Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stop The Nuclear Bailout -

Do you live near a nuclear power plant? You may not today, but if the nuclear power industry has their way, a lot more of us could have those radioactive smokestacks as neighbors. Please join musicians Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt as well as a growing list of concerned citizens in signing a petition to Congress that will stop a pending bailout of the nuclear power industry.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Will Suspended Priest Release Names of Vatican Gays?

Michael Crawford for Bloggernista: The Vatican priest who was recently suspended after being secretly taped coming on to a young man reportedly has a list of gay clerics who work in the Vatican and is threatening to release the names:

Father Tommaso Stenico (60) had “a detailed dossier” of all the homosexual clerics at Vatican “with a list of names and circumstances implicating a certain number of priests and even bishops working at the Curia”, Ignazio Ingrao, reporter for the conservative news weekly said.

Stenico also sent his superior Cardinal Claudio Hummes a report denouncing the moral degradation within the Curia, which could make the Vatican “tremble”, Ingrao

According to Panorama, Stenico, who also worked for a Catholic television station Telepace and owns a white BMW car, also drew up the list out of resentment at having waited so long to be named a bishop.

A hidden camera in his office showed the priest, who worked in a Vatican department managing the 400 000 Roman Catholic priests around the world, declaring himself an “active homosexual” and making sexual advances to a young man.

On October 1, Italian television station La7 aired footage from the encounter showing the two men with their faces blurred. — AFP.

LSB: It would be interesting to know if Msgr. Georg Gänswein, the Pope’s incredibly attractive personal assistant, is on that list. The Vatican has an even stronger DADT policy than the U.S. military - it is simply "DON'T." I’m not Catholic and I don’t send my money to the Catholic church, so I’ve got no dog in this fight; however, it does seem to me that if you can't follow that rule you should get into a line of business that doesn't have it. The U.S. military, one the other hand, DOES get a large chunk of my money – as it also gets much of its spending money from a large number of gay men and women. In the case of the U.S. military I believe the institution has to change its rules.

Plame’s CIA job was to stop Iran from obtaining nukes. In her first interview since Bush administration officials outed her as a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson reveals to CBS 60 Minutes that she was involved in preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. In the interview to be aired this [evening], CBS reports that she was “involved in one highly classified mission to deliver fake nuclear weapons blueprints to Tehran.” Plame’s role in Iran intelligence was first revealed by Raw Story’s Larisa Alexandrovna in Feb. 2006.

Rumsfeld’s Revenge A story in [today's] Washington Post reports that early in 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld became angry that the Pentagon was losing control over reconstruction efforts in Iraq. In return, he refused to provide military security for diplomats, forcing the State Department to rush to Blackwater:

The next year, as the United States prepared to return sovereignty to the Iraqis and the State Department began planning an embassy in Baghdad, Rumsfeld lost a bid to retain control over the full U.S. effort, including billions of dollars in reconstruction funds. A new executive order, signed in January 2004, gave State authority over all but military operations. Rumsfeld’s revenge, at least in the view of many State officials, was to withdraw all but minimal assistance for diplomatic security.

“It was the view of Donald Rumsfeld and [then-Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz that this wasn’t their problem,” said a former senior State Department official. Meetings to negotiate an official memorandum of understanding between State and Defense during the spring of 2004 broke up in shouting matches over issues such as their respective levels of patriotism and whether the military would provide mortuary services for slain diplomats. […]

State chose the most expedient solution: Take over the Pentagon’s personal security contract with Blackwater and extend it for a year.

LSB: The legacy of Rumsfeld is the gift that keeps giving.

Rudy Giuliani Sleeps in $5,370 a Night San Francisco Hotel

From the Left: The Republican-controlled media was in a holy snit over reports that Democrat John Edwards spent $400 on a haircut to keep his Breck girl-perfect locks flawless but where is the GOP outrage over Republican Rudy Guiliani dropping $5,370 to sleep in palatial digs at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel?

The silence is deafening, I tell you.

Guiliani travels like royalty. In fact, if he had hair and bad teeth, you would think he was the Queen of England. Records show the former New York mayor spent $2,010 to sleep at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia; $4,034 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA; and, $5,370 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

Giuliani spent another $800,000 on charter jet travel.

LSB: Where is the GOP outrage? Like the balls of every Congressman - and Congresswoman, - it's missing. The chickenhawks in Congress are voracious in attacking Dems with their faux outrage about any number of "offenses," and the Dems just take ownership of that outrage. But when the tables are turned - and the "offense" greater - the GOP scatters, spins, obfuscates, "doesn't recall," and generally lies about it with impunity. Afterall, the Dems don't seem to question much the GOP does these days. Despite being in the majority, they continue to act like whipped dogs. Where's the outrage? Don't expect it anytime soon - from either party.

Bush Hides Behind a Tiny Screech Owl

President Bush spent a crisp fall Saturday gingerly balancing a tiny screeched owl on a gloved hand at a wildlife refuge and casting for rockfish on the Chesapeake Bay.

Famous Maryland style crabcakes were served for lunch at Vice President Dick Cheney’s waterside home outside this charming Eastern Shore village.

It was all part of an effort to burnish his conservation credentials while announcing new initiatives that he said would protect migrating birds and two fish species, red drum and striped bass, prized by anglers.

But according to the League of Conservation Voters:

The Bush administration has arguably been the most anti-environmental in our nation’s history. From weakening protections for clean air and water, national forests, and wildlife, to advancing destructive energy policies this administration has shown an utter disregard for the environment and public health.

And when it comes to addressing global warming – the biggest problem we face – the administration’s approach has been an abysmal failure. Although President Bush finally acknowledged in his 2007 State of the Union that global warming is a problem, his proposed solutions are deeply flawed and completely inadequate.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

You are forewarned!

Blackwater CEO Says He Won’t Let Iraqi Government Prosecute His Employees

Washington Times:
A defiant Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince said yesterday he will not allow Iraqi authorities to arrest his contractors and try them in Iraq’s faulty
justice system.

“We will not let our people be taken by the Iraqis,” Mr. Prince told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. At least 17 of 20 Blackwater guards being investigated for their roles in a Sept. 16 shooting incident are still in a secure compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone and carrying out limited duties.

“In an ideal sense, if there was wrongdoing, there could be a trial brought in the Iraqi court system. But that would imply that there is a valid Iraqi court system where Westerners could get a fair trial. That is not the case right now,” said Mr. Prince. Read more…
[See the video from CNN of family members telling horrific tales of their loved ones having their skulls blown up by members of Blackwater during the September 16 massacre in Baghdad.]

Logan Murphy, Crooks and Liars: The arrogance is staggering. His company has been terrorizing Iraqi citizens for years and now he says his men can’t get a fair trial there. Welcome to the world you helped to create, Mr. Prince. Iraq is a sovereign nation and has every right to enforce their laws. Prince goes on to say that his men might be tried in a U.S. military court, but after learning from a U.S. Colonel that his men turned their weapons on our own soldiers, he may find he’s no more welcome here than in Iraq.

RELATED: Blackwater confiscated Iraqi planes. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has revealed that “Blackwater USA tried to take at least two Iraqi military aircraft out of Iraq two years ago and refused to give the planes back when Iraqi officials sought to reclaim them.” Waxman today wrote to Blackwater CEO Erik Prince and requested that he “provide all documents related to the attempted shipment and to explain where the aircraft are now.”

RELATED: Moyers on Blackwater’s “Spectacle of Spin” (by SilentPatriot). Bill Moyers meticulously documents Erik Prince’s exhaustive spin campaign over the last week, offering a crystal clear picture of how professional deceivers operate. Prince’s rehearsed answer about Blackwater not being a mercenary force — “we’re Americans fighting for America”/ “a mercenary force is hired by a foreign army” — shows just how out of touch and clueless he is. From the Iraqi perspective, Blackwater fits perfectly the definition of a mercenary force — a for-profit killing force hired by (our) foreign army. Does he really not see that? The entire interview with Blackwater expert Jeremy Scahill — who wrote the definitive book on the rise of the private army — can be streamed from the PBS site. Scahill does a tremendous job of exposing Prince and Blackwater for what they are — a taxpayer-funded, for-profit, private killing force that operates outside the rule of law.

Iraq To Cheney: “No, Big Fat No” To Permanent U.S. Bases

In an interview with CNN Iraqi National Security Adviser, Mowaffak Al-Rubaie sent a clear message directed at Vice President Dick Cheney that his country will not tolerate permanent U.S. bases.

Iraq “put the U.S. on notice.” Iraq’s National Security Advisor, doesn’t mince words.

“The people of Iraq, the Parliament, the Council of Representative and the government of Iraq, all say no, big fat no, N, O, No military bases for Iraq because we believe that is in direct encroachment to our sovereignty, and we don’t need it.”
“That message was delivered directly to Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House.”

KID'S HEALTH CARE: Rep. Pete Stark Blasts GOP on SCHIP, Iraq

“I’m just amazed that the Republicans are worried that we can’t pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don’t care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal War in Iraq.

“”President Bush’s statements about children’s health shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than his lies about the War in Iraq. The truth is that that Bush just likes to blow things up – in Iraq, in the United States, and in Congress.

After Rep. Pete Stark made his harsh statements against the Republicans and Bush over the SCHIP veto, the right wingers are trying to change the subject again by feigning outrage against him. Stark also didn’t fall for the MoveOn ad outrage also. Good for him. CNN ran a small clip of him all morning. Here’s CNN’s poll. 88% say he shouldn’t apologize. What say you?

In response to Republican attacks, Congressman Stark recently issued this follow-up statement:

“I have nothing but respect for our brave men and women in uniform and wish
them the very best,” said Stark. “But I respect neither the Commander-in-Chief
who keeps them in harms way nor the chickenhawks in Congress who vote to deny children health care.”

Related - Think McConnell: Gov’t-run health care for me, not you. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he opposes SCHIP because it would impose “government-run health care for everyone.” But as the Kentucky Herald-Reader notes today, McConnell — like President Bush — is a recipient of government-run health care:

[A]s a U.S. senator, McConnell gets government-run, taxpayer-subsidized insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, including free outpatient treatment by doctors at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. When McConnell needed triple bypass heart surgery in 2003, he checked into the Naval Medical Center and was treated by the hospital’s clinical chief of cardiothoracic surgery. […]

McConnell’s office did not return repeated calls seeking comment for this story. In a written statement, his spokesman Don Stewart denied that McConnell’s warnings about “government-run health care” are hypocritical because the senator and his aides receive government-run, taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Imagine If A Democrat Had Done This, Part 9,487

Greg Sargent, The Horse's Mouth: Here's a question: When are the cable nets and the Capitol Hill press and the pundits going to dig into the role that GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell played in pushing the smear of the Frost family?

It needs to be said that reporters like Time's Karen Tumulty and The New York Times's David Herszenhorn did a decent job knocking down the original winger smear of the Frosts. But since then, the story's moved forward considerably, and it's gotten really good. And neither these media worthies nor any others have followed suit.

As I noted below, the Courier-Journal of Kentucky revealed yesterday that McConnell's chief press aide had tried to get reporters to follow the "reporting" done on this by Michelle Malkin and company before realizing the story was bogus and calling the reporters off.

And today there's still more on McConnell's role. As both Atrios and John Aravosis note, the tireless Courier-Journal has revisited its interview with the McConnell aide and weighed in with another story on this pretty much proving that McConnell lied about his own role:

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew last week -- at a time when he was denying it -- that his staff had sent e-mails encouraging reporters
to look into the background of a 12-year-old boy used by Democrats to support expansion of a health-care program.

In an interview Friday with WHAS-TV reporter Mark Hebert, the Kentucky Republican said his staff had not been involved in trying to push reporters to look into the financial situation of the boy's family.

But McConnell's communications director, Don Stewart, said in an interview Monday with The Courier-Journal that he had told McConnell about the Oct. 8 e-mails sometime around Thursday, the day before the interview with Hebert.

It's key to keep in mind that this isn't just some GOP City Councilman from Nowheresville. It's the GOP leader in the Senate. His office tried to get reporters to join Michelle Malkin and the rest of the wingnut hounds to join in the chase of a 12-year-old boy who'd been severely injured. McConnell knew about this, and then lied about knowing about it.

I know, the "let's imagine if a Dem had done this" game is a cliche. But let's play it anyway. Imagine if a top communications staffer for Harry Reid tried to get mainstream reporters to follow the lead of lefty bloggers who were digging into the background of, and harassing, a young boy who had appeared in a GOP ad for some policy initiative or another -- and then imagine if Reid were caught lying about it.

Lefty bloggers wouldn't have taken this route, of course, but if this had happened and Reid had done this, I think the cable networks would be all over it. CNN's internet reporter would do a segment on it, Wolf Blitzer would grunt with disapproval, Chris Matthews would drench the Hardball camera with spittle flecks, Richard Cohen would question Reid's character, David Broder would shake his head and mutter darkly about "incivility" and Reid's incompetence, Howie Kurtz would write a story about the coverage of the story, and the rest would be history. That Reid staffer would end up resigning.

Dems are now out there attacking McConnell. Yet we're hearing nothing about this key twist in the story. At the very least you'd think this would be fodder for the cable nets. Bizarre.

Drawing the line

Mark Kleiman, The Reality-Based Community: I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won't say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his "Article II powers," then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn't read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he's done his homework.

I see no disadvantage in the Senate Democrats taking a firm stand on the rule of law and human decency.

Perfecting the art of the hissy fit

Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report: If you blinked you missed it, but on late Wednesday afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to stir up yet another outrage against The group, along with coalition partners, unveiled the S-CHIP ad featuring 2-year-old Bethany Wilkerson. MoveOn announced that the ad would run in districts of lawmakers who voted against the bipartisan compromise measure.
Boehner said the ad was misleading, and did his level best to get everyone excited about it: “As with MoveOn’s slanderous attacks on General David Petraeus, the new ads are so misleading and disgusting they have no place in our nation’s political discourse. I call on all Members of Congress to join me in condemning this pathetic, misleading action.”
In this case, it didn’t work. No one cared. Boehner hoped to stir a new round of whining — nothing excites the right like manufactured outrage — but this one was a dud.
So, they tried again yesterday with a new faux scandal.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-California, is facing fire from Republicans for comments on the House floor Thursday suggesting Americans are dying in Iraq for President Bush’s amusement.

Sharply critical of Bush’s veto of the children’s health insurance legislation, Stark said Republicans are spending money “to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough … to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan quickly condemned the comments, saying in a statement they are “an insult to every American, Democrat or Republican.”

“The leaders of the Democrat Party, including Nancy Pelosi and their presidential candidates, need to stand up and make it clear that this kind of attack is unacceptable from any elected official,” Duncan added.

As Digby put it, “These people are going to overdose on smelling salts and phony sanctimony if they don’t watch out. It’s about once a week now, isn’t it?”

In fact, yes.

What, exactly, did Stark say, in context? Atrios ran an extended excerpt.

“First of all, I’m just amazed they can’t figure out, the Republicans are worried we can’t pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don’t care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where ya gonna get that money? You going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement. This bill would provide healthcare for 10 million children and unlike the President’s own kids, these children can’t see a doctor or receive necessary care. […]

“But President Bush’s statements about children’s health shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up. In Iraq, in the United States and in Congress.”

Intemperate? Sure. Worth having a hissy fit over? Probably not.

But it had been days since the Republican machine has coordinated to whine about something they’d heard some liberal say, so they seized on this one fairly quickly. CNN ran with it, as if Stark’s comments were an important development in the debate, and conservative news outlets treated this like a real story.


Look, occasionally political figures and officials are going to say intemperate things. Does the right have to go into high dudgeon every time this much? Republicans end up looking rather hysterical, as if their delicate sensibilities and virgin ears can’t bear to hear a Democrat say a discouraging word. Maybe it’s time the GOP grew up a little, and reserved their outrage for truly offensive comments. People stopped listening to the boy who cried wolf, after all.

Indeed, just this week, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey compared U.S. officials to Nazis, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) accused Democratic lawmakers of treason, saying Dems are “desperately against allowing our intelligence agencies to fight” Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Dems didn’t throw a hissy fit; CNN didn’t find it noteworthy; and no one got hysterical.

It’s as if Republicans have decided that they can’t govern, so they’ll perfect the fine art of whining. It’s rather unbecoming, but I guess they need to play to their strengths.

This was a compromise?

Chris in Paris, Why do the Democrats let the GOP walk all over them only to get a swift kick at the end? I know the majority is slim, but to give more money to one of the worst programs ever funded by Congress was downright stupid. To get it vetoed afterwards is just salt in the wound.

To entice Republicans to support the bill, the House of Representatives agreed to increase money for abstinence-only sex education by $28 million, to a total of about $200 million a year. Abstinence-only courses, the only form of federally financed sex ed, teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to cause psychological and physical harm.

If that were true, our health care system would be not only broken, but besieged. A 2002 survey found that 93 percent of American adults had had premarital sex by the age of 30.

In addition to provoking shame about a nearly universal activity, abstinence-only sex education is ineffective and dangerous. Last April, a 10-year study found that students who took abstinence-only courses were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students. Previous studies revealed that abstinence-only students avoid using contraception.

Abstinence-only is dangerous both in America and overseas where our tax dollars fund the theories of the flat-earth lunatics. There's no reason to offer compromise if the GOP refuses to compromise. Good grief, when will the Democrats ever learn?

What's Behind the Iraq-China Weapons Deal

Alex Rossmiller, The American Prospect: Governments often send messages with their actions, particularly messages that can't really be delivered directly. A recent, mostly overlooked example of this was Iraq's announcement of a contract with China to buy $100 million worth of light weaponry.

Despite sounding significant, the amount is a relative pittance. Iraq also recently signed deals to buy $1.6 billion in U.S. arms, with another $1.8 billion in possible future purchases, so $100 million in arms is less than 3 percent of weapons deals planned by Baghdad in recent months. The symbolism, however, is tremendous, and for Baghdad to publicly announce the deal accentuates the point. Iraq may be under occupation, but this move is a reminder that there are other patrons available, benefactors who would be very happy to curry favor (and perhaps eventual oil contracts) by supplying military might. The central government in Baghdad, weak and under siege as it may be, still has plenty of oil money and, despite an apparently permanent occupation and no end of political manipulation by the United States, has the ability to act independently.

This small assertion of independence -- involving the only nation with an economy and military to rival the United States, no less -- reflects increasing Iraqi dissatisfaction with U.S. policy. The Shia-dominated Maliki government is profoundly concerned about the recent U.S. strategy of arming Sunnis, ostensibly against al-Qaeda, in Iraq's western, Sunni-controlled Anbar province. Shia leaders have warned against this program, complaining that arming and training "former" insurgents serves to arm a dissatisfied and rebellious anti-government force.

Iraq's stated reasons for the China deal include concerns about munitions supply to Iraqi police and army units. Iraq accuses the United States of delays in delivering weapons to national forces, which U.S. military officials have acknowledged, citing production and logistical problems in the foreign military sales program.

While Iraqi President Jalal Talabani claims that only one out of five Iraqi police officers is armed, it is hard to believe that the security problems are due to a lack of incoming arms. There are widespread reports and rumors of Iraqi army and police forces selling their munitions. Indeed, a recent Government Accountability Office report indicated that about 30 percent of all arms distributed to Iraqi forces since 2004 have gone missing, including over 110,000 AK-47s alone. With the number of weapons circulating in Iraq -- from the United States as well as black market sources -- it is unlikely that Iraq felt it "necessary" to deal with China to acquire arms.

What the Shia-led government does deem necessary, however, is finding a way to effectively deal with a unified and armed Sunni opposition. Perversely, as the United States is triumphant about Sunni efforts against jihadists, Maliki and his allies recognize that al-Qaeda is a far less potent threat to the central government than Iraqi Sunnis. This dissatisfaction remained below the surface for some time, but no longer. The United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shia groups currently governing the country recently released a statement condemning the United States programs in Anbar as "authorizing the groups to conduct security acts away from the jurisdiction of the government and without its knowledge." It further blasted the Sunni targets of American embrace as "terrorist elements which committed the most hideous crimes against our people." The UIA demanded a halt to the outreach, and it is clear that the Shia are gravely concerned about the possibility that the United States may seek to expand the Anbar plan to Baghdad.

This conflict demonstrates the crippling problem with current U.S. efforts; namely, that we continue to focus on military issues almost to the exclusion of political and reconciliation efforts. Leaders of the Iraqi government claim that we are embracing and arming the group most likely to threaten its existence for the dubious purpose of countering a small jihadist element that is likely to be wiped out (and largely deprived of its casus belli) after U.S. withdrawal. It is a proposition difficult to dispute.

As the United States pursues a flawed and counterproductive strategy, Iraqi officials are more realistic. As Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said recently, "I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such. To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

The Shia majority expects U.S. support in this struggle, and if it is lacking, they will increasingly express their dissatisfaction. The weapons deal with China indicates a new level of political hardball by Iraq's leadership. "We need you," Iraq's government is reminding us, "but we don't need you for everything. And if you insist on ignoring us, we can look elsewhere to make sure we win our civil war."

[Photo: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (L) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) on June 21, 2007. It was the first visit by an Iraqi president to China since the two countries began diplomatic relations in 1958. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)]

Comcast blocking some P-to-P traffic

Paul McNamara on Comcast can expect a lot more customers to come calling armed with hammers after fans of file-sharing get a gander at this Associated Press report that describes how the service provider is indiscriminately blocking peer-to-peer traffic.
And 'Net neutrality advocates will have a heavy new cudgel at their disposal, too, with which they are certain to pound the desks of lawmakers and regulators. From the story:

Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.

The biggest problem - I mean aside from the fact that they're doing it all - is that the method Comcast is employing is incapable of distinguishing between good (read: legal) peer-to-peer traffic and bad (read: music and video stealing).

There is no question that the ISPs - and their customers - have a legitimate issue to deal with in the voracious bandwidth appetites of peer-to-peer technologies.

The issue isn't a nail, though, and Comcast shouldn't be hitting it with a hammer.

LSB: Unless a Net Neutrality bill is passed in Congress, the Telecoms will kill the Internet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lindsey Graham throws Lt. Gen. Sanchez under the Bus: “…his criticism is a bit astounding to me given his role in the war itself.”

John Amato, Crooks and Liars: Let the GOP attacks begin! Sen. Lindsey Graham wasted no time reminding the American people how awful retired General Sanchez’ tenure was in Iraq. He joined Blitzer [Sunday] morning and commented about the General after he came out and criticized the Iraq war policy. The key phrase you’ll hear is that they appreciate his service, but… I wonder if Graham violated the Cornyn amendment? (Play)

LSB: What about supporting our Generals, or does that only apply to Petraeus and those that tow the WH party line? These assholes are so transparent!

The CIA Gets Jumpy

Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish: The authorization of torture and abuse of prisoners by the CIA is a serious issue. And the more we know, the worse it looks. One sign of how serious it is is the response of the CIA director, Michael Hayden, to the work of the CIA inspector general to investigate possible law-breaking in the agency - he's investigating the investigator. The reason is pretty obvious:

A report by Mr. Helgerson’s office completed in the spring of 2004 warned that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention
Against Torture.

Some of the inspector general’s work on detention issues was conducted by Mary O. McCarthy, who was fired from the agency last year after being accused of leaking classified information. Officials said Mr. Helgerson’s office was nearing completion on a number of inquiries into C.I.A. detention, interrogation, and “renditions” — the practice of seizing suspects and delivering them to the authorities in other nations.

And so the Bushies dig in deeper.

OPINION: Chris in Paris,

LSB: Chris in Paris,, has two on-point opinions this morning:

What was Congress thinking? The fox guarding the hen house in real life. How many more examples of failure with programs such as this do we need?

The Food and Drug Administration is moving with unprecedented speed to launch a drug research center to be paid for by companies it regulates.

The goal of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, approved by Congress and signed into law late last month, is to streamline and improve the development of drugs and medical devices, a goal long sought by regulators and the biggest players in the industry, such as Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, and Johnson & Johnson.

Considering the excessive number of pharmaceutical recalls (even cough medicine for kids!) how is this cozy relationship going to deliver results that are good for consumers?

What ever happend to compassion in America? Everyone understands that organizations need the people they hire, but c'mon, this is absurd. When people are in times of need, is throwing them on the street really the only option? Is this where we want to be as a nation?

Tremul, 50, learned that lesson while working for the City of Manassas in May 2006, when a doctor told her she had breast cancer. She had worked as an emergency communications specialist, directing calls for the fire and police departments for 12 years. But July 26 this year, after going on long-term disability while she underwent seven surgeries and chemotherapy, Tremul received a letter in the mail terminating her employment. With her job went her health and life insurance benefits, she said.

"You don't cut someone off at the knees when they're sick. And that's what they did," Tremul said. "I was fired for having cancer."

Being diagnosed with cancer or another life threatening illness can happen to anyone whether they are rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, Senator or fireman. Do we really want to be a country who lacks compassion like this?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dr. Laura son linked to lurid Web page

Matthew D. LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune:The soldier son of talk radio relationship counselor Laura Schlessinger is under investigation for a graphic personal Web page that one Army official has called "repulsive."

The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.

The site is credited to and includes many photographs of Deryk Schlessinger, the 21-year-old son of the talk radio personality known simply as Dr. Laura. Broadcast locally on 570 KNRS, "Family Values Talk Radio," the former family counselor spends three hours daily taking calls and offering advice on morals, ethics and values. She broadcast a show from Fort Douglas, in Salt Lake City, last week. ...

Deryk Schlessinger's Web site indicated the 21-year-old soldier is stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where, the site's author writes, "godless crazy people like me," have become "a generation of apathetic killers."

The site indicated Schlessinger's team has survived numerous mortar, rocket and roadside bomb attacks. It also included several graphic cartoons. In one of the stick drawings, a top-hatted man laughs as he rapes a bound and bleeding woman in front of her family. In another depiction, a man forces a boy to perform oral sex at knifepoint as the child's mother pleads for her son's life.

It's unclear who created the cartoons, but Army spokesman Robert Tallman said the drawings "are repulsive and not anywhere near being acceptable," for a soldier's personal Web page.

The Tribune learned of the Web page earlier this week from a former schoolmate of Deryk Schlessinger. Army officials said they were unaware of the site until alerted to its presence by the newspaper Thursday.

LSB: From Wikipedia: "Schlessinger is an outspoken critic of practices she feels are immoral and have become too prevalent in contemporary American culture. These include sex outside of marriage (sometimes referred to by her as "fooling around;" Schlessinger also often refers to women who have sex outside of marriage as "unpaid whores")], ... the viewing of pornography,…" Now that her son has been caught posting violent and pornographic images to the web, does she think he’s a deviant, or does she reserve that term only for gay people? Even young adults from the "best" homes (whatever those are) will occasionally do something stupid and thoughtless. Who among us hasn't? Add to that immaturity the experience of being in a war and one can understand (though not excuse) the behavior described above. I have to wonder, though, how this will affect Dr. Laura. Will she become less judgmental and become more tolerant? I doubt it. Her experience as an “unpaid whore” – here are the nude photos of Dr. Laura posted by her former boyfriend – and her subsequent rants about sex outside marriage would suggest she will continue to spout her hypocritical message. Why would this experience with her son be any different?

Condi Rice worries that Putin's broad powers undermine democracy

John Aravosis, Seriously, these people never realize that they are criticizing Putin over and over for the very things they are doing themselves.

The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday."

In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

President amassing too much power? Check.

Countervailing institutions weak? Check.

Undermined judiciary? Check.

A Qwest for the Truth

Commentary by The Xsociate: A recent appellate court filing by a former Qwest Communications CEO reveals something that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been extensively following the NSA spying scandal.
A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.
Now this isn’t the part that’s interesting. It is well documented how the Bushies choose to handle those who refuse to go along with their dictates. Just ask any of the US Attorneys who received their walking papers. No, the bigger issue is when the NSA approached Qwest to browbeat them ask for their assistance.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio’s lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans’ phone records.

This isn’t the first time that such allegations have been made. And given it is being used as a defense to stave off a prison sentence, its validity remains suspect. But one would think, given all we have come to learn about how the Bushies operate, that it would at minimum warrant an inquiry from Congress. Especially since they are currently considering granting immunity to those telecoms who did choose to cooperate with the Bush administration. President Bush has been adamant that he will not sign any bill that does not contain an immunity clause. Perhaps it is time Congress ask an appropriate question: if they did nothing wrong, why do you they need immunity?

In a larger context, if these allegations prove to be true, it will only illustrate once and for all that the claim that “9/11 change everything” was mere bunk. Indeed, a far more apt characterization would that “Election 2000 changed everything”. Because with that first act of being installed by like-minded ideologues in the judiciary, it has been evident that the Bushies have continued that legacy of utter disdain for every aspect of governance that could not be used to further their goals and agendas.

And if they were so averse to following the law from the start of their reign, who is to say they will abide by it at the end?

More from Meme. See also Steve Soto.

They Are Proud of Attacking Graeme Frost

Commentary by Steven Reynolds: As ThinkProgress notes, RedState, the most vitriolic of the right wingers who attacked twelve year old Graeme Frost and his family, is crowing about the attacks on Graeme Frost today, and even defending the ugliest of its members. Heck, they’re even bitching about Michele Malkin, who has decided to lash out at her fellow right wingers rather than take responsibility for her own ugly words concerning the Frost family. Of course, none of these folks get the real story at all.

Insurance for a family with a couple kids has reached over $10,000 in cost, and especially when kids have pre-existing conditions. A family that earns under $50,000 per year can ill afford to spend 20-30% of its income on healthcare. Yeah, that’s how broken our healthcare system is, and there’s no small fault for that broken system to be laid at the feet of both Republican and Democratic politicians. Right wingers want to make Graeme Frost into a Welfare Queen like back in the day with Ronald Reagan. What they’re doing is distracting everyone from the failures of both parties. Yeah, you heard it here — both parties are at fault, though at least it can be said of the Democrats that some of them have tried to solve the healthcare crisis in the past.
But only Republicans are at fault this time, in publicly abusing a brain-damaged 12 year old boy.

I’m understanding there are columns in the WSJ, WaPo, NYTimes, and numerous other publications shaking a finger at Malkin and RedState and all those other wingers who have led this battle aginst the Congressional override of SCHIP by attacking Graeme Frost. It can be sure the White House pays no attention to any of these publications when it comes to the SCHIP legislation. It’s never been about kids for them, but about some kind of legacy or something. I’m thinking they’d rather identify with the disgusting folk at RedState, with those proud of abusing Graeme Frost, than they would support legislation that will help keep kids healthy. Why? I suppose they’ve done their legacy calculus. For a time they thought compassionate conservatism and “No Child Left Behind” might at least give a veneer of kindness to the Bush legacy. They’ve changed that calculation now, and they’ve evidently decided, after six years of record deficits, that they want Bush to be remembered as a fiscal conservative.

If they think they can fool historians, they are truly off kilter.

The Garlic: As the flames of this hate-filled vitriol lick at the Frost Family, the Compassionate Conservative, The Decider Guy, has, once again, demonstrated his uncanny skills of failed leadership. Rather than sitting back (perhaps laying out the spin on the Osama bin Laden ideotape leak), apparently relishing the work of the Rightwing Freakshow (and M-Squared) in battering this family (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated he was "relieved" his office didn't denounce the family - Way to step up there Mitch, really putting yourself on the line) it was a moment that called for a real president, a real leader, to step to the podium and repute the red hot, partisan bullshit, lay down the law (for a change, instead of subverting it) to lay off the family, further pointing out the sickness of attacking children for solely political purpose. But not a word was issued. ... To expect this, from a President who allowed his staff to leak the identity of a covert CIA agent - for mere political purpose ... Why would I possible think he would step up to stop the bashing of a young child?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets

Joby Warrick, Washington Post: A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries. (More)

LSB: First, we have an outside, contracted firm that found something an untold number of US intelligence agencies failed to find. How does that happen, and how secure does that make me feel about the effectiveness of our government spy agencies. Secondly, as soon as the Bush administration finds out anything about Al-Qaeda - and it has to be someone fairly high level, not just some flunkie in the mail room - its first thought is to run to FAUX News? So any future intel to Al-Qaeda is now lost due to an overzealous leaker. Wanna bet we'll never find out who the leaker might be and that the leaker will never see the light of a courtroom for this incompetence? Are the Keystone Cops in charge at the White House?

Monday, October 08, 2007

OPINION: A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

Jon Meacham, The New York Times: John McCain was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” [LSB: Where in the Constitution is that established?]

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

The only acknowledgment of God in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed.

A pseudonymous opponent of the Connecticut proposal had some fun with the notion of a deity who would, in a sense, be checking the index for his name: “A low mind may imagine that God, like a foolish old man, will think himself slighted and dishonored if he is not complimented with a seat or a prologue of recognition in the Constitution.” Instead, the framers, the opponent wrote in The American Mercury, “come to us in the plain language of common sense and propose to our understanding a system of government as the invention of mere human wisdom; no deity comes down to dictate it, not a God appears in a dream to propose any part of it.”

While many states maintained established churches and religious tests for office — Massachusetts was the last to disestablish, in 1833 — the federal framers, in their refusal to link civil rights to religious observance or adherence, helped create a culture of religious liberty that ultimately carried the day.

Thomas Jefferson said that his bill for religious liberty in Virginia was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu, and infidel of every denomination.” When George Washington was inaugurated in New York in April 1789, Gershom Seixas, the hazan of Shearith Israel, was listed among the city’s clergymen (there were 14 in New York at the time) — a sign of acceptance and respect. The next year, Washington wrote the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., saying, “happily the government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. ... Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Andrew Jackson resisted bids in the 1820s to form a “Christian party in politics.” Abraham Lincoln buried a proposed “Christian amendment” to the Constitution to declare the nation’s fealty to Jesus. Theodore Roosevelt defended William Howard Taft, a Unitarian, from religious attacks by supporters of William Jennings Bryan.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

In the 1790s, in the waters off Tripoli, pirates were making sport of American shipping near the Barbary Coast. Toward the end of his second term, Washington sent Joel Barlow, the diplomat-poet, to Tripoli to settle matters, and the resulting treaty, finished after Washington left office, bought a few years of peace. Article 11 of this long-ago document says that “as the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” there should be no cause for conflict over differences of “religious opinion” between countries.

The treaty passed the Senate unanimously. Mr. McCain is not the only American who would find it useful reading.

Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, is the author of “American Gospel” and “Franklin and Winston.”

Right Wing Launches Baseless Smear Campaign Against 12 Year Old Recipient Of SCHIP Two weeks ago, the Democratic radio address was delivered by a 12-year old Maryland boy named Graeme Frost. Graeme told his story of being involved in a severe car accident three years ago, and having received access to medical care because of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He said:
If it weren’t for CHIP, I might not be here today. … We got the help we needed because we had health insurance for us through the CHIP program. But there are millions of kids out there who don’t have CHIP, and they wouldn’t get the care that my sister and I did if they got hurt. … I just hope the President will listen to my story and help other kids to be as lucky as me.

The right-wing immediately condemned Democrats for daring to put a human face on the SCHIP program at a time when Bush was proposing a “diminishment of the number of children covered.” Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) — who has posed with children to advance his own political agenda — claimed Graeme was being used “as a human shield.”

Conservatives have more recently turned their targets on young Graeme Frost himself. A poster at the Free Republic propagated information alleging that Frost was actually a rich kid being pampered by the government. Among other bits of information, the post by the Freeper “icwhatudo” asserts that Graeme and his sister Gemma attend wealthy schools that cost “nearly $40,000 per year for tuition” and live in a well-off home.

The smear attack against Graeme has taken firm hold in the right-wing blogosphere. The National Review, Michelle Malkin, Wizbang, Powerline, and the Weekly Standard blog have all launched assaults on the Frost family. The story is slowly working its way into traditional media outlets as well.

Here are the facts that the right-wing distorted in order to attack young Graeme:

  1. Graeme has a scholarship to a private school. The school costs $15K a year, but the family only pays $500 a year.
  2. His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred due to her accident. The school costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost.
  3. They bought their “lavish house” sixteen years ago for $55,000 at a time when the neighborhood was less than safe.
  4. Last year, the Frost’s made $45,000 combined. Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined.
  5. The state of Maryland has found them eligible to participate in the CHIP program.

Desperate to defend Bush’s decision to cut off millions of children from health care, the right wing has stooped to launching baseless and uninformed attacks against a 12 year old child and his family.

Right wing bloggers have been harassing the Frosts, calling their home numerous times to get information about their private lives. Compassionate conservatism indeed.

Gates Vs Cheney Over Iran War

Cernig, The Newshoggers : The UK's Daily Telegraph had an interesting report yesterday which said that Bob Gates is the only real barrier within the Bush administration to Cheney's war with Iran.

Those familiar with internal battles in the Bush administration say Mr. Gates has eclipsed Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, as the chief opponent of air strikes and is the main reason President George W. Bush has yet to resort to military action.

Pentagon sources say Mr. Gates is waging a subtle campaign to undermine the Cheney camp by encouraging the army's senior officers to speak frankly about the overstretch of forces, and the difficulty of fighting another war.

Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East officer, said: "Cheney's people know they can beat Condi. They have been doing it for six years. Bob Gates is a different kettle of fish. He doesn't owe the President anything. He is urging his officers to be completely honest, knowing what that means."

Officials say Mr. Gates's strategy bore fruit when Admiral William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, charged with devising war plans for Iran, said last month that the "constant drumbeat of war" was not helpful.

He was followed by General George Casey, the army's new chief of staff, who requested an audience with the House of Representatives armed services committee to warn that his branch of the military had been stretched so thin by the Iraq war that it was not prepared for yet another conflict.

Gen. Casey told Congress the army was "out of balance" and added: "The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight, and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."

Mr. Gates has forged an alliance with Mike McConnell, the national director of intelligence, and Michael Hayden, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to ensure that Mr Cheney's office is not the dominant conduit of information and planning on Iran to Mr. Bush.

Insiders say Mr. Gates has ensured that Mr. Bush has seen more extensive studies of the probable negative effects of an attack on Iran than he was privy to before the war in Iraq.

One CIA insider said: "Bush understands that any increase in real military hostilities in Iran right now could have a negative effect. Bob Gates is the only one opposed to it. He's the single person in the US government who has any standing with the White House fighting it."

That last sentence is the scariest thing I've read in weeks. When Gates was nominated, he was very much seen by pundits as Poppy Bush's man in Junior's administration - there to stop the Kid from ruining matters further and as a paleo-foil to all the neo-WormTongues infesting the White House. It appears that Gates is earning the trust Bush Senior placed in him. If Shipman is right - and there have been other reprots suggesting the same thing - then expect the neocon smear factory to start up on Gates anytime now, in much the same way as they turned on Rice as soon as she began to advocate diplomacy instead of bombs.

LSB: Gates is the only one "in the US government who has any standing with the White House fighting it." The only one? The ONLY ONE? There is NO ONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE ADMINISTRATION that sees the lunacy of bombing Iran?

Bush will do to the US economy what the Cold War did to the Russian economy when building up their arsenals in the early 80's - push us to the brink of bankruptcy. Then the world will truly have NO super powers left.

But let's set aside for the moment the impact on the economy that yet another war front would create and think about who's going to fight those battles. Is this to be accomplished by air strikes alone, or will there be a front going in to Tehran to "take down" the Iranian goverment? And from where might those soldiers be coming? Will the President cancel all troop rotations and leave our troops in the Middle East until the job is done - decades from now? An assignment like that has surely got to hurt the Pentagon's various recruiting efforts!

Or does he know of another goverment as dysfunctional as ours where the elected head of state will provide some troops to join us in this madness? Has Bush not been reading the news lately? England is pulling out of Iraq; his fellow nut-case in Australia, John Howard, is about to be thrown out of office; and Iceland's lone troop in Baghdad has already headed home. Bush has made sure the US has no credibility and no politcal capital around the world, so from where is another coalition of forces to come?

And then there's always that pesky business of coming up with the manufactured evidence to warrant an attack on Iran. As the President so ineptly pointed out, "Fool me once... shame on you... the point is, you can't be fooled again." Well, Mr. President, we weren't fooled the last time, just too intimidated of being called 'unpatriotic.' We know about your deceitful nature now, so we won't be intimidated a second time!

Surely if I can see the problem with going to war with Iran others with more savvy and experience in the White House can also see these problems. And it there truly is no one else in the White House but Sec. Gates slowing the march to war in Iran, then surely the Congress will find its backbone and halt this march. If not them, then who will stop the madness?

Really!?! with SNL's Seth & Amy

Report says war on terror is fueling al Qaeda

Kate Kelland, Reuters: Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the "war on terror" is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.

A report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) said a "fundamental re-think is required" if the global terrorist network is to be rendered ineffective.

"If the al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut," said Paul Rogers, the report's author and professor of global peace studies at Bradford University in northern England.

"Combined with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimized but this will require a change in policy at every level."

He described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "disastrous mistake" which had helped establish a "most valued jihadist combat training zone" for al Qaeda supporters.

The report -- Alternatives to the War on Terror -- recommended the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq coupled with intensive diplomatic engagement in the region, including with Iran and Syria.

In Afghanistan, Rogers also called for an immediate scaling down of military activities, an injection of more civil aid and negotiations with militia groups aimed at bringing them into the political process.

If such measures were adopted it would still take "at least 10 years to make up for the mistakes made since 9/11."

"Failure to make the necessary changes could result in the war on terror lasting decades," the report added.

Rogers also warned of a drift toward conflict with Iran.

"Going to war with Iran," he said, "will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region. Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs."


DownWithTyranny: If you accept the farce that Iraq is a sovereign nation and that the phony elections the Bush Regime stage-managed were more legitimate than the ones in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, then you accept that Bush's puppet regime and that it's head, Nuri al Maliki, is the Prime Minister of not just the Green Zone but of all of Iraq. If that were remotely true, it would be bad news for the private Republican army Bush-ally Erik Prince has assembled in North Carolina, the vicious mercenary force, Blackwater. But since it is all just a farce, no one is worrying much.

So will Congress do anything? Not a chance - despite the fact that Maliki's office said yesterday that "the government’s investigation had determined that Blackwater USA private security guards who shot Iraqi civilians three weeks ago in a Baghdad square sprayed gunfire in nearly every direction, committed 'deliberate murder' and should be punished accordingly. If Congress lets this go will they all be accomplices to Bush's war crimes?

Iraqi investigators, supported by Iraqi witness accounts, have said unofficially that they could not find evidence of any attack on the Blackwater guards that might have provoked the shooting on Nisour Square, which the Iraqis say killed 17 and wounded 27. But the statement by Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the prime minister, is the first indication that the government considers its investigation completed and the shootings unprovoked.

“This is a deliberate crime against civilians,” Mr. Dabbagh said. “It should be tried in court and the victims should be compensated.”

...“Not even a brick was thrown at them,” said Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim, the Iraqi defense minister. “And until now we have been examining this matter.”

But in an indication of the legal uncertainties surrounding the case in Iraq, where the law gives American contractors virtual immunity, Mr. Dabbagh said decisions on specific legal steps would wait until the Americans completed their own investigation of the shooting and conferred with the Iraqis. It is not clear which provisions of American law would apply in this case.

...In previously undisclosed details in the government’s final report, the Iraqi police documented that Blackwater guards shot in almost every direction, killing or wounding people in a near 360-degree circle around Nisour Square.

The thick file amassed for the investigation asserts that bullets reached bystanders who were as far as 200 feet away and nearly on the opposite side of
the square.

Wouldn't you love to see every member of Congress who doesn't try to take action against this, and regardless of party, tried in a war crimes tribunal for this outrage against humanity? I sure would. But Blackwater is making longterm plans to stay in Iraq, despite being banned by the puppet "government" and hacks like Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner just continue to lie and lie about everything related to the occupation and devastation of Iraq. As for the long-term American strategy in Iraq... there never has been any but whatever people on the ground were told there was, seems to have come apart at the seams, as sectarian animosity has overtaken any hopes for reconciliation. George W. Bush... winning hearts and minds.

An ominous threat to American democracy:

JERRY LEWIS-- UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE BUSH REGIME, GETS A PASS FROM BOEHNER; HE'S RUNNING AGAIN: FOR OFFICE AND FROM "THE LAW" Although the Bush Regime keeps hiring and firing U.S. Attorney's for southern California in an attempt to keep the Jerry Lewis bribery investigations from ever moving forward, early this summer Bob Novak reported that Lewis would resign. The usually well-informed Republican propagandist got it wrong. Instead, the Justice Department replaced yet another U.S. Attorney and Lewis says he's running for re-election. (It also looks like he's gotten the same shill candidate, Louie Contreras, who didn't run against him in 2006 to be his "opponent" in 2008 - and the state of Art Torres' California Democratic Party is so pathetic that they won't even lift a finger to look into it.)

So Lewis, probably the single most corrupt man in Congress, has the Republican nomination locked up and the Democratic nomination rigged. All he has to do is not get indicted. He's spent over a million dollars in legal fees to keep that from happening. And according to Novak, John Boehner hopped on board Lewis' corruption train on Wednesday at a "secret meeting" of the House Republican leadership, where he "ruled that Rep. Jerry Lewis of California will continue as the party's ranking member of the Appropriations Committee while under federal investigation on ethics charges."

Little Howdy Doody (R-FL) and others who are afraid the party will sink even further if it is associated with crooks like Lewis squawked and squeaked - but to no avail. "Under investigation for sponsoring questionable earmarks, Lewis remains a major Republican spokesman in Congress... Republican reformers complain that Boehner imposes a double standard that is harsher on rank-and-file members of Congress than on leaders. While Lewis keeps his leadership position on Appropriations, Rep. John Doolittle left the committee in April because he is a federal corruption target."

Iraqis give up on surge policy goal

Steve Benen, Crooks and Liars: If we give an ineffective policy in Iraq more time, will it eventually produce political reconciliation? Not so much — even Iraqi officials now concede that political progress is impossible, and isn’t going to happen.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

“I don’t think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such,” said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih [pictured], a Kurd. “To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power.”

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

So much for Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) predictive skills.

Josh Marshall, In other words, the strategic goal of the Surge -- creating the breathing room for political reconcilation -- is one the Iraqi government no longer appears to believe is either credible or realistic. So what we've signed on for is being the permanent armed mediator in the Iraqi domestic quarrel, or perhaps protracted divorce.

Anti-war protesters to defy ban for Parliament march

Terri Judd, The Independent:

Anti-war protesters are expected to clash with police today as they defy a ban to march to Parliament on the day MPs return to work after the summer recess.

Campaigners say this is the first time Scotland Yard has invoked an ancient law to prevent them demonstrating near Parliament, describing it is an "unprecedented attack on civil liberties". One said the impetus for the crackdown on the march had come from Government, adding: "In this new era [under Gordon Brown] they want to draw a line under the anti-war movement."

Appealing to the Metropolitan Police to reverse the decision to impose a ban and ensure the safety of peaceful demonstrators, the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) said the ban had served only to swell their numbers. Undeterred, organisers plan to hold a rally in Trafalgar Square then march to Parliament to call for all troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

Tony Benn [shown above] the veteran Labour MP who announced his desire last week to return to the Commons, said he would be defying the ban. In a letter to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, he said: "The authority for this march derives from our ancient right to free speech and assembly enshrined in our history."

Chris Nineham, of STWC, said they had no intention of disrupting parliamentary business, adding: "We have marched in exactly these same areas and they have never used this law before. A few days after Mr Brown promised to enhance civil liberties, this is a serious assault on the right to protest."

A former SAS soldier, Ben Griffin, who will be on the march, said: "Gordon Brown cannot praise protesters in Burma and then ban a protest in London."

Chris in Paris, Blog America: Peaceful protest is fine, as long as it's somewhere else? What's the point of having a democracy if free speech is forbidden?

Halos and Halo?

Commentary by The Xsociate: Back in August, plans by a Pentagon backed group to send copies of a Christian themed video game in which the player goes around killing unbelievers in a post-Rapture apocalyptic world, were scrapped over the furor generated by the idea. Critics, in addition to claiming it violated the separation of church and state, also claimed it was unseemly to peddle a video game that demonized those not of a particular faith.

And now the church has usurped the idea for themselves, this time utilizing the mass appeal of video games to lure younger patrons to the pews. From The New York Times, Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church:

First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.

The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.

Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.

Though I’m not to up on what the exact statistics are regarding religious youth, from what little I have heard about the subject, the need to bring more wee lambs into the fold as it were has become more paramount as the aging elders have fewer and fewer successors to their legacies. Given this dynamic, its not surprising churches would turn to whatever hook was able to bring in the most parishioners. But what I do find surprising is the chosen medium of Halo.

I know that it can probably be brushed off as merely the obvious choice given the popularity of the game but I can’t help but wonder if the religious overtones of the game itself also play a role. Was Halo chosen not because you get to kill a bunch of invading aliens but because said aliens practice a different faith, as evidenced by the heavy emphasis of religion in the second game? In that sense, is the appeal of a game like Halo to the church-going sect any different than the appeal of a game in which you get to kill a bunch of unbelieving hordes?

The idea of killing anyone, be they human or alien, should be abhorrent. Because in real life, there is no reset button.

LSB: How can a church teach "Thou shall not kill" but use these violent games as a recruiting tool? Doesn't that dilute the message? Sure, it is just a game, but a game that many of these kids couldn't get on their own unless they were older. There is a quote later in the NYT article that sums up this recruiting practice pretty well: “If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. I say, "Don't give these 'religious leaders' any more ideas, Mr. Tonkowich!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Quickest Way to End the War

E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: Would conservatives and Republicans support the war in Iraq if they had to pay for it?

This is the immensely useful question that Rep. David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, put on the table this week by calling for a temporary war tax to cover President Bush’s request for $145 billion in supplemental spending for Iraq.

The proposal is a magnificent way to test the seriousness of those who claim that the Iraq war is an essential part of the “global war on terror.” If the war’s backers believe in it so much, it should be easy for them to ask taxpayers to put up the money for such an important endeavor.

Obey makes the case pointedly. “Some people are being asked to pay with their lives or their faces or their hands or their arms or their legs,” he said in an interview this week. “If you’re going to ask for that, it doesn’t seem too much to ask an average taxpayer to pay thirty bucks for the cost of the war so we don’t have to shove it off on our kids.”

Or as Obey said in a statement, “I’m tired of seeing that only military families are asked to sacrifice in this war.”

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership ran away from this idea as fast as you could say the words “Republican majority.” That, of course, is what Democrats are afraid of. “Just as I have opposed the war from the outset,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “I am opposed to a war surtax.”

Obey doesn’t hold this against his leadership. “They don’t want to be demagogued by the White House when they have other fish to fry,” he said.

But it’s a shame that Democrats remain so defensive on the tax issue that they aren’t willing to bring this proposal to the floor. What if the price for passing President Bush’s supplemental appropriation were a tax to cover its costs? What if opponents of the war voted no because they are against Bush’s policy, and Republicans voted no because they think low taxes are more important than national security, as they define it?

That’s an aggressive way to frame anti-tax “no” votes, but it’s also accurate. If a war appropriations bill with a tax included went down to overwhelming defeat, wouldn’t that tell us something about the depth of commitment to this war?

... Here is a president who signed one bloated spending bill after another—as long as they were passed by a Republican Congress—posing as a fiscal conservative now that Democrats hold the majority. He’s so tough and determined that he’s also drawn the line on ... children’s health care.

LSB: Rep. Obey is correct - let's see how much support there is for this civil war if those voting for it actually have to pay for it. The Democratic leadership needs to get out in front of the issue and frame the debate as a fiscally responsible means for paying for what the White House says it wants. Speaker Pelosi and the Dem leadership should be supporting this instead of running away for fear that the Repuglicans are going to call them names. Just because the chickenhawks at FAUX News will be bellicose about a tax that will finally extend the pain to those that have felt no pain to date is no excuse not to do the right thing. Show some backbone and do what is right! Give the electorate some credit - as we demonstrated in the 2006 election, we get it.

Conyers Seeks Confirmation That Justice Dept. Is Limiting White House Interference In 1993, then-Attorney General Janet Reno instituted a policy that limited the number of people at the DoJ and the White House who could communicate with each other about pending investigations and cases. Only three people at the Justice Department and four people in the White House — the President, the Vice President, the White House Counsel, and the Deputy White House Counsel — were given such authority. The arrangement was intended to restrict political interference in the administration of justice.

The Bush administration, however, significantly expanded the number of potential contacts after taking office:

In 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft authorized at least 42 people at the Department to have initial communications with more than 400 people at the White House regarding pending Department investigations and cases. In 2006, Attorney General Gonzales changed the policy yet again to authorize almost 900 people in the White House to have such communications with at least 42 Department officials.

After raising concerns about the expansion during former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ congressional testimony in the U.S. attorneys scandal, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a bill to limit communications between the White House and the Justice Department, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week.

In an editorial titled “Depoliticizing Justice,” the Washington Post reported last week that the Department is “changing the policy” on its own volition. News of the change came as a surprise to members of the House Judiciary Committee, who wrote a letter to Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler today, asking him to “confirm and explain the policy change”:

While we welcome the news that the Department intends to change this internal policy, we were surprised to learn of it through a newspaper editorial rather than through notice to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. […]

We ask that you confirm and explain the policy change regarding contacts between Department and White House employees, including providing copies of documents reflecting the change and notice of precisely when the change will take effect and how it will be communicated to Department and White House personnel.

Read the full letter here.

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey has reportedly “assured” Senate Democrats “that he would limit contacts between the Justice Department and the White House to halt any political meddling with ongoing investigations.”