Friday, November 30, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bush Gets “Preferential Treatment” for U.S. Companies in Iraq

By Matthew Rothschild

Bush just pulled the knee strings on his puppet in Iraq, and Nouri al-Maliki did the jig.

The prime minister signed on to a deal laying the groundwork for the long-term presence of U.S. troops there.

Permanent military bases, anyone?

To inaugurate the pact, U.S. troops in Baghdad killed three women on a bus that was approaching a U.S. roadblock.

The arrangement with the Maliki government will ultimately take the place of the U.N.-sanctioned presence of U.S. troops there, which itself is a blot on the U.N.’s record.

And part of the “enduring” relationship that Bush and Maliki laid out in this pact has nothing to do with the presence of U.S. troops, but with the profits of U.S. corporations.

The deal would give “preferential treatment for American investments,” AP reports, adding nonchalantly that this “could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources.”

There’s that dirty three-letter word again—oil, which this war was never supposed to be about but always, in part, was.

Oil and profits are two big reasons why Bush will keep probably more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Those are not legitimate reasons to ask our soldiers to die for, and almost 4,000 of them have done so already.

But at least it’s out in the open now. The crassness, that is.
Playing Roulette in Pakistan

By Robert Scheer —

Everybody seems to have a pick for president, or even a couple of picks. Problem is, neither Musharraf nor Bhutto nor Sharif stands up very well when the historical record is scrutinized.


President Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been consistently culturally obtuse on the Middle East, even with a pricey operation designed to keep them in the loop.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

This individual seeks an executive position. He will be available January 2009, and is willing to relocate.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington , DC 20520 . . .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

by Matthew Duss

Now that the neocons have moved the goalposts, how can Democrats counteract the charge that they're "defeatist" and "dishonorable" for wanting to exit Iraq?
Some classic Woody:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving
by mcjoan

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful to Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Byron Dorgan, and Sen. Jack Reed. Why?

Hoping to preempt President Bush from making controversial recess appointments, Senate Democrats decided on Tuesday that they would stay in session over the Thanksgiving break. The move ensures that the President cannot install several disputed executive branch officials in Congress' absence....

"My hope is that this will prompt the President to see that it is our mutual interests for the nominations process to get back on track," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said of the parliamentary move. "While an election year looms, significant progress can still be made on nominations. I am committed to making that progress if the President will meet me half way. But that progress can't be made if the President seeks controversial recess appointments and fails to make Democratic appointments to important commissions."

Sen. Webb was on the floor on Tuesday, Sen. Dorgan will come in tomorrow, and Sen. Reed next week, on Tuesday and Thursday. Their willingness to interrupt their family celebrations, put on their suits, and speak to an empty floor to prevent Bush from forcing any more of his singularly unqualified nominees on the nation is truly a public service. Particularly as they are saving us from would-be Surgeon General James W. Holsinger, the anti-gay founder of Hope Springs Community Church, which includes in its ministry "curing" gays.

So thank you, Senators. We appreciate your diligence.

Weren't most of the 9/11 hijackers also Saudis? Seems our ace boon coons are playing the double-cross.
November 22, 2007
Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S.

BAGHDAD — Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid’s target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006.

The records also underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.

Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through.

Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.

United States officials have previously offered only rough estimates of the breakdown of foreign fighters inside Iraq. But the trove found in Sinjar is so vast and detailed that American officials believe that the patterns and percentages revealed by it offer for the first time a far more precise account of the personal circumstances of foreign fighters throughout the country.

In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say.

They contend that all of the detainees either are suspected of insurgent activity or are an “imperative threat” to security. Some American officials also believe that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that claims a loose allegiance to Osama bin Laden, may by itself have as many as 10,000 members in Iraq.

About four out of every five detainees in American detention centers are Sunni Arab, even though Sunni Arabs make up just one-fifth of Iraq’s population. All of the foreign fighters listed on the materials found near Sinjar, excluding two from France, also came from countries that are predominantly Sunni.

Over the years, the Syrian border has been the principal entry point into Iraq for foreign insurgents, officials say. Many had come through Anbar Province, in west-central Iraq. But with the Sunni tribal revolt against extremist militants that began last year in Anbar, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other jihadists concentrated their smuggling efforts on the area north of the Euphrates River along the Syrian border, the officials said.

The officials added that, based on the captured documents and other intelligence, they believe that the Sinjar cell that was raided in September was responsible for the smuggling of foreign fighters along a stretch of the border from Qaim, in Anbar, almost to the border with Turkey, a length of nearly 200 miles. They said that was why they were confident that the cell was responsible for such a large portion of the incoming foreign fighters.

American military and diplomatic officials who discussed the flow of fighters from Saudi Arabia were careful to draw a distinction between the Saudi government and the charities and individuals who they said encouraged young Saudi men to fight in Iraq. After United States officials put pressure on Saudi leaders in the summer, the Saudi government took some steps that have begun to curb the flow of fighters, the officials said.

Yet the senior American military officials said they also believed that Saudi citizens provided the majority of financing for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “They don’t want to see the Shias come to dominate in Iraq,” one American official said.

The Sinjar materials showed that 291 fighters, or about 39 percent, came from North African nations during the period beginning in August 2006. That is far higher than previous military estimates of 10 to 13 percent from North Africa. The largest foreign fighter hometown was Darnah, Libya, which supplied 50 fighters.

For years American officials included Libya on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But last year the United States removed it from that list and re-established full diplomatic relations, citing what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described as Libya’s “continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation” it has provided in the antiterrorism fight.

Also striking among the Sinjar materials were the smaller numbers from other countries that had been thought to be major suppliers of foreign fighters. As recently as the summer, American officials estimated that 20 percent came from Syria and Lebanon. But there were no Lebanese listed among the Sinjar trove, and only 56 Syrians, or 8 percent of the total.

American officials have accused Iran, the largest Shiite nation in the Middle East, of sending powerful bombs to Iraq and of supporting and financing Shiite militias that attack American troops. They also contend that top Iranian leaders support efforts to arm Shiite fighters.

But whatever aid Iran provides to militias inside Iraq does not seem to extend to supplying actual combatants: Only 11 Iranians are in American detention, United States officials say.

After the raid on the Sinjar cell, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq fell to 16 in October — half the number seen during the summer months and down sharply from a peak of 59 in March. American military officials believe that perhaps 90 percent of such bombings are carried out by foreign fighters. They also believe that about half of the foreign fighters who come to Iraq become suicide bombers.

“We cut the head off, but the tail is still left,” warned one of the senior American military officials, discussing the aftermath of the Sinjar raid. “Regeneration is completely within the realm of possibility.”

The documents indicate that each foreigner brought about $1,000 with him, used mostly to finance operations of the smuggling cell. Saudis brought more money per person than fighters from other nations, the American officials said.

Among the Saudi fighters described in the materials, 45 had come from Riyadh, 38 from Mecca, 20 from Buraidah and the surrounding area, 15 from Jawf and Sakakah, 13 from Jidda, and 12 from Medina.

American officials publicly expressed anger over the summer at Saudi policies that were destabilizing Iraq. Sunni tribal sheiks in Iraq who risked their lives to fight extremist militants also faulted Saudi clerics.

“The bad imams tell the young people to go to Iraq and fight the American Army, because if you kill them or they kill you, you will go to paradise,” Sheik Adnan Khames Jamiel, a leader of the Albu Alwan tribe in Ramadi, said in an interview.

One senior American diplomat said the Saudi government had “taken important steps to interdict individuals, particularly military-aged males with one-way tickets.” He said those efforts had helped cause an “appreciable decrease in the flow of foreign terrorists and suicide bombers.” But he added that still more work remained “to cut off malign financing from private sources within the kingdom.”

American officials cite a government program on Saudi television in which a would-be suicide bomber who survived his attack urges others not to travel to Iraq. The officials were also encouraged in October when the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Asheik, condemned “mischievous parties” who send young Saudis abroad to carry out “heinous acts which have no association with Islam whatsoever.”

Armed with information from the raid, American officials say they have used military, law enforcement and diplomatic channels to put pressure on the countries named as homes to large numbers of fighters. They have also shared information with these countries on 300 more men who the records showed were being recruited to fight in Iraq.

Surrounded by desolate prairie and desert, Sinjar has long been a way station for foreign fighters. The insurgent cell raided by American troops was believed to have been smuggling up to 90 percent of all foreign fighters into Iraq, military officials say.

The raid happened in the predawn hours of Sept. 11, when American forces acting on a tip surrounded some tents six miles from the Syrian border. A fierce firefight killed six men outside, and two more were killed when one of them detonated a suicide vest inside a tent, military officials said. All were leaders of the insurgent smuggling cell, including one prominent Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia commander known as Muthanna, they said.

In addition to $18,000 in cash and assorted weapons, troops found five terabytes of data that included detailed questionnaires filled out by incoming fighters. Background information on more than 900 fighters was found, or about 750 after eliminating duplicates and questionnaires that were mostly incomplete.

According to the rosters found in the raid, the third-largest source of foreign fighters was Yemen, with 68. There were 64 from Algeria, 50 from Morocco, 38 from Tunisia, 14 from Jordan, 6 from Turkey and 2 from Egypt.

Most of the fighters smuggled by the cell were believed to have flown into Damascus Airport, and the rest came into Syria overland through Jordan, the officials said.

In some cases, one senior American military official said, Syrian authorities captured fighters and released them after determining they were not a threat to the Syrian government. Syria has made some recent efforts to turn back or detain suspected foreign fighters bound for Iraq, he said, adding, “The key word is ‘some.’”
Find the turkey . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

U.N. declares NY Knicks, MSG Disaster Area

NEW YORK -- We'd go ahead and call it the Mother of All Knicks Debacles, except for one thing.

Nearly a decade of bearing personal witness to the downfall of the New York Knickerbockers has taught us to never label anything "the worst it has ever or could ever be," because recent history has shown us time after head-shaking time that things actually will get worse at Madison Square Garden, that this week's or this month's or this season's new low will not remain a new low for long.

Still, it really was a new low at MSG Tuesday night as the fans chanted "Fire Isiah" more than a half-dozen times during a lifeless 26-point loss to the Golden State Warriors that extended New York's losing streak to seven games.

Taking it all in with a pronounced frown on his face was owner Jim Dolan, who marched straight into Isiah Thomas' office after the game and either did not have the guts, the will or the good sense to do the right thing and fire his head coach and president.

There was such a palpable level of tension in the hallway beneath the stands, you half-expected Isiah to walk out of his office with a pink slip in his hand -- especially after watching Dolan slump and slouch through one of the most humiliating nights his team has ever had in its own building. But Thomas instead walked down the hallway with his head still held high, made his way through the back corridor to the interview room and placed the blame for this latest loss squarely on his own shoulders.

"You never want to see this kind of display of basketball. That's on me -- on my desk," he said, sounding ever more like a man who might actually want to be fired.

Thomas shot a sharp look at a Knicks PR official when he cut off the interview, then stopped as he got up and made sure everyone heard him one last time: "That was not the players' fault. This one is on me tonight."

The Knicks take their traveling freak show on the road to Detroit on Wednesday, and it'll be the 30th game since Dolan made the first of his two monumental missteps of 2008 (failing to settle the Anucha Browne Sanders case was the other) and gave Thomas a long-term extension.

The Knicks record in the 29 games thus far? How 'bout 6-23.

"We're not headed in the right direction right now, that's for sure," David Lee said afterward in a home locker room where the collective mood of the players was best described as one of self-disgust.

Might this lead to something bad happening?

"Something bad already happened -- 20,000 people just said 'Fire the Coach,'" Jamal Crawford replied.

The crowd began booing the Knicks even before the opening tip, and Stephon Marbury heard it in the opening moments of the game every single time he touched the ball. The first "Fire Isiah" chant rang out half-heartedly from the seats upstairs late in the second quarter with the Knicks trailing by 11 and well on their way to accumulating 29 turnovers, a shocking display of carelessness that more than negated their 52-36 rebounding edge.

The chant resurfaced throughout the second half, reaching its pinnacle late in the fourth quarter despite the building being half-empty by then.

Staying till the end and taking it all in from a courtside seat was Charles Oakley, who was slighted by the classless Knicks by not having his face shown on the center scoreboard during a timeout, as is the custom for visiting dignitaries and celebrities. (It reeked of the Knicks wanting to avoid having Oakley receive a standing ovation, which quickly could have morphed into an anti-Isiah or anti-Dolan chant).

Oakley, however, was not the biggest VIP guest of the night.

That honor was reserved for either commissioner David Stern, who watched the game from a skybox high atop the arena, or his main guest, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, who attended with numerous other foreign dignitaries. Gotta hand it to the Knicks. When they come up with an epic stink job, they do it in front of some of the most important people in the world. (The U.N. is now expected to pass a unanimous resolution Wednesday ridiculing the Knicks).

"This was about as difficult of a loss as I've had in coaching since I've been here," said Thomas, who said the fans were "right" to boo the team and call for his firing. "What they saw tonight, if I paid money to see this game, I'd be upset, too."

It is hard to fathom how much longer Dolan, who has not spoken publicly regarding the Knicks since giving Thomas the extension back in March, can remain in a state of denial about the shape of his team under Thomas' leadership.

It'll be a huge blow to Dolan's ego to admit the Thomas extension was a mistake, but the only wise move he can make at this point is to listen to the fans, bring in the dynamite and begin the purge by firing Isiah. But since that is the only wise move Dolan can make to assuage his customers, we warn you that he might not do it. The man's track record in nearly a decade of exerting control over the family toy has included a sustained string of bad decisions, from the Patrick Ewing trade to the Marv Albert firing to the Anucha-related humiliation he put the franchise through on the eve of training camp.

Still, the body language on display throughout the night from both Dolan and MSG executive Steve Mills clearly indicated they were experiencing an almost unprecedented level of humiliation for which someone is eventually going to pay.

That someone seems bound to be Thomas, unless Dolan does what Dolan always does -- make the wrong decision. And if that's the case, we're going to be hearing a few more of those "Fire Isiah" chants -- not to mention undoubtedly recalculating our definition of a new low -- as this already humiliating Knicks season trudges forward.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

Can he pull this off?

Nasty As He Wants To Be
Obama is paying no price for aggression.
By John Dickerson
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007, at 6:22 PM ET

During the early fall panic period, when Barack Obama supporters worried Hillary Clinton was leaving him in the dust, those who argued he should be more aggressive clashed with those who argued that scrapping would trip him up. He was the candidate who had written and spoken at great length about a new kind of politics. To really take on Clinton, he would have to raise questions about her honesty and candor, because that's where voters see her as weak. But that would double the risk of taking a swing, since such attacks can seem personal and voters don't like that, particularly in Iowa where Obama has been closest to catching Clinton in the polls.

Despite the risks, for more than three weeks, Obama has stepped up his criticisms of Hillary Clinton, and his brand remains intact. In fact, it may be stronger than ever. A new Washington Post poll of Iowa voters shows Obama on the leading side of a statistical dead heat among the top candidates. Thirty percent of respondents favor Obama, 26 percent support Clinton, and 22 percent like John Edwards.

This breakdown is not that different than the last Post poll in July, but the campaign is a lot different that it was then. In midsummer, a peppery Obama comment was big news because it was so rare. Then three weeks ago, he told the New York Times he'd be drawing more distinctions between himself and Sen. Clinton. Since then, he hasn't stopped. Obama has gone on the offense in debates, on the stump, and in interviews on topics ranging from Social Security to Iran and Iraq to giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The common thread is not so much the specifics of the policy at issue, but that Clinton is not being truthful. "If she's willing to shift this quickly on this issue," he said about her position on ethanol, "we don't know whether she will shift back when it gets hard."

Hillary Clinton and her campaign aides have responded to the Obama initiative by reminding voters that Obama used to preach against the practices he's now engaging in: distorting an opponent's positions, questioning his or her motives, and embracing the limited and false narratives that diminish the complexity of his or her views. At times they have a point, but voters aren't buying their argument, it doesn't seem, at least not in Iowa.

The Post poll shows that voters find Obama the most honest and trustworthy, about double the percentage of those who said that of Clinton, but Obama has benefited not just by raising that issue, he has been able to increase his support at the same time. This challenges that classic piece of campaign wisdom about Iowa—that if a candidate is aggressive, he may degrade his opponent but will also diminish his own standing or lose support to a third candidate. Obama has been able to improve his position among crucial 45 and older voters by eight percentage points over the same period, and with women, he has gained six points since the summer. He has also improved his standing with voters on the question of which candidate can better handle the war in Iraq. Clinton's 12-point lead on dealing with the issue has disappeared.

We have come to that part of the campaign season where each day we open a new poll, like a door on the advent calendar, and then go nuts over the findings. It's tricky to poll in Iowa, given the particular nature of the caucus process, which makes it all the easier to read in meaning that isn't there. Clinton polls third among men, with only 19 percent. That could make you argue that she's suffered from her recent playing of the gender card, but you'd be wrong. She was in third place with men, at 21 percent, in July, before the recent flap. The story of the new Iowa poll appears to be less about Clinton slipping than Obama rising. That he's been able to do so while coming out fighting may come to define his new kind of politics more than any of his writings or speeches.
John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. He can be reached at

Article URL:

With the instincts of the fascist he is, Bush says Musharraf "believes in democracy". Just not for the Pakistani people.

Bush More Emphatic In Backing Musharraf
He Says Leader 'Believes in Democracy'

By Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 21, 2007; A01

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf's government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry.

The comments, delivered in an interview with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, contrasted with previous administration statements -- including by Bush himself -- expressing grave concern over Musharraf's actions. In his first public comments on the crisis two weeks ago, Bush said his aides bluntly warned Musharraf that his emergency measures "would undermine democracy."

The shift yesterday appeared part of a broader strategy to ease the crisis in Pakistan. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte carried a terse message to Musharraf during talks last weekend, urging the general to step down as chief of the army. Now, after this strong personal show of support from the president, the Bush administration expects the general to shed his military uniform before the end of the month, an administration official said.

Several outside analysts and a key Democratic lawmaker expressed incredulity over Bush's comments and called them a sign of how personally invested the president has become in the U.S. relationship with Musharraf.

"What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?" asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate. "He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin's soul."

Bush was asked in the interview if there is any line Musharraf should not cross. "He hasn't crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don't think that he will cross any lines," Bush replied, according to an ABC transcript. ". . . We didn't necessarily agree with his decision to impose emergency rule, and . . . hopefully he'll get . . . rid of the rule. Today, I thought, was a pretty good signal, that he released thousands of people from jail."

Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said that "it's hard to imagine how the administration will be able to achieve anything in Pakistan if the president is so disconnected from reality."

"Almost everyone in Pakistan who believes in George Bush's vision of democracy is in prison today," Malinowski said. "Calling the man who put them in prison a great democrat will only discredit America among moderate Pakistanis and give Musharraf confidence that he can continue to defy the United States because Bush will forgive anything he does."

Bush has closely linked his administration to Musharraf since the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Pakistani president sided with the United States in its drive to oust the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Although the current crisis has prompted the administration to launch a review of its aid to Pakistan, officials said yesterday that they are looking favorably at continuing most economic and military aid, which has surpassed $10 billion since 2001.

Musharraf has provided extensive assistance to the United States in its efforts to seize high-profile al-Qaeda suspects, but his devotion to the fight has been increasingly questioned by some U.S. officials and outside experts. Musharraf "is not only not indispensable; he is a serious liability" to U.S. policy, a new report by the International Crisis Group said.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said in an e-mail message that the president was sincere in his comments to ABC. "He does believe that President Musharraf believes in democracy, and there is evidence to that fact based on the reforms he'd put in place over the last several years," she said. "Musharraf has made a mistake and took a detour -- we are hopeful that he will restore the constitution and get the country back to that path to democracy."

Some officials indicated that the view among many in the administration is that Musharraf may be able to survive the crisis and remain in power.

"Unless the opposition parties can mount some kind of street campaign, it looks like Musharraf will stay in power for the near future," said Stephen P. Cohen, a Brookings Institution scholar and an authority on South Asia. "It is now up to the generals. When you have no effective state, no rule of law, it's only people with guns who can remove a leader -- and that means the generals."

Husain Haqqani, a longtime adviser to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who now teaches at Boston University, said Bush's comments yesterday suggest that "the president of the United States does not grasp the situation in Pakistan correctly," adding: "Musharraf's support and significance to the United States is overestimated by a White House that is bogged down by other concerns."

Biden said the onus is on the Pakistani leader: "Right now, it matters less what President Bush thinks and more what Musharraf does to put Pakistan on a democratic path."

In the interview with ABC News, conducted at Camp David, Bush disputed the suggestion that he has put too much faith in Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

"He's been a loyal ally in fighting terrorists. He's also advanced democracy in Pakistan," Bush said. "He has said he's going to take off his uniform. He's said there will be elections. Today he released prisoners, and so far I've found him to be a man of his word."
William Gibson: The Rolling Stone 40th anniversary interview

You made your name as a science-fiction writer, but in your last two novels you've moved squarely into the present. Have you lost interest in the future?

It has to do with the nature of the present. If one had gone to talk to a publisher in 1977 with a scenario for a science-fiction novel that was in effect the scenario for the year 2007, nobody would buy anything like it. It's too complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door, they'd probably call security.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Supreme Court's Wrong Turn -- And How to Fix It
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
After posing as moderates in their confirmation hearings, Justices Roberts and Alito have moved the Court radically to the right. Henceforth, we should compel nominees to state how they would have ruled on specific cases, and why.
Two can play that game
Pointing fingers over war funding.
byTim Grieve

Nov. 20, 2007 At today's White House press briefing, Dana Perino bemoaned the fact that most congressional Democrats have left town for Thanksgiving -- Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is minding the store to keep George W. Bush from making any recess appointments -- without getting a war-funding bill to the president's desk first.

"Congress, as you know, is away for its two-week break," Perino said. "They did not approve funding for our troops."

Perino has got it exactly backward, of course. The House of Representatives has approved $50 billion of funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the money just happens to be tied to a plan for a phased withdrawal and a "goal" of having most troops home by the end of 2008. Fifty-three members of the Senate stand ready to approve that measure and send it to the president's desk, but Republicans -- with the help of Joe Lieberman -- have prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor.

So who's to blame for the parade of horribles Perino has begun trotting out? It seems to us that Democratic Rep. Davd Obey has the better of this argument: "If the president wants that $50 billion released, all he has to do is to call the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and ask him to stop blocking it," Obey said at a press conference with Rep. Jack Murtha today. "That phone number is 202-224-2541, in case anybody's interested."

Interested? McConnell doesn't seem to be. His office tells us that he has already left Washington for Thanksgiving in Kentucky.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nova’s ‘Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial’

PBS Nova: “Judgment Day- Intelligent Design on Trial” takes an in depth look at Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, the case that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania, in the 2005 court battle over the teaching evolution in public schools.

This Nova special takes viewers beyond the headlines of the court decisions and through interviews with key players in the case, including scientists, Dover parents, teachers, and town officials, it shows how this wasn’t just a court case that would have serious implications for the future of science education in America and the separation of church and state, it literally pitted “friend against friend, and neighbor against neighbor” within the small community that serves as a microcosm of an America still divided over evolution.

You can watch the entire episode online here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What Are We Fighting For?
By E.J. Dionne —
It’s time that we subject the Iraq war to the same cost-benefit analysis that we are called upon to impose on other government endeavors. We are supposed to repeal or revise domestic programs that don’t work. Shouldn’t a troubled war policy be treated the same way?
The Tom Friedman of 2002 has not gone anywhere
The influential foreign policy pundit continues to spout the same adolescent infatuations with warmongering which led him to cheer on the Iraq War.
by Glenn Greenwald

Rudy Giuliani's messianic paranoia
The former prosecutor announces that he is running for president to "save civilization" from Islamic terrorism.
by Glenn Greenwald
Make the Bush Record the Issue

Absent amnesia—which only happens on soaps—Democrats will be fine.

By Markos Moulitsas

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taxi To The Dark Side
This documentary murder mystery examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver at Bagram Air Base from injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers. In an unflinching look at the Bush administration's policy on torture, the filmmaker behind Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room takes us from a village in Afghanistan to Guantanamo and straight to the White House.

Ay Dios Mio!

The New York Times

November 17, 2007
In Name Count, Garcias Are Catching Up to Joneses

Step aside Moore and Taylor. Welcome Garcia and Rodriguez.

Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.

The number of Hispanics living in the United States grew by 58 percent in the 1990s to nearly 13 percent of the total population, and cracking the list of top 10 names suggests just how pervasively the Latino migration has permeated everyday American culture.

Garcia moved to No. 8 in 2000, up from No. 18, and Rodriguez jumped to No. 9 from 22nd place. The number of Hispanic surnames among the top 25 doubled, to 6.

Compiling the rankings is a cumbersome task, in part because of confidentiality and accuracy issues, according to the Census Bureau, and it is only the second time it has prepared such a list. While the historical record is sketchy, several demographers said it was probably the first time that any non-Anglo name was among the 10 most common in the nation. “It’s difficult to say, but it’s probably likely,” said Robert A. Kominski, assistant chief of social characteristics for the census.

Luis Padilla, 48, a banker who has lived in Miami since he arrived from Colombia 14 years ago, greeted the ascendance of Hispanic surnames enthusiastically.

“It shows we’re getting stronger,” Mr. Padilla said. “If there’s that many of us to outnumber the Anglo names, it’s a great thing.”

Reinaldo M. Valdes, a board member of the Miami-based Spanish American League Against Discrimination, said the milestone “gives the Hispanic community a standing within the social structure of the country.”

“People of Hispanic descent who hardly speak Spanish are more eager to take their Hispanic last names,” he said. “Today, kids identify more with their roots than they did before.”

Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

“The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,” said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of “The Language of Names.”

“Now, look at RenĂ©e Zellweger,” Mr. Kaplan said.

And because recent Hispanic and Asian immigrants might consider themselves more identifiable by their physical characteristics than Europeans do, they are less likely to change their surnames, though they often choose Anglicized first names for their children.

The latest surname count also signaled the growing number of Asians in America. The surname Lee ranked No. 22, with the number of Lees about equally divided between whites and Asians. Lee is a familiar name in China and Korea and in all its variations is described as the most common surname in the world.

Altogether, the census found six million surnames in the United States. Among those, 151,000 were shared by a hundred or more Americans. Four million were held by only one person.

“The names tell us that we’re a richly diverse culture,” Mr. Kominski said.

But the fact that about 1 in every 25 Americans is named Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller or Davis “suggests that there’s a durability in the family of man,” Mr. Kaplan, the author, said. A million Americans share each of those seven names. An additional 268 last names are common to 10,000 or more people. Together, those 275 names account for one in four Americans.

As the population of the United States ballooned by more than 30 million in the 1990s, more Murphys and Cohens were counted when the decade ended than when it began.

Smith — which would be even more common if all its variations, like Schmidt and Schmitt, were tallied — is among the names derived from occupations (Miller, which ranks No. 7, is another). Among the most famous early bearers of the name was Capt. John Smith, who helped establish the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Va., 400 years ago. As recently as 1950, more Americans were employed as blacksmiths than as psychotherapists.

In 1984, according to the Social Security Administration, nearly 3.4 million Smiths lived in the United States. In 1990, the census counted 2.5 million. By 2000, the Smith population had declined to fewer than 2.4 million. The durability of some of the most common names in American history may also have been perpetuated because slaves either adopted or retained the surnames of their owners. About one in five Smiths are black, as are about one in three Johnsons, Browns, and Joneses and nearly half the people named Williams.

The Census Bureau’s analysis found that some surnames were especially associated with race and ethnicity.

More than 96 percent of Yoders, Kruegers, Muellers, Kochs, Schwartzes, Schmitts and Novaks were white. Nearly 90 percent of the Washingtons were black, as were 75 percent of the Jeffersons, 66 percent of the Bookers, 54 percent of the Banks and 53 percent of the Mosleys.

Terry Aguayo contributed reporting from Miami.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sane Officers Oppose Cheney
By Joe Conason —
The Pentagon has launched a preventive strike against a target that military chiefs presumably regard as one of the most active current threats to U.S. and world security—namely, the office of the vice president of the United States.

Bush Stands by His Dictator
By Robert Scheer —
"The war on terror” made me do it. That’s the excuse that works for George W. Bush to rationalize his assaults on the rule of law, from arbitrary arrest to torture. So why not try some war-on-terror obfuscation to bail out his president-dictator buddy over in Pakistan?

The Republican will to power remains ferocious. It will take a dauntless Democratic leader to win back the White House and restore dignity to the Constitution.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The same newspaper that speculated on Vince Foster's murder and Bill Clinton's drug running and homicides today protests "Bush hatred."

by Glenn Greenwald

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bhutto Calls on Musharraf to Resign
The opposition leader who has twice been put under house arrest says she will not serve within the President's government.
*Protesters open fire on two police stations in Karachi

The evolution of creationism

After their notorious legal defeat, intelligent design proponents are resurfacing with insidious new assaults on science.

By Gordy Slack

"Judgement Day: Intelligent Design On Trial"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush: the economy. A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, sees a generation-long struggle to recoup.

by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Norman Mailer Brawled With Bush to the Bitter End
by John Nichols

There is much, much to be said of Norman Mailer, the Pulitzer-prize winning author and world-class rabble-rouser who has died at age 84.

But the pugilistic pensman would perhaps be most pleased to have it known that he went down swinging. The chronicler of our politics and protests in the 1960s with two of the era’s definitional books - 1968’s Armies of the Night and Miami and the Siege of Chicago, did not rest on the laurels - and they were legion — earned for exposing the dark undersides of the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

He went after George Bush with a fury, and a precision, that was born of his faith that all politicians - including 1969 New York City mayoral candidate Norman Mailer - had to be viewed skeptically. And, when found to be lacking, had to be dealt with using all tools available to a writer pocketed two Pulitzers, a National Book Award, a George Polk Award, a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation and a global prominence rarely accorded the pushers of pens.

Mailer did not hesitate to suggest that Bush and his compatriots were setting up “a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America” and he saw the war in Iraq as an imperialistic endeavor destined — as all such attempts are — to diminish democracy at home.

“Iraq is the excuse for moving in an imperial direction,” Mailer wrote on the eve of the conflict.

“War with Iraq, as they originally conceived it, would be a quick, dramatic step that would enable them to control the Near East as a powerful base — not least because of the oil there, as well as the water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to build a world empire.”

Mailer recognized in the president’s schoolboy militarism the most dangerous of instincts. So it was that, when Bush made his 2003 appearance in flight-suit drag before a sign declaring “Mission Accomplished” as part of the first - though certainly not the last — celebration of the fantasy of “victory” in Iraq, Mailer responded with a critique that remains the most damning assessment of a president who has known more than his share of damnation.

“Democracy, more than any other political system, depends on a modicum of honesty.

Ultimately, it is much at the mercy of a leader who has never been embarrassed by himself,” Mailer, who as a young Harvard graduate had served in the South Pacific during World War II, wrote of Bush at the close of a brilliant piece for The New York Review of Books. “What is to be said of a man who spent two years in the Air Force of the National Guard (as a way of not having to go to Vietnam) and proceeded–like many another spoiled and wealthy father’s son–not to bother to show up for duty in his second year of service? Most of us have episodes in our youth that can cause us shame on reflection. It is a mark of maturation that we do not try to profit from our early lacks and vices but do our best to learn from them. Bush proceeded, however, to turn his declaration of the Iraqi campaign’s end into a mighty fashion show. He chose–this overnight clone of Honest Abe–to arrive on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on an S-3B Viking jet that came in with a dramatic tail-hook landing. The carrier was easily within helicopter range of San Diego but G.W. would not have been able to show himself in flight regalia, and so would not have been able to demonstrate how well he wore the uniform he had not honored. Jack Kennedy, a war hero, was always in civvies while he was commander in chief. So was General Eisenhower. George W. Bush, who might, if he had been entirely on his own, have made a world-class male model (since he never takes an awkward photograph), proceeded to tote the flight helmet and sport the flight suit. There he was for the photo-op looking like one more great guy among the great guys. Let us hope that our democracy will survive these nonstop foulings of the nest.”

Mailer would continue protesting the foulings of the nest, on the streets of New York during the 2004 Republican National Coronation and with a pugilistic pen that pummeled the empire builders and their lesser stooges — asking pointedly in final years that paralleled Bush’s “Patriot Acts” and an endless “war on terror”: “What does it profit us if we gain extreme security and lose our democracy?” — until it was finally laid to rest on Saturday.

Norman Mailer, Outspoken Novelist, Is Dead

Norman Mailer, the combative, controversial novelist who loomed over American letters longer and larger than any writer of his generation, died today. He was 84.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Don't like abortion? Shoot a provider in the head
A Pennsylvania judge granted an injunction Thursday against the man in charge of a threatening antiabortion Web site.
by Catherine Price

The Associated Press reports that District Judge Thomas Golden of Pennsylvania took a stand against a guy named John Dunkle, who was maintaining a Web site with antiabortion messages.

Actually, "messages" is an understatement. Dunkle's site included postings, as the AP put it, that "exhorted readers to kill an abortion provider by shooting her in the head." On Thursday, Judge Golden granted an injunction against Dunkle that requires him to remove the threatening postings and prevents him from posting similar messages -- some of which included names, addresses and photographs of clinic workers -- in the future. (Dunkle wasn't the author of these messages, but he did post them.)

The postings are down now, but they were threatening enough that one former clinician at the Philadelphia Women's Center stopped providing reproductive services because she was worried she might be killed.

Judging from the post quoted by the AP, I wouldn't be surprised if others also quit. "While it does not sound good to say go shoot her between the eyes, it sounds even worse to say let her alone," the post said. It included the provider's name, photo and address.

Name the Nightmare Quiz

The new veep installed crony Don Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, and would've won Paul Wolfowitz the top post at CIA -- if not for Wolfowitz's zipper problem.

By Craig Unger

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Every aspect of Bush's foreign policy has now collapsed. Every dream of neoconservatism has become a nightmare. Every doctrine has turned to dust. The influence of the United States has reached a nadir, its lowest point since before World War II, when the country was encased in isolationism.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

by Vivian Ho
Flashback: Robertson Agreed That America "Deserved" 9/11
By Greg Sargent

In light of Pat Robertson's endorsement today of former NYC Mayor and Churchillian 9/11 hero Rudy Giuliani, it seems worth recalling that even as the smoke was still rising from the site a few days later, Robertson had this to say about the disaster in a TV appearance with Jerry Falwell:

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Robertson.

"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this," again winning Robertson's agreement: "Well, yes."

Subsequent to that, Falwell placed some of the blame for 9/11 squarely on a range of Americans -- civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals, abortion rights supporters -- who have tried to "secularize" America. Robertson didn't disagree. Today Rudy gladly accepted his endorsement.

The battle lines between father and son were drawn. In the balance hung policies that would kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people and change the global balance of power for years to come.

By Craig Unger

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bush and Musharraf's grand illusion
Democracy for Pakistan was never the deal -- and as Musharraf's latest power-grab throws his nation into turmoil, Bush will gladly go along.

By Juan Cole

Monday, November 05, 2007

Islam, Politicized
by Juan Cole

Fearmongering GOP presidential candidates are demonizing Muslims and Islam. Why are Democrats so slow to challenge their false claims of 'Islamofacism'?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why You Can't Be Afraid of Islamo-Fascists

By Glenn Kessler

As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf struggles to maintain power in his country, The Washington Post goes behind the scenes to look at the Bush administration’s wobbly relations with Musharraf, whom Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was unable to dissuade from imposing emergency rule.

Shumer, Feinstein and Democrats Roll Over for Bush Torture Agenda, Again.

When the history of the Consttitution's abrogation is written, cowards like the leading Democrat politicians will be exposed as the enablers they have become. No principles, no backbones, no leadership.

Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime

By Evan Wallach
Sunday, November 4, 2007; B01

As a JAG in the Nevada National Guard, I used to lecture the soldiers of the 72nd Military Police Company every year about their legal obligations when they guarded prisoners. I'd always conclude by saying, "I know you won't remember everything I told you today, but just remember what your mom told you: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." That's a pretty good standard for life and for the law, and even though I left the unit in 1995, I like to think that some of my teaching had carried over when the 72nd refused to participate in misconduct at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Sometimes, though, the questions we face about detainees and interrogation get more specific. One such set of questions relates to "waterboarding."

That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as "simulated drowning." That's incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is,

the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding's effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: "I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure." He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. "Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning," he replied, "just gasping between life and death."

Nielsen's experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

In this case from the tribunal's records, the victim was a prisoner in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies:

A towel was fixed under the chin and down over the face. Then many buckets of water were poured into the towel so that the water gradually reached the mouth and rising further eventually also the nostrils, which resulted in his becoming unconscious and collapsing like a person drowned. This procedure was sometimes repeated 5-6 times in succession.

The United States (like Britain, Australia and other Allies) pursued lower-ranking Japanese war criminals in trials before their own tribunals. As a general rule, the testimony was similar to Nielsen's. Consider this account from a Filipino waterboarding victim:

Q: Was it painful?

A: Not so painful, but one becomes unconscious. Like drowning in the water.

Q: Like you were drowning?

A: Drowning -- you could hardly breathe.

Here's the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese:

They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.

And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water.

As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the "water cure" to question Filipino guerrillas.

More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that "the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee's mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation."

In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners' civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to "subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning."

The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

We know that U.S. military tribunals and U.S. judges have examined certain types of water-based interrogation and found that they constituted torture. That's a lesson worth learning. The study of law is, after all, largely the study of history. The law of war is no different. This history should be of value to those who seek to understand what the law is -- as well as what it ought to be.

Evan Wallach, a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, teaches the law

of war as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Musharraf declares state of emergency

Musharraf: Pakistan at ‘dangerous’ juncture

President suspends constitution, replaces chief justice, blocks TV.
The Strife Aquatic
Jon Stewart explains how torture such as waterboarding sounds so much more fun than simulated drowning.


Rudy Giuliani has a habit of saying things that are demonstrably untrue. And the American people have a right to know that.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Arianna Huffington: Unhinged: Giuliani Buys Into His Own Testosterone-Fueled Myth

With each passing day -- and each bellicose, over-the-top, spittle-enhanced pronouncement -- Rudy Giuliani is revealing that he has the soul of a thug and the disposition of a tyrant. His behavior on the stump shows Jimmy Breslin nailed it when he described Giuliani as "a small man in search of a balcony." (Don't forget, Il Rudy cleaned up Times Square and made the subways run on time.)

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