Saturday, March 03, 2007
Actually, Lieberman is so full of crap, so dead wrong yet sanctimonious and condescending at the same time, that dissing him is like shooting fish in a barrel. Like, all you have to dis him is just say his name, and as soon as he open his mouth, he's dissed....
If he cares to, Josh Wolf can claim his place in the Guinness Book of Records. A few days ago, he passed Vanessa Leggett as the longest incarcerated American journalist.Link. (Emphasis added.)
Ms. Leggett was made to sit in a jail cell for 168 days five years ago. Josh Wolf, who is 24, has been locked up in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif., since last August. (His lawyers got him out for a few days in September, but he’s been back now for months.)
The two cases are very different. Ms. Leggett’s was a straight-out confidential-sources case arising from gathering information and interviews for a book about a murder. “They wanted any and all copies and originals of interviews I conducted for the book—the entire research archive, even depriving me of copies for myself,” she told the Columbia Journalism Review.
“When my attorney asked one of the prosecutors during a closed hearing why they had subpoenaed those materials, the answer was that they had heard allegations of vindictiveness on the part of certain agencies. I inferred that they were looking for any statements made by police that would show that this prosecution was vindictive.”
In resisting the subpoena to fink on those whom she had promised to protect, Ms. Leggett argued that the government “had not been specific in their request, that the subpoena was over-broad, that it was a fishing expedition, basically. Also, that they had not established that any of the information sought was relevant to their investigation. And thirdly, that they hadn’t met the burden of showing that the information was not obtainable from other sources besides the writer.”
The judge wasn’t entertaining any such reasoning, nor did any pleadings having to do with the First Amendment get Ms. Leggett anywhere. Indeed, Ms. Leggett was adjudged a non-journalist because she didn’t have a contract for the book she was researching. Judges are less sympathetic toward freelance journalists, especially if they are unconnected to a big-time media corporation or are young and haven’t yet had much published.
Trying to define who might or might not be a journalist eligible for exemption from being compelled to rat on news sources is tricky. You can’t have bank robbers, confidence men or dangerous conspirators claiming the privilege. At the other end of the argument, in the Internet age, it would be a joke if reserving the immunity privilege were limited to people on the payroll of NBC or the New York Post—both organizations which disseminate news, if at all, by accident but are categorized as mainstream media.
Young Josh’s case is both weaker and stronger than Ms. Leggett’s was. The young man is a videographer. Mr. Wolf’s troubles began in July 2005, with his recording a demonstration in San Francisco protesting a meeting of officials from the world’s richest countries meeting in Scotland. The demonstrators were a wild, hair-up-the-ass anarchist bunch. In the course of their carrying on, violence flared. Off camera, a policeman suffered a broken skull, some newspaper vending machines were tossed, some windows broken and, apparently, an attempt (which failed) was made to set a police car on fire.
This manifestation, by a group calling itself Anarchist Action, was not Ten Days That Shook the World–type stuff. There were, by Mr. Wolf’s estimate, about 100 of these loony tunes, most of whom were making a lot of noise but not breaking the law. Life as they live it in San Francisco was not under threat; nevertheless, it had some local news interest.
Mr. Wolf sold some of his footage to local TV and put some on his blog. The next thing he knew, the federal government was after him to give them all his raw, unedited footage and a lot more. (The attack or whatever happened to the police officer is not on the footage, because Mr. Wolf and his video machine were taking pictures someplace else.)
Mr. Wolf explains: “What the government wants me to do, as far as we can tell, is to identify civil dissidents who were attending this march, who were in masks and clearly did not want to be identified, but whose identities I may know some of, as … I’ve been following (and) … documenting civil dissent in the San Francisco Bay Area for some two and a half years now.”
In response to this demand, Mr. Wolf made a counterproposal. He says, “We’ve offered to turn the video over to the judge to review in camera to determine whether or not there is any evidence on the tape.” The feds’ position was: Do as we tell you or you’re in contempt, and you go to jail until you obey.
Spraying paint, knocking over newspaper boxes and whacking a cop are local offenses under California or municipal law, not federal offences. Here’s the rub: The state and the city have disposed of their law-enforcement concerns. Nothing local is pending. What’s happening to Josh Wolf is purely federal, so what is going on?
“It’s my belief,” he says, “that what they want to do is … have me identify the people in the video. Then any people that I’m able to identify would in turn be called in. Those people would then be forced to either go to jail for contempt or name the people in the video that they saw. Then those people would follow the same procedure, like so forth and like so forth, until they had a database of everyone that was there that night.”
Mr. Wolf has chosen to go to jail rather than cooperate, but he’s in a difficult position: Not only is there no federal shield law for journalists, but he has no grounds for resisting the government. He has no confidential informants here.
What Josh Wolf is doing is resisting something that looks a lot like an American version of an operation by the Stasi, the East German Communist security police, who controlled the society through compiling secret dossiers on virtually everybody.
Let’s hope that when more people find out about what is being done to Josh Wolf, they see that his case is not another example of “the media” asking for special favors. Yes, he probably should enjoy some protection as a journalist, but he is also in jail because he is resisting a government operation which is entirely too close to police-state tactics.
Josh Wolf is getting publicity, but not enough of it. As the weeks go by and nothing new happens, he drops out of sight. If you want to keep track of him, go to joshwolf.net. Any little thing and every little thing will help.
But most of the attention was focused on the two front-runners in attendance, Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The contrasts between the two were striking. Giuliani delivered a halting, meandering address that lasted 40 minutes, with extensive ruminations on international capitalism and education reform. "I don't agree with myself on everything," he insisted at one point, delivering exactly the sort of sound bite that a presidential candidate wants to avoid. Later he proclaimed, "The genius of America is the free market, private solutions, competition and ultimately the profit motive," suggesting that he thought he was at yet another of the corporate speaking gigs that have enriched him over the last five years. He mentioned Iraq only once, in passing, and did not address social issues like abortion or gay marriage. As the speech trailed on, he appeared to gradually lose the attention of the audience and even himself. "George Bush was in office for eight months -- it had to be eight months -- when September 11 happened," he said in a moment of confusion.And Our Leader's supporters no longer support him:
In the months since the Congressional elections, President Bush has lost substantial support among members of his own party, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
Mr. Bush’s approval rating dropped 13 percentage points since last fall among Republicans, 65 percent of whom now say they approve of the way he is handling his job as president, compared with 78 percent last October.
Over all, Mr. Bush’s job approval remains at one of its lowest points, with 29 percent of all Americans saying they approve of the way he is doing his job, compared with 34 percent at the end of October. Sixty-one percent disapproved, compared with 58 percent in October, within the margin of sampling error.
Twenty-three percent of those polled approved of the way Mr. Bush is dealing with the situation in Iraq. Twenty-five percent approved of his handling of foreign policy.
Even the president’s campaign against terrorism, long his signature issue, is seen positively by only 40 percent of those polled, while 53 percent disapprove.
Three-quarters of those polled say things are going badly for the United States in Iraq, and only 23 percent say the efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq are going well.
Seventy percent, including 52 percent of Republicans, say there is not much the United States military can do to reduce the sectarian fighting in Iraq.
Over all, 23 percent of the public say the country is going in the right direction and 68 percent see it as “on the wrong track.”
Salon's Michael Scherer, reporting from the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, says Coulter told the crowd there: "I was going to have some comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you say the word faggot -- so I am kind of at an impasse."Link.
One sign of the reaction from the right: The CPAC crowd responded -- albeit a little slowly -- with laughter and then applause.
And then there's this paragon -- of dissembling, idiocy, dishonesty -- what passes for leadership in the present:
Sam Fox is George W. Bush's nominee to serve as the new ambassador to Belgium. Mr. Fox got this nomination the way a lot of people get such nominations. He was a big donor to the campaigns of the Republican party...and let's stipulate up top that Democrats do that kind of thing too, whenever they're in a position to reward those who give cash to their electioneering.
Yesterday in his confirmation hearing, Mr. Fox was grilled by Senator John Kerry about why he'd donated $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The exchange was quite extraordinary for a couple of reasons, one being the pathetic quality of Fox's reponses. He went out of his way to praise Kerry as an honest veteran who'd earned his medals and shown great heroism...in other words, the exact opposite of what was claimed by those commercials he helped put on the air. Asked why he gave money to the cause, Mr. Fox mumbled something about how one side engages in dirty politics so the other side has to, and then claimed he gave to so many charitable causes that he really didn't know who'd asked him to donate in this instance.
Friday, March 02, 2007
[I]t is the Bush administration that has “validated” al-Qaeda’s 9/11 strategy over the past five years.
Captured al-Qaeda documents reveal that Osama bin Laden’s principal goal in the 9/11attacks was to lure the United States into a clumsy counterattack in the Middle East that would alienate Muslims, help al-Qaeda recruit more jihadists and bog down the American military in a no-win war.More here.
Though bin Laden was mistaken in believing that Afghanistan would become the central front, he was right in pretty much every other part of his plan. At the time of 9/11, al-Qaeda was a fringe player in the Muslim world, with its leaders driven into exile and holed up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Bin Laden understood that his movement had little hope if it couldn’t sharpen the animosities between the West and Islam – and force Muslims to pick sides between the U.S. “crusaders” and the “defenders of Islam.” He sought to position his terrorist movement as the chief beneficiary of that dividing line.
Bush’s invasion of Iraq vitiated the international goodwill that surrounded the United States after the 9/11 attacks. It also eliminated one of bin Laden’s chief Arab rivals, the secular Saddam Hussein, while letting al-Qaeda exploit the chaos by attracting thousands of young jihadists to Iraq.
A different reality, however, was taking shape across the Middle East. The Arab street was turning decisively against Bush, Cheney and the United States. The Bush-Cheney arrogance and aggressiveness made bin Laden seem, to some, almost a prophet.
Al-Qaeda’s leaders recognized that their greatest strategic vulnerability would come from the United States withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Not only would that deny al-Qaeda its chief recruitment attraction but it could free up American troops for a renewed offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
It was as if al-Qaeda had its own version of Bush’s line about fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them in America, except al-Qaeda’s version was that it was best to keep U.S. troops tied down in Iraq so they couldn’t fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
However, the larger question is whether the U.S. intelligence analysts are right about al-Qaeda’s desire for Bush and Cheney to continue their war policies in Iraq – or whether Bush and Cheney are right that al-Qaeda really wants U.S. forces out of Iraq.
At this point, the evidence – and the results of five years of the Bush-Cheney policies – would seem to support a conclusion that al-Qaeda is just delighted for the U.S. occupation of Iraq to continue indefinitely.
That disastrous war, more than anything, has validated al-Qaeda’s bloodthirsty 9/11 strategy.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
The Ghost of Giuliani’s Political PastLink.
Posted on Feb 27, 2007
By Theodore Hamm
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, if the 2008 election were held today Rudy Giuliani would be our next president. Given his stature as a media celebrity, the numbers are not surprising. A fixture on the cable talk shows, Giuliani in fact announced his candidacy on Larry King.
In New York City, the former mayor is regularly and shamelessly promoted by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which recently featured Giuliani kissing his former mistress and now wife, Judi Nathan, on its cover.
Based on the poll numbers and flattering media coverage, you might think there indeed is some kind of national love affair going on between Giuliani and the American people. But rest assured that there is one place where the former mayor is truly despised: the streets of working-class New York.
The school where I teach, Metropolitan College of New York, is a commuter school made up of the city’s working-class students, the vast majority of whom are blacks and Latinos from the outer boroughs. Recently, I showed my classes the 2006 documentary “Giuliani Time,” which is now available on DVD.
Before starting the film, I received a flurry of hostile reactions—e.g., “Is this going to make me sicker than I already feel?” and “This is going to make me angry!” When the documentary ended, not one of my 35 students had a kind word for Giuliani. In fact, the most frequent question asked was a fearful one: “Do you really think he could win?”
Why is there such contempt for the man who never tires of reminding audiences of how he “saved” the city after 9/11? As “Giuliani Time” makes abundantly clear, it’s because in the eight years he reigned as New York City mayor leading up to 9/11, Giuliani ruled as a petty tyrant. And the most frequent target of his animosities was the city’s black population.
After defeating the city’s only black mayor, David Dinkins, in 1993, Giuliani made it crystal clear that he was not interested in a dialogue about race relations. During his first month in office, Giuliani ended the city’s affirmative action program established under Dinkins. For most of the next eight years, he conspicuously refused to meet with any of the city’s black political leadership.
In the documentary, Giuliani’s one high-ranking black political appointee during his two terms, schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, voices his displeasure with his former boss. Crew recalls his surprise when Giuliani announced that he would pursue a school vouchers program, a policy that promised to further deprive the city’s many poor students of color of educational resources. It was during the Amadou Diallo controversy, Crew says, when he realized that there “is something very deeply pathological” about Giuliani’s views of race.
During his two terms, Giuliani’s two biggest policy initiatives—reducing welfare rolls and fighting crime—also antagonized the city’s low-income populations of color. His much-touted Workfare initiative amounted to an increase in the numbers of the city’s working poor, undercutting better-paying city jobs in the process. And as Village Voice reporter and Giuliani foe Wayne Barrett says in the film, “No one knows what happened to the 600,000 people” who disappeared from the welfare rolls during the Giuliani years.
In terms of crime, Giuliani’s overzealous “quality-of-life” policing effectively amounted to a full-fledged crackdown on young men of color, as documented by the NYPD’s record number of wrongful “stop-and-frisk” encounters. Prior to his post-9/11 “heroics,” Giuliani was best known for having “cleaned up New York.” But as Columbia University’s Jeffrey Fagan and others make clear in “Giuliani Time,” crime dropped even more dramatically in other major cities during the 1990s—and many of those cities did not employ the racially biased quality-of-life approach of Giuliani’s NYPD.
In 1999, after four undercover white police officers shot Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, 41 times, Giuliani described the thousands of pro-Diallo protesters as “silly” and the “worst in society.” A few months later when Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man, was killed by an undercover officer, Giuliani said that the victim was “no choirboy” and ordered his juvenile arrest record to be unsealed. Dorismond, in fact, had been a choirboy.
By Sept. 10, 2001, Giuliani had pissed off wide swaths of New York City’s population, including free speech advocates, artists and middle-class liberals of all kinds. If we judge him based on his actions during his two terms in office, rather than by the two weeks after 9/11, the thought of Rudolph Giuliani becoming president should alarm most progressives. And for people of color in New York City and elsewhere, the prospect is terrifying.
Link to NY19's pride and joy.
Rudy will be 44.
Rudy Giuliani has blown open his lead over John McCain. "America's Mayor" was up over Arizona's senator by 34-27 percent in January; now he's up 44-21 percent. The Post says movement by evangelical voters explains much of the change, but it seems that the pendulum could swing back -- or in some other direction entirely -- as GOP voters begin to learn more about Giuliani. When the pollsters asked Republicans whether Giuliani's positions on abortion and gay civil unions would affect their views on the candidate, 49 percent responded by saying there was "no chance" that they'd vote for him for the GOP nomination.Link.
There are all sorts of ways military officials might deal -- or not -- with the problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Here's one that probably won't surprise anyone: According to the Army Times, soldiers in the facility's Medical Hold Unit say they're being told to get up early to have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., to stop talking to the media and to follow "their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters."Link.
The soldiers have also reportedly been told that they'll be moved soon from their current quarters -- just off the Walter Reed campus and thus accessible to the press -- to a building that's on campus and inaccessible to reporters unless they have an escort from Walter Reed's P.R. staff. Oh, and upcoming projects in which the Pentagon was going to give CNN and the Discovery Channel access to military medical facilities? The Army Times says those are off because the military has decided it would not be "appropriate to engage the media" in the face of a review into the problems at Walter Reed.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush-Cheney "Ranger" Sam Fox contributed $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Now that Fox is the president's nominee to become the U.S. ambassador to Belgium -- a nomination that requires confirmation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which John Kerry sits -- he seems to have had a change of heart about how his money was spent. If only he could remember.Link.
As the Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reports, Kerry grilled Fox about his Swift Boat contribution during his confirmation hearing Tuesday. In response, Fox told Kerry that he considers him "a hero" and that no 527 group could ever "take that away from him."
OK, then, Kerry asked, so why did you give money to a group that tried to do just that? "When we're asked, we give," Fox replied. He said later that he couldn't remember who had asked him for the contribution. And while he said that he thinks 527s should be outlawed and that he'd never give money to any group "if I thought what they were printing was not true," he also said that he "personally" would have "no way of knowing" whether a group's representations will turn out to be true at the time he's giving it cash.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
"Welcome to Sex Ed. On your wedding night, an angel will visit you and tell you everything you need to know about sex. This concludes Sex Ed."The rest is here. (Not clicking is not an option.)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message to Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda....Link.
So the Pakis are supposed to be naive and ignorant enough to believe that any such cut would pass the Senate and get to Our Leader's desk and that once there Our Leader would not veto it.
The piece continues:
The official adds that the message they're sending to Musharraf now "is that the only thing that matters is results.”...after five and a half years.... Our Leaders are fighting terrorism vigorously!
One night last fall, incendiary leaflets denouncing Iran suddenly appeared on the walls of houses and mosques in this tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.The rest of the story is here for lucky WSJ subscribers.
"Iranians are trying to occupy your homes, the homes of your fathers and grandfathers," warned the anonymous tracts. "Do you want to be ruled by these people? No, a thousand times no!"
Bahrain, a crucial American ally and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, was quickly caught up in a wave of anti-Iranian paranoia. Politicians, clerics and the media jumped on the theme, turning Iran into a big issue in bitter local elections at the end of the year.
The trigger for all the noisy alarm? A ruckus over the purchase of a ramshackle house by a handful of local Bahrainis who share the Shiite Muslim faith of Iran.
At a time of rising tension between Washington and Tehran, the scare-mongering in Bahrain shows how America's geopolitical standoff with Iran is paralleled by much older animosities between the Muslim world's two great traditions, Sunni and Shiite. The Arab world is majority Sunni while Persian Iran is mostly Shiite. In a dangerous dynamic, legitimate concerns about Tehran's intentions are being overlain with phobias and political calculation as Arab governments, rabble-rousing politicians and clerics fan sectarian fears.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it believed that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, would seed tolerant democracy there and elsewhere. The war instead uncorked pent-up sectarian tensions in Iraq, pitting the country's once-dominant Sunni minority against its long-oppressed Shiite majority. The Iraqi chaos also has emboldened neighboring Iran to flex its muscles in Iraq and beyond, further stirring passions rooted in centuries of theological, political and ethnic rivalry.
Until recently, Washington focused on Sunni threats, from Sunni insurgents in Iraq to the remnants of al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit. In his January state of the union address, however, President Bush also warned of the menace posed by Shiite extremists who "take direction from the regime in Iran." It has become clear, he said, that "we face an escalating danger" from militant Shiites "determined to dominate the Middle East." This reassessment of America's enemies underpins what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has hailed as a "realignment in the Middle East" -- a drawing together of Sunni-led Arab countries against Iran.
Some experts on the region warn that America's standoff with Iran is exacerbating Sunni-Shiite rivalry and pushing the U.S. into some unruly company. Indeed, America now unintentionally finds itself on the same page as Sunni firebrands who loathe America but sometimes hate Shiites even more. Much of the most venomous anti-Iranian rhetoric comes from militants whose views echo Osama bin Laden's.
The increase in resistance of human pathogens to antimicrobial agents is one of the best-documented examples of evolution in action at the present time, and because it has direct life-and-death consequences, it provides the strongest rationale for teaching evolutionary biology as a rigorous science in high school biology curricula, universities, and medical schools. In spite of the importance of antimicrobial resistance, we show that the actual word “evolution” is rarely used in the papers describing this research. Instead, antimicrobial resistance is said to “emerge,” “arise,” or “spread” rather than “evolve.” Moreover, we show that the failure to use the word “evolution” by the scientific community may have a direct impact on the public perception of the importance of evolutionary biology in our everyday lives.More.
The results of our survey showed a huge disparity in word use between the evolutionary biology and biomedical research literature (Figure 1). In research reports in journals with primarily evolutionary or genetic content, the word “evolution” was used 65.8% of the time to describe evolutionary processes (range 10%–94%, mode 50%–60%, from a total of 632 phrases referring to evolution). However, in research reports in the biomedical literature, the word “evolution” was used only 2.7% of the time (range 0%–75%, mode 0%–10%, from a total of 292 phrases referring to evolution), a highly significant difference (chi-square, p < 0.001). Indeed, whereas all the articles in the evolutionary genetics journals used the word “evolution,” ten out of 15 of the articles in the biomedical literature failed to do so completely. Instead, 60.0% of the time antimicrobial resistance was described as “emerging,” “spreading,” or “increasing” (range 0%–86%, mode 30%–40%); in contrast, these words were used only 7.5% of the time in the evolutionary literature (range 0%–25%, mode 0%–10%). Other nontechnical words describing the evolutionary process included “develop,” “acquire,” “appear,” “trend,” “become common,” “improve,” and “arise.” Inclusion of technical words relating to evolution (e.g., “selection,” “differential fitness,” “genetic change,” or “adaptation”) did not substantially alter the picture: in evolutionary journals, evolution-related words were used 79.1% of the time that there was an opportunity to use them (range 26%–98%, mode 50%–60%), whereas in biomedical journals they were used only 17.8% of the time (range 0%–92%, mode 0%–10%).
Our Leaders: Making America strong through the spread of ignorance and stupidity. It works and it's bringing us success in the Middle East. (Oops, correction: we are failing in the Middle East. But it's okay; no one cares....)
As he begins his first major cross-country fundraising blitz, Rudy Giuliani isn't stumping about national security or the war on terror -- issues long considered his strong suits. Instead he's showing off his softer side.Link.
The hard-nosed former U.S. attorney, known for cracking down on organized crime and scooting the homeless from the streets of Manhattan as mayor, told members of the conservative Hoover think tank in Washington today that he made the switch from Democrat to Independent to Republican because "we care about the poor more."
And Condi shows her stuff:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appearing over the weekend on "Fox News Sunday," equated Democratic efforts to repeal the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq with a fictional abandonment of Germany after the death of Adolf Hitler. "Chris, it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown. It's a part of a continuum of what we're trying to do in Iraq."Link.
If we knew as much about history as Rice does, we might mention that the United States did, in fact, make a change after Hitler fell. It was called the Marshall Plan.
And Olbermann explains things to Dr. Rice:Link.
Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the remarks yesterday by Secretary of State Rice.
We already know about her suggestion that the President could just ignore whatever Congressional Democrats do about Iraq.
Just ignore Congress.
We know how that game always turns out. Ask President Nixon. Ask President Andrew Johnson.
Or ask Vice President Cheney, who utterly contradicted Secretary Rice today, when he warned Mr. Musharraf of Pakistan about what those mean Congressional Democrats could do to his foreign aid.
All of this, par for the course.
But about what the Secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress, revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq:
Here we go again!
From springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11, to summers of cynically manipulated intelligence through autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from this Administration, filled with three-card monte players.
But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpockets of a nation's goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents and making true enemies — foreign and domestic — all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state, has only gradually become clear.
As they asked in that Avis Commercial: "Ever get the feeling some people just stopped trying?"
Secretary Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him, with Nazi appeasers, without reminding anybody that the actual, historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930's, were the Republicans.
Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he and he alone knew the 'truth' about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the Administration officially disagreed with him.
But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake.
On the Sunday Morning Interview Show of Broken-Record on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph, which if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation, would've gotten the writer an "F" - maybe an expulsion.
If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present, "…It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
The Secretary's resume reads that she has a Masters' Degree and a Ph.D in Political Science. The interviewer should have demanded to see them, on the spot.
Dr. Rice spoke 42 words.
She may have made more mistakes in them, than did the President in his State of the Union Address in 2003.
There is, obviously, no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being.
But nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.
Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to exterminate the Jews; who sought to overtake the world — is not just in the poorest of taste but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it. And defeated it.
Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler.
And George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt — nor Dwight D. Eisenhower.
He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.
However, even through the clouds of deliberately-spread fear, and even under the weight of a thousand exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared — by some — to the Second World War.
The analogy is weak, and it instantly begs the question of why those of "The Greatest Generation" focused on Hitler and Hirohito but our leaders seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism.
But in some, small, "you didn't fail, Junior, but you may need to go to summer school" kind of way, you can just make out that comparison.
But Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler?
Are you kidding?
Did you want to provoke the world's laughter?
And, please, Madame Secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, subjective, dubious, ridiculous comparison…
If you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, the pathetic Holocaust-denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad…
At least get the easily verifiable facts right — the facts whose home through history lie in your own department.
"The resolution that allowed the United States to" overthrow Hitler?
On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department — your office, Secretary Rice — and ninety minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the Chief of the Department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier and the Germans simply piled on.
Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs.
They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons, it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier.
The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said "we're at war."
It was in all the papers!
And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops, and the Russians, were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well in the 1950's.
As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!
If you want to compare what we did to Hitler and in Germany, to what we did to Saddam and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy.
We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice, and by your logic, we're now an occupying force in Iraq.
And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. (Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis — most of them already buy that part of the comparison).
"It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown." We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam.
We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq.
We already have blissful ignorance by our Secretary of State about how this country got into the war against Hitler.
But then there's this part about changing "the resolution" about Iraq, that it would be as ridiculous in the Secretary's eyes, as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do!
We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown!
It was called the Marshall Plan.
General George Catlett Marshall!
Secretary of State!
The job you have now!
Twelve billion, 400 thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically — to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out, and democracy, in!
And how do you suppose that happened? The President of the United States went back to Congress, and asked it for a new authorization, and for the money.
And do you have any idea, Madame Secretary, who opposed him when he did that?
'We've spent enough money in Europe,' said Senator Taft of Ohio.
'We've spent enough of our resources,' said former President Hoover.
It's time to pull out of there!
As they stand up, we'll stand down!
This administration has long thought otherwise, but you can't cherry-pick life — whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945.
You can't keep the facts that fit your prejudices, and throw out the ones that destroy your theories.
And if you're going to try to do that; if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave FDR that blank check in Germany he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least, stop humiliating us.
Get your facts straight.
Use….. the Google!
You've been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice.
That network has got another show premiering tomorrow night.
You could go on that one, too.
It might be a better fit.
It's called "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
Monday, February 26, 2007
That, again, did not happen but what Our Leaders are doing is far, far worse:
Critics: Army Holding Down Disability RatingsLink.
By Kelly Kennedy
Saturday 24 February 2007
The Army is deliberately shortchanging troops on their disability retirement ratings to hold down costs, according to veterans' advocates, lawyers and services members, and the Inspector General has identified 87 problems in the system that need fixing.
"These people are being systematically underrated," said Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for Disabled American Veterans. "It's a bureaucratic game to preserve the budget, and it's having an adverse affect on service members."
The numbers of people approved for permanent or temporary disability retirement in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force have stayed relatively stable since 2001.
But in the Army - in the midst of a war - the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement has plunged by more than two-thirds, from 642 in 2001 to 209 in 2005, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. That decline has come even as the war in Iraq has intensified and the total number of soldiers wounded or injured there has soared above 15,000.
The Army denies there is any intentional effort to push wounded troops off the military rolls. But critics say many troops being evaluated for possible disability retirement accept the first rating they are offered during their first informal board - but that if they were to request a formal board, and then appeal the decision of that board, they would receive higher ratings.
The system is complicated - "unduly so," the Rand Corp. think tank said in a 2005 report - and the counselors who advise troops often have insufficient training or experience. Service members also assume that after months spent in a war zone, the military will look out for them, critics say.
Those who try to navigate the process beyond their initial evaluation - to include hundreds of combat veterans in limbo at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington - face long waits, lost paperwork and months or even years away from home as they try to complete the process. If they receive a rating of above 30 percent, they receive disability retirement pay, medical benefits, and commissary privileges. Those rated under 30 percent receive severance pay and no benefits.
Many eventually give up and take their chances with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may give a higher rating for the same disability.
But under the separate disability payment systems of the Defense Department and the VA, a higher VA rating does not necessarily translate into more money - and forgoing military disability retirement also means giving up lifetime commissary and exchange privileges, military health care and other benefits.
While the number of soldiers placed on permanent disability retirement has declined in the past five years, the number placed on temporary disability retirement - with medical conditions that officials rule might improve so they can return to work over time or worsen to the point that they must be permanently retired - has increased more than fourfold, from 165 in 2001 to 837 in 2005.
Troops on temporary disability leave convalesce for 18 months while receiving reduced basic pay. After 1½ years, they are reevaluated and either returned to duty, or rated for separation or permanent disability retirement, or sent back to temporary disability for another 18 months - up to five years.
Along with paying them reduced wages during that time, the eventual reevaluation often leads to downward revisions in their disability ratings - and lower disability payments.
Service members' conditions must be deemed stable before they receive a permanent disability rating, unless they are rated at less than 30 percent. In that case, they are discharged with severance pay - whether they are in stable condition or not. If their conditions then worsen, they'll receive no more money from the military.
Compared to the overall size of the defense budget, disability retirement costs are relatively small. In 2004, the military paid more than $1.2 billion in permanent and temporary disability benefits to 90,000 people, the GAO said.
That does not include the costs of lump-sum severance pay - up to 24 months of basic pay - given to 11,174 disabled troops that year in lieu of disability retirement pay. The Pentagon was unable to provide data on severance costs, the GAO said.
Officials with the Army's Physical Disability Agency say there is no ploy to save money and that troops going through the process are treated well.
"There is absolutely no attempt on the part of the Army or this agency to deny soldiers any disability benefits or to push them off on the VA," said Col. Andy Buchanan, the agency's deputy commander.
Adjudicators "are committed to ensuring all disability decisions are made fairly and accurately and based on the evidence in the soldier's medical record," he said. "We have never received any guidance, official or otherwise, from anywhere within DoD to limit findings for budgetary or other reasons."
In 2005, Ellen Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness, told House lawmakers the reason for the comparatively large numbers of troops placed on temporary disability was actually to keep end strength up. A premature medical evaluation board decision, she said, "may negatively impact the individual's ability to continue serving."
"I Couldn't Believe It"
Smith said he began hearing tales about two years ago of service members who said they were not getting proper disability ratings based on the VA Schedule for Rating - the document used by both the military services and the VA to determine percentage ratings for disabilities, which in turn sets compensation rates.
"I finally decided to take on a case myself," Smith said. "It's been a while since I took a case."
He found an Army captain whose radial nerve in his right arm had been destroyed in Iraq - the same injury that has left Bob Dole, the World War II veteran and former Kansas senator, unable to use his arm to do more than hold a pen.
Smith followed the captain through the physical evaluation board process. He said that under the ratings schedule, this was an easy call: 70 percent disability. But at his first informal medical evaluation board, the captain initially was offered just 30 percent, and he had to fight to raise it to 60 percent through a subsequent formal evaluation board and then a final appeal.
"His first offer ... I couldn't believe it," Smith said. "I was just incensed."
Many troops accept the first rating offered them at their initial informal evaluation board, Smith said. "Soldiers are trained. When the evaluation board says, ‘This is what you get,' the soldiers say, ‘Yes sir.' A lot of people don't appeal."
Dennis Brower, legal advisor for the Army's Physical Disability Agency, acknowledged as much, saying only 10 percent of soldiers request a formal board.
But when the Army wouldn't budge on raising the captain's rating above 60 percent, Smith took the case a step beyond where most soldiers can go.
"I called the adjutant general and said I wanted a meeting," Smith said - and added that if he didn't get one, he was "going to Congress.' "
That was in January. He got his meeting. He has demanded that the Army's Physical Disability Agency look for patterns of incremental increases in disability ratings as troops move through the process, and how closely their ratings match what the VA schedule mandates.
Smith is still waiting to hear back, but suspects the pattern will show that a large proportion of troops with less than 20 years of service - who don't already qualify for retirement - are rated at under 30 percent, the threshold for being considered for disability retirement pay and all other military benefits that come with it. Many of those troops instead receive one-time, lump-sum disability severance pay that is much lower in value than lifetime retirement compensation.
Pentagon spokesman Marine Maj. Stewart Upton said the disability retirement process is being looked at.
"We are in the midst of a business-process review that will generate improvements to program effectiveness, including timeliness goals for processing cases and standard definitions of start and end points as well as other metrics to ensure that progress can be accurately measured over time against common metrics," Upton said.
"We are especially concerned with a balance of what constitutes prompt adjudication, while maintaining reasonable flexibility within the system to ensure recoveries are not inappropriately rushed."
Fit for Duty?
Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker was diagnosed with reactive arthritis, which causes painful swelling and eventual calcification of the joints. He was put on drugs that suppress his immune system, but kept on active duty - even though his medication must be refrigerated and he must remain near specialized medical care.
With a suppressed immune system, there is no chance of him being deployed, much less to a combat zone. "If I get shot, it's not good," he said.
Though pleased that he could continue to serve, he wondered how a medical evaluation board could find him fit. After he talked to a dozen other service members from all branches with similar diagnoses of reactive arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, he realized they were all evaluated based on different criteria. He produced hundreds of pages of medical records, letters and rulings to support his claims.
Some were handed disability ratings that would provide them with the $20,000 in drugs that they would need for the rest of their lives, while others were told they had preexisting conditions and given no benefits. Still others - including some with medical evidence proving otherwise - were told that because their diseases had improved and would not worsen, their disability ratings were based on the idea that they had improved from chronic illnesses that, in reality, could worsen.
Parker began making calls - to lawmakers, doctors, veterans' groups and the media. He sought out troops having problems and offered to help them through the process, piecing together medical paperwork to make sure people got what they deserved.
He said he has seen case after frustrating case of the services ignoring their own rules. For example, an evaluation board is supposed to provide "clear and unerring evidence" for a ruling that a particular condition was preexisting - but Parker said that often does not happen.
He cited a Marine who had received a 10 percent disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder from a Navy physical evaluation board - and was later rated at 50 percent for the same condition by the VA, using the same ratings schedule and the same medical records.
Unrelated to Service
In May 2003, Army Cpl. Richard Twohig was thrown from an armored personnel carrier in Iraq. The 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper landed on his head, said his lawyer, Mark Waple, of Fayetteville, N.C.
Twohig suffers headaches at least once a week that last up to 14 hours, as well as short-term memory loss, and is dependent on pain medication.
"This is well substantiated by his doctors - Army medical doctors," Waple said.
But his physical evaluation board rated him only 10 percent disabled for another injury because he had no substantive proof the headaches were a result of the accident - even though regulations call for evaluation boards to give troops the benefit of the doubt in such instances.
"I believe it is budget-related," Waple said. "I believe that there is a feeling the service member should turn to the VA for both their health care and their veterans' benefits."
Twohig can't work because of the disabling headaches, and even if he receives VA benefits, his family has lost its medical insurance. And if a physical evaluation board rules that injuries are not related to service or were preexisting conditions, troops are not eligible for VA benefits, either.
Waple said he began helping soldiers through the physical evaluation board process in the 1970s while he was still an Army lawyer, and he said he has watched the system change since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The system "has become less friendly toward service members with compensable decisions on disability" in the past few years, especially since the war in Iraq began, Waple said.
"I think there is a definite bias on the physical evaluation board to medically separate service members with a zero-, 10- or 20-percent disability rating when it ... should be medical retirement."
Waple said he has about a dozen cases out of Fort Bragg, N.C., similar to Twohig's.
Army Spc. Ruben Villalpando, who was featured in the Military Times coverage of the problems at Walter Reed, said that since the stories were published, contractors have fixed the elevator in Building 18 - the facility where troops on "medical hold" are housed - and have inspected each room to determine what needs to be fixed.
But more importantly to him, a Judge Advocate General lawyer looked at his case after he filed a complaint that he received no disability rating because his depression was ruled to have existed prior to his enlisting.
Villalpando said he became depressed because his cousin, a Marine, was electrocuted while they were both serving in Iraq. He has been at Walter Reed for just over a year.
"The JAG wanted to know how they knew it was existing prior to service if they didn't have my medical records," Villalpando said.
He has appealed that decision, and his appeal is still pending. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed," he said.
A Complicated Process
Brower, the Army disability agency's legal advisor, said part of the problem is that service members don't understand how the process works. For example, he said a soldier who carries a notepad because of short-term memory loss will not be rated for that disability because he can function. But if he loses a foot, he would be rated for that.
"There's no need to compensate" for the short-term memory loss because it "didn't end your military career," he said. "The foot did. We compensate for the loss of a career."
And Upton said soldiers have plenty of opportunity to appeal.
"Service members are afforded due process to ensure their cases and concerns can be fairly considered whichever direction they choose," he said. "Service members also have rights of appeal at specific points in the process should they disagree with their rating."
Buchanan, the Army Physical Disability Agency's deputy commander, said the system is not as bad as government reports have led people to believe.
"It really is a fair process," he said. "It's wide open. We have nothing to hide."
Buchanan also said he had "no visibility" on the costs related to disability retirement pay, so he doesn't know if the budget is going up or down.
He said he gives medical evaluation board adjudicators one instruction:
"Do the right thing. That's the guidance I give them."
The real reason I think Cheney is right is because the wrong strategy can help al-Qaida. There are things the US can do that would hurt al-Qaida and there are other things we can do to strengthen them and validate their strategy.The rest is here.
As it happens, the policies Dick Cheney has advocated and this White House has adopted has led to the former. In fact, Cheney has validated the al-Qaida strategy more than anyone else in the world.
Al-Qaida said we would attack oil-rich Middle Eastern countries - and Cheney did. Al-Qaida said that we would get stuck fighting these wars and squander our national treasure doing so - and Cheney did. Al-Qaida said our real goal was to occupy the Middle East and hold Muslims in the region down - and Cheney did.
Now Cheney promises to validate al-Qaida's strategy even more by attacking another oil-rich, Middle Eastern country. This would lead us into another unwinnable war, further occupation of Muslim lands and waste even more of our money.
Osama bin Laden made a tape right before the 2004 election. The Republicans and Fox News Channel spun it by saying Osama wanted Americans to vote for John Kerry (and the rest of the media went along). But that's not what bin Laden said in the tape at all. Quite the opposite. He said how happy he was that we had invaded Iraq and that we were going to bankrupt ourselves there just like the Soviet Union bankrupted itself fighting Muslim forces in Afghanistan.
And what did Americans do in response - we validated his strategy by re-electing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. After the election, the Bush White House went further into Iraq, wasted even more money, started an escalation and now they threaten another war in Iran. Osama must feel pretty damn validated right about now.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
One of the most notorious crooks MacArthur embraced was yakuza godfather Yoshio Kodama. With the exalted rank of rear admiral in the Japanese navy, Kodama had overseen the wartime looting of Asia’s criminal infrastructure. In the process, he stashed away a personal fortune estimated at $13 billion.Link.
Arrested as a Class A war criminal, he made a deal with MacArthur’s intelligence chief, Gen. Charles Willoughby. Kodama handed the CIA $100 million in return for his release from Sugamo Prison. Returning to the underworld, he regained control of the Asian heroin traffic.
According to the Seagraves and others, he also remained a CIA asset until his death in 1984. It was apparently in that capacity that he became a major behind-the-scenes political force, primarily in Japan but, indirectly, across the Pacific as well.
Together with his fellow racketeer and Class A war criminal Ryoichi Sasakawa, Kodama underwrote the creation of two Japanese political parties that later combined to form the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Except for a brief hiatus when voters had had their fill of corruption, the conservative LDP has ruled Japan ever since. According to sources cited by the Seagraves, the LDP secretly contributed to the 1960 presidential campaign of Richard M. Nixon.
The LDP was not the only organization which Kodama and Sasakawa bankrolled, that lavished the gangsters’ ill-begotten wealth on American politicians. They also underwrote the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, which owns the right-wing daily, the Washington Times.
When Gen. Park Chung Hee staged a coup and installed himself as South Korea’s dictator in 1961, he designated the Unification Church to be his political arm. Successive South Korean leaders have used it to influence U.S. foreign policy.
A 1978 congressional inquiry found that Moon’s organization, in coordination with South Korea’s CIA-molded intelligence agency, the KCIA, paid off several U.S. congressmen. Rep. Richard Hanna, D-California, and Otto Passman, D-Louisiana, accepted approximately $200,000 each.
Hanna was slapped with a six-to-30-month sentence and spent a year behind bars. Passman managed to have himself tried in his home town and was acquitted. Fortunately for Reps. Cornelius Gallagher, D-New Jersey, and William Marshall, R-Ohio, the five-year statute of limitations ran out before they could be prosecuted. Three others congressmen were reprimanded for lying about their gifts.
Kodama and Sasakawa, together with followers of Rev. Moon, also underwrote the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League (APACL) as a propaganda mill for the dictatorships of Taiwan and South Korea. In 1966, the APACL expanded to become the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) . European neo-nazi terrorists and Latin American death squad leaders attended WACL conferences in the 1970s and 1980s.
Ronald Reagan – whose 1981 presidential inauguration was attended by the godfather of Central America’s death squads, Mario Sandoval Alarcon – sent the following message to the 1985 WACL convention in Dallas:
“I commend you all for your part in this noble cause. Our combined efforts are moving the tide of history toward world freedom. We must persevere and never falter. I send all you who help in your crusade for liberty my best wishes. God bless you.”
The previous year, Congress had blocked continued White House funding for the counter-revolutionary Nicaraguan contras. Undaunted, the Reagan administration solicited donations from private right-wing sources, including the two organizations that Kodama and Sasakawa had spawned. WACL and the Unification Church each obliged the Reagan team with generous donations that kept the contras afloat.
In that same period, WACL also contributed heavily in the United States to right-wing candidates running against progressive incumbents. One such beneficiary, WACL conferee Steven Symms, unseated the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Frank Church, D-Idaho. A prominent Vietnam War critic, Church had chaired a 1975 Senate investigation that uncovered CIA plots to assassinate foreign leaders.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, a picture emerges of CIA-controlled Japanese wartime loot being funneled by Japanese war criminals, via rightist Asian conduit organizations, to American politicians.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana.
"Those who don't learn from history deserve what they get. The rest of us don't." -- The Seditionist.
On Sept, 23, 2002, in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gore laid out a series of concerns and differences that he had with Bush’s policy of “preemptive war” and specifically Bush’s decision to refashion the “war on terror” into an imminent invasion of Iraq.Link. (Emphasis added.)
Gore, who had supported the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, criticized Bush’s failure to enlist the international community as his father had. Gore also warned about the negative impact that alienating other nations was having on the broader war against terrorists.
“I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century,” Gore said. “To put first things first, I believe that we ought to be focusing our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on Sept. 11. …
“Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism.”
Instead of keeping after al-Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan, Bush had chosen to start a new war against Iraq as the first example of his policy of preemption, Gore said.
“He is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein,” Gore said. “And the President is proclaiming a new uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.”
“There’s no international law that can prevent the United States from taking action to protect our vital interests when it is manifestly clear that there’s a choice to be made between law and our survival,” Gore said. “Indeed, international law itself recognizes that such choices stay within the purview of all nations. I believe, however, that such a choice is not presented in the case of Iraq.”
Gore raised, too, practical concerns about the dangers that might follow the overthrow of Hussein, if chaos in Iraq followed. Gore cited the deteriorating political condition in Afghanistan where the new central government exerted real control only in parts of Kabul while ceding effective power to warlords in the countryside.
“What if, in the aftermath of a war against Iraq, we faced a situation like that, because we’ve washed our hands of it?” Gore asked. “What if the al-Qaeda members infiltrated across the borders of Iraq the way they are in Afghanistan? …
“Now, I just think that if we end the war in Iraq the way we ended the war in Afghanistan, we could very well be much worse off than we are today.”
Blogger gets 4 years for insulting IslamLink. (Emphasis added.)
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- An Egyptian blogger was convicted Thursday and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt's president, sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, was a vocal secularist and sharp critic of conservative Muslims in his blog. He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar - the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam - calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of encouraging extremism.
Judge Ayman al-Akazi issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and the prophet and inciting sectarian strife and another year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.
Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He made no comment to reporters as he was immediate led outside to a prison truck.
Seconds after he was loaded into the truck and the door closed, an Associated Press reporter heard the sound of a slap from inside the vehicle and a shriek of pain from Nabil.
Egypt arrested a number of bloggers last year, most of them for connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement. Nabil was arrested in November, and while other bloggers were freed, Nabil was put on trial - a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a pro-reform blogger who was detained for six weeks last year, said the conviction for insulting Mubarak will "have a chilling effect on the rest of the bloggers."
"We (the Egyptian people) are enduring oppression, poverty and torture, so the least we can do is insult the president," he said.
Nabil, who used the blogger name Kareem Amer, was an unusually scathing critic of conservative Muslims - and his frequent attacks on Al-Azhar, where he was a law student, led to the university expelling him in March. Al-Azhar then pushed for prosecutors to bring him to trial. His writings also appeared on a Arabic Web magazine called "Modern Discussion."
The judge said Nabil insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad with a piece he wrote in late 2005 after riots in which angry Muslim worshippers attacked a Coptic Christian church over a play put on by Christians deemed offensive to Islam.
"Muslims revealed their true ugly face and appeared to all the world that they are full of brutality, barbarism and inhumanity," Nabil said of the riots. He called Muhammad and his 7th century followers, the Sahaba, "spillers of blood" for their teachings on warfare - a comment cited by the judge.
In a later essay, not cited by the court, Nabil clarified his comments, saying Muhammad was "great" but that his teachings on warfare and other issues should be viewed as a product of their times.
He blasted Al-Azhar, calling it the "other face of the coin of al-Qaida" and called for the university to be dissolved or turned into a secular institution. He said it "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is no place for differences in this life" and criticized its policy of segregating male and female students.
In other posts, Nabil criticized Mubarak, writing at the time of presidential elections in 2005, "Let's pledge allegiance to God's representative and caliph in Egypt ... the symbol of tyranny, Hosni Mubarak ... Say goodbye to democracy for me."
The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil's trial, despite its past criticism of the arrests of Egyptian rights activists.
So how do we surge?
Screw the troops who've already served, of course:
DAVID CLOUD, New York Times: Well, there are units in four states -- Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana -- combat brigades in all four of the states, which are being told they may have to go back to Iraq early next year. Many of them have already been to Iraq one or Afghanistan one or even two times.Link.
RAY SUAREZ: Now, when would they have expected to go back? When, under the normal rotation, would they have gone back otherwise?
DAVID CLOUD: One of the units wasn't scheduled to go back until 2010. The other three were supposed to go back in 2009. So this is a significant shortening of the time that they're going to have at home between deployments.
Timetables for deployments
RAY SUAREZ: Now, what was the most recent policy of the Bush administration regarding how long it would be between overseas deployments for units like the ones that are being told to be ready to go back?
DAVID CLOUD: The policy for several years, since the Iraq invasion, has been that, for Guard and Reserve units, they were supposed to be deployed for 24 months every five years, no more than 24 months every five years. That was scraped in January when the president announced his surge plan, his plan to send more reinforcements to Iraq.
They acknowledged at the time that essentially the deployments had gone on so long in Iraq and Afghanistan that there was no way they could live up to those promises anymore. And they've come up with a new set of rules, which essentially say, "We will send you for one year, a maximum of one year, every five years." But in doing so, they've wiped away the previous service so that any unit is now eligible to go back for another year to Iraq or Afghanistan.
RAY SUAREZ: So for these time totals, we're starting from scratch, we're starting from square one?
DAVID CLOUD: That's correct.
RAY SUAREZ: Are Guard units already in Iraq also being extended, in addition to ones back home being sent back sooner?
DAVID CLOUD: As part of the increase in troops in Iraq, the 21,500 that the White House announced in January, they did extend one unit, a Minnesota National Guard brigade, for 90 days.
RAY SUAREZ: Do the commanding officers -- and these are state functions -- do the commanding officers in these various states say that they have the personnel they need, the equipment they need to redeploy as quickly as they're being asked to?
DAVID CLOUD: Well, I've talked to a number of them in the past few days, and a number of these units that could go next year, and many of them say they do not, at the moment, have the equipment and even the training to carry out the mission.
They're in discussions with the Army about getting the equipment. Many of them say they're short of rifles, they're short of mortars, they're short of a lot of things, equipment, up-armored Humvees, which are vital in Iraq, because of the IED threat. And the Army has committed to getting them the equipment they need.
But under the quick timetable that they're looking at, it's going to be a difficult job to get them all the equipment.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, help me understand the relationship between these units being asked to go back next year and the year after with the president's intention to increase the number of troops deployed in Iraq. We were told that it would peak by the end of this year and that it would be temporary. Does this mean that that surge could go on a lot longer?
DAVID CLOUD: There's no definitive answer to that yet. Commanders have said the surge will go on, and they'll look at conditions at the end of the summer and decide whether the 21,500 troop increase could come down at that time.
So, in effect, what the Pentagon is doing is preparing for the possibility that they will need this elevated number of troops next year by alerting these Guard units now that they might have to go.
RAY SUAREZ: Can they be compelled to stay in service like regular forces can?
DAVID CLOUD: They can. This concept of stop-loss, which the Pentagon can impose on Guard members to stop them from getting out, if they are scheduled to -- if they are mobilized. Again, it's a technical thing, but there are ways that the Pentagon can prevent members from getting out.
Now we just have to see whether the nutjobs that actually, like, vote in the GOP primaries agree....
Pelosi's third in line of the presidency.
So the last election can be read as:
No to Bush.
No to Dick.
Yes to Nancy.
Think about it.
What does it say about our nation at this time...?
I mean, there's been a lack of what could be called manly virtues (Hi, Beau!) but this is... well, at least a little unsettling....
Wait a minute, I stand corrected; Our Leader is truly manly:
Speaking of George Bush, with whom [Ariel] Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"Link. (Emphasis added.)
I think to the contrary. Certainly, there's been some success on the global policing level.
But has the "heightened security" here accomplished anything? Could a couple of aspiring terrorists take lessons in how to crash airliners? Could they get on one with sufficient weapons to commandeer one? Just 'cause it hasn't happened doesn't mean it's significantly harder.
And is there more global terrorism now than before the current regime or just reported more?
I dunno. Any answers on there?
Although I suppose maybe the answers start with Sy....
Britain Reminds Us of the Solution for Victory in Iraq, Previously Used by Republican Administrations
Yes, it's that simple, don't finish the job. Just say it's done and leave. Poppy did in Iraq I, "Tricky Dick" Nixon in 'Nam.
Not just that simple, but proven.
We overthrew the dictator and installed a democratic government. Mission accomplished, let's split. 'Nuff said.
Correction: Here's an analysis of the extent of the Brits' victory in their part of Iraq. Short version: very little, maybe less, well, none.