloped parts of the occupied territory.

Until now the U.S. position has been that all settlement activity should be frozen.
The paper quoted a Bush administration official as saying Washington had decided not to compound Sharon's political troubles at a time when he was battling hardliners.

"Some American officials acknowledged, in addition, that President Bush was reluctant to criticize Israel during his re-election campaign, which is counting on support from conservative supporters of Israel," the paper reported.

Prominent Israeli left-wing legislator Yossi Sarid said Sharon was taking advantage of the U.S. campaign.

"The Israeli government is exploiting the U.S. election campaign and is turning the U.S. administration into a laughing stock by continuing to build in the settlements," he said.


Spreading "Democracy"

By interfering in the elections of other nations, again. If any other nation tried to pull anything like this in the United States, the government and the media would all be screaming bloody murder. America's unwarranted arrogance is unparalleled:
A U.S. firm's exit poll that said President Hugo Chavez would lose a recall referendum has landed in the center of a controversy following his resounding victory.

"Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez," the survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, asserted even as Sunday's voting was still on. But in fact, the opposite was true Chavez ended up trouncing his enemies and capturing 59 percent of the vote.
Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States who monitored the referendum, said the poll must have had a tremendous impact on Chavez's opponents, who felt they were about to complete their two-year drive to oust him.

"They were told they had a lead of 20 points and then when the results came, they lost by 20 points," Gaviria said. "It's very difficult to deal with that."
Critics of the exit poll have questioned how it was conducted because officials have said Penn, Schoen & Berland worked with a U.S.-funded Venezuela group that the Chavez government considers hostile.

Penn, Schoen & Berland had members of Sumate, a Venezuelan group that helped organize the recall initiative, do the fieldwork for the poll, election observers said.

Roberto Abdul, a Sumate official, acknowledged in a telephone interview that the firm "supervised" an exit poll carried out by Sumate. Abdul added that at least five exit polls were completed for the opposition, with all pointing to a Chavez victory.

Abdul said Sumate which has received a $53,400 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, which in turn receives funds from the U.S. Congress did not use any of those funds to pay for the surveys.

The issue is potentially explosive because even before the referendum, Chavez himself cited Washington's funding of Sumate as evidence that the Bush administration was financing efforts to oust him an allegation U.S. officials deny.


Scary Talk in China

Amazing how little we hear about this. Shouldn't Bush at least be trying to do something to stop this war from breaking out?
China is determined and has the ability to crush any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence, Communist Party chief Hu Jintao said on Sunday amid tensions with the self-ruled island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

The issue of independence has turned the Taiwan Strait into Asia's most dangerous flashpoint since the March re-election of Taiwan's pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian.

"We totally have the determination and the ability to crush any attempt to separate Taiwan from China," Hu said, drawing applause from a gathering of top officials in Beijing to mark the 100th birth anniversary of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

"We should extensively unite all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, including all Taiwan compatriots, to jointly oppose and contain Taiwan independence splittist forces."


All Better Now

Right, now that they've gotten rid of this one volunteer, the situation is resolved:
The Bush campaign said late Saturday that it dismissed an adviser on veterans issues after learning that he is part of an independent group that has been running anti-Kerry ads.

The Bush campaign said Kenneth Cordier, who appears in a new advertisement to be aired by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, will no longer serve in his voluntary position on Bush's veterans steering committee.

A Bush spokesman said Cordier had not previously informed the campaign that he had been involved with the group, but the Kerry campaign said the matter provides evidence supporting its complaint to the Federal Election Commission alleging illegal cooperation between the campaign and the group.

"Col. Cordier did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement being run by a 527 organization," Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt wrote in a statement, referring to the technical name for independent groups such as the swift boat organization.