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Friday, March 26, 2004

There's Somethin' Strange In the Neighborhood 


George Bush is meeting everyone under the Arab sun next month, in what is either a mad dash toward electability, or a discussion of upcoming strategy. First on his list is Ariel Sharon April 14, where the President is expected to back plans to pull out from all settlements in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting is part of a new round of Middle East diplomacy by the administration to try to calm tensions in the region after Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

Bush has already announced plans to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, one of Washington's closest allies in the Arab world, on April 12 on the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Sources said a meeting between Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah is planned for April 21.

Bush and Sharon, who will meet either at the White House or the Camp David presidential retreat, are expected to "finalize understandings" about the settlements and security arrangements in Gaza, rather than announce any formal agreements, one source said.

I can only wonder what else will be discussed with these leaders. I'm sure there's more on the table than an Israeli withdrawal, momentous though it would be. Perhaps Osama bin Laden could come up, or Zawahiri. Or Pakistan, or... who can say? If they're meeting in April, we proably won't know till June.

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Al Qaeda Double Agent In Britain! 


It's been a bad year for British intelligence, and this little bit will surely not help.
One of al-Qaeda's most dangerous figures has been revealed as a double agent who fooled MI5, raising intense criticism from European governments who had repeatedly called for his arrest.
Britain ignored warnings from friendly governments about Abu Qatada's links with terrorist groups and refused to arrest him.

A leaked copy of a judgment by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has revealed how British intelligence chiefs hid from their European allies how they were hoping to use the cleric as an informer against Islamic militants in Britain.

Qatada boasted to MI5 how he could prevent terrorist attacks in Britain and hoodwinked agents into believing he would expose dangerous extremists arriving, while all along he was setting up a safe haven for his terror organisation in the country.

Among the scores of young militants who visited him was the chief suspect in the Madrid train bombings. His followers also included volunteers to be suicide bombers for al-Qaeda, including Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. The judgment copy, obtained by Britain's Channel 4, revealed yesterday there was evidence that Qatada "has been concerned in the instigation of acts of international terrorism".

This guy, who was on MI5's payroll, ran with all the heavies, it looks like. This revelation, if true, will only further Europeans' distrust of the Iraq program. Man, he fooled James Bond!

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UN Resolution on Yassin Assassination 


Those cowards over at the UN are trying to uphold international law again, issuing a condemnation of Israel's recent assassination of Hamas head, Sheikh Yassin.
"The Security Council, recalling its resolutions 242 (1967); 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1435 (2002), 1515 (2003),

"Expressing its grave concern at the continued deterioration of the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as a result of the escalation of violence and attacks,

"1. Condemns the most recent extrajudicial execution committed by Israel, the occupying Power, that killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin along with six other Palestinians outside a mosque in Gaza City and calls for a complete cessation of extrajudicial executions;

"2. Condemns also all terrorist attacks against any civilians as well as all acts of violence and destruction;

"3. Calls on all sides to immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction;

"4. Calls for the cessation of all illegal measures and practices and for respect for and adherence to international humanitarian law;

"5. Calls on both parties to fulfill their obligations under the road map endorsed by Security Council resolution 1515 (2003) and to work with the Quartet to implement it in order to achieve the vision of the two states living side by side in peace and security;

"6. Decides to remain seized of the matter."

When will they learn that, while they represent the world, they're still not America?

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Yeah, This Should Solve All Women's Problems 


The country took another big step backward by passing this Unborn Victims of Violence Act in the Senate. Bush must be frothing at the mouth, waiting to put pen to yet another attack on civil rights.
The U.S. Senate, after an emotional debate, easily passed legislation on Thursday to make it a federal crime to harm or kill an "unborn child," an issue that spilled into the battle over abortion rights.

On a 61-38 vote, the Republican-led Senate sent the measure, earlier approved by the House of Representatives, to President Bush.

Bush applauded the Senate vote and said he was looking forward to signing the legislation into law.

"Pregnant women who have been harmed by violence, and their families, know that there are two victims -- the mother and the unborn child -- and both victims should be protected by federal law," Bush said in a statement.

Earlier, the Senate rejected, by a 50-49 vote, an alternative championed by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which would have punished violence against pregnant women without treating an "unborn child" as a separate person.
This is as transparent as Reynold's Wrap. If Bush really wanted to protect unborn children, wouldn't he stop spending their retirement money, do something to protect our environment, and not push for a draft so more cannon fodder can die in his buddies' money wars? Alas, like the gay marriage "debate" going on right now, I feel this is a desperate measure taken by radicals who fear their grip on fear is slipping.

Still, it's a dangerous move. I think I can see where proponents of this are coming from, and I even tend to agree, at least morally, with abortion foes. It's not nice to kill babies. No one says it is. But this threatens not only women's rights, but all of ours, because when will "I" be next? And what is the purpose of protecting fetuses, really? They're fetuses. The only reason people say they want them to have legal rights is because they want to deny women the right to have control over their bodies, both from a religious and power-hungry point of view.

And the argument that this new law would protect women from violence is ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. Why don't they take the Superbowl off the air, or stop teaching little boys to be overly masculine, or get Budweiser posters off city buses, or do something toward portraying women as equal to men? Nah, they'd rather pass a law that takes away women's rights. Makes sense in 21st Century America, though, doesn't it?

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Zawahiri Speaks Again! 


Terrorist right-hand man and epistilarian Alman al-Zawahiri is calling on Muslims to overthrow the government of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. The general has escaped several assassination attempts, and he's now facing more heat in that volatile country for going along with the infidels. The message was played on al-Jazeera, and I think Zawahiri's own words speak for themselves.

It also calls on Pakistanis to support the Al-Qaeda terror network, but there was no immediate independent verification of the audio recording.

It calls on the Pakistani military "to not obey orders" and overthrow Musharraf's military dictatorship.

"I call on the Pakistani people to unite under the banner of Islam," said the voice.

"All Muslims in Pakistan should attempt to get rid of this traitor government which has surrendered to the Americans, leading to the destruction of Pakistan so the Indians can be in control," he added.

"I call on the Pashtun and Balushi tribes, (on) the two sides of the border (with Afghanistan)... Oh tribes, your Taliban brothers and their followers are your brothers and your hosts.

"How can you allow the agents of the Crusaders and the Jews to strike you? The Pakistani people in general and the Pashtun tribes in particular should take revenge," added the voice.

Zawahiri is gloating since Pakistan failed to root him out after an extened military action along the Afghan border this month, despite a 25 million dollar bounty on his head. Things are shaky enough in Pakistan without this guy opening his mouth. Things could get rockier, and it will be interesting -- and terrifying -- to see what happens. Don't forget, we're still planning to invade Pakistan soon...

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No Free Toasters 


I'd like to invite readers to comment. I know there's a lot to say, and those little windows don't leave much room, but I'd love to hear what people think about things. That's why I'm doing this. That's why people are so excited to get more than teenage girls in showers and Instant Win pop-ups on the Internet. So come on, let's hold hands and walk together into the Information Age!


This is what I look like when I'm being cute and pretentious. Now we're friends!

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Bush Shocks Nation, Blames Airplanes 


In a spellbinding speech delivered in my homestate of New Hampshire today, "President" Bush said he had no idea terrorists would dream of using airplanes for evil, reasserting that he did everything possible to combat terror. He apparently missed Richard Clarke's little bit of testimony this week.
"Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of the government, to protect the American people," Bush said, appearing with Cheryl McGinnis, the wife of a pilot killed in the attacks.

One of the most damaging revelations was a letter Clarke wrote a week before the attacks asking White House policymakers to imagine a day after hundreds of Americans lay dead at home and abroad after a terrorist attack and ask themselves what they could have done.

There is so much evidence that Bush is lying that I get a headache thinking about it. Those of us who have suspected They knew about 9-11 all along, and talked to anyone who wouldn't shoot us for saying so, are now nursing our sore throats with a quasi-victorious sip of whiskey. Alas, it still angers me. There's so much to prove they did know and were either completely negligent, that any respectable commission that wasn't holding its tail between its legs would expose it all in about three hours. But we've got to deal with what we've got. And what we've got right now, is a very scared little president, and that is good.
The president has agreed to meet with the commission but both he and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, have declined to testify in public hearings. The administration has cited separation of powers because the panel was created by Congress, but commission members have expressed disappointment that Rice did not join administration officials such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in testifying publicly this week.

Separation of powers. Riiiight. Maybe they won't testify because they're full of poop! We all know this is the case. Even Bush defenders must know it deep down. Could they honestly believe Bush cares about getting to the bottom of this, yet refuses to cooperate unless his neck is in a noose? Can they really believe separation of powers has anthing to do with it?

I think Condoleeza will have to testify publicly. At the least, if she doesn't budge, there should be some question as to her ability to fulfil the post. She'll become a liability, which leads to another phenomenon I believe will soon develop around BushCo. One of his greatest strengths -- the discipline in the cabinet in the party, the fact that he doesn't fire anyone, and they're all loyal, all the time -- could wind up biting him. If Condi starts taking heat, then Bush looks bad any way you turn it. If he keeps her on, there will be some doubts about his leadership, and he will become guilty by association. If he fires her, it may look a bit opportune - that he's only looking out for himself.

This will have the occasion to arise on many fronts. A lot of people could come out of this investigation bloodied, bruised and broken, and Bush may not survive it either. The cabal is like one organism; they've designed it that way, and the closed ranks have given them power and silence. But if one piece cracks, it becomes hard to hold together. The harder they try, in fact, the more it will be likely to crack. We could wind up having Rummy, Rice, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Tenet cracking, and where does that leave Bush? If he's all alone, then he'll stand there shivering, exposed as the little boy he is. If he sticks by them, he'll look just as guilty. This isn't stealing paperwork from the opposing party we're dealing with. This is 3,000 lives, two wars, and the future of civilization. The price of loyalty, indeed. Everyone gets what's coming to them.

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Moamer Likes Fish 


Tony Blair continued the lovefest with admitted terrorist Moamer Kadhafi (I will not cease to be amazed: another alternate spelling of his name today!), fawning over the rogue state's progress, offering his hand in friendship, and eating fish and couscous in a tent.
After a landmark meeting and handshakes that came three months after Libya's decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction, Blair spoke of "real hope that we can build a new relationship with it (Tripoli), one for the modern world."

The Libyan leader recognised "a common cause, with us, in the fight against Al-Qaeda extremism and terrorism, which threatens not just the Western world but the Arab world also," said Blair.

"In reaching out the hand of partnership today, we do not forget the past, but we do try in the light of the genuine changes happening, to move beyond it," said the first British premier to visit Libya since its 1951 independence.

Libya had showed it was possible for "countries in the Arab world to work with the United States and the UK to defeat" terrorism and work for "a more secure world because of the absence of weapons of mass destruction."

I'll admit, I'm torn on this one. As a humanist, I would love to see genuine reconciliation and unification with former enemies. If both parties are authentic in their stated desire for peace, than there can be no better news. But as a cynic, I'm still shaking my head. They are so desperate to prove the rightness of their cause (and the invasion of Iraq) that carting out Kadhafi as a progressive seems like a good idea. Jack Straw even dared to call the man courageous for abandoning his WMD programs. Courageous or gullible, we'll soon see. But they do have a point: Libya does not want to be bombed! So they'll cooperate. But with what? And to what end?

Then this sentence sneaks in:
n London, Royal Dutch/Shell announced it signed a deal with Libya for a "long-term strategic relationship" to explore and tap the North African state's oil and gas reserves.

The five-to-seven-year exploration programme is worth 200 million dollars, said Shell's head of exploration and production, Malcolm Brinded, who signed the Heads of Agreement.

200 mill ain't too bad. It's only one-sixteenth of the amount Libya just agreed to shell out to settle the Lockerbie bombing. (And as a result, the UN lifted sanctions on Libya, opening the door to even more trade deals with the oil-rich (bombable) country. So maybe Tripoli really does want to play nice, and rejoin the fold. Still, old habits die hard, for rogue states and imperial ones, as well.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

To the Lions! 


Despite all the comparisons to the Roman Empire, we're still denied the satisfaction of throwing infidels to a pack of growling, bloodthirsty lions for our own sick, communal pleasure. Zell Miller is one of those infidels.
Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who has endorsed President Bush, took the reins on Wednesday of a "Democrats for Bush" group and slammed John Kerry as "out of step" with the party's past leaders.

Miller accused Kerry, the Democratic challenger to Bush and a Senate colleague from Massachusetts, of abandoning longtime Democratic Party principles on tax cuts and foreign policy.

Miller contrasted Kerry unfavorably with Democratic Presidents John Kennedy and Harry Truman and lumped the Vietnam War veteran with Democratic Party leaders "who really represent nothing but special interest groups and their own partisan agendas."

He said Kerry was right to vote to authorize the war in Iraq but "started spending too much time with Howard Dean" -- an outspoken critic of the war -- during the Democratic primaries and voted against an $87 billion bill to help pay for troops and reconstruction in Iraq.

Just how is he out of touch? And how does Kerry shame that other JFK? And what the hell is Miller doing on a Democratic ticket? Jump ship, Zell, please, so we can vote you out fair and square.

He's really not an infidel so much as a confused and frightened man. I actually feel a bit sorry for him. Though I'm sure he would really look great clawing at the mane of a satisfied lion.

Too harsh. I do feel bad about that. But why doesn't he just get out of the Party, and save us all this hand-wringing? Go! Go! Go be in Bush's cabinet! Hang out on the ranch! Lassoo calves! Ride around in pickups! Eat babies together! Just don't do it as a Democrat!


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Lapdogs, Terrorists, and Malintent 


They weren't kidding when they said they wanted to reestablish ties with former Evil Incarnate Moamar Gadafy. (note: it's my intent to spell his name with a different, but acceptable, arrangement of letters every time it appears in a new post here.) British PM, and close, personal buddy of George W. Bush, Tony Blair will meet with Gadafy tomorrow, and he says British troops may actually start training the Libyan army(!)
A Downing Street spokeswoman said that the proposals were to show that Libya could defend itself without weapons of mass destruction.

The offer of military cooperation, and the confirmation that British Aerospace are in "advanced negotiations" with Libya, has led to speculation that arms deals could be next.

Oxfam's Phil Bloomer called on Mr Blair to "ensure that British arms policy is not subverted by political expediency".

"Decisions on arms sales should be based on issues of conflict, human rights and poverty," he said. "Using them as a reward for short-term political cooperation smacks of the bad old days of British arms policy.

"While it is undoubtedly a good thing that Libya has said it will stop seeking weapons of mass destruction, it is conventional weapons that kill most people.

"Libya has an appalling record of selling weapons that fuel some of the world's worst conflicts, for example military helicopters to Liberia and suspected shipments to Somalia."
You can say that again. What is this?! It's amazing how quickly bad guys jump from one camp to the next in the eyes, and contracts, of our sage leaders. Arms deals with Libya?!? If you sense incredulity, I can assure you it is very real. This speaks to every kind of cynicism I have in me. What is going on here?
Asked whether it was premature, [a British official traveling with Blair] said: "Part of our agreement with Libya was that we and the US would act quickly to bring them back and show them the rewards of cooperation with the international institutions."

Commenting on the economic aspect of the trip, he said: "A number of British companies are interested in trade with Libya and it's possible that Shell will be able to sign a heads of agreement with Libya in the days ahead." "Shell are negotiating a heads of agreement for gas exploration off the Libyan coast," he added, and British Aerospace are in "advanced negotiations" with Libya.

Aha! There may be money involved. Sort of like with the US, and their peacemaking with the terrorist country. But is there something else? Are the Anglo-Saxons building an alliance for the future? A proxy army for this troubled world? Another diplomatic/economic victory that leads to military outpost? Because you know, you can't get just one. If you want to trade with us, and you're in a strategic spot, we'll likely plop several thousand troops on your soil, too. It's part of the deal. It might be nice to have a friend in Libya - so close to the Sudan and the Gulf. We'll likely not put a bas there, but having our weapons in plain view of all that terrorism and oil would be pretty sweet.

But being friends with Gadafy would leave the Alliance in a compromising position: there is a bit more attention paid to foreign affairs at the moment, and it's a bit tougher to keep friendships with really bad guys. Maybe -- just maybe -- they're training troops in hopes of a coup. It's been a good year for coups. Who knows what Gadafy would be capable of. Wouldn't they want him out of there?

British officials say this is part of "bringing Libya into the mainstream" which is, we know, code. Our mainstream; our trade practices; our wars and war-footing.

Or perhaps I give them too much credit. Perhaps I'm worrying a bit too much. I mean afterall, how bad could they be...?

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Wow 


Richard Clarke is doing more for Kerry than Kerry himself could ever do for Kerry. The former Anti-Terror Chief is terrorizing the Bushes, who will, I'm sure, stick to their schoolyard bully tactics with him, throwing rocks and denying everything. His straightforward testimony is more powerful than any moveon ad, than any sternly written editorial. He is legitimizing charges that have wafted in the periphery for more than a year now; that feeling that something is deeply wrong here, which the press and other elected officials have been hesitant to oblige, waiting, as they were, for that elusive affirmation that it is okay. It's like a warm summer breeze, it is.
In stunning testimony to the official inquiry into the 2001 terror strikes, Richard Clarke, whose new book has angered the Bush administration, apologized to relatives of the September 11 victims saying that the US government had failed them.

Clarke said Iraq was "the reason I am strident in criticism of the president of the United States."

"By invading Iraq, the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism," he said, silencing the room.

But beyond simply casting blame, Clarke has done something remarkable: humanizing the tragedy of BushCo's willful deceptions by apologizing to the victims of 9-11 and their families.

This is very powerful, because it goes beyond politics, and yet puts pressure on the Administration and the President himself. If this man, this lone voice, is willing to take responsibility, even though he was in the right, than how in God's name can BushCo continue to deny any wrongdoing? Clarke is exactly what we need: a big man, an honorable man, who, though he has a new book out, is willing to speak above it all, to speak for the common good. In so doing, he tears away another layer from Bush's image, further exposing him and his fpr the cowards and liars they are.
The former counter-terrorism czar sought the forgiveness of relatives of the 3,000 September 11 victims. He said public meetings of the commission were "finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11.

"To them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you.

"We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask ... for your understanding and for your forgiveness.
Yes, the time seems right. And this goes beyond the next election. It is about responsibility, accountability, it is about us the citizens who have the most at stake, and the littlest say. Whether or not Clarke has all this in mind, it is exactly what he is doing, by seizing the moment, and taking it to the next level. We live by a series of agreements in the world. We agree that a $20 bill is somehow worth more than a $1 bill; we agree that men will be better paid than women; we agree that the President is, in a wa, untouchable, above us. Clarke is changing that agreement. And we will be the better for it.

The Clinton Years
Clarke also had a thing or two to say about President Clinton, punching bag in perpetuity when it comes to defense. The sex-crazed maniac managed to find some time between oral trysts to combat the nation's gravest threat; in fact, according to Clarke, it was that President's top priority.
He said that the Clinton administration had "no higher priority" than combating terrorists, while the Bush administration made it "an important issue but not an urgent issue".

Earlier, the director of the CIA admitted that the intelligence services did not act "rapidly or thoroughly enough" to close gaps in national security before the September 11 attacks on the US.

But George Tenet, who has served as CIA head under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, said both were committed to the war on terror and took the al-Qaida threat seriously.

He said there was "no lack of care or focus in the face of one of the greatest dangers our country has ever faced", but his agents found it impossible to penetrate the al-Qaida network at the highest level.

Crucially, however, Mr Tenet insisted that even if the CIA had tracked down and eliminated al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks, the attacks themselves could not have been stopped.

This may or may not be true -- and we haven't even broken the tip of the real iceberg when it comes to 9-11: just how much did they know, and did they "let it happen" -- but I'm still not sure what's going on with Tenet. CIA directors are supposed to be loyal to the Agency first, the country second, and the man who appointed them third -- maybe a distant third. But we've seen Tenet kowtow all over Washington; perhaps because there's heat on his Agency. Yet it seems that in that case, he would tell the truth, that intelligence estimates ranked Iraq a 1 out of 10, saw no connections with al-Qaeda, and did not believe there were any WMD. So why is he so loyal? Maybe because he'll have served 7 years in the post if he can make it to July, the longest since Helms in the 1970s, and topped only by the late, great, John Allen Dulles. Maybe Tenet's got some deal worked out; maybe he's got something at stake besides his job, because come on: ex-CIA directors don't generally wind up on welfare. They can lecture, consult, and sit on every board in the country. No, there's a stink about Tenet that I don't really like.

Bottom line: I'm beginning to believe the truth, this time, will come out.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Look What Happens When You Play Nice 


The Tyrant of Tripoli (did I just make that up?), Moammar Gadhafi, is receiving some warm salutations from the US, after Libya agreed to abandon its WMD programs and come clean, just like the Americans asked him to. The US is looking to reestablish ties with the rogue nation.
The opportunities for American oil firms could be enormous, but before the administration gives a green light it wants Libya to improve its human rights record and end support for terrorism.

Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns became the highest-level U.S. official to meet with Gadhafi since 1980, when then-Deputy Ambassador William Eagleton called on the Libyan leader to formalize a suspension of diplomatic relations.

The administration has already responded to Gadhafi's cooperation by lifting a ban on Americans using their passports to travel to Libya and permitting American companies to hold talks with Libyans about future economic transactions.

I'm sure they'd like the human rights to improve over there, but come on, oil speaks first, doesn't it? And why let less picky countries like France and Russia move in on all that petro-cash?

And while we thought it necessary to invade Iraq to free those oppressed people, the Libyans will probably have to fend for themselves -- which is, in all likelihood, a good thing.
In Washington, meanwhile, some 100 Libyan critics of Gadhafi's regime signed a document calling for constitutional democracy and the rule of law in Libya.

They also set goals of establishing the right of Libyans to elect their government by secret ballot and called for freedom of expression and assembly.

"Gadhafi took a peaceful and relatively prosperous country and changed it to a poor rogue nation," said Ali Tarhouni, a professor of economics at the University of Washington and a longtime critic of Gadhafi.

I doubt Gadhafi (all these tyrants have, like, 11 spellings for their names) has had a change of heart. In fact, it's probably the strongest argument the US has to date that its "foreign policy" works. The guy must have though, after seeing Shock And Awe through night-vision cameras, "Oh, crap. I better sing a different tune." And sing he has.



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Privatize, Privatize, Privatize 


Somebody's got to make some money off Medicare before it collapses! (In about 15 years.)
The fund that pays hospital benefits to the U.S. elderly is expected to become insolvent in 2019, seven years earlier than predicted, a report on the U.S. Medicare system said on Tuesday.

The report from the Medicare and Social Security programs' trustees -- an assessment that may move Medicare closer to the front-burner in an accelerating presidential election campaign -- said Medicare's prognosis dimmed sharply over the last year and that spending will exceed income by about $7.5 billion in 2004.

The Social Security trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2042, as predicted in last year's report.

The report blamed Medicare's fiscal woes on lower projected payroll tax receipts and higher projected spending on in-patient hospital care.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has argued that tax cuts pushed through by President Bush threaten the future of Social Security. President Bush campaigned on creating personal accounts for Social Security that could be invested, but that proposal has made little headway since the stock market peak in 2000.

Not to mention the fact that Alan Greenspan is ready to hand out little more than some paddles to tomorrow's seniors on their way up shits creek.

Remember the good old days of Lockbox? When all we had to do was make fun of Al Gore for being stiff as a board, and George Bush for being a bit green. So quickly, problems seen as vaguely distant during that campaign are in our faces. What will they do about Meidcare? The answer will likely be privatize -- the very answer that has led to energy crises and the skyrocketing costs of health care. And let's think about that for a moment, forgetting the political arguments and the fiscal numbers. In this country, people make lots of money off of others' sicknesses. And it's the perfect scam because there is nowhere to run: people are going to get sick. If they want to get any care, they must buy into health insurance. People buy shares in these companies, and their concerns are foremost on the companies' minds. It's insane. All that is considered, being a capitalist venture in a capitalist society, is the bottom line. This is a very simple point: people make money off of others' sickness. Part of the reason, I think, that this debate has not progressed much is that we would have to revisit the basic foundation of our society, in which everything is designed to make money.

Our very means of living - shelter, health care, food - are all money-making ventures. Prisons are privatized, soon water will be. Then what? There is no room for people in capitalism, no room for society. It's so obvious, I hate to bring it up: how can a society exist and flourish if the mode of operation is every man for himself? If everything, everything is for sale? And we wonder why it's all going to pot.

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We Need Some Mortar Over At 1600, Please 


Yes, the wall is beginning to crumble now. In full view. Two days after Richard Clarke's stunning assessment of BushCo's failures pre-911, the guy in charge of the investigation is pecking at the "we-did-everything-we-could" argument coming from the White House.
With President George W. Bush already facing criticism from a former White House anti-terrorism adviser, the inquiry into the 2001 attacks that left about 3,000 dead could increase pressure on Bush in his re-election campaign year.

"My feeling is a whole number of circumstances, had they been different, might have prevented 9/11," Thomas Kean, chairman of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, told CBS television before Tuesday's key open hearing.

"They involve everything from how people got into the country to failures in the intelligence system. There's a whole series of things. Had any number of them gone a different way, then perhaps 9/11 could have been prevented.
Kean didn't hesitate to implicate the Antichrist himself, however, Mr. Bill Clinton, in the mess. He says terrorism should have been in the front of that Administration's mind after the first World Trade Center bombing, and certainly a few years later, when al-Qaeda was known to be a danger. I'm not sure what happened with Clinton. I do know he lobbed a few missiles at an aspirin factory in the Sudan. There are unfounded accusations that he could have gone after Osama bin Laden, but didn't (and the bin-Ladens weren't even friends of the family, as they are with the Bushes). I do remember reading somewhere, however, that the outgoing Clinton Administration tried to tell BushCo about Osama, and Condoleeza Rice woiuld have none of it. In fact, they testified to that effect before the commission.
Senior Clinton administration officials called to testify next week before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks say they are prepared to detail how they repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation — and how the new administration was slow to act.

They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy; and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.

One official scheduled to testify, Richard A. Clarke, who was President Bill Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said in an interview that the warning about the Qaeda threat could not have been made more bluntly to the incoming Bush officials in intelligence briefings that he led.

At the time of the briefings, there was extensive evidence tying Al Qaeda to the bombing in Yemen two months earlier of an American warship, the Cole, in which 17 sailors were killed.

"It was very explicit," Mr. Clarke said of the warning given to the Bush administration officials. "Rice was briefed, and Hadley was briefed, and Zelikow sat in." Mr. Clarke served as Mr. Bush's counterterrorism chief in the early months of the administration, but after Sept. 11 was given a more limited portfolio as the president's cyberterrorism adviser.

Could this be why Rice has refused to testify in public? Or is it because of national security rasons. Hmm.

Meanwhile, Powell is still denying that anything else whatsoever, in any way, could have possibly been done to prevent the events of September 11, 2001.
Giving evidence to a federal inquiry into the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on America, Mr Powell insisted that George Bush's administration had actively worked to put together a comprehensive strategy to eliminate al-Qaida.

Earlier today his predecessor as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, told the hearing that under President Bill Clinton the fight against terrorism had been a top priority.

Mr Powell said: "This administration came in fully recognising the threat presented to the United States and its interests and its allies around the world by terrorism.

"We went to work on it immediately. The president made it clear it was a high priority," he said, adding that President Bush had pushed for a more aggressive approach towards terrorism.
So that must be why the Administration cut anti-terror money.
In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows.

The document, dated Oct. 12, 2001, shows that the FBI requested $1.5 billion in additional funds to enhance its counterterrorism efforts with the creation of 2,024 positions. But the White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, working within the White House limits, cut the FBI's request for items such as computer networking and foreign language intercepts by half, cut a cyber-security request by three quarters and eliminated entirely a request for "collaborative capabilities."

These guys are in trouble, and the harder they try, the more they wind up looking like idiots. Joseph Wilson, Paul O'Neill, now Richard Clarke. And there's a bit if squiggling going on within the Republican monolith. McCain, for one, admits that he's friends with Kerry, and Senators Hagel and Grassley have indicated that maybe someone who hasn't been to war ought to be more careful about sending boys to die. I hate to sound optimistic - gasp - but it looks like the rats may be thinking about getting off this sinking ship. Of course, there's a lot of time before the elections...


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Hamas Changes 


After yesterday's assassination of Saroman look-alike, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas is out for blood. The group named its two new leaders today.
Abdel Aziz Rantissi, newly named as Hamas chief for the Gaza Strip, vowed on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group would strike Israelis everywhere following Israel's assassination of its spiritual leader.

Rantissi, a medical doctor who has served as Hamas's chief spokesman, was named earlier as Hamas chief for the Gaza Strip, taking on some of Yassin's duties.
Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's politburo chief living in exile in the Arab world, was named overall leader, succeeding Yassin, group's wheelchair-bound founder.

One theory is that Israel is looking to kill off the main Hamas leaders before relinquishing any land to the Palestinians, as Sharon has promised. It's apparently important to them to deny any victory to Hamas, and to remind them who has the missiles, the armies, and the means to destroy whom.
[Israeli]Defense chiefs have decided to try to kill the entire Hamas leadership, security sources said Tuesday, a day after Israel assassinated the sheikh.

The defense chiefs decided during a five-hour meeting Monday to step up targeted attacks, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. They said officials decided to go after the entire leadership without waiting for another attack by Hamas.

"Anyone who is involved in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank or anywhere else in leading a terror group knows from yesterday there is no immunity," Likud MK Hanegbi told reporters. "Everyone is in our sights."

"There is no immunity to anyone. And that means anyone to the last person," he said.
Hanegbi did not give any names, but said the list of militant leaders marked for death included "those who appear on television," a veiled reference to senior Hamas officials Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Apparently, there will be no peace until Hamas is dismantled. This makes sense from the Israeli point of view, but for the Palestinians, Hamas represents much more than a bunch of suicide bombers: it is their main spiritual and charitable organzation, as well, symbolizing a noble resistance, and solidarity for a struggling people.

I hope the Palestinians will get their Gandhi, someone willing to be above it all, and seek peaceful means to liberate themselves. This would sit much better with most of the world, would save many lives, and would legitimate the Palestinian cause as a human one, not a terrorist one. Frankly, they deserve better. That doesn't look likely, however.

While many are predicting a new wave of attacks by Palestinians, Isreali Defense Force chief moshe Ya'alon says the opposite.
The assassination of the Hamas leader has dealt a severe blow to the militant organization and will help prevent the founding of "Hamas-land" in Gaza, Ya'alon said Tuesday.

"Even if in the short term, the assassination increases the motivation to carry out terror attacks, in the long run, the assassination is likely to calm the situation in the Gaza Strip and encourage moderate forces to prevent the founding of 'Hamas-land' in the Strip," he said.

Ya'alon, addressing a seminar in Tel Aviv, said Yassin was directly responsible for terror attacks.
"Yassin was neither, and I should like to stress it, was neither a political nor a religious leader," said Ya'alon.

I think this is bad news. The US is supporting assassinations, a policy we used to strictly condemn. Even if the man is a criminal in US view, Yassin was a hero to Palestinians, and very much considered a political and religious leader. For them it is a holy struggle, and more, a struggle for pride, self-respect, and their land. There are two completely different points of view -- but at other times, people who have been forcibly removed from their homeland are called freedom-fighters.

Who Is Rantissi?

The good doctor was born near Jaffa in 1947 or1948. He is considered one of the cofounders of Hamas (along with Yassin) and has been invloved in many terror attacks. He became involved in Islamist thought while studying in Egypt in the 1970s. Israel has had him on its hit list for some time, and he escaped an assassination attempt last year during the beginning statges of the so-called Road Map (of which we have heard not a peep in months).
Israel tried to assassinate a senior leader of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas on Tuesday, wounding Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi in a helicopter attack that could spur new violence and shatter a US-backed peace plan. Rantissi, 56, one of Hamas’s best-known public faces, has taken centre stage over the past week in rejecting calls by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to cease attacks on Israelis under the terms of the “road map” peace proposal.

“Israel should expect that this crime...will not pass without a severe punishment,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, another top Hamas official, told al-Jazeera television.

The attempted assassination was almost roundly rejected at the time, even within Israel.
In a rare show of unity, most leading Israeli papers join their counterparts in the Arab world and Iran in condemning the assassination attempt on Hamas political leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi.

The consensus among Israeli commentators is that the attack was aimed at the heart of the new peace process known as the roadmap. There is a fear it will trigger off a new spate of suicide attacks.

Rantissi has been around for a long time, and has developed much influence over Hamas and the Palestinian thought.
In December 1992, he was expelled to Lebanon, as part of the expulsion of 416 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, and emerged as general spokesman of those expelled to southern Lebanon. Upon his return in 1993, he was arrested, but later released.

Rantissi was detained many times by the Palestinian Authority for his criticism of the PA and Arafat, but in most cases, was released after a short period.

After the return of Sheikh Yassin to the Gaza Strip in October 1997, Yassin, together with the senior operatives including Rantissi, reorganized the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip to restore its activity.

In mid-1999, following his release from a PA prison, Rantissi returned to his position as "right hand" to Yassin. During talks among the Hamas leadership in Gaza and abroad and in its contact with the PA regarding ceasing terror activity, Rantissi, together with Ibrahim Macadma and with the support of the external leadership, was one of the main opponents to any cease-fire and cessation of terrorist attacks inside Israel.

Rantissi is, obviously, a hardliner, refusing to compromise with Israel.
He has consistently argued that Palestinians have a right to resist Israel by any and all means, including the suicide bombing of civilians.eans, including the suicide bombing of civilians.

"They are not terrorism," said of the killings.

"They are a response to Israeli terrorism, individual and governmental, against Palestinian civilians," he told the Arabic newspaper Kut al-Arab in 1998.

You can read more on him here, and this BBC profile.


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Monday, March 22, 2004

Hellraisers 


My friend told me the other day that the only thing left in Pandora's Box, after the evils of the world had been unleashed, was hope. Believing this is the only way I can rationally deal with the latest news out of Israel.
Israel assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin Monday, striking its heaviest blow against the Palestinian Islamic militant group behind dozens of suicide bombings and provoking threats of revenge.

Israeli security sources said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) personally ordered and monitored the helicopter attack on the paralyzed cleric, whose wheelchair lay smashed in a pool of blood after three missiles exploded outside a Gaza mosque.

The attack on Yassin, 67, as he and his entourage left dawn prayers may have been aimed at weakening Hamas to prevent it claiming victory if Sharon goes ahead with a unilateral pullout from Gaza.

This last line says a lot. If it was indeed intended to deflect a possible "victory" by Hamas, is Sharon possibly pulls out from Gaza, then we've seen the ultimate pyrrhic victory, haven't we? what point could this possibly prove, to create more trouble in order to downplay an action that could, in some ways, create some trouble? No progress will be made through enraging one million people, already filled with rage. Unless the aim is to beat the people into submission and resignation. But don't we also see a pattern in which people with nothing to lose will risk everything?

The US was not very willing to patch things up, either.
Washington denied Hamas accusations it had given Israel the green light to kill Yassin and appealed for regional calm.

Asked if Sharon had called President Bush directly to tell him Israel planned the killing, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) said on television: "He did not."

She did not directly condemn the attack. "Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that Sheikh Yassin himself has been heavily involved in terrorism," she said.

And also this.
But some Israelis, including a member of Sharon's cabinet, Arab leaders and many Middle East political analysts, said his death would only encourage militants to step up attacks.

Sharon has ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians until attacks on Israelis stop. He has threatened to draw a West Bank "security line" that would leave them with less land than they seek for a state should the road map remain stalled.

It's a Catch-22. I cannot make Israel wrong; they are seeing innocent people blown apart at bus stops and cafes. Hamas is the bad guy here, from almost any moral point of view. But how can there be any progress if there are governments in place that encourage more killing? If they kill in response to killings that were in response to killings? Who can remember where things started over there, anyway?

Now there's this, too.
For the first time, Hamas threatened revenge on the US as well as Israel, saying that US backing of Israel had made Yassin's assassination possible. The White House denied any involvement in the operation.

"All the Muslims of the world will be honoured to join in on the retaliation for this crime," Hamas said in a statement.

Is this what we want? Perhaps, so, if BushCo thinks it can earn them support, and maybe a second term.

Thanks to damfa.

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