Saturday, September 18, 2004

Britain Reducing Troops in Iraq

And I don't think it's because they feel that the mission has been accomplished:

The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.

The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.

The news came amid another day of mayhem in Iraq, which saw a suicide bomber kill at least 23 people and injure 53 in the northern city of Kirkuk. The victims were queueing to join Iraq's National Guard.

More than 200 people were killed last week in one of the bloodiest weeks since last year's invasion, strengthening impressions that the country is spinning out of control.

Perhaps they are starting to get out because they know the situation is bad and is only going to get worse:

The United States is "losing" in Iraq, literally losing territory and population to the other side. Careful readers of the leading newspapers may know this, but I doubt most voters do. How could they, given the martial self-congratulations of the President and relative restraint from his opponent? High-minded pundits tell us not to dwell on the long-ago past. But the cruel irony of 2004 is that Vietnam is the story. The arrogance and deceit – the utter waste of human life, ours and theirs – play before us once again. A frank discussion will have to wait until after the election.

Several Sundays ago, an ominous article appeared in the opinion section of the New York Times : "One by One, Iraqi Cities Become No-Go Zones." Falluja, Samarra, Ramadi, Karbala, the Sadr City slums of Baghdad – these and other population centers are now controlled by various insurgencies and essentially ceded by US forces. This situation would make a joke of the national elections planned for January. Yet, if U.S. troops try to recapture the lost cities, the bombing and urban fighting would produce massive killing and destruction, further poisoning politics for the U.S. occupation and its puppet government in Saigon – sorry, Baghdad.


Adding Injury to Insult

First, he calls those who are struggling in Bush's faltering economy names, then he vetoes a raise of California's minimum wage. Classy:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed bills Saturday that would have raised the minimum wage to $7.75 an hour, made Wal-Mart-like megastores more difficult to build and limited schools' ability to give students random drug tests.

The Republican governor contended the minimum wage and megastore legislation would have hurt the state's economy and said drug-testing policies should be left up to school officials.

The minimum wage bill would have raised California's minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.25 Jan. 1 and to $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2006. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.

Bill supporters said the minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation, but Schwarzenegger said the legislation would have discouraged economic growth.


Charging Toward Catastrophe

It's now officially too late to avoid a debacle in November:

Just over six weeks before the nation holds the first general election in which touch-screen voting will play a major role, specialists agree that whatever the remaining questions about the technology's readiness, it is now too late to make any significant changes.

Whether or not the machines are ready for the election - or the electorate ready for the machines - there is no turning back. In what may turn out to be one of the most scrutinized general elections in the country's history, nearly one-third of the more than 150 million registered voters in the United States will be asked to cast their ballots on machines whose accuracy and security against fraud have yet to be tested on such a grand scale.

Because of the uncertainties, experts say there is potential for post-election challenges in any precincts where the machines may malfunction, or where the margin of victory is thin. Sorting out such disputes could prove difficult.



On a rare nonpolitical (and non-cat related) note, I find this absolutely amazing. Humans really can be incredibly creative when we need to. It's important these days to keep that in mind:
Deaf children thrown together in a school in Nicaragua without any type of formal instruction invented their own sign language -- a sophisticated system that has evolved and grown, researchers reported on Friday.

Their observations show that children, not adults, are key to the evolution and development of language, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"It is the birth of a language," said Ann Senghas of Columbia University's Barnard College, who led the study.


That Sums It Up

If you were wondering about the essential nature of the Nader campaign in 2004, wonder no more:

Judges Rule for Nader in Election Boost for Bush

That says it all, I think. I'm starting to think that Nader reads the newspapers about as often as does GWB.


If Only

If only what Bush is saying were true, I'd be so much happier voting for Kerry:

Using terms reminiscent of Republican attacks on President Bill Clinton's ill-fated effort to reshape the health care system a decade ago, President Bush attacked Senator John Kerry's health care proposal on Thursday, saying "it's a plan that is massive and it's big, and it puts the government in control of health care."

Okay, here's my take on it. The system we have now is dysfunctional, and is quite literally killing people.

People are dying.

Don't you think that a "massive" and "big" response is called for?

I do applaud Kerry for addressing the issue, but frankly we need national health care now. Not soon, not in a bit. Now.


Death by Association

When you work with or for an occupying force, you have to expect that your countrymen will likely be displeased with you. And in such a militarized area as Iraq, that means death:
One by one, they are dying. Gunned down on the highway on their way to work. Shot point-blank in front of their homes. Cornered in their cars.

Iraqis who work on American military bases are on the front lines of a secret war being waged by the country's violent insurgency. The killings are highly personal. Gunmen come to the homes and neighborhoods of the employees -interpreters, cleaners, clothes washers and carpenters - and shoot, often from expensive cars with expensive guns.



Two headlines, side by side in The Guardian:

Iraq had no WMD: the final verdict

Death toll for week tops 250 as suicide car bomber kills 13


War on Terrorist Bookmarks

It's money well spent; she could've taken the entire plane down:
A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She faced a possible criminal trial and a $10,000 fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration said it probably won't impose a fine.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Tricksie Repubs

Amazing, the things they will do to try to win:

Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.



Just amazing. Shouldn't someone do something about this?
In 9/11, we were told that nothing would be the same again. But in the Washington money game, where policy is shaped by the highest bidders, nothing has changed. Six months after 9/11, reporter Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review decided to find out how well chemical plants were protected from intruders. Not far from Pittsburgh, at a warehouse in Forward Township owned by Vopak, a leading chemical distributor, he spent more than an hour onsite without being accosted, even climbing atop chemical tanks and rail cars storing highly toxic chlorine. Vopak's warehouse is one of at least 123 plants nationwide where an accident or attack involving lethal chemicals could endanger more than 1 million people living nearby.

Over the next two months, Prine visited another thirty chemical factories, shippers and warehouses in Baltimore, Chicago and Houston. He found "safeguards so lax that a potential terrorist can easily reach massive tanks of toxins that endanger millions." Not only could a stranger enter unmolested, workers often gave him directions to the most sensitive valves and control rooms. More than half the plants had "no noticeable [security] cameras, fences or locks at all." A return investigation found few improvements.

For all the talk about terrorists getting their hands on WMDs overseas, huge stocks of highly dangerous and accessible chemicals are right here. But while nuclear power plants are already subject to tough federal security requirements, there are no mandatory federal security standards for chemical plants. The industry regulates itself.

In October 2001, Senator Jon Corzine introduced the Chemical Security Act. It would have given the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate security at 15,000 chemical facilities around the country. It would also have required them, where "practicable," to use inherently safer technologies and thus reduce the dangerous chemicals onsite. Corzine's bill sailed through the Environment and Public Works Committee, at first. But then the American Chemistry Council (ACC) got involved, charging that the bill would lead to "government micromanagement." Fearful of the agency's tough reputation, it also opposed giving the EPA authority to oversee security efforts. And it insisted that its self-imposed safety code was adequate, although it was voluntary and barely covered 1,000 plants.



I've been saying it for a long time, but it's so very good to hear Kerry bringing it up:
Senator John Kerry continued his sharp criticism of the Bush administration today, this time accusing it of steering lucrative no-bid contracts to the Halliburton company, which Vice President Dick Cheney once headed.

Mr. Kerry's campaign issued a statement that said in part: "While the vice president has denied any `financial ties' to his old company, the truth is, he's received $2 million from Halliburton — the same company that has gotten billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq."

A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Steve Schmidt, quickly denounced the ad as "breathtakingly dishonest" because the payments involved deferred compensation from Mr. Cheney's time as a Halliburton executive.

Oh. The payments involved deferred compensation. That makes it ALL okay, right?

The Excuse Presidency, the Presidency of Flourishing Error, continues to reach new lows.


Fifty or So More

More death. How dare Bush ever claim that things are getting better there:

More than 50 people were killed today in separate incidents in Iraq, ending one of the bloodiest weeks since George Bush declared an end to the Iraq war just over 12 months ago.

US strikes on militant targets in the city of Falluja killed 45 people and injured 27.

Hours later at least 13 people died and 50 were wounded when a car bomber struck near a major police checkpoint in central Baghdad, the Iraqi health ministry and US military officials said.


Screwing the Guard

Even as Bush makes absurd claims that he's one of nineteen presidents who served in the Guard, he's planning on using the Guard to fight his war--ironic, given that he earlier used the Guard to avoid war himself:
Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Friday accused the Bush administration of hiding a plan to mobilize more National Guard and reserve troops after the election while glossing over a worsening conflict in Iraq.

"He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and guard units immediately after the election," Kerry said. "Hide it from people through the election, then make the move."

Meanwhile, soldiers in Colorado are being bullied into re-enlisting:

Soldiers from a Fort Carson combat unit say they have been issued an ultimatum - re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last Thursday, said two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity.



Friday Catblogging


Bush's Dark Fantasy World

Kerry continues to hit hard, thank god:

JOHN Kerry yesterday accused President George W. Bush of living in a fantasy world of spin and lying to the American people about the true situation in Iraq.

He based his attack on a secret intelligence assessment that predicts a dark future for Iraq.

"True leadership is about looking people in the eye and telling the truth, even when it's hard to hear," Senator Kerry told the National Guard Convention in Las Vegas.

When Mr Bush addressed the same convention two days before and gave an upbeat assessment of Iraq, "he failed to tell you the truth", Senator Kerry said.

"You deserve a president who will not play politics with national security, who will not ignore his own intelligence while living in a fantasy world of spin, and who will give the American people the truth about the challenge our brave men and women face on the front lines.

"The President did not even acknowledge more than 1000 men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. He did not tell you with each passing day we're seeing more chaos, more violence and more indiscriminate killings."


Thursday, September 16, 2004


But I thought being the United States meant never having to say you're sorry:
President Bush's chief domestic security official yesterday apologised for the disruption of a big MI5 and police surveillance operation in Britain.

Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, said the leaking of intelligence in the US about alleged terrorist suspects here was "regrettable".

Mr Ridge was speaking to journalists in London before meeting David Blunkett and Sir David Omand, the prime minister's security and intelligence coordinator.

Whitehall was furious early last month when individuals were named and allegations about terrorist attacks were made public in the US.

The claims, about putative attacks on buildings in the US and on British targets, including Heathrow, were based on information found on the computers of an alleged al-Qaida sympathiser in Pakistan.

Once again, just imagine if Kerry were to do something like this. All the pundits would be mocking him for having to answer to the prime minister on all this decisions, just as they already do with regard to France.



The United States position on this matter is utterly and absolutely ridiculous, especially considering that by our government's own rationale, Iraq would in reality have been absolutely justified in attacking us prior to the invasion.

Of course, the only thing about this story that is surprising to me is that the White House isn't using Colin Powell as its shill this time:
The Bush administration said Thursday existing U.N. resolutions provided a "solid" legal basis for the March 2003 decision to invade Iraq. The comments followed an assertion by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the U.S.-led war was illegal in the absence of specific authorizing resolution from the Security Council.

Mr. Annan had said previously that the war in Iraq was "not in conformity" with the U.N. Charter, but his depiction of the U.S.-led invasion as "illegal" in a BBC interview Wednesday marked the first time he had used such language, and it drew a sharp response from the State Department.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said a parade of Security Council resolutions, capped by resolution 1441 approved in November 2002, all threatened the Saddam Hussein government with "serious consequences" if it did not comply with U.N. demands over its suspected weapons programs.

Mr. Annan contended in the interview that there should have been second, follow-on resolution to 1441 giving a specific green light for the invasion. However, spokesman Boucher said a set of existing resolutions had already authorized the use of "all necessary means" to enforce them and that "serious consequences" implied the use of military force.


All the Files

But, I thought that the Bush administration had already released everything they had. On at least three occasions:
A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon (news - web sites) to find and make public by next week any unreleased files about President Bush (news - web sites)'s Vietnam-era Air National Guard service to resolve a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.



Another Ramone is dead:
Johnny Ramone, guitarist and co-founder of the seminal punk band "The Ramones," has died. He was 55.

Ramone died in his sleep Wednesday afternoon at his Los Angeles home surrounded by friends and family, his publicist said. He had battled prostate cancer for five years, and was hospitalized in June at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.


Not "Really" Casualties

The media continue to do a fine job of obscuring the actual effects of this stupid war:
Nearly 17,000 service members medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public Pentagon casualty reports commonly cited by newspapers, according to military data reviewed by United Press International. Most don't fit the definition of casualties, according to the Pentagon, but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.

The Pentagon has reported 1,019 dead and 7,245 wounded from Iraq.

The military has evacuated 16,765 individual service members from Iraq and Afghanistan for injuries and ailments not directly related to combat, according to the U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for the medical evacuations. Most are from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Pentagon's public casualty reports, available at, list only service members who died or were wounded in action. The Pentagon's own definition of a war casualty provided to UPI in December describes a casualty as, "Any person who is lost to the organization by having been declared dead, duty status/whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured."


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Presidency of Flourishing Error

Representative Waxman has released a report detailing the many ways this administration has damaged the very notion that we have a right to information about our government's actions:
Rep. Henry A. Waxman has released a comprehensive examination of secrecy in the Bush Administration. The report analyzes how the Administration has implemented each of our nation’s major open government laws. It finds that there has been a consistent pattern in the Administration’s actions: laws that are designed to promote public access to information have been undermined, while laws that authorize the government to withhold information or to operate in secret have repeatedly been expanded. The cumulative result is an unprecedented assault on the principle of open government.

You can see the full report in PDF here.

And while reading the report, keep in mind the following timely words from J. Robert Oppenheimer:
We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error undetected will flourish and subvert.

That's this government in a nutshell: The presidency of flourishing error.


Ashcroft: Criminal

As if it weren't bad enough that the Bush administration spent taxpayer money illegally to fund misleading ads to bamboozle Americans to support Medicare "reform" that will wind up costing them more, Ashcroft apparently spend a couple of hundred thousand to fund his grass-roots campaign to pass the "Patriot Act," which trounces on civil liberties.

Shameless, these people:

Attorney General John Ashcroft's 32-city tour last year to promote the Patriot Act kicked up fresh criticism Tuesday after a new review by congressional investigators placed the price tag at $200,000.

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee asked Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine to investigate. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a letter to Fine that he thought Ashcroft had violated laws barring taxpayers' money from being spent on grass-roots lobbying and promotional campaigns by executive branch officials without congressional approval.


Bob on Savage Numbness

Bob Harris at This Modern World has a brilliant post up about the media treatment our daily murder of Iraqi civilians receives, a post which deserves to be spread far and wide:

Yesterday, I'm working and unpacking, and I've got CNN on in the background. And I hear Wolf Blitzer, barking in that constant breathless get-the-kids-excited-for-Christmas, here-comes-another-shiny-pebble pacing of his, mentioning a video of a civilian journalist, Mazen al-Tumeizi, and about a score of other civilians (reports vary) getting killed in a U.S. airstrike. About 60 other civilians were injured.

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was. (CNN doesn't have a transcript up for the report I saw. They do, however, have one for a later, similar report. Scroll down, or just search for the words "I'm dying." The entire mention of the U.S. inflicting over 70 civilian casualties is exactly four sentences long. The Batman guy, meanwhile, got thirty.)

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.



Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. "To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle," the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as "looters" and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.

Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that. America kills innocent civilians. Lots of them. And it's no big deal now. Not controversial. No reason to ask questions or rationalize or even pretend to soul-search like the national media once did. America kills civilians. Lots of them. Just part of the fabric of things now.

Happens every day.

The military isn't pressed and can't be bothered for a detailed explanation about the incident, other than to blame the victims themselves. "Great care should be taken by all to avoid and keep a safe distance from any active military operation as unpredictable events can occur," the U.S. spokesman says.

"Unpredictable events," they say. Like an earthquake or a lightning strike. Like an unprovoked attack from an Apache helicopter, firing on unarmed civilians, on tape, recorded for all the world to see.

Nobody's responsible. These are "unpredictable events."

I say this next as the most articulate, precisely-worded response I can muster right now, summing up all my emotions quite clearly: FUCK.


Republicans Beginning to Balk at Bush Lunacy

The White House wants to take funds meant for reconstruction and use them for security. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee rightly sees this as a very bad move, and a very bad sign of where we are:
Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that the Bush administration's request to divert more than $3 billion from reconstruction work in Iraq to security measures was a sign that the American campaign in Iraq is in serious trouble.

"Although we recognize these funds must not be spent unwisely," the committee chairman, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said, "the slow pace of reconstruction spending means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq."

Mr. Lugar expressed his concerns as two State Department officials came before the committee seeking permission to divert more than $3.4 billion in reconstruction funds to security efforts. The request came a day after one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in recent months.

The $3.4 billion is part of an $18 billion package approved by Congress last year for public works projects like water and electrical facilities. The $18 billion in turn is part of an $87 billion package that Congress passed for the American-led effort in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Mr. Lugar said the Iraqi people were looking for signs of stability as elections in their country drew near. "Few signs of stability are more convincing than successful reconstruction projects that boost the economy, repair infrastructure and restore municipal services," Mr. Lugar said.

"If the shift of these funds slows down reconstruction, security may suffer in the long run," Mr. Lugar said, adding that security and reconstruction ought to be achieved "simultaneously."


Bush Plan: Cut Homeland Security

So we desperately need to make tax cuts for the rich permanent, but we cannot afford Homeland Security?

What sort of madness is this?
The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include $2.3 billion in spending cuts from virtually all domestic programs not mandated by law, including education, homeland security and others central to Bush's campaign.

But Bush has had little to say about belt-tightening and sacrifice on the campaign trail.

This little tidbit is buried in the thirteenth paragraph of the story from which I excerpted earlier.


Ignoring the Military

Molly Ivins has a righteously angry essay up at Working for Change, pointing out that the White House is overruling military commanders in Iraq when it comes to tactical decisions.

I thought it was feckless liberals who tied the hands of the military for political reasons during wartime, but I guess the GOP has taken on that role:
Meanwhile, back in reality, incredibly enough, the Bush team continues to make things in Iraq worse!

Ignoring the First Rule of Holes (when in one, quit digging), the geniuses in the White House are actually busy deepening their fiasco. According to The Washington Post, it was the White House that decided, against the advice of military commanders on the ground, to order the troops into Fallujah after four American construction workers were killed and their bodies mutilated.

I'm sure Gen. Rove decided we couldn't afford to look weak in the face of such provocation given the poll numbers at the time. Worse, it was the tactical geniuses at the White House who then decided, again against the advice of the military commanders on the ground, to withdraw the troops from Fallujah. Come on, people, if I hear one more person accusing those of us who oppose this war of having"Vietnam flashbacks," I'm going to urp. When will they ever learn?

Emphasis in the original.


Three Trillion

It's almost enough to make you long for the Reagan era. Not quite, but almost:
The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

So when do we start hearing all the pundits attacking Bush for running our country into the ground, for being a don't-tax-but-spend-anyway Republican?


Spinning Afghanistan

The news from Afghanistan is great:
Afghanistan's economy will maintain its robust growth this year but security, better roads and lower oil prices are needed to keep a lid on inflation, the Governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan said on Wednesday.

Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady said refugees returning home to work the land and generous international largesse fuelled strong growth.

"This year, growth will be 16 percent, maybe a little more," he told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an annual Islamic Development Bank meeting in Tehran.

Truly a success story, correct?

Well, yes, except for this tiny detail, mentioned a bit lower down in the story:
Ahady said Afghan opium, which spawns the lion's share of the West's heroin, accounted for about one third of the economy. (Emphasis added)


OPEC Trying to Help

As predicted, Bush's buddies in OPEC are raising quotas in an effort to drive down energy prices just before the election. Unfortunately for Bush, even this cynical ploy isn't likely to help out much, since they're pretty much pumping as fast as they can anyway:
OPEC on Wednesday lifted oil supply quotas by one million barrels a day, four percent, in a renewed bid to force down stubbornly high crude prices.

The pact is designed to underscore the intent among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to exert downward pressure on prices that last month neared $50 a barrel.

But the new deal is expected to make little difference to actual supply flows because OPEC is already pumping almost flat out.

With prices failing to react, and certainly showing no sign yet of a serious reversal, the agreement may only heighten worries about OPEC's inability to cope with the fastest growing oil demand in a generation.


"Road Map" Out the Window

Sharon's tossing it out as the bodies continue to pile up:
Israel will not follow the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan and could remain in much of the West Bank for an extended period after it withdraws from the Gaza Strip (news - web sites), Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) said in a newspaper interview published Wednesday.

Sharon's comments were his most detailed yet on his long-term vision for the region. Palestinian officials said the remarks confirmed their fears that Israel plans to draw its own borders and keep a large chunk of the West Bank, rather than negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians, as envisioned by the road map.

In violence Wednesday, 10 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops in two West Bank towns. Among the dead were at least six fugitives and an 11-year-old girl, Palestinian hospital officials said.


Bush As Victim

The Kerry campaign is doing a good job of trying to shift the terms of debate, accusing Bush of doing nothing but provide excuses and play the victim (I thought that's what liberals did!):
Democratic candidate John Kerry unleashed a harsh indictment of President Bush's economic stewardship on Wednesday and urged his Republican rival to take responsibility instead of playing the victim.

Trailing in national polls seven weeks before the Nov. 2 election and heeding advisers who have urged him to be more forceful, Kerry rejected Bush's perfect storm defense -- recession, war and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- of the tepid economic performance in the United States.

"The president would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions, that he's faced the wrong circumstances, not made the wrong choices," Kerry said in excerpts of remarks prepared for delivery at the Detroit Economic Club, a traditional forum for presidential candidates.

"In fact, this president has created more excuses than jobs. His is the Excuse Presidency -- never wrong, never responsible, never to blame. President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops -- it's where the blame begins."


Mercenaries Convicted

Good. Now, shouldn't we follow up on their claims to have been in close contact with the U.S. Department of Defense?
Three Americans have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail after being found guilty by an Afghan court on charges including torture, running a private prison and illegal detention.

Jonathan "Jack" Idema, a former U.S. Green Beret, was arrested in July along with another ex-serviceman, Brent Bennett, and documentary film-maker Edward Caraballo.

They had denied the charges and insisted they were in Afghanistan with U.S. and Afghan government sanction to help track down al Qaeda and Taliban extremists.

"I apologize that we tried to save these people," Idema told reporters immediately after the verdict.

"We should have let the Taliban murder every ... one of them," he said bitterly.


A Different Sort of Mainstream Media

The German equivalent of the BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, has added a new language to its global news network by starting to use Klingon.

Star Trek, or Raumschiff Enterprise as it is known in Germany, has cult status with thousands of German Trekkies admitting they are obsessed with the TV series and its various spin-off programmes.

The popularity of the show in Germany and abroad prompted the country's state-run world radio network to begin offering online reports and audio clips in Klingon.
The Klingon reports on the Deutsche Welle website are also supposed to underline the station's philosophy of multicultural, intergalactic openness.

"The dialogue of cultures does not stop at the edge of the solar system," said the Deutsche Welle director, Erik Bettermann. "We should celebrate our 10-year presence in the online universe with a cross-border language.

"This should help users from other galaxies get an impression of Germany," he added.
The announcement of Deutsche Welle's online news service in Klingon reads: "DIS 1994 taghDI' DW, tv online website wa'DIch 'oH. qaStaHvIS DISmey veb tInchoH 'ej tera'Daq noyqu'choH DW qo'".


The Guardian Uses the C Word

One of the more common arguments in favor the United States staying in Iraq is that pulling out would mean essentially consigning the country to inevitable civil war.

The reality, however, is that U.S. troops really cannot do much to prevent civil war even if they do remain. Discussing yesterday's massive attacks, The Guardian states:
[I]t reveals a grim truth about the nature of Iraq's evolving insurgency: Iraqis are killing Iraqis.

In recent months, and especially since the handover of "power" to the unelected interim government, Iraq's resistance has concentrated its efforts on killing those who collaborate with the Americans - the police officers, would-be police officers, translators, governors and government officials.

It is beginning to look like, and feel like, civil war.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Racial Profiling on the Rise

Since 9/11, the government has been relying on racial profiling to an alarming degree, according to a study by Amnesty International:
Today Amnesty International releases its first-ever report on racial profiling in the United States. After a yearlong investigation that included analysis of statistical data, Amnesty International has found that approximately one of every nine Americans has been victimized by racial profiling and that state and federal agencies, under the guise of fighting terrorism, have expanded the use of this degrading, discriminatory and dangerous practice.

Racial profiling is not new. But the government's reliance on it has grown dramatically since the September 11th attacks. Amnesty International's review of existing data shows that an estimated 32 million Americans -- a number equivalent to the population of Canada -- have been subjected to profiling. We estimate that 87 million Americans -- almost one of every three people -- are at high risk for such abuse.

Racial profiling is to the 21st Century what Jim Crow laws were to the last, turning entire groups of people into second-class citizens and denying them the rights to which we all are due.



More death:
At least 47 people were killed at a Baghdad market today in an explosion that was believed to have been targeted at a nearby police station.

A huge blast tore through the crowded market close to the west Baghdad police headquarters on Haifa Street, a main thoroughfare running through some of the city's most impoverished districts where support for the country's insurgency is strong.

It left 114 wounded and was the deadliest attack in the capital for six months. Violence has flared in Iraq in the last week as the US has attempted to pacify areas under rebel control.

More torture:
Allegations that American soldiers routinely tortured and maltreated detainees have emerged from a third Iraqi city, renewing fears that abuse similar to that inflicted in Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad has been systematic and widespread.

American soldiers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul beat and stripped detainees, threatened sexual abuse and forced them to listen to loud western music, according to statements seen by the Guardian.



A federal court today reminded us that one of the most important reasons to get Bush out NOW is to prevent him from appointing more wingnut judges to the bench:
A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court dismissed a motion Tuesday from the original plaintiff in Roe v. Wade to have the landmark 1973 abortion case overturned, a court clerk said.

Norma McCorvey's motion asserted she had new information that would affect the case, but the panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, rejected her claim, said Rhonda Flowers of the clerk's office.

"The case has been dismissed," Flowers said.

In her motion, McCorvey had argued that abortions cause women long-term emotional harm. McCorvey is "Jane Roe," the pseudonym she assumed to remain anonymous as the lead plaintiff in the case that legalized abortion in the United States.

Once an abortion-rights supporter, McCorvey has switched sides: She's now a vocal anti-abortion activist.

We mustn't grow complacent over Roe v. Wade; the right wing will continue to attack it, any way they can. And if the courts continue to shift toward the right, these attacks are that much more likely to succeed.


Surreality TV

I blogged on this story a few weeks ago, but just ran across it again, and it strikes me as so unbelievably bizarre that I need to post it again:
Umm Hussein stands near the rubble and wearily waves off the perky woman thrusting a microphone in her face.

She is tired of telling reporters how American troops blew up her house.

Wait, the Iraqi TV crew tells the black-veiled widow.

An orange dump truck lumbers up the street, followed by workers with picks and sledgehammers.

The camera zooms in on Umm Hussein's bewildered face as the host declares: 'We're going to rebuild your house.'

This is reality TV, Iraqi-style.

The show, entitled Labour Plus Materials, is an amalgam of This Old House and the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. But it comes with a distinctly Iraqi - and more sombre - twist.

The crew, wearing baseball caps bearing the logo of their Iraqi-run satellite channel, Al Sharqiya, fixes and refurnishes houses that owners say were destroyed by US bombs or, in Umm Hussein's case, by US troops blowing up an Iraqi ammunition dump nearby.


Yet Another Reason to Vote Kerry

When it comes to fighting AIDS, Bush lags far behind:
New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis gave President Bush a failing grade today on his platform for AIDS issues, while giving Democratic candidate John Kerry a near perfect score.

In a report entitled Prescriptions for Reform: A Comparison of the Bush and Kerry Health Care Access Proposals and their Impact on People with HIV/AIDS," the group examined the two candidates positions on funding, treatment, and other issues.

"The presidential candidates are offering two very different visions for the future of the U.S. health care system, and this report helps clarify those differences in the context of the health care access needs of people with HIV/AIDS," said Ana Oliveira, Executive Director of GMHC.

"Healthcare is one of the most important issues in this year's presidential race. We urge everyone to review the positions of the two candidates so they can make a sound selection on Election Day. The health of our nation depends on it."

The report shows that 20% of people with HIV/AIDS in the United States are uninsured and 50% of people with HIV/AIDS (who access care) rely on either Medicaid or Medicare to pay for their healthcare needs.

Senator Kerry supports Medicaid coverage for non-disabled people with HIV while President Bush's position is unclear the GMHC said after examining statements y the President and the White House.

This election is quite literally a matter of life and death.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Again, We Should Look North

The Canadians are getting it right again:
Canada's prime minister has announced a financial package to help improve the health of the country's indigenous people, the Inuit.

Paul Martin has called for a meeting with indigenous leaders to tackle social problems their communities face.

He says that his government has a historic opportunity to improve the health of the country's first people.

He noted that they have a shorter lifespan than the general population and suffer from more disease.



Not exactly a newsflash, I know. But, with Powell saying it openly, it is as though he's reiterating his earlier statements about Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz being "f***ing crazies," only in more polite terms:
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who made the case to the world that pre-war Iraq had stocks of chemical and biological weapons, said on Monday he now thought these will probably never be found.

"I think it's unlikely that we will find any stockpiles," Powell told lawmakers when asked about the intelligence behind his Feb. 5, 2003, U.N. Security Council speech laying out U.S. arguments for the war with Iraq that began six weeks later.

Powell's latest comments appeared to be his most explicit to date suggesting that the central argument for President Bush's decision to invade Iraq -- the belief it possessed weapons of mass destruction -- was flawed.


Hurricane Ivan is Pro-Nader

Bizarre election shenanigans are already underway in Florida:
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act.



Even though people are being blown up left and right, democracy prevails? Sounds like the American mindset (of course, if something happens here in the states, I wouldn't be surprised to see elections suspended):
The Bush administration said on Sunday the deadly insurgency in Iraq was unlikely to end by January when elections are scheduled, but insisted there was no need to delay them.

With President Bush under fire from Democratic rival John Kerry over the mounting death toll in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the war while acknowledging, "This insurgency isn't going to go away."

Concerning the whole Iraq endeavor, Powell was circumspect:

But he was noncommittal when asked if he would still advocate an invasion if he knew Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

"Would it have been a different analysis that we went through and conclusion that we came to if we knew at that time (of Saddam Hussein's) intention and capability but no active stockpiles? I don't know. I can't replay that scene," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

He failed to add: "The neocons are f***ing crazies."



How can we, supposedly decent Americans, have these people in charge? The mind boggles:
Evidence of prisoner abuse and possible war crimes at Guantánamo Bay reached the highest levels of the Bush administration as early as autumn 2002, but Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, chose to do nothing about it, according to a new investigation published exclusively in the Guardian today.

The investigation, by the veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, quotes one former marine at the camp recalling sessions in which guards would "fuck with [detainees] as much as we could" by inflicting pain on them.

The Bush administration repeatedly assured critics that inmates were granted recreation periods, but one Pentagon adviser told Hersh how, for some prisoners, they consisted of being left in straitjackets in intense sunlight with hoods over their heads.

Hersh provides details of how President George Bush signed off on the establishment of a secret unit that was given advance approval to kill or capture and interrogate "high-value" suspects - considered by many to be in defiance of international law - an officially "unacknowledged" programme that was eventually transferred wholesale from Guantánamo to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


Nader: Anti-Democrat

If it weren't clear before, it is now. Nader is out to take down the Democrats:

Nader will begin his fall campaign by traveling through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in the next week. He plans to rally voters by blasting the war in Iraq and corrupt corporations, and also by criticizing Democrats for their efforts to keep him off ballots in the most competitive states.

Nader made it clear at a breakfast gathering with journalists here that he is angered by Democratic efforts to stall his candidacy and he will focus attention on what he deems harassment. “We’re exposing all the pus and the bile,” Nader said of the Democratic efforts. “We’re flushing the system out.”

Nader’s swing-state agenda announcement came just as the Democrats working against him intensified their efforts by sending a group of about 30 lawyers with a budget expected to reach about $100,000 to Florida where they are challenging Nader’s right to appear on the presidential ballot there. Late Thursday, a judge agreed with them, issuing an order that will keep Nader off the ballot, for now.


Nuclear Follies

Even as North Korea rushes to assure us that their explosion was not nuclear, Iran hurries to let us know that their next one might be:
Iran says it is losing patience with U.N. inspections of its nuclear programme and has announced that its agreement with the Europeans to halt uranium enrichment will soon come to an end.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

They Won't Be Counted

Given the recent order to stop counting Iraqi civilian casualties, these people are erased:
Strong explosions shook central Baghdad at dawn on Sunday and heavy fighting erupted in a street notorious as a rebel stronghold, in violence that killed at least 22 Iraqis, the U.S. army and witnesses said.

The clashes flared as the U.S. military pressed on with new offensives aimed at retaking control of guerrilla-held areas ahead of national elections due to be held in January.

Of course, I am sure that our precision attack meant that only evil insurgents were among the 22 killed.


For Doubting Thomases

For those who had trouble buying the story I posted earlier about Colin Powell telling Jack Straw two years ago that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz are "f***ing crazies" because the source was the gossip section of the New York Daily News, the same story is now in The Guardian.


Slouching Towards Theocracy

No minister or priest who values his or her religion would taint its practice by turning the pulpit into a political stage.

Of course, it's not principled religious leaders who are pushing for this:
Political pressure is building on a powerful House lawmaker to remove the so-called IRS “muzzle” that prevents religious leaders from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit.


See No Evil

It looks like Iraq has taken a lesson from the Bush administration yet again. Just as Bush just stops governmental agencies from keeping track of things that make him look bad, so does the Iraqi government:
Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.


Also, It's Vastly Immoral

The New York Times comes out and calls preventive war the failure that it is, finally. Of course, a lot of folks were pointing this out before we invaded. Loudly, in the streets.

Once again, we have to settle for better late than never from the mainstream media:
If facts mattered in American politics, the Bush-Cheney ticket would not be basing its re-election campaign on the fear-mongering contention that the surest defense against future terrorist attacks lies in the badly discredited doctrine of preventive war. Vice President Dick Cheney took this argument to a disgraceful low last week when he implied that electing John Kerry and returning to traditional American foreign policy values would invite a devastating new strike.

So far, the preventive war doctrine has had one real test: the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush terrified millions of Americans into believing that forcibly changing the regime in Baghdad was the only way to keep Iraq's supposed stockpiles of unconventional weapons out of the hands of Al Qaeda. Then it turned out that there were no stockpiles and no operational links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda's anti-American terrorism. Meanwhile, America's longstanding defensive alliances were weakened and the bulk of America's ground combat troops tied down in Iraq for what now appears to be many years to come. If that is making this country safer, it is hard to see how. The real lesson is that America dangerously erodes its military and diplomatic defenses when it charges off unwisely after hypothetical enemies.