Monday, January 31, 2005

Texas Abstinence Program leads to INCREASE in Sex

Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

"We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired," said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.

The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.

"The jury is still out, but most of what we've discovered shows there's no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect," he said.



Now this ought to get interesting. Conservatives used to excoriate tax-and-spend libruls for funding "social engineering" programs that were short on results. Think the logic will apply here?

And what if preaching abstinence is inherently like telling kids not to think of an elephant?

Halliburton to End Iran Operations

Halliburton Co. will pull out of Iran after its current contracts there are wound down, its chief executive said Friday.

"The business environment currently in Iran is not conducive to our overall strategy and objectives," Chief Executive Dave Lesar said in a conference call.

The Houston-based company, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been criticized for its work in Iraq, where it is the largest private contractor with revenue totaling more than $10 billion.

The company is under investigation for possible overcharges for fuel and food services connected to its Iraq contracts.

Halliburton said in July that it had received a subpoena seeking information about operations in Iran of its Cayman Islands subsidiary, Halliburton Products & Services Ltd.

The company has argued that using a Cayman Islands subsidiary exempts it from a U.S.-imposed trade embargo against Iran, which is accused of seeking nuclear arms and funding terrorist networks.

Halliburton provided no details on when its current contracts in Iran would be completed or on the value of the work. The company generated about $80 million in revenue in Iran in 2003.



Remember how certain Important People were warned not to fly on 9-11? When Halliburton gets the word to abandon ship in Iran, it seems pretty damned obvious to me what is next. Extra points for the right answer to the question, "And what Army?"

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bush Declares Iraq Election a Success

When do you think this press release was written -- last week? Last month? Last year?

President Bush called Sunday's elections in Iraq a success and promised the United States will continue trying to prepare Iraqis to secure their own country.

"The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," Bush told reporters at the White House on Sunday, four hours after the polls closed. He did not take questions after his three-minute statement.
...
Insurgents struck polling stations with a string of suicide bombings and mortar volleys, killing at least 44 people, including nine suicide bombers.

"Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens," Bush said.


I doubt he will lose much sleep on their account. He may, on the other had, be comfortable with the message it sends to certain Blue State populations.

And how bad would things have to be to persuade the White House not to declare the election a success?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Wash Post reporter will reveal extensive use of minders at inaugural balls

...now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling. The Bush administration has expanded the use of “minders,” government employees or volunteers who escort journalists from interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.

... Several reporters covering the balls were surprised to find themselves being monitored Soviet-style by young “escorts” who followed them from hors d’oeuvres table to dance floor and even to the bathroom.

... As I was dictating from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged woman, her faced afire with rage. “You ignored the rules, and I’m throwing you out!” she barked, snapping my phone shut. “You told that girl you didn’t need an escort. That’s a lie! You’re out of here!”

... No, the minders weren’t there to monitor me. They were there to let the guests, my sources on inaugural night, know that any complaint, any unguarded statement, any off-the-reservation political observation, would be noted.


Huundreds of sensitive microphones, pattern recogonition software that triggered a Code Red every time the word "privatization" was uttered... Freedom, indeed.

Friday, January 28, 2005

In Armored Vehicles, U.S. Troops Tell Iraqis to Vote

A rumbling column of U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles grinds to a stop in a rebellious Iraqi neighborhood of scarred houses and mud streets.

Heavily-armed troops jump out and begin searching homes as loudspeakers blast in Arabic: "On Sunday you should go out to vote. Vote to give freedom to Iraq. Vote to save Iraq." A soldier hands out fliers to a group of untidy children.
...
Suddenly, the whistle of a grenade pierces the air and a loud explosion shakes the ground. The soldiers fire back before returning to their armored vehicles and the convoy speeds away.


If you saw a get out the vote campaign like this reported on "The Daily Show," you'd laugh. And you might expect scenes like this in a Terry Gilliam film -- a sequel to "Brazil," perhaps. But real life? Nah.

I am again reminded of Tom Lehrer's observation that, after Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, political satire became impossible. What can anyone say about such monstrous absurdity?

Chavez foe accused of treason with U.S. aid

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A leading organizer of last year's bid to unseat President Hugo Chavez has been charged with treason amid accusations that she accepted U.S. government funding from the National Endowment for Democracy.

As director of the civic group Sumate, Maria Corina Machado helped organize three petition drives to recall Mr. Chavez, leading to a failed referendum in August.

State prosecutors have invoked an 80-year-old law to charge Miss Machado and two other Sumate leaders with "conspiring to destroy the republican nature of the country," saying they received $31,000 from the endowment. A trial has not been scheduled, but is expected to begin in the next few weeks. Miss Machado faces 16 years in prison if convicted.

"The reason for [the endowment] giving all that money was to end the Chavez government," said legislator Nicolas Maduro. "If the Venezuelan government financed organizations to topple the Bush administration, I'm sure we would face life sentence in prison."


An official of the National Endowmewnt for Democracy who spoke off the record said that the U.S. government-funded group had no intention of overthrowing the government. "We thought we were buying her opinion, like Education did with Armstrong Williams," the spokesperson said. "But those foreigners tend to be, you know, cheaper."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

eBay item: Famous Bush Mobile As Seen By Hundreds of Thousands!

It ain't Jesus on a Fish Stick, or the Virgin Mary on a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, but it sure is a religious icon for our time.

Own a part of the 2004 Bush Presidential Campaign! Be a part of history. This vehicle was involved in both Vice-Presidential and Presidential appearances throughout Florida. The Bush Mobile was a critical component to the success of the Presidential visit to The Villages. The Bush Mobile was on the flightline when the President, his brothers and The First Lady made the first ever sitting Presidential visit to Gainesville, FL on October 31, 2004. Never before has there been a Presidential campaign vehicle other than the President's limousine that has attracted so much attention. A MUST HAVE for the serious collector of FINE/UNIQUE/HISTORIC Automobiles. The perfect gift for the Presidential library.

Can't imagine why it did not receive a single bid.

Presidential Order Authorizing Inhumane Interrogation Techniques

OK, it has now been more than a month since the ACLU disclosed an FBI memo that referred to an Executive Order authorizing torture.

Do you think that there might be one brave soul -- just one among all the 4th estate lackeys falling all over themsleves to delete "privatization" from their vocabularies -- who could stand up at a Bush press conference and ask his nibs to categorically state that no such executive order exists?

Makes me proud to vote Democratic

CNN.com - Lawmaker wants tiny boxing gloves on roosters - Jan 26, 2005

An Oklahoma senator hopes to revive cockfighting in the state by putting tiny boxing gloves on the roosters instead of razors.

The Oklahoma legislature outlawed the blood sport in 2002 because of its cruelty to the roosters, which are slashed and pecked to death while human spectators bet on the outcome.

But State Sen. Frank Shurden, a Democrat from Henryetta and a long-time defender of cockfighting, said the ban had wiped out a $100-million business.

To try to revive it, he has proposed that roosters wear little boxing gloves attached to their spurs, as well as lightweight, chicken-sized vests configured with electronic sensors to record hits and help keep score.

"It's like the fencing that you see on the Olympics, you know, where they have little balls on the ends of the swords and the fencers wear vests," said Shurden. "That's the same application that would be applied to the roosters."


There is so much ugly weirdness here that it is truly difficult to decide where to begin. Do I talk about the parallel universe where a politician can make his bones by adopting chicken fights as his cause celebre? Or the all-too-familiar one where Democrats illustrate their cluelessness by missing the deeper point in their pursuit of the null set also known as compromise?

Taking the blood out of cockfighting is like taking the fistfights out of the NHL or the crashes out of NASCAR. Clean them up and the rubes will stay away in droves. Is Olympic fencing a $100M sport in Oklahoma? Didn't think so. But take away the masks and the vests, and carry the loser off in a body bag -- you'd have to beat fans away with a truncheon. Bloodlust runs deep, and explains a lot about human behavior in general, and red state views in particular.

If we give them back their rooster vivisection, can we please bring the troops back from Iraq?

$600M Army contract for Feinstein's husband's firm

The story is more than a year and a half old, but is worth another look in light of DiFi's fawning over Condi Rice.

URS Corp., a San Francisco planning and engineering firm partially owned by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband, landed an Army contract Monday worth up to $600 million.
The award to help with troop mobilization, weapons systems training and anti-terrorism efforts is the latest in a string of plum defense jobs snared by URS. In February, the firm won an army engineering and logistics contract that could bring in $3.1 billion during the next eight years.


While we are raking Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher across the coals, let's keep in mind that there are lots of less blatant forms of bribery out there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Christian Coalition of America: Supporting Torture

Christian Coalition of America is calling on Christian Coalition activists to contact their United States Senators to urge them to vote to confirm Judge Alberto Gonzales as the new Attorney General.

If torture was good enough for Jesus, I guess it is good enough for them turrists.

10 Die, 180 Hurt After Train Hits SUV

A suicidal man parked his SUV on the railroad tracks and set off a crash of two commuter trains Wednesday that hurled passengers down the aisles and turned rail cars into smoking, twisted heaps of steel, authorities said. At least 10 people were killed and more than 180 injured.

The SUV driver got out at the last moment and survived.
...
It was the nation's deadliest train accident in nearly six years.

Authorities said Juan Manuel Alvarez, 25, of Compton, parked his sport utility vehicle on the tracks and got out before a Metrolink train smashed into it. The train then derailed and collided with another train going in the opposite direction. That train also jumped the tracks.


Maybe it is poor taste to say it, or at least to say it today, but this kind of decision-making is par for the course for an amazing percentage of the people I see driving SUVs out there. Not a moment's thought about the effects of his actions on others. Just a few days ago some lunkhead in a Hummer cut me off and nearly hit some cyclists by making a left turn from the right turn lane -- after I indicated that I was about to make a legal left. He just didn't give a shit, just like his twin in LA.

An awkward fact, courtesy Molly Ivens

Nor is democracy necessarily the cure for terrorism. As a British journalist pointed out, if Britain had been following the Bush plan, it would have nuked us years ago for being the largest single source of money for the Irish Republican Army. Reality is so often much more complicated than George W. Bush thinks it is.

Payola snowball rolls

via Josh Marshall:

It turns out that Armstrong Williams wasn't the only pundit on the Bush administration payroll. Maggie Gallagher got $21,500 from HHS to flack Bush administration marriage and
family policy. .... On top of that, says Kurtz: "Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled 'Can Government Strengthen Marriage?', for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative."

When you read a bit further down into the piece you find this fact: The fellow who hired Gallagher at HHS is Wade Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families. And what'd he do before he started work for the Bush administration? Right, he founded the National Fatherhood Iniative.


The Repugs never even tried an Abu Ghraib-style "bad apple" defense on the Armstrong Williams story, so it was obvious more of these were coming. My guess is -- lots more. Defending the indefensible can't be cheap, though Gallagher's price is rather humble. The Poor Man set up an over and under pool a few weeks ago -- my guess is a lot of the odds just got shorter, and the expected payola just got lower.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The lapdog pisses on his master's leg

Tony Blair will go over the head of President Bush tomorrow to appeal directly to US business leaders to back his plans for action on climate change.
The prime minister flies to Davos in Switzerland tomorrow, where he will address the World Economic Forum of corporate executives and push his vision for tackling carbon emissions in the wake of the US refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol.

President Bush will not be present at the meeting, but it will give the PM a chance to argue for reductions face to face with some of the worst polluters on the planet whilst chairing the G8 group of industrialised nations.


This oughta be a laugh riot. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall next time Blair meets up with the Bush he just lifted his leg next to?

Condi's got Joementum!

``Brave men and women of color like Dr. Rice have, working with others, changed our nation. And now she can, and I believe will, help lead our nation to change the world and in doing so, to advance our values and protect our security for our children and grandchildren as well.'' - Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

The old axiom in shrink school is that nothing predicts future behavior like past behavior. In the Curious Case of the Good Dr. Rice, we have a principal security advisor to the Narcissistic Dry Drunk in Chief who was disinterested in terror prior to 9/11; who disdained the recommendations of those more knowledgable to the effect that she had better get interested in it; who participated in planning and really participated in selling the American people on an Iraqi war that was a collosal fraud; who has repeatedly backpedaled and shifted ground on the 31 flavors of reasons offered for invading Iraq in the first place; and who repeatedly declined to find anything wrong with any of this during her recent confirmation hearings.

So what the hell was Old Unca Joe thinking here? Does he have a shred of evidence to suggest that she will be capable of or interested in doing anything except more of the same as Secretary of State? This comment could only have been put forth by the sort of putz who would characterize a fifth place finish in a primary election held adjacent to his home state as "a virtual tie for third." What a disgrace.

Now then, where were we?

Clinton Seeking Shared Ground Over Abortions

"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the opposing sides in the divisive debate over abortion should find 'common ground' to prevent unwanted pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions, which she called a 'sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.'

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of 'religious and moral values' on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

'There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved,' Mrs. Clinton said.
...

Mrs. Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights. She did so not by changing her political stands, but by underscoring her views in preventing unplanned pregnancies, promoting adoption, recognizing the influence of religion in abstinence and championing what she has long called 'teenage celibacy.'

She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education - including abstinence counseling - family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies.

'We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.'"

I'm in agreement with many who think that the Dems need to reframe and find a new language for the abortion issue by the time the next election cycle rolls around--logic and law clearly don't count for much among American voters these days. HRC apparently thinks so as well; this speech is taken straight from the Big Dog's playbook. As you'll recall, he found a tenable position on the abortion issue by emphasizing that it should be "safe, legal and rare."

On another level, however, Hillary's comments reminded me of Chuck Todd's piece "Clintonism, R.I.P." in the Jan/Feb issue of the Atlantic (subscription only). In it, he argues that the success of Bill Clinton's "third way" strategy was essentially attributable to the political context of his presidency (a Congress populated at the outset of his first term by paleo-liberals and conservative revolutionaries) and Clinton's superb salesmanship. Everyone who's tried to adopt the same approach to campaigning since then--most recently, John Kerry--has come across as unprincipled, crassly political or morally ambivalent. Todd says that one way that the Democratic party can get out of the hole they're in is to campaign on bold new ideas that attempt to bring about fundamental changes in government and capture the imaginations of American voters.

Curiously enough, Todd says that a second way for the party to be rescued from Clinton nostalgia would be for HRC to revive Clintonism as a tactic and philosophy should she run in '08 (by the way: she's running). In this respect, I think he's plainly wrong. Fair or not, accurately or not (and I would argue inaccurately), Hillary is so deeply identified with Blue blood, far-left values that any efforts on her part to articulate a Middle Way on any given issue during a campaign will be trumpeted by the right wing and the allegedly-mainstream pundits as crass politics and shallow campaign strategy. As the article cited above noted in a passage not presented here, for example, right-wingers skipped right over the part of her speech where she firmly restated her commitment to legal abortion, and jumped all over her for talking out of both sides of her mouth and playing politics with the issue. More to the point for Democrats that don't have the initials DLC bar-coded into their foreheads, what would the Middle Way in an HRC presidency look like now that the Democratic party has already moved so far to the right over the past decade? What exactly does the path of compromise and splitting differences lead to if you've got Tom DeLay on one side of the table and Evan Bayh on the other?




From another freedom-hating pinko

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

Aristotle, Politics

And you thought Machiavelli's The Prince was the only how-to Team Rapture had read...

BradBlog 3000 - I Love Montana

Q: Why can't we be more like our Red State brethren and sistren? Can't we all just get along?

A: To quote Woody Allen, the lion and the lamb may lie down together, but the lamb ain't gonna get much sleep.

The road to a draft goes through an unwilling Army

Good editorial in the Seattle P-I:

In February 2003, the former chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to occupy Iraq. Shinseki wasn't wrong: 300,000 U.S. soldiers, twice the current deployment, is a barely adequate minimum. But the Army's end strength for fiscal year 2005 is 482,400 soldiers, with only another 20,000 authorized. Rather, Shinseki had publicly made clear that only a draft will generate enough soldiers to effectively occupy Iraq.

Indeed, a draft could generate so many soldiers that the Bush administration and its neocon ideologues might feel able to invade, conquer and occupy Iran and Syria, presumably to turn them, too, into democratic countries.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Tenn. Senator Says He Keeps Two Families

I guess when we make a list of the hypocrisies of the Right, we have to leave out State Sen. John Ford.

In a Juvenile Court hearing last year that is set for a follow-up hearing on Tuesday, Ford said he lives some days with ex-wife Tamara Mitchell-Ford and the three children they had together. On others, he stays with his longtime girlfriend, Connie Mathews, and their two children.

Ford and Mitchell-Ford went through a bitter divorce in 2002 that led to Mitchell-Ford's jailing after she plowed her car through Mathews' Collierville home.

Ford said he pays nearly all bills for both families. They stay in houses he owns and where he also lives, though neither home is in his South Memphis Senate district.
...
Ford is battling a suit by a third woman, Dana Smith, who is trying to increase his court-ordered support of a 10-year-old girl he fathered. Smith, a former employee under Ford when he was General Sessions Clerk, won a 1996 sexual harassment verdict against him.


He just believes in "family values" so much, he wanted to start as many of them as possible.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Espionage arm expands domain for Rumsfeld

The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA’s historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting US law to give Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The previously undisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld’s written order to end his ‘‘near total dependence on CIA’’ for what is known as human intelligence.

Designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary’s direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces.

Military and civilian participants said in interviews that the new unit has been operating in secret for two years — in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name. According to an early planning memorandum to Rumsfeld from Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the focus of the intelligence initiative is on ‘‘emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia.’’


So much for the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission re: an intelligence czar, although this does explain Shrub's about face -- he found a way around it.

When you catalog which "-ocracies" the Bush syndicate favors or opposes, it is pretty damned obvious which side "meritocracy" lines up on.

Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet?

Never let it be said that the Bush family does not take care of its own:

Senate Democrats put off a vote on White House counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general, complaining he had provided evasive answers to questions about torture and the mistreatment of prisoners. But Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

Kinda like watching "Goodfellas," only the blood is all offscreen.

AP: U.S. Foresaw Terror Threats in 1970s

Nearly three decades before the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-level government panel developed plans to protect the nation against terrorist acts ranging from radiological "dirty bombs" to airline missile attacks, according to declassified documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"Unless governments take basic precautions, we will continue to stand at the edge of an awful abyss," Robert Kupperman, chief scientist for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, wrote in a 1977 report that summarized nearly five years of work by the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism.

The group was formed in September 1972 by President Nixon after Palestinian commandos slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The committee involved people as diverse as Henry Kissinger to a young Rudolph Giuliani, the once-secret documents show.

And yet presumptive Secretary of State Rice was certain in 2002 that no one could have anticipated 9/11.



Saturday, January 22, 2005

Rumsfeld scraps Munich visit over war probe

United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has cancelled a planned visit to Munich.

Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy he will not take part at the Munich Security Conference in February, conference head Horst Teltschik said.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Rumsfeld had made it known immediately after the complaint was filed that he would not attend the Munich conference unless Germany quashed the legal action.

The organisation alleges violations of German legislation which outlaws war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide independent of the place of crime or origin of the accused.


Well, see, there's tyranny, and then there's tyranny.

Rummy's "no fly zone" is likely to keep growing. Maybe he can change his name and move to Brazil or Argentina -- I understand there were some other folks who ran an equally successful war with a side order of mass killings who made nice lives for themselves down there.

Weekend Inversion

The Los Angeles Lakers, the only team I really rooted for the in the only big-time sport I really cared about for a good 15 years, are 3-1 -- pretty impressive for a team that has lost 4 Hall of Famers since last season and started this season more than two months late.

Compare and contrast with the L.A. Kobes, at 19-15 with The Best Player in The Game.

The Lakers should be playing for another week or so, at which point they will again be replaced by the Kobes.

The Lakers' season was only 50 games in the strike-shortened 1999 season. This year it will likely be only 10 games or so. I will try to enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The rotten apple defense

"This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed … were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees."

Rudolf Hoess, the SS commandant at Auschwitz.


Courtesy Scott Horton in the LA Times.

Al-Qaida Case Undermined by FBI Informant

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a major blow in the war on terror in March 2003: The government had charged a Muslim cleric with personally handing $20 million to Osama bin Laden.

But as the trial approaches for Sheik Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad, the jurors are unlikely to hear that spectacular allegation. Its sole source, an FBI informant from Yemen, set himself on fire in front of the White House late last year, and it is all but certain prosecutors will not put him on the stand.

"The government has acted outrageously and unethically by trumpeting charges that it was not prepared to prove," said al-Moayad's attorney, William Goodman. "Now they're hanging by their fingernails."

Al-Moayad, 56, and his Yemeni assistant Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed are charged in federal court in Brooklyn with supporting al-Qaida and the Palestinian extremist group Hamas. Opening statements could start as early as next week, when the two men will join the small number of defendants tried in U.S. courts on al-Qaida-related charges since the Sept. 11 attacks.

They were arrested in January 2003 after meeting two men they believed to be Muslim radicals at a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. The radicals were actually FBI informants. Before German police burst into the room, Al-Moayad and the informants discussed funneling $2.5 million into the fight against America's "Zionist government."

Prosecutors' star witness was supposed to be one of those informants, Mohamed Alanssi. But he attempted suicide outside the White House in November, telling The Washington Post that the FBI had broken a promise to make him a millionaire and a U.S. citizen for helping snare al-Moayad.

Defense lawyers said the case was irreparably tainted by the informant's dubious motives and shaky credibility, and prosecutors started mapping out a strategy for proving al-Moayad's guilt without calling Alanssi as a witness.

The government's claim that al-Moayad aided Hamas still appears intact. But lawyers said that with Alanssi out of the trial, the headline-grabbing allegations involving bin Laden appear in danger.
...
The government's case depends largely on transcripts of recorded conversations in the hotel room. The transcripts support another of Ashcroft's allegations, that al-Moayad claimed to be bin Laden's spiritual adviser.

What Ashcroft did not say, however, was that al-Moayad said on the tapes that his relationship dated to the years when bin Laden was battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan, a cause he shared with the United States. The relationship ended before bin Laden turned against America, al-Moayad said.


The reason Team Rapture disfavors a "law enforcement approach" to terrorism is the stubborn insistance of courts on that reality-based nonsense like "facts" and "evidence." Ou government seems much more comfortable with the "kill 'em all and let God decide" theory.

Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute?

President Bush's "Hook 'em, 'horns" salute got lost in translation in Norway, where shocked people interpreted his hand gesture during his inauguration as a salute to Satan.

That's what it means in the Nordics when you throw up the right hand with the index and pinky fingers raised, a gesture popular among heavy metal groups and their fans in the region.


You have your opinion as to who was confused, Associated Press; I have mine.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Global Views on Bush's Reelection

Another PIPPA (the folks who did the great study on the unreality of Bush supporters) study finds, surprise surprise, they like Bush, and now the rest of us... not so much:

The poll also finds that for a substantial minority worldwide these negative feelings about Bush have generalized to the American people. Asked how Bush’s election has affected their feelings toward the American people, on average, 42 percent said it made them feel worse toward the American people, while 25 percent said it made them feel better and 23 percent said it had no effect. Countries varied widely. In seven countries clear majorities said that it made them feel worse—especially Turkey (72%), France (65%), Brazil (59%) and Germany (56%). In only two did a majority say it has made them feel better (the Philippines 78% and India 65%).


To summarize: their feelings about Bush?

Very short answer: Bad.

Slightly longer answer: Bad and getting worse. And it is rubbing off on the rest of us.

Unabridged answer: We are so fucked.

In the clearing stands a Boxer

Transcript of remarks between Boxer and Rice

The biggest balls in the Senate belong to Barbara Boxer:

SEN. BOXER: Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

But, again, I just feel you quote President Bush when it suits you but you contradicted him when he said, "Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." You go on television nine months later and said, "Nobody ever said it was" --

MS. RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty. No one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

SEN. BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you'll --

MS. RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

SEN. BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

Evangelist's Tsunami Efforts Stir U.S. Muslim Group

A U.S. Muslim group on Thursday accused evangelist Jerry Falwell of using money donated for tsunami relief to convert people in South Asia to Christianity and called on the Bush administration to denounce his actions.

In an e-mailed weekly newsletter called "Falwell Confidential," which was obtained by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the evangelist said: "Hundreds of thousands are in dire need of medical attention and personal counseling. And in this heavily Muslim part of the world, millions have never even heard of Jesus Christ."

The newsletter, which is distributed by Jerry Falwell Ministries, said donations would be used to distribute food and Gospel tracts in the region.
...
According to a statement on www.falwell.com and Liberty University's Web site, the school is preparing a team to travel to India, Sri Lanka and other countries in South Asia. Falwell founded Liberty University.

"Distribution of food and medical supplies, along with the dissemination of thousands of Gospel tracts in the language of the people will be the primary tasks of the team," the Web sites said. "Mission trips to the Asian region by many (Liberty University) students will follow in the months, and perhaps years, to come."
...
Falwell's office declined comment. The evangelist sparked controversy in 2002 when he called Muslims' prophet Muhammad a "terrorist" during a television interview.


C'mon, Jerry. You missed a golden opportunity to call it a "crusade," and to call the victims "heathens."

New York Daily News - Sen. Frist won but lost his shirt

Looking for a winning stock market strategy?
Find out what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's campaign committee is investing in - and do the opposite.

Frist's campaign committee has lost a whopping $524,000 in the stock market since the 2000 election and could not cover a bank loan that came due in August, records showed.

Campaign treasurer Linus Catignani said U.S. Bank "rolled over" the $360,000 loan and the money is now due in 2007. U.S. Bank spokesman Steve Dale would not comment.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., questioned whether the bank provided special privileges to Frist.


Putting aside the "some animals are more equal than others" angle, this seems to be exactly the kind of story the adults pushing back on Shrub's evisceration of Social Security ought to be publicizing. What if Frist's little slush fund had been Grandma's nest egg? This kind of thing happens all the time to equity portfolios, and you can draw a straight line from the collapse of equity markets in 1929 as problem to the creation of Social Security in 1935 as solution.

And that Sandy--can you spell "D-Y-K-E?"

Conservative group targets 'pro-homosexual' SpongeBob video

From David Kirkpatrick at the NY Times:

"WASHINGTON -- On the heels of electoral victories to bar same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: SpongeBob SquarePants.

'Does anybody here know SpongeBob?' James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

In many circles, SpongeBob needs no introduction. He is popular among children and grownups as well who watch him cavorting under the sea on the Nickelodeon cartoon program that bears his name. In addition, he has become a camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick.

Now, Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a 'pro-homosexual video,' in which he appeared alongside other children's television characters such as Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The video's makers, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools this spring to promote a 'tolerance pledge' that includes tolerance for differences of 'sexual identity.' He urged his allies to stand against it as part of a 'spiritual battle' for the country.

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit 'We Are Family,' says Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video featuring 100 well-known cartoon characters dancing to his song in order to teach children about multiculturalism.

The video has appeared on Nickelodeon and other networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The 'tolerance pledge,' which was borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video.

Rodgers suggested that Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused by an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called 'We Are Family.' That site is owned by a Charleston, S.C., group that supports gay youth.

Mark Barondeso, general counsel for the We Are Family Foundation, suggested that anyone who says the video promotes homosexuality 'needs to visit their doctor and get their medication increased.'

Yesterday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Dobson, said Focus on the Family stood by its assertions. 'We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids,' he said."

This is just another day at the office for Dobson, and representative of the level of discourse at which we can expect his folks to operate during Bush II. The really annoying part of the piece is that Kirkpatrick wastes time and column inches fleshing out the artificial "controversy" about which "We Are Family" group Dobson had in mind--as if it actually had some bearing on the legitimacy of his latest eruption of rabid homophobia.

I like the sentiment of Mark Barondeso's comment, but it's in vain. Alas; Big Pharma has yet to come up with a pill that cures malignant character pathology.

James Wolcott: SpongeDob Stickypants

from James Wolcott: Let the Word Go Forth

James Dobson has declared war on Spongebob. Tubby televangelist Jerry Falwell declared war on Tinky Winky.

Next: the battle for Peanuts-- Pat Robertson takes on Schroeder and Peppermint Patty.

et tu, Brute? Gingrich shivs Social Security plan

Americans are having more babies. The trend, combined with an annual inflow of immigrants that is more than the rest of the developed world combined, may undercut a key argument behind President George W. Bush's plan to allow private Social Security accounts: that the current system faces an emergency because of a sharp decline in the size of the future U.S. workforce.

Even Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House of Representatives and a supporter of private accounts, says, ``The combination of higher birth rates and more immigration makes the United States the healthiest of developed nations. This is not a crisis.''


Welcome to your second term, Mr. Preznit.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rolling Stone Magazine Refuses to Run Ad for Bible

Rolling Stone magazine declined to run an advertisement for a new translation of the Bible aimed at young people, the nation's largest Bible publisher said Wednesday. Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, bought space in the magazine months ago as part of an ad campaign for Today's New International Version, said Doug Lockhart, Zondervan's executive vice president of marketing.

"Last week, we were surprised and certainly disappointed that Rolling Stone had changed their mind and rejected our ad," he said.

A telephone message seeking comment was left Wednesday at the New York headquarters of Wenner Media LLC, publisher of Rolling Stone.

Lockhart said Zondervan, based in Grand Rapids, paid Wenner Media last July to run the ad in February, when the Bible is due on bookshelves.

On Tuesday, USA Today quoted Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner Media, as saying his staff first saw the ad copy last week, and "we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages."


Now Rolling Stone is a private business, and can accept or reject whatever kind of advertising they want. But I wonder what the Jan Wenner style guide says about this one -- tobacco ads, ok; liquor ads, ok; religion, not ok? Sex, drugs and rock & roll, indeed.

CNN.com Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider

Few questions answer themselves so neatly.

And no, this is not a headline from the Onion.

Sgt. Bill "Falafel" O'Reilly: A Fair and Balanced Challenge

Just delish. A few days ago, O'Reilly made a complete fool of hisself and let himself get called on a whopper by a caller -- claiming that he had been in combat.

It has echoed around the blogosphere, and one smart guy came up with a wonderful repsonse:

Ok here's the deal. I offered a $100 reward to anyone who could corroborate Bill O'Reilly's claim to have actually been in a firefight in a combat zone. You can listen to and read more about that claim here.
Well someone who commented on that post had a great idea. We really have a chance to call O'Reilly on his on air bullshit, so obviously the more money we raise the more attention we'll get. The idea was to just have people donate and I'll keep updating how much the reward is. Basically, anyone that can prove O'Reilly's claim, including O'Reilly himself, to have been in a firefight in a combat zone will get whatever money we raise. If after a certain period of time no one comes forward, all of the money will be donated to Media Matters for America. I'm sure Billy boy will love that.


Smirk.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

U.S. Lowers Expectations for Once-Heralded Iraq Vote

With fears for a low voter turnout among Sunni Arabs due to a boycott and insurgents' intimidation, the administration no longer touts the elections as a catalyst to spread democracy across the Arab world.

Instead, U.S. officials now emphasize the political process that will follow the vote.

"Clearly, we don't see the election itself as a pivotal point," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told NPR on Friday. "It's the beginning of a process, the process where Iraqis will write a constitution and at the end of the year will actually vote for a permanent government."


I'm not sure which is sadder -- the fact that the Administration treats us like greyhounds, expecting us to keep eagerly following their mechanical rabbits toward a finish line that never comes, or that it works.

Monday, January 17, 2005

More news from the Purple States of America

I wouldn't dream of paraphrasing Wonkette:

"We are honoring Martin Luther King Day as we always do, by staying in bed until noon and starting drinking at one. In fact, we like to think of every day as Martin Luther King Day. The folks in Mississippi, on the other hand, prefer not to think about MLK day much at all! If you -- as reader J. did -- call the Mississippi tax commission today (601-923-7000), you'll find that the office is closed 'in observance of Robert E Lee's and Martin Luther King's birthdays.' We love this. We imagine it was floated as a way to get the bigots to observe a federal holiday and avoid being targeted by Chuck D -- a compromise about as meaningful as the Missouri one, really. If this is the case, we wonder what other kinds of intrastate racial tit-for-tat deals might be in the works. What about, 'you can date our daughters as long as we can whip you for it after?'"

They also celebrate Jeff Davis's Birthday on the same day as National Memorial Day (you know, the USA's Memorial Day, as opposed to the Confederate Memorial Day--which they also celebrate, unencumbered by any concurrent celebrations of uppity civil rights leaders). I couldn't find a conclusive link, but it looks like REL's birthday is celebrated in a handful of other southern states, and I'm assuming they've been celebrating his much longer than they have MLK's.

The next time you're flipping across the dial, and you happen upon an interview of some sympathetic looking resident of the deep south who is dismissing Edgar Ray Killen's trial as little more than a circus destined to stir up long-dead feelings of ill will, think of this. And when they dismiss the racist yahoos who perpetuate the iconization of guys like Lee as being part of a small if vocal minority, ask them how that small minority manages to cajole these states into celebrating the lives of men who committed treason against the USA and fought to keep human beings enslaved.

Stop me if you've heard this one

Courtesy BartCop:

"Albert Speer drew up a memo to Hitler pointing out the significance of the loss of Silesia. 'The war is lost,' his report began, and he went on in his cool and objective manner to explain why. The Fuehrer glanced at Speer's report, read the first sentence and then ordered it filed away in his safe. He refused to see Speer alone, saying to Guderian: 'He always has something unpleasant to say to me. I can't bear that.'" --William L. Shirer, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"

"There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say Bush actually says that he does not want to hear “bad news.” Our sources conclude this “good news only” directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around him by Rice, Cheney, and Rumsfeld." --Ben Wikler, "Bush Rejects Bad News"

This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow: January 16, 2005 - January 22, 2005 Archives

In which Tom Tomorrow briliiantly compares gay conservative and cognitive dissonance in a jar Andrew Sullivan to Charlie the Tuna.

Report: U.S. Conducting Secret Missions Inside Iran

The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq (news - web sites) is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."


Undeterred by the disaster in Iraq, the Bush Administrations seems intent on adding the THIRD Vietnam to its list of achievements.

A lesson my father learned though painful experience is that you cannot borrow your way out of debt. Perhaps someday Necons will learn that you cannot fight your way out of a quagmire.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Editorial: Social Security/Blacks get more, not less, from it

This piece makes two important points, one obvious (Bush is a liar), one less so-- the fact that African Americans actually do better than whites under Social Security, not worse, despite their shorter lifespans. Turns out that the disability and survivor benefits more than compensate.

Not that the facts have ever gotten in the way of a good propaganda campaign for this crowd.

Linc Chafee, Man of Mystery

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been busy fighting the good fight against Social Security reform lately, and on Friday he commented that Rhode Island’s own Lincoln Chafee, the Bluest Republican in Captivity, seemed to be in a good position to head up a Republican rebellion against SS reform should he so choose. Chafee, as is often the case, is at odds with the administration over the need for SS reform, having commented last month that he sees the Prez’s plans as being fiscally irresponsible in light of the huge budget deficits the Boy King is piling up. However, he has been relatively silent on the matter since then.

Chafee is going to be an interesting guy to watch on SS and everything else over the next few years. He made a fair amount of noise about his dissatisfaction with the administration last term and throughout the election cycle, capped by an announcement to the press that he wrote in Dubya’s daddy for President in November. His comments following the election also led many to believe that he was closer than ever to switching parties. But he decided to stay put, stating at the time—in an appropriately contrite tone, as I recall—that he was sorry he created such a fuss, and that he preferred to work within the party in order to bring it back to the center.

I don’t know that this series of events hurt him much in Washington. He was already the object of scorn and ridicule among the Alpha Republicans in the Senate, and those who know him and respect him could hardly have been surprised by his comments (see, for example, Matt Bai’s excellent 2003 profile of Chafee, "A Party of One," in the New York Times Magazine; sorry, gotta pay for it).

However, it’s put him in the position of annoying both Republicans and Democrats at home. Most Republicans aren’t being openly hostile (but drop by anchorrising.com sometime), and Chafee has said that he’s received reassurances by the party that he won’t be challenged in the ’06 primary. However, a plausible challenger is straining at the leash in one Stephen Laffey. Laffey, the mayor of Cranston and a graduate of the Rudy Guiliani Academy of Self-Aggrandizing Mayoring and Gratuitous Bullying, is the rising star in Republican politics in Rhode Island. He’s down with the D.C. Republican economic agenda, he’s wildly ambitious, and he loves to antagonize the old guard of the RI Republican establishment. Laffey can't possibly win a general election at this point, but he's become a big fish in a small pond very quickly, and the state Republican party may not be able to keep him out if Chafee insists on voting his conscience.

Laffey also happens to be the Providence Journal’s “It” boy at the moment, and the ProJo likes Republican Gov. Don Carcieri a Whole Lot. Although the editors will occasionally wax critical about administration policy, they usually can be counted on to back the President’s plays at crunch time. My guess is that this will continue to be true with SS reform, particularly if Laffey, Carcieri and the other so-called Real Republicans around the state are on board.

On the Democratic side, many Rhode Islanders were frustrated and disappointed that Chafee didn’t jump ship after the election. However, they have Matt Brown, the well-regarded Secretary of State, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who has the right name and more money than he can count, waiting in the wings. If Chafee is a Good Republican the next two years and makes it through the primary, the Democratic candidate will be able to campaign against ChafeeBush and make the argument that Rhode Islanders cannot afford to send a conservative accomplice to Washington. At the same time, Chafee’s standing as an outsider will undermine any argument he might make about the advantages of having a Senator in the majority party. Everyone knows his influence is limited, and he can be counted on to wrangle just enough lucre for RI to keep him from crossing the aisle—and that will diminish if the Republicans build on their majority by winning other seats in '06.

Of course, much of this is moot if Chafee doesn’t care about being re-elected, and he may not. He seems authentically dedicated to public service, and he's not without guile and shrewdness, but little about him fits the mold of a career power player. This is, after all, a guy whose favorite topic of conversation may be shoeing horses. So who knows what he’ll do? I know I sure don’t. I’ve been in RI for a little over three years now, and the political landscape here strikes me as being two parts Tom Wolfe and one part John Kennedy O’Toole. Chafee is in many respects the oddest and least predictable of our cast of characters.

Generally speaking, he may choose to maintain party discipline by working behind the scenes and just keep a low profile on issues that his conscience prevents him from actively supporting, particularly if he wants to be re-elected. On the other hand, he may feel a certain freedom to act according to his conscience without reservation now that he’s already alienated everyone at home. With respect to Social Security specifically, he's most likely to come out as part of a pre-arranged coalition of moderate Repubs, although I wouldn’t expect him to take the point position on this (In any event, I agree with Josh Marshall that he ultimately won’t vote for any reform plan that doesn’t pass his smell test). We’ll see.

But Josh is dead on about one point: Chafee and the other moderate Republicans are going to be far less likely to come out against Social Security reform unless the Democrats can exercise some party discipline of their own. They need to get DLC drones like Lieberman and Bayh to act like the loyal opposition for a change, and they need to lock in their forty-five votes in order to expect any help from across the aisle.

Social Security, solvency and political spin

From MSNBC, incredibly enough:

"For too long, too many people dependent on Social Security have been cruelly frightened by individuals seeking political gain through demagoguery and outright falsehood, and this must stop," "The future of Social Security is much too important to be used as a political football."

Ronald Reagan

Saturday, January 15, 2005

And why does the right seek out window dressing like A. Gonzales and A. WIlliams?

This is why. As noted byColorado Luis the biggest minority organizations muzzle themselves because they confuse the specific with the general. One fascist Hispanic elevated; millions are ground underfoot, and the Bill of Rights becomes a dishtowel. What breathtaking stupidity.

Social Security Enlisted to Push Its Own Revision

Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.

The agency's plans are set forth in internal documents, including a "tactical plan" for communications and marketing of the idea that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action.

Social Security officials say the agency is carrying out its mission to educate the public, including more than 47 million beneficiaries, and to support President Bush's agenda.



As it has so often done before, the Bush Administration puts its own spin on a Vietnam quote: In order to save the village, it was necessary to destroy it...and to usethe village's own resources to buy the ammunition.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Military Has Discharged 26 Gay Linguists

The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military — at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers — is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.


No comment on the story -- I just like the headline. Thanks, Yahoo.

James Baker advises administration to consider a phased withdrawal of troops

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, an architect of the U.S. war with Iraq in 1991, is advising the Bush administration to consider a phased withdrawal of some of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Otherwise, Baker says, the United States risks being suspected of having an "imperial design" in the region.

A protracted U.S. military presence in Iraq is probably unavoidable since attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces and on Iraqi security forces are likely to continue, Baker said Tuesday in a speech at Rice University in Houston.

"Even under the best of circumstances, the new Iraqi government will remain extremely vulnerable to internal divisions and external meddling," he said.

Still, former President George H.W. Bush's secretary of state said, "any appearance of a permanent occupation will both undermine domestic support here in the United States and play directly into the hands of those in the Middle East who -- however wrongly -- suspect us of imperial design."


No friggin' way this means what you think it means. The chances that James Baker would say something the Bush family didn't want him to say are about equal to the chances that Osama will fill in for Bill Rehnquist at the swearing in ceremony next week.

What I think it means is that the decision has indeed been made to declare Peace with Honor on January 31st and high tail it out of the newly democratic miasma we have gifted to the region.

How these clowns will be able to keep saying that sacrifices of the dead and maimed soldiers were worth it is another question. Also up for grabs is the way they will con more volunteer fodder units for the next adventure.

Armitage Says He, Powell Sought Influence

Commenting on Washington's worst-kept secret, Secretary of State Colin Powell's deputy said he and Powell sometimes went public with their dissenting views to try to influence Bush administration policy.

Richard Armitage, who leaves along with Powell at the end of President Bush's first term, described the process as using the "bully pulpit.''

"Differences of opinion are something you as a citizen and I as a citizen should value in your government,'' Armitage said in an interview with National Public Radio's "Morning Edition'' on Thursday. "You really want it.''

Powell and Armitage, whose friendship was forged decades ago, share foreign policy views that are distinctly more moderate than those of Bush and other key presidential advisers. They also made far more use of media interviews and speeches to promote U.S. foreign policy than their predecessors.

Armitage made clear in the interview that the public appearances had another design, as well - to reflect and register the views of the State Department as well as influence the shaping of policy.

"When Secretary Powell speaks or when Rich Armitage speaks, we're putting out our views. And we will do so respectfully, of course,'' Armitage said according to a text released Friday by the State Department. "This is what the president paid us for, to bring him our views.''


Well, uh, no, actually. Bill Clinton paid his advisors for their views, and got his blow jobs from interns. George W. Bush, on the other hand....

Zephyr indeed

A rough definition of the name "Zephyr" is a soft breeze, which, in Zephyr Teachout's case, is really pretty ironic, since she's largely pseudosophisticated bluster. In scrolling through her thoughts about Kos, et al's relationships with the Dean campaign last year, she comes across at various turns as politically savvy, naive, and annoyingly coy, all of which undercut her assertions that the teapot tempest she's cooked up is about creating an honest dialogue. One need look no further than her assertion that she was under the impression that Zonkette (on Blogspot) was a "private" site to get a measure of her credibility; she's either too clever or too stupid by half to deserve any.

This could be hopeless naivete at work, although it's very, very difficult to not conclude that this is mostly about creating buzz and playing with the Big Boys--say whatever you will about her; just spell her name correctly.

No link to Zonkette--don't waste your time. Atrios has a good summary and comment on the matter, and Kos responds here.


Gary Leupp: Christian Fascism in America

More discussion of the really ugly f-word in Counterpunch. Worth a read.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dean campaign paid Daily Kos, MyDD as consultants, former Dean staffer reveals

For the record, this blogger has accepted no payment of any kind from any politician, political group, lobbying organization, political party, dinner party, tupperware party, or anyone named Howard, George, or Scaife.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Or that I wouldn't email wire instructions to the right (ok, any) buyer, er, benefactor.

Really friendly fire

    Pentagon reveals rejected chemical weapons

    "THE Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

    Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an 'aphrodisiac' chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a 'distasteful but completely non-lethal' blow to morale, the proposal says."

    It's probably a good thing that they didn't develop this one. Given that the army insists on discharging gay personnel, even when they occupy critical, understaffed positions, one can only assume that by now, the troops in Iraq would be fragging each other with Love Bombs and doin' the nasty in front of Sarge to get their asses back stateside.


    alicublog: good stuff re: neo-death squads

    On the mind-boggling rationale that one bad death squad doesn't spoil the whole bunch:

    I stress that this a separate issue from that of the reliability of reports that death squads are currently under consideration for Iraq. (Though I will say that a denial from Rumsfeld is, for obvious reasons, less than meaningless.) It is more interesting to me that their Truth Squad's first line of defense is, essentially, that we shouldn't judge too harshly the concept of using vicious, secret paramilitary terrorist groups as instruments of American foreign policy.

    It seems these guys have tumbled to an exciting new idea: rather than propagandizing for specific policies, it may be more effective to work on inverting certain of our traditional values -- that torture is un-American, that support for foreign paramilitary criminals is un-American, etc. -- so that, over time, we begin to question what we had once considered moral certainties about violence and fair play. That way, in future, pangs of conscience will not trouble us when something repulsive is proposed. Hell, next time they want to invade someplace, they may not even have to pretend to have a reason; a simple "yee-haw" will do. If torture and death squads aren't wrong, then what is?

    Judge Cooper gets it right

    "ATLANTA (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered a Georgia school district to remove stickers challenging the theory of evolution from its textbooks on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution.

    In a ruling issued in Atlanta, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said Cobb County's school board had violated the constitutional ban on the separation of church and state when it put the disclaimers on biology books in 2002.

    The stickers read: 'This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.'

    ...
    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

    The Georgia school board, which introduced the stickers at the behest of hundreds of parents, many of them religious conservatives, contended that the stickers only advised students to keep an open mind.

    The board's lawyer was not immediately available for comment on Thursday."

    This round goes to the reality-based community, although an appeal would belong to the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh is viewed as being, um, rather conservative, particularly since it is the temporary home of Bill Pryor, the Rightwing Nutball Deluxe that the Boy King put on the bench with a recess appointment last year. Pryor's up for reappointment this year; let's hope the Dems in the Senate grow some and send him back to Alabama.

    "Your winnings, Capt. Renault"

    Remember when we were shocked, shocked! to discover impropriety in the oil-for-food program?

    For months, the US Congress has been investigating activities that violated the United Nations oil-for-food programme and helped Saddam Hussein build secret funds to acquire arms and buy influence.

    President George W. Bush has linked future US funding of the international body to a clear account of what went on under the multi-billion dollar programme.

    But a joint investigation by the Financial Times and Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily, shows that the single largest and boldest smuggling operation in the oil-for-food programme was conducted with the knowledge of the US government.

    "Although the financial beneficiaries were Iraqis and Jordanians, the fact remains that the US government participated in a major conspiracy that violated sanctions and enriched Saddam's cronies," a former UN official said. "That is exactly what many in the US are now accusing other countries of having done. I think it's pretty ironic."

    Overall, the operation involved 14 tankers engaged by a Jordanian entity to load at least 7m barrels of oil for a total of no less than $150m of illegal profits. About another $50m went to Mr Hussein's cronies.

    In February 2003, when US media first published reports of this smuggling effort, then attributed exclusively to the Iraqis, the US mission to the UN condemned it as "immoral".

    However, FT/Il Sole have evidence that US and UK missions to the UN were informed of the smuggling while it was happening and that they reported it to their respective governments, to no avail.

    Oil traders were told informally that the US let the tankers go because Amman needed oil to build up its strategic reserves in expectation of the Iraq war.

    Last week Paul Volcker, head of the independent commission created by the UN to investigate failures in the oil-for-food programme, confirmed that Washington allowed violations of the oil sanctions by Jordan in recognition of its national interests.


    Just when you think the Administration has honed in on a single theme -- "All Toadying, all the time," they cross you up by going back to an old message like "hypocrisy." They really need to work on staying on-message.

    Bush screws up script @ Town Hall Meeting:

    Dubya had one of his patented invite-only “town halls” yesterday, with all attendees die-hard backers of Social Security privatization.

    How scripted was this event? Check out this exchange:

    MS. STONE: I would like to introduce my mom. This is my mother, Rhoda Stone. And she is grandmother of three, and originally from Helsinki, Finland, and has been here over 40 years.

    THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Same age as my mother.

    MS. STONE: Just turned 80.

    Of course, the script probably told Bush to say, “same age as my mother” after Ms. Stone mentions her mom is 80.



    If you think of the Administration as a reality TV show, none of this will bother you in the least. Perhaps we could get Tyra Banks to host "America's Next Top Moron." Then you could listen in as Dick and George practice:

    George: "Mr. President, what is the most important thing in comedy?"

    Dick:"No, sir, you are the President, and I think that is my line."

    George: "Oh, right."

    Dick: "Mr. President, what is the-"

    George: "TIMING!"

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    The Poor Man: Punditry Bought Pool

    This is who I wanna be when I grow up. Be sure to click on the link for "The Precious."

    Patent it quick, man, before Vegas muscles in on your action.

    Item #1 on the bluememe's holiday gift list:

    2 firms cut deals in Delay probe

    This just might get interesting:

    Prosecutors investigating whether corporations illegally financed the Republican Party's rise to dominance in Texas are negotiating agreements with several companies accused of making improper political donations, and analysts say the discussions could help elicit important leads in the probe.

    According to documents filed in Travis County District Court, two companies accused of making illegal political contributions have "flipped" for prosecutors in the past month, signing deals requiring them to cooperate in exchange for dismissal of their cases.

    The agreements were signed with Illinois-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. and DCS Inc., a debt-payment company based in California, and say the contributions were given "on the basis of false and misleading information provided by the fund-raiser that solicited the contribution."
    ...
    Texas law bans corporate contributions to state legislative candidates. Prosecutors say political organizations used corporate money to bankroll the campaigns of 22 Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives in 2002.

    Late last year, three of DeLay's aides were indicted and charged with money laundering and unlawfully accepting and soliciting corporate contributions.

    At the time, some campaign finance reformers argued that the indictments pointed to a conspiracy to cement Republican control of Congress.

    In 2003, the Republican-controlled Legislature, at DeLay's behest, drew new maps of congressional districts. In last fall's election, Republicans gained six seats in the Texas congressional delegation.


    I guess prosecutors in Texas are more expensive than Delay expected. The maneuvering to succeed him as House Commandant will likely begin soon.

    Robert Scheer: Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?

    A few months ago, a very wise man wrote that "If Saddam Hussein had not existed, the Bush cabal would have invented him; in a very real sense, they in fact did just that." Bob Scheer commits a greater heresy: he asks whether the Bushies have invented Al Qaeda.

    Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist?

    To even raise the question amid all the officially inspired hysteria is heretical, especially in the context of the U.S. media's supine acceptance of administration claims relating to national security. Yet a brilliant new BBC film produced by one of Britain's leading documentary filmmakers systematically challenges this and many other accepted articles of faith in the so-called war on terror.
    ...
    Terrorism is deeply threatening, but it appears to be a much more fragmented and complex phenomenon than the octopus-network image of Al Qaeda, with Bin Laden as its head, would suggest.

    While the BBC documentary acknowledges that the threat of terrorism is both real and growing, it disagrees that the threat is centralized:

    "There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas and who will use the techniques of mass terror — the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear. But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion. Wherever one looks for this Al Qaeda organization, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the 'sleeper cells' in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy."

    The fact is, despite the efforts of several government commissions and a vast army of investigators, we still do not have a credible narrative of a "war on terror" that is being fought in the shadows.

    Consider, for example, that neither the 9/11 commission nor any court of law has been able to directly take evidence from the key post-9/11 terror detainees held by the United States. Everything we know comes from two sides that both have a great stake in exaggerating the threat posed by Al Qaeda: the terrorists themselves and the military and intelligence agencies that have a vested interest in maintaining the facade of an overwhelmingly dangerous enemy.

    Such a state of national ignorance about an endless war is, as "The Power of Nightmares" makes clear, simply unacceptable in a functioning democracy.


    Functioning democracy?

    "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." -- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

    We don't need no stinking functioning democracy.

    Rare insight from the Moonie Times

    President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord," but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship.

    Mr. Bush told editors and reporters of The Washington Times yesterday in an interview in the Oval Office that many in the public misunderstand the role of faith in his life and his view of the proper relationship between religion and the government.
    "I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person," Mr. Bush said. "I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is."


    So if you are just an ordinary shlub, you have the right not to worship. But if you want to kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians, enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, strut around in uniform after shirking your own duty, break the social contract, sow hate and prejudice and lie with impunity, well, my fellow citizens, for that you need a relationship with the big guy.

    Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month

    viawashingtonpost.com:

    The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

    In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
    ...
    Congress allotted hundreds of millions of dollars for the weapons hunt, and there has been no public accounting of the money. A spokesman for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency said the entire budget and the expenditures would remain classified.

    Several hundred military translators and document experts will continue to sift through millions of pages of documents on paper and computer media sitting in a storeroom on a U.S. military base in Qatar.

    But their work is focused on material that could support possible war crimes charges or shed light on the fate of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot who was shot down in an F/A-18 fighter over central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, the opening night of the Persian Gulf War. Although he was initially reported as killed in action, Speicher's status was changed to missing after evidence emerged that he had ejected alive from his aircraft.

    The work on documents is not connected to weapons of mass destruction, officials said, and a small group of Iraqi scientists still in U.S. military custody are not being held in connection with weapons investigations, either.


    snark #1: If Bush really wanted to make government more efficient, he would put these guys to work now on searching for the phony Social Security crisis that Congress will be demanding an investigation into not long after Bush dismantles it.

    snark #2: Or maybe their team should be folded into the one that is no longer looking for Osama. Some real efficiencies in not looking for things might be achieved.

    snark #3: Or they could be used to find Bernie Kerik's nanny.

    c'mon and play along at home...

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Replicating failure -- Iraq, then Social Security

    from American Prospect Online:

    For all the fanfare that surrounds the Bush administration’s efforts to present a bold new idea on pension reform, the truth is that it is not new at all. In fact, the proposal looks suspiciously like the plan set in train during Thatcher’s first term in 1979 and which has since led Britain to the brink of a crisis. Since then, the nation’s basic pension, which is paid for out of tax receipts, has shrunk dramatically. The United Kingdom has the stingiest state pension program of any G8 nation, and there is growing consensus -- even among British conservatives -- that reform is needed. And ironically enough, considering that America is on the verge of copying Britain’s mistake, most experts seek reform in the direction of a more generous, and simpler, basic state pension -- one similar in design, in other words, to America’s Social Security program.
    ...
    And so, at the exact moment that America contemplates replicating this disaster, many in Britain -- some conservatives included -- are looking more and more kindly on American Social Security as a model for reform. The National Association of Pension Funds, a group of employers who sponsor the nation’s largest schemes, is urging government not to expect the private sector to shoulder the burden of keeping the nation’s elderly from poverty. Chief executive Christine Farnish notes that it’s “actually cheaper for the state to carry the risk,” adding that in looking for a system that offers the best combination of modest guaranteed retirement benefits delivered at low cost, the U.S. Social Security program seems the best model. “It doesn’t have to make a profit, and it delivers efficiencies of scale that most companies would die for,” she says.

    And that is how the British eye, wearied after beholding decades of privatization “reform,” views the American system, which has served the United States so remarkably well for seven decades but which supposedly is now in dire crisis and must be overhauled by the time the forsythia bloom. It’s a point of view Americans would do well to take in.


    If it would have only taken a few beers in 2002 to talk you out of seeing Iraq as Vietnam with sand, it should take a quart of Everclear to lead to waking up next to Bush's Social Security warthog -- this article makes painfully clear how bad the idea is, based not on theory, but on painful, expensive history.

    And as pointed out at Eschaton, there are lots more double-coyote ugly examples where this one came from.

    So THAT'S what homeland security means...

    from the Post viaJosh Marshall

    D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

    Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.


    Sorry, no snarky comment here. Everything I can think of would result in big guys with mirrored shades and earpieces appearing at my door.

    Mark Cuban: "Donate party money to Tsunami victims, Mr. Prez"

    viaKhaleej Times Online:

    A Dallas billionaire has a tip for President George W. Bush: cancel his inaugural balls and donate the 40 million dollars saved to tsunami victims.

    Mark Cuban is the irreverent, outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. He will not say how much he has given to the disaster victims, but the December 31 proposal on his website has generated controversy -- and support -- on the Internet.

    “My point was that this was a great opportunity for the president to stand up and say that we are committed to aid, but we need to take a first step towards austerity so we can reduce the deficit,” Cuban said Friday via e-mail.

    “A great way to demonstrate that first step would be to have the inauguration, but cancel the parties and request the uncommitted donations be donated to the relief effort,” he said.

    The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is raising the 30 million to 40 million dollars needed to cover costs from private donors, does not plan to cancel any of the nine inaugural balls or the three “candle light dinners” that donors of 250,000 and 100,000 dollars get with the president and first lady.


    Uh huh. And Shawn Bradley will be league MVP. At point guard.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    You probably shouldn't become a WFAN listener, big guy

    Big Unit Clashes With NYC Cameraman


    "NEW YORK (AP) -- Randy Johnson got a little physical on the way to his New York Yankees physical. The Big Unit got into a confrontation on a Manhattan sidewalk with a television cameraman Monday, then apologized in a statement released later in the day.

    ...

    Johnson got a taste Monday of how much attention star ballplayers can attract in New York. Walking along a Manhattan avenue, he put his long right arm up to block a camera from WCBS-TV after he left his Manhattan hotel.

    Johnson, who was accompanied by Yankees director of team security Jerry Laveroni, made contact with the camera, station spokeswoman Audrey Pass said.

    'Get out of my face, that's all I ask,' Johnson said, according to a video of what occurred, which was posted on the station's Web site.

    'No cameras,'' Laveroni said.

    'Don't get in my face,' Johnson then said. 'I don't care who you are. Don't get in my face.'

    'I'm just taking a picture,' said the cameraman, identified by the station as Vinny Everett.

    Responded Johnson: 'Don't get in my face, and don't talk back to me, all right.'"

    It should be acknowledged that Johnson later issued a written apology, noting that he's been a little overwhelmed in recent days. One can imagine that having to sit by while your agent negotiates a $32 million dollar contract extension must be enormously stressful.

    But he would do well to learn, and to learn quickly, that the NYC media is full of guys like Vinny who feel their first responsibility as journalists is to "get in his face."






    Supreme Court Sidesteps Gay Adoption Case

    "WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court steered clear of a dispute over gay adoptions on Monday, energizing conservatives who want other states to copy Florida's one-of-a-kind ban on gays adopting children.
    ...

    Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has maintained that the children, often products of troubled and unstable backgrounds, should have a father and a mother.
    ...
    Florida's attorney, Casey Walker, told the Supreme Court, 'It is rational to believe that children need male and female influences to develop optimally, particularly in the areas of sexual and gender identity, and heterosexual role modeling.'
    ...
    The Florida appeal was filed by a group of gay men, including a father who has had the same foster children for 17 years. Florida allows gays to be foster parents."

    The logical fallacies and internal contradictions on this one double back so much it's hard to tease'em all out. But let's be clear: gay couples can't adopt kids coming from unstable backgrounds, which almost certainly involved heterosexual parents and/or single-parent homes; and gay couples can't adopt kids, but are at liberty to deprive them of "heterosexual role modeling" as foster parents for seventeen years.



    That old radio favorite: payola

    via AlterNet: :

    In most circumstances, the penalty for selling your soul is collected post mortem. Armstrong Williams and his friends in the Bush Administration may have to pay up in this life.

    When I heard about Armstrong Williams' hand being caught in the government cookie jar, my first thought was payola. Well, the folks at Alternet looked up the statute, and what do you know, the payola statute fits.

    Now foisting No Child Left Behind agitprop isn't the sin that brainwashing America with Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson is, I grant you. But it will be interesting to see if these remedies are brought to bear here, against Williams, the guilty at Education, and the other Fausts out there.

    White House: Keep your yap shut

    The White House said Monday that the case of the Education Department paying a conservative commentator to plug its policies was an isolated incident, not a practice widely used by the Bush administration.

    With the Education Department still defending its $240,000 contract with syndicated columnist and TV personality Armstrong Williams, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was cautious in choosing his comments.

    "Questions have been raised about that arrangement, it ought to be looked into, and there are ways to look into matters of that nature," McClellan said. The spokesman did not say precisely who should look into it, and stopped short of backing an inquiry by the department's inspector-general, as some lawmakers have sought. He noted that department lawyers have taken up the matter.
    ...
    McClellan said he knew of no other contract in the administration like the one Williams had. He also hinted that Williams shared the blame.

    "There are also questions about whether or not this commentator should have been disclosing the information publicly," McClellan said.


    McClellan was unwilling to confirm having attempted to order a "Horse's Head of the Month" gift basket set for Williams from Harry & David.

    Vet's Affairs Committee rolled into Toady Dept.

    via No More Mister Nice Blog

    Representative Christopher H. Smith's removal as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee by the House Republican caucus drew strong protests on Thursday from veterans' groups that praised Mr. Smith as unwilling to toe the Republican Party line.

    "The Republicans needed a chairman who would consistently say no to veterans' groups and say yes to the Republican leadership," said Richard B. Fuller, national legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, which has about 22,000 members and is based in Washington. "That meant get rid of Chris Smith."


    Part of a continuing series about the three branches of government -- the executive, the executive and the executive.

    US troops 'kill police' in Iraq

    via the Bebe, which has either a wonderfully twisted sense of humor or an opening for a new web layout editor.

    US troops 'kill police' in Iraq

    US soldiers mistakenly shot dead two Iraqi policemen and two civilians after an attack on their convoy, the Iraqi interior ministry reports.
    The incident happened south of Baghdad on Saturday just hours after a US bombing error left at least five dead near the northern city of Mosul.

    US forces apologised for bombing the house but no comment was available immediately after the shooting deaths.

    A fifth Iraqi died of a heart attack after the shooting, police added.

    According to the Iraqi interior ministry, US troops opened fire on Saturday evening after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb at a checkpoint at Yussifiya, 14km (nine miles) south of the Iraqi capital.

    The area is part of the notorious Triangle of Death, where Sunni-led opposition to the US occupation is strong.

    With just three weeks to go before elections, the BBC's David Willis notes, US officials have been meeting with leaders of Iraq's Sunni community in an attempt to get them to lift their threatened boycott of the vote.

    Sunni leaders maintain Iraq's security situation is now so unstable that holding free and fair elections is virtually impossible.

    In other developments:

    A bomb being removed for disposal explodes and kills seven Ukrainian soldiers and one Kazakh in Wasit province

    Gunmen shoot dead the deputy police chief of the city of Samarra, Maj Muhammad Muzaffar

    Iran opposes any postponement of the Iraqi elections which, President Mohammad Khatami says, will facilitate "the exit of occupation forces".

    Earlier on Saturday, an American jet dropped a 500-pound bomb on a house near Mosul. The owner put the number of dead at 14, including seven children.

    Reporting only five deaths in Aaytha and referring to the loss of "possibly innocent lives", the US military promised an investigation.

    "The house was not the intended target for the air strike. The intended target was another location nearby," a statement said.


    The sidebar picture shows an apprehensive preschool-age boy looking at a helmeted American soldier. The caption:
    The US is trying to win hearts and minds among the Sunnis


    One of these things is not like the others...



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