Tuesday, February 28, 2006
by Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas — With the Bush administration, it's important to have in mind the old carnival con game: Keep your eye on the shell with the pea under it.
Among the many curious aspects of the administration's approval of the Dubai Ports World takeover of operations at six major ports (and as many as 21) is this exemption from normally routine restrictions: The agreement does not require DP World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, which would place them within the jurisdiction of American courts. Nor does it require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government. So what's that about?
It makes DP World harder to sue and less subject to American regulation. The lovely thing about the ports deal causing such a commotion is that it allows us to bring attention to this fairly obscure provision, which is, in fact, part of a wave of similar special exemptions that's starting to turn into a flood.
Here's a lovely example of how it works: Just before Christmas last year, in a spectacular example of a straight power play, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert pulled off a backroom legislative deal to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits. The language was slipped into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of the House-Senate conference committee meeting on the bill.
Lots of players were outraged at the short- circuiting of the legislative process. "It is a travesty," said Thomas Mann of The Brookings Institution. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., who had specifically checked to make sure the language was not included, was enraged, calling Frist and Hastert "a couple of musclemen in Congress who think they have the right to tell everybody else that they have to do their bidding." Rep. Dan Burton said succinctly, "It sucks."
The way this was done was outrageous, but so is what it did. Frist has received over $270,000 in contributions from the drug industry and has long advocated liability protection for vaccine makers. As the Gannett News Service reports, the provision allows the secretary of health and human services to issue a declaration of a public health emergency, or threat of an emergency, or declaration of "credible risk" of an emergency in the future, thereby protecting the industry against lawsuits involving the manufacture, testing, development, distribution, administration or use of vaccines or other drugs.
In order to prove injury from a drug, a person would have to prove "willful misconduct," not just actual harm.
But this putrid performance is part of a much larger pattern to protect corporations from the consequences of the damage they cause. The Los Angeles Times reports:
"The highway safety agency ... is backing auto industry efforts to stop California and other states from regulating tailpipe emissions.
"The Justice Department helped industry groups overturn a pollution-control rule in Southern California that would have required cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other fleet vehicles."
"The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off enforcement of consumer protection laws passed by California, New York and other states."
"The Food and Drug Administration (claims) FDA-approved labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad immunity from most types of lawsuits."
Because of repeated problems with roof- crush incidents that have crippled drivers in rollover accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at last proposed a beefed-up safety standard for car roofs — but the proposal also provides legal protection for the manufacturers from future roof-crush lawsuits. So your car roof may be less liable to crush during a rollover, but if it does and leaves you paraplegic, but you won't be able to sue.
Sometimes I'm not sure what planet these people live on — they must think the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal represents reality.
Gee, would a fine, upstanding American corporation actually make a product that would hurt someone? Knowingly? Would they ever lie to cover it up after they find out about the problem and continue manufacturing whatever it is until finally forced to stop? Well, would they do that if it was really, really profitable? Could that happen in our great nation?
The trouble with the people who write The Wall Street Journal's editorial page is that they never read their own newspaper, which still does the best job of business reporting anywhere. Business interests have done a splendid job of vilifying trial lawyers and pretending the only people hurt by limiting the right to sue are trial lawyers.
Look, the trial lawyer is not the one in a wheelchair after a roof-crush rollover leaves someone paraplegic. Do you drive a car?
Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?
Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 09:59:56 PM PDT
I know the Bushbot and their GOP allies are now falling in line behind their president, eager to let the supremely undemocratic (and terrorist sympathizing) UAE have access to major gateways into our nation.
You see, while we're supposed to invade countries without cause, torture prisoners, surrender civil liberties, get spied on by our government -- all in the name of "national security", pesky things such as "national security" shouldn't get in the way of commerce. Especially with some of Bush's best Middle Eastern pals who are also big Osama Bin Laden pals. (Is that one or two degrees of separation?)
Yet a real counter-terrorism expert under this administration gives reasons why the deal is a bad, bad thing.
Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.
He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver's licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.
Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World's operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.
But for Bush, business cronyism tops national security concerns.
Well, that didn't last long.
After a day of relative calm Monday, Baghdad has exploded in violence again today. According to the Associated Press, five attacks -- including a suicide bombing at a gas station -- have killed 41 and wounded scores more.
Today's attacks appear to be a continuation or resumption of the sectarian violence that erupted last week after the destruction of the Askariya shrine. How deadly has that fighting been? Reports diverge, dramatically. The New York Times, relying on numbers from Iraq's Council of Ministers, says that 379 Iraqis had been killed before today's attacks. The Washington Post says that the Statistics Department of the Iraqi police puts the death toll at 1,020 -- and that morgue officials say they have logged 1,300 deaths since last Wednesday.
Numbers like that are staggering in human terms. The United States -- a country with a population more than 10 times as large as Iraq's -- has lost nearly 2,300 soldiers since the war started three years ago; imagine the outcry if the U.S. lost 1,300 -- or 13,000 -- more in less than a week. The numbers, if correct, also carry serious political significance. As the Post says, statistics showing 1,300 deaths in less than a week would undercut attempts by U.S. and Iraqi officials to minimize the violence that has taken Iraq to the brink of civil war.
Not that those attempts were working anyway. As we noted earlier today, the latest CBS News poll shows that Americans are in a state of despair about Iraq. CBS says that "Americans' perceptions of the U.S. effort in Iraq are at an all-time low." Sixty-two percent of the public thinks things are going "badly" in Iraq; only 29 percent of the public believes the results of the war have been worth the cost; and 54 percent of the public says the president should never have started the war in the first place.
The president's supporters will surely say that the latest poll numbers are the product of media fixation on bad news from Iraq. Here's a reality check: As the Times' Nicholas Kristof reports, the first-ever poll of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq shows that 72 percent of them think the United States should get out of Iraq within the year; 29 percent say the U.S. should leave Iraq immediately.
What are the troops doing in Iraq? Fifty-eight percent say their mission is clear, but 42 percent say the U.S role is hazy. There's one thing on which they agree, however: According to Zogby, which conducted the poll with New York's Le Moyne College, 85 percent of the troops say a major reason for the U.S. mission is "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks."
Did we mention "despair"?
When it comes to our desire for the truth, Americans couldn't be more conflicted.
On the one hand, we're obsessed with forensic TV shows dedicated to the search for an utterly objective, scientifically immutable truth. CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS, Cold Case, Numb3rs, Bones. When Bill Petersen or David Caruso break the facts down to the level of DNA and sub-microscopic particles, they always get their perp.
Wiggle room dies a rapid death in their labs. And we love getting to the truth. But when we turn off the TV and turn our attention to far weightier matters, we seem willing -- indeed eager -- to forget about the facts and throw our arms around truthiness.
As Stephen Colbert, the godfather of truthiness puts it: "I'm not a fan of facts. You see, facts can change, but my opinion will never change, no matter what the facts are." Or, as the Colbert Report's mocking caption writer summed it up: "Heart good, head bad."Of course, while Colbert uses the concept of truthiness to satirize our collective embrace of what we wish were true -- even when it's not, George Bush, Karl Rove, and the spinmeisters of the GOP message machine use it as their primary mode of communication.
Trust us. It's true because we say it is. What are you going to believe, your eyes or our soundbytes?It's how they sold us the invasion of Iraq (Saddam-unleashed mushroom clouds could be the logo for the Truthiness Society).
And it's how they are trying to sell us the consequences of that invasion as something other than an unmitigated disaster.
You'd think that only a satirist would try to spin the horrors of the last week in Iraq as a sign of progress. But it wasn't Colbert who surveyed the bloody sectarian violence pushing Iraq to the precipice of all-out civil war and declared that the bombing of the Golden Mosque would "likely" turn out to have been a good thing. It was Rove.And it wasn't the irreverent caption writer of Colbert's "The Word" who put up chyrons asking "'Upside' to Civil War?" and "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could it Be a Good Thing?". It was Fox News.
And it was George Bush, the walking, talking, swaggering, shoot-from-the-gut embodiment of truthiness, who went in front of the American Legion -- as the death toll in Iraq was hitting 130 in the previous 48 hours -- and said, "I'm optimistic... Out of negotiations now taking place in Iraq, a free government will emerge that will represent the will of the Iraqi people, instead of a cruel dictator, and that will help us keep the peace." Jesus may be the president's favorite philosopher, but when it comes to spinning the facts, Bush seems to be asking himself WWCS? (What Would Colbert Say?).
The truthiness will set you free.
Indeed, the Truthiness Taliban scored anther coup against facts, truth, and reality with the announcement that Halliburton would be getting almost the entire $250 million in disputed charges the Pentagon's top auditors had identified as potentially excessive or unjustified.The auditors had looked at the facts and decided that Halliburton subsidiary KBR had charged, in some instances, "nearly triple what others were charging to do the same job" -- as a result of which the cost of the $2.41 billion no-bid contract had skyrocketed.And it's a fact that over the last three years, in cases involving thousands of military contracts, the military usually followed the recommendations of the Pentagon auditors.
According to the New York Times: "In 2003, the agency's figures show, the military withheld an average of 66.4 percent of what the auditors had recommended, while in 2004 the figure was 75.2 percent and in 2005 it was 56.4 percent." But with this audit, the Army decided to withhold just 3.8 percent of what the auditors recommended.
Those are the facts. But, for some reason, the Army decided that, given how hard it is to do things during a war and all, it would cut Halliburton some slack. "The contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement," explained an Army spokeswoman. How very early-James Frey Oprah of them. The cut-the-crap late-James Frey Oprah would have said, "That's a lie" and withheld all the money
.Responding to the Army's decision, Hallburton watchdog Rep. Henry Waxman said: "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, but the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."It's truthiness as government policy. Right now, Stephen Colbert is smiling. The rest of us should be outraged.
P.S. Colbert seems to be everywhere right now, with stories on him in the New York Times and Roll Call. And on Wednesday night, I'll be on the Colbert Report discussing truthiness among other things.
February 28, 2006
Prosecutors Are Said to Have Eavesdropped on Kerik's Calls
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Bronx prosecutors investigating former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik obtained a court order to tap his cellular telephone last summer and listened to his calls for two months, according to two people with knowledge of the case.
For more than a year, the prosecutors, along with lawyers from city's Department of Investigation, have been investigating who paid for several hundred thousand dollars in renovations on Mr. Kerik's apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The work on the apartment was done in late 1999 and early 2000.
Bronx prosecutors and Department of Investigation lawyers have been presenting evidence to a grand jury in the Bronx since earlier this month, and officials have said as many as 50 witnesses will testify as part of the inquiry. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret.
It is unclear whether the court-ordered eavesdropping developed evidence that will be presented to the panel. To get the wiretap, prosecutors would have been required to persuade a judge they had probable cause to believe that a crime was being committed.
As required by law, people who were called by Mr. Kerik on the cellphone were notified of the court-ordered eavesdropping, according to one of the people with knowledge of the case.
The offices of the Bronx district attorney, Robert Johnson, and the Department of Investigation commissioner, Rose Gill Hearn, would not comment yesterday on the eavesdropping. Both officials have also declined to discuss the investigation into the apartment and any other matters involving Mr. Kerik that have come under scrutiny.
But the authorities in New Jersey said last November that Mr. Kerik had accepted more than $200,000 in work on the apartment from a construction company accused of having ties to organized crime while he helped the company pursue business with New York City.
The New Jersey officials, lawyers for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, have been trying to revoke a license that allows the construction company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, to work at casinos in Atlantic City.
Mr. Kerik has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Yesterday, his lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, reiterated his denials and repeated Mr. Kerik's position that he welcomed "a full-blown and open investigation." He added, "I want Bernie's name cleared once and for all."
"The Bronx D.A. can choose to use whatever investigative means they deem appropriate, and we don't take issue with that," he said. "We have always encouraged them to do what they had to do with this investigation."
Mr. Kerik bought the apartment, at 679 West 239th Street — originally two apartments that had been combined into one — in 1999 when he was commissioner of the city Department of Correction. Court papers filed by the New Jersey officials said that he was concerned at the time about his ability to pay for extensive renovations to the apartment.
One of the witnesses who has already testified before the grand jury is a builder who helped renovate Mr. Kerik's apartment, Tim Woods, of Woods Restoration Services, according to his lawyer, Kyle B. Watters.
Mr. Woods has told the authorities in New Jersey that he was paid more than $200,000 by Interstate, a large New Jersey construction company, for the work. Federal and state officials have long accused the company of having ties to organized crime, a charge its owners have adamantly denied. Interstate's owners have also denied making the payments, which are detailed in Woods's business records.
Mr. Tacopina has said in the past that Mr. Kerik paid $30,000 for the renovations, but the New Jersey officials said in court papers that Mr. Kerik paid only $17,800 and that Interstate paid the balance of more than $200,000.
The owners of Interstate, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, are also expected to testify before the grand jury, but with immunity, according to Mr. Watters, who said he was told that by Bronx prosecutors. Frank DiTommaso said yesterday that his lawyer, Thomas E. Durkin Jr., had been talking to Bronx prosecutors about the brothers' testimony.
The lawyers from the Division of Gaming Enforcement investigating Mr. Kerik's relationship with Interstate argued that Mr. Kerik had sought to help the company obtain a New York City license to run a transfer station. But city regulators ultimately denied the license.
Gambling enforcement officials also contended that Mr. Kerik met with Raymond V. Casey, then the city's chief trade waste regulator, from whom Interstate was seeking the license. Mr. Kerik, they said, also made his Correction Department office available for Interstate's meetings with Mr. Casey's investigators.
Mr. Kerik also gave advice about Interstate's pending regulatory issues, and the company's license applications were faxed to his office, gambling enforcement officials said.
Mr. Casey has said that he did not feel that Mr. Kerik improperly tried to influence him.
The accusations by the New Jersey gambling regulators were included in court papers filed last November and became public nearly a year after President Bush nominated Mr. Kerik to serve as federal homeland security secretary in December 2004.
Mr. Kerik withdrew his nomination after seven days, citing possible tax problems involving his family's nanny, an embarrassment for his political patron, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Kerik also resigned from Mr. Giuliani's consulting company, saying his troubles had become a distraction for the business.
* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
Sunday, February 26, 2006
To see a film that supports your political and social beliefs, you might
look for a documentary called Isn't This A Time produced by Jim Brown. It's
the story of harold Leventhal who brought the Weavers and many other folks
singers to Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. There are clips from past concerts
and it is current, filmed in 2004. I heard parts of it on Bob Sherman's
Woody's Children which is on at 7 p.m. every Sunday at WFUV.
For your more cynical moods, try The No Show with Ssteve Post, now on WNYC
at 6 p.m. on Sunday evenings.
Posted by Miriam V.
Published: February 22, 2006
If President Bush follows through on his threat, he'll be making a strange choice for his first veto after more than five years in office. After giving a pass to a parade of misbegotten Congressional initiatives and irresponsible budget packages, he'd be choosing to take a stand over the right to hand control of operations at major American ports to a company based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and controlled by that government.
And Congress, which is making a bipartisan show of beating its collective chest, is being rather tardy in taking a stand, given the way it has looked on indifferently as the administration has ignored Congress's own rights of oversight and its constituents' right not to be targets of extralegal spying.
Nevertheless, Congress is right to resist the ports deal, in which the company, Dubai Ports World, would take over the British company now running these operations. The issue is not, as Mr. Bush is now claiming, a question of bias against a Middle Eastern company. The United Arab Emirates is an ally, but its record in the war on terror is mixed. It is not irrational for the United States to resist putting port operations, perhaps the most vulnerable part of the security infrastructure, under that country's control. And there is nothing in the Homeland Security Department's record to make doubters feel confident in its assurances that all proper precautions will be taken.
The Bush administration has followed a disturbing pattern in its approach to the war on terror. It has been perpetually willing to sacrifice individual rights in favor of security. But it has been loath to do the same thing when it comes to business interests. It has not imposed reasonable safety requirements on chemical plants, one of the nation's greatest points of vulnerability, or on the transport of toxic materials. The ports deal is another decision that has made the corporations involved happy, and has made ordinary Americans worry about whether they are being adequately protected.
It is no secret that this administration has pursued an aggressive antiregulatory agenda, and it has elevated corporate leaders to its highest positions. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department convened the panel that approved the ports deal, came to government after serving as the chief executive of the CSX Corporation, which was a major port operator when he worked there. (After he left, CSX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports World.)
The administration's intransigence has inspired a rare show of bipartisanship. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, and the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, along with a slew of other Republican members of Congress, have joined leading Democrats in objecting to the move. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, are introducing a bill that would put the decision on hold and require closer examination of the proposal. The bill would ultimately give Congress the final say.
The Schumer-King bill takes the right approach, and members of Congress from both parties should rally around it. Rather than using his first veto on such a wrongheaded cause, President Bush should make the bill unnecessary by acting on his own to undo the ports deal.
Here’s what McCain said about the deal:
“The President’s leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror, and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short.”
Kind words, and a stunning change of heart from somebody who thoroughly condemned the Administration’s handling of the war on terror.
Asked in a December 2004 Associated Press interview whether he had confidence in the Administration’s leadership in the War, McCain was clear:
"I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence."
McCain went on to call for an additional 80,000 Army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more Marines to secure Iraq.
"I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops -- linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," said McCain, R-Ariz. "There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue."
So what has changed? Not the number of troops in Iraq. Since McCain “strenuously” called for more troops, the number barely changed, and is in fact slightly lower now than it was then. Attacks by insurgents are higher, and reports of torture – another issue where McCain clashed with the administration -- continue to trickle out.
While little has moved in Iraq, things have changed for McCain at home. The once-maverick has begun grasping at Bush’s coattails among the Republican faithful. McCain has been actively courting Bush’s fundraising network, strategists and supporters among the base community.
This week U.S. News and World Report announced:
Bushies have talked [McCain] him up in private chats with Republican strategists and have even tried to steer people to the Arizonan's effort.Robert Novak noted an apparent use of Bush’s fundraising list for a McCain fundraising mailing
Major political contributors to George W. Bush who have never given a dime to prospective 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain received letters, dated Feb. 8, asking for donations to the senator's Straight Talk America political action committee.
Obviously using President Bush's direct mail list, the letter signed by McCain asks for $1,000 or $1,500 to support candidates agreeing with McCain on "key issues." It specifically lists "limiting federal spending, immigration reform, military readiness, global climate change, Social Security reform, reining-in lobbyists, reducing the power of the special interests and putting an end to wasteful pork barrel spending by Congress."
Each recipient received a card to be filled in for McCain's files. "I'm asking you to update your file card," requests the letter, though the Bush contributors had no previous card in the senator's files.
Newsweek and the Washington Post listed key Bush fundraisers McCain has recently added including Uber-Pioneer Tom Loeffler, Tom Hicks, who bought Bush’s share of the Texas Rangers, and Bush Michigan finance chief Ron Weiser – no doubt with an eye toward a possible quasi-home-state campaign of Mitt Romney. McCain has also has met with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and received support from Bush’s top media consultant, Mark McKinnon.
McCain has also been actively courting Republican right-wingers he previously avoided. After calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance” who exerted an “evil influence” on the Republican Party, McCain met with Falwell to determine how to sell himself with conservative voters.
The basics of alternative 9-11 theories
by Jarrett Murphy February 21st, 2006 11:51 AM
The JFK assassination had its "magic bullet," Watergate the "18-minute gap," and Oklahoma City that mysterious "John Doe No. 2." All conspiracy theories—whether accurate or fantasy— revolve around key clues, real or otherwise. Here are the essential elements of some alternative theories of 9-11:
Operation Northwoods This 1962 white paper from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested possible justifications for a war against Cuba, including a never executed idea in which the CIA would detonate a drone aircraft to make it look like Fidel Castro had shot down an American passenger plane. Theorists see the proposal as evidence that the U.S. government had contemplated faking air disasters as a pretext for military action.
Project for the New American Century As evidence of the motives behind a government-planned 9-11, theorists point to one 28-word passage in a September 2000 PANC report written with help from the likes of Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfo-witz: "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor." Bush and his cronies, the argument goes, were looking for that event, and they got it on 9-11.
Forewarning Theorists point to Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision to stop flying commercial in the summer of 2001, as well as a San Francisco Chronicle report that Mayor Willie Brown received a warning of 9-11, as evidence that some people had foreknowledge of the attack. (It seems the alert Brown was passed was a public warning from the State Department, and he planned to fly anyway.)
War games Truth movement members who believe the military was "neutralized" or told to "stand down" on 9-11 find it very suspicious that U.S. air defense units that day were supposed to play the war game Vigilant Guardian, a simulation of a Russian bomber attack, while simultaneously monitoring Russian exercises in the Arctic.
The Pentagon Some—not all—alternative theorists say the hole in the Pentagon was too small to have been made by a 757, and too deep to have been made by anything but a cruise missile. They also cite the lack of significant wreckage or skid marks near the building. The dearth of surveillance footage of the attack arouses further suspicion. Among the alternate explanations: a truck bomb, a missile, or a drone.
The twin towers Early on, skeptics raised questions about how two 110-story steel-framed skyscrapers built to withstand airplane impacts not only collapsed, but did so suddenly, totally, and apparently straight down, possibly for the first time in history. The skeptics suggested that the buildings collapsed in a controlled demolition, a theory that has only gained strength in the past four years. The official explanation shifted—first blaming pancaking floor trusses, then warped steel columns transferring weight where it couldn't be held—and never detailed the exact sequence of the entire collapse. Alternative theorists point to sounds and witnesses' reports of explosions, little puffs of smoke, steel beams ejected outward, the rapid crumbling of the superstructure, and even the pyroclastic flow of dust as evidence that the buildings had to have been destroyed by explosives. Some theorists also believe the aircraft that hit the buildings were carrying pods on their underbellies and may have fired missiles that account for a bright flash that occurs before the collisions. Others claim the planes were remote controlled, were military aircraft, or did not exist at all.
World Trade Center 7 This building—the last to fall on 9-11—is key to all controlled-demolition theories. Its sudden fall onto its own footprint, and developer Larry Silverstein's reference on TV to telling the FDNY to "pull it," are seen as evidence that WTC7 was rigged to fall. Meanwhile, a convincing official explanation hasn't exactly been forthcoming: FEMA punted on figuring out why building seven, which was not struck by an airplane, collapsed; NIST has postponed its verdict several times. While it might seem odd that the government would destroy a building most people had never heard of, theorists cite the tenants of WTC7 (the SEC, Secret Service, CIA, and Mayor Giuliani's emergency bunker) as hints of a motive for its demolition. The speculation is that the building was taken out to cover up financial crimes or to destroy the mechanisms of the twin towers' demise: control boards for the supposed demolition charges or remote-control consoles to guide the airliners to their targets.
Flight 93 The mystery over exactly what happened during the passenger revolt on United Airlines Flight 93 has puzzled even mainstream researchers. Alternative theorists ask different questions. Pointing to press reports filed on 9-11, many suspect that the plane actually landed in Cleveland. Others believe the aircraft was shot down by U.S. military aircraft.
When the Lettermans and the Lenos and the Jon Stewarts start going after you, you know you’re in trouble. Of course, the late night comics had a field day last week about Cheney.
But the jokes this week might be even more disturbing for the Vice President. Because when the late night comics define you, it’s how the whole country sees you.
Just look at the jokes from Monday night.
This from Jay Leno: “I don’t want to say Cheney was pickled last night ... but he tried to play a pizza on the stereo.”
Now this one from Conan. “Cheney’s doctor told him to stay away from alcohol, so he got a twelve-foot straw.”
You see where they’re going? I guess the comedy consensus is that Cheney must have shot Whittington because he was loaded and that’s why he didn’t let any authorities see him for 14 hours.
Just listen to Jon Stewart. “I don’t want to say Cheney drinks a lot... but he once got an alcohol rub and broke his neck trying to lick it off...”
Cheney’s gotta hate these.
Take this one from Letterman. “I don’t want to say Cheney drinks a lot of martinis... but he’s got the only reported case of liver with onions.”
Yow! That’s rough.
And this is Jimmy Kimmel: “I don’t want to say Cheney is a lush... but his idea of frozen food is Scotch on the rocks.”
And Letterman really piled on. Here’s his top ten list:
Top Ten Reasons Not to Go Hunting with Dick Cheney:
10. Jack Daniels
9. Makers Mark
8. Old Crow
7. Old Grandad
6. Old Forester
5. Jim Beam
4. Rebel Yell
3. Canadian Club
2. Southern Comfort
And the Number One Reason not to go hunting with Dick Cheney: Wild Turkey.
This bodes ill for the remainder of the Vice President’s term. Word has it through the joke writer grapevine that Bush has already started asking for “Dick was so drunk” jokes for the White House Correspondents Dinner.
It turns out that not coming out right away with a statement on camera might have been a bigger mistake than we all thought. That is, unless he was sauced. I guess we’ll never know.
If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility, an advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard said.
The advisor, Dr. Abasi, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area. Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.
Zakhariya, located in the Jerusalem hills is - according to foreign reports - home to Israel's Jericho missile base. Both Israeli and international media have published commercial satellite images of the Zakhariya and Dimona sites.
Abasi, a senior lecturer at Tehran University, was quoted in the Roz internet news site, identified with reform circles in Iran.Iranian affairs experts believe Abasi's statements are part of propaganda battle being wages by all sides - including Israel and Iran - in the lead up to next months United Nations Security Council debate on Iran's nuclear program. At this stage, the possibility that sanctions will be leveled at Iran are extremely low.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
by Robert Parry
In just this past week, conservative legend William F. Buckley Jr. and neoconservative icon Francis Fukuyama have joined the swelling ranks of Americans judging George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq a disaster.
“One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed,” Buckley wrote at National Review Online on Feb. 24, adding that the challenge now facing Bush and his top advisers is how to cope with the reality of that failure.
“Within their own counsels, different plans have to be made,” Buckley wrote after a week of bloody sectarian violence in Iraq. “And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat.”
Fukuyama, a leading neoconservative theorist, went further citing not just the disaster in Iraq but the catastrophe enveloping Bush’s broader strategy of preemptive military American interventions, waged unilaterally when necessary.
“The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration’s first term is now in shambles,” Fukuyama wrote Feb. 19 in The New York Times Magazine.
“Successful preemption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America’s perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before,” Fukuyama wrote.
While those Americans who always opposed the Iraq War may see this unseemly scramble of Bush’s former allies as a classic case of rats deserting a sinking ship, the loss of these two prominent thinkers of the Right mark a turning point in the political battle over the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
If Bush can’t hold William F. Buckley Jr. – and if even the ranks of the neocons are starting to crack – Bush may soon be confronted with a hard choice of either acknowledging his errors or tightening his authoritarian control of the United States.
Bush’s foundering Iraq policy also raises the stakes in the November elections. Prospects have brightened for those who want Bush held accountable for his reckless deeds and his violation of laws, both domestic and international.
This reversal of fortune is stunning when compared to Bush’s seeming omnipotence in 2002, when he unveiled the Bush Doctrine, and even a year ago when leading U.S. pundits were hailing the President as a visionary leader.
Bush picked his belligerent course in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington. Though the world had rallied to America’s side – offering both sympathy and cooperation in fighting terrorism – Bush chose to issue ultimatums.
Bush famously told other nations that they were either “with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Vowing to “rid the world of evil,” he made clear he would brush aside any restrictions on his actions, including the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions.
Europeans were soon protesting Bush’s treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Muslims were voicing growing hatred for the United States. Though Bush's tough actions were popular with his base, they played poorly abroad.
“It annoys your allies in the war against terrorism, and it creates problems for our Muslim allies, too,” one West European ambassador said in 2002. “It puts at stake the moral credibility of the war against terrorism.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Return to Unilateralism.”]
Bush spelled out his broader strategy in a speech at West Point on June 1, 2002. He asserted a unilateral U.S. right to overthrow any government in the world that is deemed a threat to American security, a position so sweeping it lacked historical precedent.
“If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long,” Bush said in describing what soon became known as the “Bush Doctrine.”
Shortly after Bush’s West Point speech, an article at Consortiumnews.com observed that “Bush’s grim vision is of a modern ‘crusade,’ as he once put it, with American military forces striking preemptively at ‘evil-doers’ wherever they live, while U.S. citizens live under a redefined Constitution with rights that can be suspended selectively by one man.
“Beyond the enormous sacrifices of blood, money and freedom that this plan entails, there is another problem: the strategy offers no guarantee of greater security for Americans and runs the risk of deepening the pool of hatred against the United States.”With his cavalier tough talk, Bush continues to show no sign that he grasps how treacherous his course is, nor how much more difficult it will be if the U.S. alienates large segments of the world's population.” [See “Bush’s Grim Vision”]
On March 19, 2003, Bush took another fateful step, ordering the invasion of Iraq despite being denied authority from the U.N. Security Council.
After ousting Saddam Hussein’s regime three weeks later, Bush basked in popular acclaim from many Americans. He even donned a flight suit for a “Mission Accomplished” aircraft-carrier celebration on May 1, 2003.
During those heady days, Bush and his neoconservative advisers dreamed of remaking the entire Middle East with pro-U.S. leaders chosen through elections and Arab nations ending their hostility toward Israel.
But Bush’s wishful thinking began to run into trouble. A fierce resistance emerged in Iraq, claiming the lives of hundreds – and then thousands – of U.S. soldiers who couldn’t quell the violence. Instead of contributing to peace, the Iraqi elections deepened the country’s sectarian divisions – empowering the Shiite majority while alienating the Sunni minority.
Surging anti-Americanism caused other Middle East elections to have the opposite results from what Bush’s neoconservatives predicted. Instead of breeding moderation, elections in Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and the Palestinian Authority saw gains by Islamic extremists, including a surprise victory by the militant group Hamas in Palestine.
The United States also has seen its international reputation devastated by reports of abuse and torture in U.S.-run detention centers. Rather than the all-powerful nation that the neocons wanted to project, the United States revealed the limitations of its military might and the incompetence of its administrative follow-through.
This string of catastrophes has now led even prominent conservatives to conclude that Bush’s “stay the course” strategy must be rethought. They see Iraq spiraling toward a civil war with 138,000 U.S. troops caught in the middle.
The latest defectors – Buckley and Fukuyama – threaten to pull away even members of Bush’s political base. Buckley is the godfather of conservative punditry, while Fukuyama has been a bright light among neocon theorists.
Now, Bush must decide what to do – admit mistakes and heed the advice of critics – or circle the wagons even tighter and lash out at the growing majority of Americans who think the war in Iraq was a deadly mistake.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Why are Republicans so angry? Why do they hate America so much?
Republicans like to call people who criticize the president,”Bush haters.” They’re also fond of saying that hating Mr. Bush is the same as hating America itself.
Lately, as the Bush regime has begun to disintegrate, Republicans are going on the record to criticize their Dear Leader. However, just because Republicans are finally acknowledging that George W. Bush is not infallible, the rules of discourse they set in place must not be allowed to change:
Criticizing Bush = Hating America
Here are a few Republicans who hate America because President Bush has sold our ports to the Emir of Dubai:
William F. Buckley Jr.: “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed… And the administration has, now, to cope with failure.”
Tom Delay, indicted former House Majority Leader: “Politically, for the president, it is a huge mistake for him to be defending this decision. The president will be overturned.”
Sue Myrick, member of Congress and former Charlotte mayor: In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just ‘no’ but ‘hell no!’”
Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader: “As of today, I’m requesting briefings on this deal. If the Administration does not put the deal on hold, I will introduce legislation doing so … to ensure that this decision gets a more thorough review. Common sense warrants it; our national security requires it.”
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House: “We must not allow the possibility of compromising our national security due to lack of review or oversight by the federal government.”
Wayne Allard, senator from Colorado: “My primary concern about this plan is national security. I am asking the president to reconsider this takeover and to put it on hold immediately.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinan: “This is a financial transaction whereby DP World … will have 50 percent of the financial interest of a small operation in the port of Miami. This gets people rolling because of the secrecy involved in this committee, CFIUS. There’s not enough transparency. We don’t know what questions have been asked.”
Cal Thomas, rightwing columnist: “There have been some dumb decisions since the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. … But the decision to sell port operations … to a company owned by the UAE may be the dumbest of all. … Apparently money talked more than common sense.”
Michelle Malkin: “I stand with critics … who want to stop the secretive deal transferring operations of our ports to the UAE — a Middle Eastern government with a spotty record of fighting terrorist plots and terrorist financing. … From every angle — political, safety, and sovereignty-wise — Dubai Ports World’s business transaction … looks bad and smells worse.”
Wes Pruden, editor-in-chief of the rightwing cult-owned Washington Times: “Perhaps, as the president seems to suggest, the Arab chiefs of the United Arab Emirates who are bound to their brothers across Arabia by blood, history and religion will prove as reliable as our own English cousins. But counting on their loyalty and friendship being permanent is a risk too far. That’s what the president’s friends are trying to tell him.”
George Pataki, governor of New York and 2008 presidential candidate, was also critical of the deal.
Bob Erlich, governor of Maryland, criticized Bush’s decision as well.
Last week, Republicans on the House committee that investigated Hurricane Katrina, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, were critical of the President’s handling of the disaster.
Last year, the Republican wingnut fringe went ballistic when the president nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because her idealogical purity was suspect.
Why are Republicans so angry? Why do they hate America so much?
by William Greider
David Brooks, the high-minded conservative pundit, dismissed the Dubai Ports controversy as an instance of political hysteria that will soon pass. He was commenting on PBS, and I thought I heard a little quaver in his voice when he said this was no big deal. Brooks consulted "the experts," and they assured him there's no national security risk in a foreign company owned by Middle East Muslims--actually, by an Arab government--managing six major American ports. Cool down, people. This is how the world works in the age of globalization.
Of course, he is correct. But what a killjoy. This is a fun flap, the kind that brings us together. Republicans and Democrats are frothing in unison, instead of polarizing incivilities. Together, they are all thumping righteously on the poor President. I expect he will fold or at least retreat tactically by ordering further investigation. The issue is indeed trivial. But Bush cannot escape the basic contradiction, because this dilemma is fundamental to his presidency.
A conservative blaming hysteria is hysterical, when you think about it, and a bit late. Hysteria launched Bush's invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the "long war" now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush's butt in 2004.
Bush was the principal author, along with his straight-shooting Vice President, and now he is hoisted by his own fear-mongering propaganda. The basic hysteria was invented from risks of terrorism, enlarged ridiculously by the President's open-ended claim that we are endangered everywhere and anywhere (he decides where). Anyone who resists that proposition is a coward or, worse, a subversive. We are enticed to believe we are fighting a new cold war. But are we? People are entitled to ask.
Bush picked at their emotional wounds after 9/11 and encouraged them to imagine endless versions of even-larger danger. What if someone shipped a nuke into New York Harbor? Or poured anthrax in the drinking water? OK, a lot of Americans got scared, even people who ought to know better.
So why is the fearmonger-in-chief being so casual about this Dubai business?
Because at some level of consciousness even George Bush knows the inflated fears are bogus. So do a lot of the politicians merrily throwing spears at him. He taught them how to play this game, invented the tactics and reorganized political competition as a demagogic dance of hysterical absurdities, endless opportunities to waste public money. Very few dare to challenge the mindset. Thousands have died for it.
Bush's terrorism war has from the start been in collision with the precepts of corporate-led globalization. One practices hyper-nationalism--Washington gets to decide where it goes to war, never mind the Geneva Convention and other "obsolete" international restraints. Yet Bush's diplomats travel the world banging on governments for trade rules that defenestrate a nation's sovereign power to run its own affairs. The US government regards itself as comfortable with this arrangement since it assumes the superpower can always get its way. Most citizens are never consulted. They are perhaps unaware that their rights have been given away, too.
It would be nice to imagine this ridiculous episode will prompt reconsideration, cool down exploitative jingoism and provoke a more rational discussion of the multiplying absurdities. I doubt it. At least it will be satisfying to see Bush toasted irrationally, since he lit the match.
National affairs correspondent William Greider has been a political journalist for more than thirty-five years. A former Rolling Stone and Washington Post editor, he is the author of The Soul of Capitalism (Simon & Schuster).
Friday, February 24, 2006
by Russell Shaw
During the first few days after the news broke about the Bush Administration's foolish and potentially dangerous decision granting approval for six of our ports to be transferred to a Dubai-owned company, Republican Senators and Congresspeople seemed more than willing to try and pass a law overturning the sale.
It was also interesting to see the confusion on the part of the fright-wing talk show hosts.
I am talking about Rush, Sean et. al. These are the individuals who constantly praise every single action the Bush Administration takes in the "war on terror," while at the same time haranguing Arab nations for either supporting terrorism outright or refusing to cooperate with our efforts to combat it.
For a couple of days there, it sounded like Congressional Republicans were ready to revolt, and the conservative talk-show hosts were confused about what message to get out.
To borrow Valley Girl speak, "as if."
But no more. After a day of empty Administration statements that yes, we researched this carefully, and no, the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is a part) is really our friend, all the Bush supporters are starting to fall back in line.
A couple of days ago, we were hearing that Congressional Republicans would support legislation overturning the sale. Now, the party line seems to have modified to one which would allow the sale but re-examine the approval process.
Just today, Rep. Peter King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee - and one of the deal's most severe critics earlier this week- said the conditions are evidence the administration was concerned about security. "There is a very serious question as to why the records are not going to be maintained on American soil subject to American jurisdiction," King said.
Doesn't sound like someone who wants to take on the Administration.
Even Senate Armed Services Committee chair John Warner is falling into line. While expressing reservations today about the UAE's past actions, he emphasized UAE's cooperation in the war on terrorism, noting that it allows a large number of port calls by U.S. military and commercial ships and that it had made its airfields available to the U.S. military.
And the talk show hosts have gotten their talking points and are falling into line.
Now it has become apparent that the message from the White House is getting thru: "we really, really researched this deal, everything will be OK. This deal must go thru. You can question us about it afterwards, but we'll keep repeating the same message: "we are fighting a war against terror, and as part of that war, we really, really researched this matter very thoroughly before we gave our OK."
Plainly, the White House is now looking at post-transfer hearings as a way to spin the realization that this Administration is so committed to the "war on terror," they really do their research.
But re-examine the approval process after the horse has left the barn? Or the bomb has left Dubai, and is headed to one of our ports?
Remember Total Information Awareness? The Bush administration does.
Congress thought it killed off the controversial data-mining project in 2003. "Total Information Awareness is no more," Sen. Ron Wyden declared then. "The lights are out."
The lights may have gone out at the Defense Department's Information Awareness Office, but it now seems that the Bush administration simply turned them back on elsewhere. Following up where Newsweek left off earlier this month, the National Journal is reporting that the administration is still pursuing some of the most important components of TIA under the black umbrella of the National Security Agency -- the same agency tasked with the Bush administration's warrantless spying work.
The National Journal says the administration and its contractors have hidden the continued existence of TIA components by changing some of their names. An e-mail message from one contractor suggests that a big component of the project, previously known as the "Information Awareness Prototype System," now goes by the name "Basketball" instead, the National Journal says. "TIA has been terminated and should be referenced in that fashion," an employee of the contractor warned his colleagues. Similarly, the National Journal says, a project once known as "Genoa II" was renamed "Topsail" when it moved from the Defense Department to the NSA's Advanced Research and Development shop.
As the National Journal notes, Wyden asked FBI Director Robert Mueller and intelligence czar John Negroponte earlier this month whether TIA operations had been moved rather than shut down. They said they didn't know, but Gen. Michael Hayden -- the former NSA director and point man for the administration's warrantless spying defense -- was a little more circumspect. "I'd like to answer in closed session," he said.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie" <email@example.com>
To: "Miriam Vieni" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 4:35 PM
Subject: Nuclear Weapons: Oppose a Bad Nuclear Deal with India - FCNL
When President Bush visits India next week (March 1-3), he won't be
threatening to bomb that country, like he is Iran.
Instead, he will be offering to provide India nuclear technology which
he is criticizing Iran for possessing. At the top of the president's
agenda will be negotiating an agreement to provide nuclear technology
to India even though the leaders of that South Asian nation refuse to
endorse the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
That nuclear technology and fuel transfer agreement may be difficult to
negotiate. Indian leaders have refused to establish a clear separation
between their civilian and military nuclear programs. In addition,
India is not a member of the NPT, the international agreement endorsed
by 188 nations that bans the export of nuclear technology to states
that don't agree to international inspections of their nuclear
programs. No means exists to ensure that India is in compliance with
international safeguards designed to stop the spread of nuclear
Nonetheless, President Bush has said publicly that he hopes to devise a
plan with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that enables the U.S. to
provide nuclear technology to India. The U.S. government is pressuring
Iran (an NPT member) to halt its nuclear program, while negotiating an
agreement to supply India, a country that refuses to sign the NPT, with
nuclear technology. This double standard defeats, rather than advances,
work to free the world of nuclear danger.
Reps Ed Markey (D-MA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) oppose this double
standard, and they have introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing
concern about the proposed U.S.-India nuclear deal. While conveying
strong U.S. humanitarian and scientific support for India, H.Con.Res.
318 cautions against providing a non-NPT country with nuclear
technology and fuel. The Upton-Markey provision should be supported.
Please contact your representative and ask her or him to cosponsor
H.Con.Res. 318, which expresses concern about the proposed U.S.-India
To see talking points and write a letter to your representative visit
See a list of current cosponsors at
India last tested a nuclear weapon in 1998, and, while relations
between India and Pakistan are relatively stable now, this proposed
agreement could renew tensions if a perception is created that India is
attempting to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal with U.S.-supplied
technology. One Indian analyst, when commenting about the proposed
nuclear deal, quipped: "Given India's uranium ore crunch and the
need to build up our minimum credible nuclear deterrent arsenal as fast
as possible, it is to India's advantage to categorize as many power
reactors as possible as civilian ones to be re-fueled by imported
uranium and conserve our native uranium fuel for weapon-grade plutonium
production." India apparently wants to use U.S.-supplied nuclear
technology and fuel for its civilian energy needs so it can use its own
nuclear resources to produce bomb-grade material.
While India is an emerging partner of the U.S., the administration
should be cautious not to proliferate nuclear technology, even to
democracies. In the past, democratic states have been a source of
nuclear proliferation. The A.Q. Khan network, a Pakistan-based group
which acquired nuclear technology and sold it to "rogue"
states in the 1990s, obtained its technology from South Africa and
Switzerland, both of which are democracies. The proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction is already a significant world problem;
U.S. policies should not contribute to this situation.
If the U.S. is trying to assist India's energy needs, the U.S. should
provide technology to improve India's coal-burning power plants, some
of the dirtiest in the world. Congress ought not to be lowering the
threshold on non-proliferation by weakening the U.S. Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 and the Atomic Energy Act, laws which
must be amended for the U.S.-India nuclear deal to occur. To this end,
please ask your representative to cosponsor H.Con.Res. 318. Thank you!
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by Josh Marshall
I think you can still put me down as officially agnostic on the security risk posed by allowing Dubai Ports World to assume the management of six major US ports of entry. But even if the fears are more nativist than real, it seems like the White House will still not leave critics hanging -- if nothing else, on old-fashioned and true-to-form insider and cronyism grounds.
Looking at the "secret agreement" the White House seems to have leaked this afternoon, here's one point that sort of stands out.
The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
The failure to require the company to keep business records on US soil sounds like a pretty open invitation to flout US law as near as I can tell. Forget terrorism. This is the sort of innovative business arrangement I would think a number of Bush-affiliated American companies might want to get in on. Perhaps Halliburton could be domiciled in Houston, pay its taxes in Bermuda, do its business in Iraq and keep its business records in Jordan.
In the rest of the 'secret agreement' you can see other reasons why -- in addition to trade secret regs -- they chose to keep this pitiful deal a secret.
Read this ...
Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.
That paragraph is a beaut for the White House. "All reasonable steps" seems like a rather tepid standard of compliance with the Department of Homeland Security, doesn't it? And didn't we figure they'd want to help out regardless? Also, didn't we figure they'd keep helping out trying to prevent loose nukes from coming into the country? Did we just want to be sure?
More pointedly for the White House, the 'secret agreement' seems to have included a series of pledges, albeit rather feeble ones, of cooperation with security and counter-terrorism measures.
See the problem here? They aren't just hoisted on their own petard here; the petard is engaging them in an unnatural act, presumably pre-detonation. The White House's whole premise seems to be that the DPW just isn't involved in the security side of port management. Since that's the case, the whole security argument is bogus.
But if they need to pledge to cooperate and assist with security and counter-terrorism then clearly they are involved in port security.
After twenty two years as a clean water advocate using the Clean Water Act to protect Americas waterways and the communities that rely upon them, its been a difficult five years watching the White House systematically dismantle that popular and fantastically successful statute. But yesterday, the newly constituted Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas-dominated Supreme Court signaled the worst attack yet -- one that may effectively destroy the Clean Water Act entirely.
Passed in 1970, the Clean Water Act promised to eliminate pollution in Americas waters by 1985 by prohibiting unpermitted discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States. While the statute has fallen short of its lofty goal to end all pollution, it did succeed in ending the dark ages when the Cuyahoga River burned, Lake Erie was declared dead and Americans could not safely fish or swim in our major rivers including the Mississippi, the Potomac and the Hudson.
Recognizing that water is a continuum, and that the purposes of the law would be easily circumvented if polluters could simply relocate their discharge pipes into smaller tributaries, drainage ditches and wetlands, the courts have consistently defined Waters of the United States broadly to include all tributaries and wetlands that flow into larger navigable waterbodies. Only the most isolated waters that have no hydrological connection to larger water bodies were exempt from federal regulation under the Act.
These longstanding principles are now under ferocious attack by developers and polluters who recognize in the newly-constituted Supreme Court a fresh opportunity to decimate thirty five years of environmental protection.
The justices frightening repartee with the attorneys yesterday in two new cases challenging their long-established principles indicates that the right-wing extremists who have overtaken the Supreme Court may now be ready to throw the Clean Water Act out with the dirty bathwater.
The right wing justices want to do this by limiting federal jurisdiction to waters that are navigable-in-fact, i.e., that actually have boat traffic. They wish to cede our nations tributaries and wetlands back to polluting industries.
In the words of a horrified Justice Souter, All you've got to do is dump the pollutant far enough up the water system to get away scot free.
Deriding the broad scope that has defined Clean Water Act interpretation from two generations, Chief Justice Roberts told the justice department lawyer you put a lot of weight on the tributary approach. For those of us having trouble with the concept of tributary, you dont give us much to fall back on.
Justice Scalia suggested that state governments could elect to protect local tributaries and wetlands from polluters if the court decides that federal jurisdiction over these waters no longer exists.
In fact, experience has shown time and again that polluters can easily dominate state political landscapes, and that state governments are generally willing to abandon enforcement of their own environmental laws in order to recruit polluting industries.
Congress passed this federal law recognizing that shortsighted state officials willingly embrace industrys promise of a few years of pollution-based prosperity even when it imposes huge financial, health and quality of life costs on future generations. This court seems ready to usher back the days of burning rivers, dead lakes and diminished America.
By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - For almost five years U.S. President George W. Bush has warned Americans to fear terrorism, but now those words may come back to bite him.
The president, who has cast himself as America's protector against terrorism and Islamic militancy, has been thrown on the defensive by a bipartisan revolt over his administration's approval of a state-owned company from the United Arab Emirates assuming operation of six major U.S. seaports.
Bush and his aides have argued that the United Arab Emirates is an anti-terrorist ally and that the company would have no security role. But even Bush allies, like South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, have called the deal "politically tone deaf."
With Republican and Democratic lawmakers drafting legislation to block the port deal, Bush vowed on Tuesday to use his veto for the first time should any such law reach his desk, drawing the lines for a high-stakes political battle.
"Politically, for the president, it is a huge mistake for him to be defending this decision. The president will be overturned," said U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, the former number two Republican in the House of Representatives.
Bush has long been successful in persuading Americans they were under constant threat and he was the best man to protect them, although polls reveal paradoxes in attitudes.
Last month, some 75 percent of Americans said in a Zogby survey that they expected the country to suffer a major terrorist attack within the next two years, but a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll found that 64 percent of Americans had confidence in Bush's ability to prevent an attack.
Fears have not subsided, pollster John Zogby said, although the United States has not suffered a major attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Bush two weeks ago revealed a plot foiled in 2002 to fly an airplane into the West Coast's tallest building and said the terrorist threat had not abated.
"That's what makes this story so ironic. I guess you can't have it both ways," Zogby said.
Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said, "Bush is a victim of his own rhetoric. This deal flies in the face of the Bush administration's general posture, which has been that there is much to fear out there and they have been vigilant in protecting the country."
DEMOCRATS HIT BACK
Other factors may also be driving opposition to the proposed takeover by Dubai Ports World of operations at the six ports.
Among them may be general anti-Arab sentiment and political calculations in a congressional election year. For years, Bush has portrayed Democrats as weak on security. Now, they have taken the chance to hit back.
Meanwhile Republicans are less beholden to a second-term president with weak approval ratings.
"So far Bush has always managed to get Republicans back in line when he needed to, but his influence is waning and it will only get worse for this administration," Jillson said.
Some in Congress have complained they were blindsided by the deal, which was approved by a panel whose deliberations are closed to the public.
Anger has also bubbled up among grassroots conservatives at the heart of Bush's political base who are expressing themselves on talk radio and the Internet.
Political analyst Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute compared the furor to a conservative revolt last year that thwarted Bush's nomination of White House legal counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. "It's the foreign policy equivalent of the Miers nomination. It's stupid," Ledeen said.
"This is as 9/11 in the United States."
That's how one Shiite leader, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, described the bombing of the golden-domed Askariya shrine in Samarra.
There's a difference, of course. The attacks of 9/11, carried out by foreigners, brought Americans closer together. The attack on the Askariya shrine, carried out amid sectarian fighting in Iraq, has ripped that country farther apart. In the wake of the bombing and the reprisals that have followed, the Associated Press says this morning that Iraqis are facing "the grim prospect of sectarian war, " and both the Los Angeles Times and the Wall street Journal warn that a full-scale civil war could erupt.
Could it get much worse?
Northeast of Baghdad, a government official told MSNBC that gunmen pulled workers off of buses headed home from factory jobs, then killed 47 of them. In Basra, militiamen kidnapped 12 inmates from a prison then executed them in retaliation for the attack on the shrine. Near Samarra, three journalists were murdered, including a well-known correspondent for Al-Arabiya TV. In Baqouba this morning, eight Iraqi soldiers were killed as men attacked a Sunni mosque with hand grenades and machine guns. Iraqi security forces have been put on alert, and U.S. military officials have cancelled all unnecessary travels in the country.
The Bush administration always cautions that the deaths of Iraqis and Americans are only part of the picture -- that it's important to consider the political process in the country as well. But this morning, the news on that front is scarcely better. As administration officials and Iraqi leaders call for calm, representatives of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab faction in the new Iraqi government, said they would not participate in further talks with Kurdish and Shiite leaders until they receive an apology for reprisals against Sunni mosques. As the AP reports, the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars is claiming that168 Sunni mosques have been attacked -- and 10 imams killed and another 15 abducted -- in the wake of the bombing of the Askariya shrine.
In Washington, George W. Bush issued a statement expressing condolences and condemnation but little in the way of optimism. "I ask all Iraqis to exercise restraint in the wake of this tragedy, and to pursue justice in accordance with the laws and constitution of Iraq," the president said. "Violence will only contribute to what the terrorists sought to achieve by this act."
"The gap between law and technology is widening every day, and privacy is eroding," said Jim Dempsey, the CDT policy director who authored the report. "What makes this even more troubling is that most users of these new technologies don't realize they are putting their privacy in jeopardy."
Modern consumers live in an age when web based e-mails pileup on services like Microsoft's Hotmail and Google's Gmail, and all kinds of files from personal photos to bank, medical and travel records are stored online.
Few computer users realise however, that web based e-mail is subject to much weaker protections than messages stored on home computers.
While the government needs a warrant, issued by a judge, to search someone's home computer, it can access a person's webmail account with only a subpoena, issued without judicial review.
In another example, the ubiquitous cellphone makes communication on the move easy -- but it has a downside, in that it can be used theoretically by government agencies to pinpoint an individual's location.
There are no existing laws laying out explicit standards for government location tracking, so official use of such technology is only controlled by an inadequate patchwork of laws and precedents, the report said.
Few people realise that privacy laws drafted before, or in the early days of the technological revolution, do not adequately cover new vaults of online data, the report warns.
"The government complains that new technology makes its job more difficult, but the fact is that digital technology has vastly augmented the government's powers," the report cautions.
"More information is more readily available to government investigators than ever before," the report said.
And it is not just the pace of change that raises new privacy questions, the report added, citing new government powers enshrined in the Patriot Act, designed to combat terrorism which provide wider government powers.
Politicians and the media are loudly decrying the Bush administration's proposal to turn over port security to a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - a country with ties to terrorists. They are talking tough about national security - but almost no one is talking about what may have fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.
How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push to ink a corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004, in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly boasted of his trip to the UAE to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal - regardless of the security consequences - likely greases the wheels for the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President Bush - supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty - took the extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency to protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those interetsts - regardless of the security implications for America - is integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are demanding.
The Inter Press Service highlights exactly what's at stake, quoting a conservative activists who admits that this is all about trade:
"The United States' trade relationship with the UAE is the third largest in the Middle East, after Israel and Saudi Arabia. The two nations are engaged in bilateral free talks that would liberalise trade between the two countries and would, in theory at least, allow companies to own and operate businesses in both nations. 'There are legitimate security questions to be asked but it would be a mistake and really an insult to one of our leading trading partners in that region to reject this commercial transaction out of hand,' said Daniel T. Griswold, who directs the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank."
Look, we've seen this before. Just last year, Congress approved a U.S. taxpayer-funded loan by the Bush administration to a British company to help build nuclear technology in Communist China. Despite major security concerns raised - and a legislative effort to block the loan - Congress's "free traders" (many of whom talk so tough on security) made sure the loan went through so as to preserve the U.S.-China free trade relationship that is allowing lawmakers' corporate campaign contributors export so many U.S. jobs.
There is no better proof that our government takes its orders from corporate interests than these kinds of moves. That's what this UAE deal is all about - the mixture of the right-wing's goal of privatizing all government services (even post 9/11 port security!) with the political Establishment's desire to make sure Tom-Friedman-style "free" trade orthodoxy supersedes everything. This is where the culture of corruption meets national security policy - and, more specifically, where the unbridled corruption of on-the-take politicians are weakening America's security.
The fact that no politicians and almost no media wants to even explore this simple fact is telling. Here we have a major U.S. security scandal with the same country we are simultaneously negotiating a free trade pact with, and no one in Washington is saying a thing. The silence tells you all you need to know about a political/media establishment that is so totally owned by Big Money interests they won't even talk about what's potentially at the heart of a burgeoning national security scandal.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Religious Riots Continue in Nigeria
Christian Mobs Attack Muslims Over Cartoon Violence
By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; 10:37 AM
ONITSHA, Nigeria, Feb. 22 -- Religious riots sparked by the publishing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad continued into their fifth day in Nigeria as Christian mobs in this southern city attacked Muslim motorists, leaving at least 22 dead. Nationwide, the toll was at least 65 dead and likely to rise.
Thousands of refugees also huddled at police stations and army barracks near here to avoid hordes of angry young men bent on avenging days of killings in northern Nigeria cities.
"They've been killing our brothers and sisters in the north," men shouted Wednesday morning, according to motorist Afoma Clara Adigwe, 40, shortly after driving through Onitsha. She escaped the mobs, she said, only by speaking the Ibo language dominant in this heavily Christian section of Nigeria.
Nigerian news reports put the death toll at 22, but that appeared low. At least 19 bodies were visible along the road within several hundred feet of the Head Bridge, a massive steel-girder crossing of the Niger River. The bodies appeared to have been beaten and, in several cases, burned beyond recognition. Discarded sandals and the round, decorative hats favored by Muslims from northern Nigeria were left behind in the dirt.
The road, controlled by dozens of police and soldiers, bore black burn marks. Adigwe and other witnesses said there were at least 14 other bodies, including several that had been decapitated and mutilated, farther from the bridge, in an area where mobs remained in control. Five other bodies were in a morgue, authorities said, in the nearby city of Asaba.
"Horrible," Adigwe said. "I just closed my eyes it's so horrible." Her traveling companion, magazine editor Tony Iweka, 45, said one man in the mob displayed what appeared to be a freshly decapitated head in his right hand.
News reports also said that the mobs burned two mosques in Onitsha. The rioting began, the reports said, on Tuesday morning after a bus arrived in the city carrying the bodies of Christian victims killed by mobs in the predominantly Muslim northeastern city of Maiduguri on Saturday. At least 18 Christians were killed and 30 churches were burned there.
Those attacks were followed on Monday by rioting in another northern and mostly Muslim city, Bauchi, where 25 died over two days.
Nigeria, a country of 130 million people, is split roughly in half between a mostly Muslim north and a Christian and animistic south, but most areas contain a mixture of all three religious groups after centuries of migration and extensive trading. The Hausa are the main ethnic group in the predominantly Muslim north, while Onitsha is in the heartland of the Ibo Christian group.
Religious violence in one part of the country often sparks reprisal killings elsewhere in Nigeria.
Nigerian security forces guarded churches and mosques and patrolled streets in several Nigerian cities in an attempt to quell the rising sectarian tensions.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
The bottom line is that we can win. Let me tell you why:
First of all, we're in great shape to beat Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. The latest polling shows Democratic challenger Bob Casey with a solid double-digit lead over Santorum, 52% - 36%. In my experience, 50% is the magic number. Once a challenger gets there, it becomes very difficult for an incumbent like Santorum to make a comeback.
It's going to be even tougher for Santorum after this week's revelations that he was on the receiving end of a sweetheart half-million dollar mortgage deal that appears to be in violation of Senate ethics. And to think, Santorum was the best guy Senate Republicans could find to sponsor their ethics reforms. Unbelievable.
Ohio is yet another state where the Democratic challenger is defeating a longtime Republican incumbent. The newest DSCC poll was released last week and showed Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown leading Republican Senator Mike DeWine by three points.
The polling just confirms what I've known all along. Mike DeWine is vulnerable and Sherrod Brown can beat him. The Republican Party in Ohio is in disarray on the heels of major corruption scandals, so we're making major gains in this battle ground state. I've been in politics for a long time, and I know this is a race we can win.
In Missouri, we have a fantastic candidate in Claire McCaskill ready to topple Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent. McCaskill already has a slim lead in the polls, but Talent just keeps giving our side more ammunition.
Talent is quickly becoming entangled in the Jack Abramoff scandal. It turns out that Talent's campaign finance chairman, lobbyist Jack Oliver, has close ties to Abramoff, a top Republican lobbyist who plead guilty to felony conspiracy and corruption charges in January.
Additionally, Talent is coming under fire for his sudden flip-flop on stem cell research. For years, he's been one of the extreme right wing's most reliable forces opposing this important medical research. Yet recently, he suddenly softened his stance on the issue in the midst of a tough reelection fight. You've got to wonder if Talent really believes anything he says.
With his close ties to lobbyists and his flip-flopping on major issues, is it any wonder that just 49% of Missouri voters give Talent a favorable job performance rating? Anytime a Republican incumbent slips under 50%, that gives our Democratic challenger an opening.
Jim Talent isn't the only Republican incumbent with lobbyist problems. In Arizona, Jon Kyl is under fire for allowing former senator and current corporate lobbyist Lauch Faircloth to sit in on an official Republican luncheon while his clients had business on the Senate floor. It's just another example of the culture of corruption Republicans have created in Washington.
I'm going to make sure that every voter in Arizona knows that Jon Kyl is just one more Republican with ethics troubles, so we can replace Kyl with Democrat Jim Pederson. We've got to elect a Democratic Senate in November so we can clean up this mess.
And finally, some good news from New Jersey, where the newest Democratic Senator, Bob Menendez, is already leading his likely Republican opponent in early polling. Last week, a new Zogby poll showed Menendez leading Tom Kean, Jr. by 5 points.
Menendez hasn't really even started campaigning yet, but New Jersey voters already like what they see from Democrats. Like I said, the bottom line is that we can win. There's a lot of work to do between now and Election Day, but with your help, I am confident we can take back the Senate in November.
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