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Friday, April 02, 2004

Sanctions on Russia? 


It's bad to trade with Iran. Especially if you give them stuff they can use to make weapons. We never did it with Iran. Only Iraq. And a bunch of other countries. But not with Iran. Not that I know of.

Oh, yeah. That whole Iran-Contra thing. But that was different. So...

Now, the US is imposing sanctions on thirteen foreign businesses that trade with the Rogue State technology which can be used for unconventional weapons. Like laugh-guns. Or maybe seaweed bombs. Very unconventional.
Five of the companies are from China, and two each are from Macedonia and Russia. There is one each from Belarus, North Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the sanctions bar the U.S. government from dealing with or providing assistance to the companies.

All the firms were found to have had dealings with Iran that the Nonproliferation Act of 2000 is designed to deter. Ereli said the penalties apply only to the companies, but not to their respective governments.

What does that mean? "Their respective governments"? Sanctions against Russia? Against China? Against, dear God, Belarus!?!?!? I don't ask to be smarmy, I truly wonder what it means. What manner of sanctions and in what categories?

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And Then You Read This 


I complain about New World Order, Bush's arrogance, the plight of the third world, and I sometimes forget that I could get myself blown to bits, and what would all this bluster matter then?
Terrorists might try to bomb buses and rail lines in major U.S. cities this summer, according to a government bulletin issued to law enforcement officials nationwide.

The FBI and Homeland Security Department sent a bulletin Thursday night saying terrorists could attempt to conceal explosives in luggage and carry-on bags, such as duffel bags and backpacks.

The bulletin cites uncorroborated intelligence as indicating that such bombs could be made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, similar to what was used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995.

A senior federal law enforcement official, speaking Friday on condition of anonymity, said recent intelligence, coupled with the deadly March 11 commuter train bombings in Madrid, has increased the level of concern about a potential attack in the United States.

They say the bulletin does not outline any specific cities, but we know New York is number one. So at what point does a human give in to fear? I mean, fear rules our lives as it is. But when does the blabby liberal (ahem) set aside his Chomsky and say, "You know what? Fingerprint the fuckers. I don't want my ass blown up."? I'm hoping never. Because there are things I believe in, and one of them is that you cannot live in a police state to preserve freedom. But America is a mob. A great big, flailing mob, with lots of guns and lots of TVs, and if another terror attack happens, in the summer, then George Bush is probably president, and we're all one step closer to invading... whoever. We'll do more than fingerprint -- we'll hang, and burn, and round up. We'll go medeivel.

Or maybe not. Maybe we'll decide that enough is enough, for real, and look at the conditions creating this kind of violence the world over. Maybe, maybe. Maybe this is all for the best.

Still, my heart is beating a bit faster.

And in Spain, they found another bomb.

A Spanish railroad inspector found a 26-pound bomb hidden in a bag on a busy high-speed line Friday, and police said the device may contain the same dynamite used in last month's Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.

Authorities immediately stopped six bullet trains using the Madrid-Seville line after the bomb was discovered before noon under a track about 40 miles south of Madrid. About 1,600 passengers left their trains and were taken to their destinations by charter buses.

nterior Minister Angel Acebes said it was too early to say who planted the bomb. However, authorities believe it was placed at the scene Friday because the bag was dry and the ground was wet, and a 450-foot-long cable attached to a detonator looked new.

Initial analysis of the bomb suggested it used the same brand of Spanish dynamite -- Goma 2 Eco -- used in the March 11 backpack bombs that also wounded more than 1,800 people. Those bombs were detonated by cell phones.

This could have been a copycat -- if there is such a thing. It's just odd that there would be two bombings so close together. Especially since the socialists were elected in Spain, and they want to pull troops from Iraq. It's also odd that there hasn't been a single attack here in two and a half years. We're not very close to Morocco, but still.

Just enjoy life, all. Love it.

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New World Order By September 


Yey! We're going to piss off even our closest allies now, too!
The United States said on Friday it will fingerprint and photograph the citizens of 27 nations that do not require U.S. visas, including visitors from close allies like Britain, Australia and Japan.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the new policy would be put in place at all U.S. airports and seaports by Sept. 30, requiring citizens of the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries to provide "two digital index finger scans and a digital photograph" to verify their identity.

The photographs and fingerprints are already required from citizens of other nations that do require U.S. visas and have proved unpopular among many, although U.S. officials say the process takes a matter of seconds and is needed to protect against attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001.

he 27 countries affected are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Remember when Brazil was all "Okay, if that's the way you wanna kick it, then we'll fingerprint you." And we were all "Whatever, that's total BS." (I just like to imagine sovereign nations speaking "street slap" over vital international issues.)

Well now it's getting worse. England has to give us a fingerprint. England!!! Our special brothers! The State Department's basic response has been that this only takes a few seconds, so what's the big deal. A laser beam to the groin only takes a few sesonds, too; that's not the point. The point is that those folks at Ruby Ridge and the dudes living off Alpo in Montana may be right -- along with George Orwell: everyone is accounted for and accountable; the government owns you; the government knows who you are; Big Brother is watching. If they're willing to pull this kind of thing with citizens of the crown, our own cousins, then how long will it be before Americans are subjected to the same demarkation? (Forgetting, of course that we already are in so many ways: social Security, credit cards, drivers licenses.) We've been made to feel scared of one another for years now (blacks, gays, child molestors), and we know we're being made to feel scared of others (Saddam, "al-Qaeda", Iran); I just wish more people would realize that the US government is the main thing to be scared of right now. Do I sound dramatic when I say I fear we'll all be given serial numbers, scanned, tracked, and put under pressure to fall into line? Yes. Is it already happening? Yep.

Do you see what I'm getting at? (This isn't really what I'm getting at, but it's a fun read...)


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Sharon Means Business 


The Israeli PM is simmering something fierce, hinting that even Yasir Arafat may be considered for assassination. We know that Sharon et al were planning to disdmantle Hamas before pulling settlements, but this certainly takes things to a new level.
In interviews published ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the hawkish Sharon said he did not rule out assassinating the Palestinian leader.

The Israeli premier was asked by the liberal daily Haaretz whether Arafat and the head of the Lebanese fundamentalist militia Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, might be on Israel's list of leaders to assassinate.

"I wouldn't suggest either of them feels immune ... Anyone who kills a Jew or harms an Israeli citizen, or sends people to kill Jews, is a marked man, period," said the Israeli premier, in one of his most threatening remarks to date.

Washington swiftly recalled its opposition to any new Israeli move against Arafat, who has been confined to his battered headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah since December 2001.

I honestly don't know who he's trying to impress with these comments; I think Arafat must already worry somewhat about his well-being, and perhaps, after the Yassin killing, this stings a bit more. But why say this now? Sharon must be saying it for other hardliners who are not very thrilled with recent "concessions" he's made, and for whom any removal of settlements is completely un palatable. I don't know how much the average Israeli would like to see Arafat killed in a helicopter missile attack -- certainly, if this did happen, we would see something more than an "uptick" in aggression from the Palestinians. It would break the people, and then set them afire. The Palestinian leadership is certainly not thrilled at the idea.
Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said of Sharon's remarks that the alternative to Arafat would be "chaos, extremism and anarchy" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel declared last September that Arafat should be "removed". But Arafat, 74, has scoffed at such threats, saying he would welcome "martyrdom."

Sharon also said that once the separation fence is completed, the government will act vigorously to expel Palestinians living illegally within Israeli Arab communities. Sharon said there are tens of thousands of such illegal Palestinians in the country.

"We have a difficult problem with the fulfillment of their desire to return by infiltrating Arab cities and villages in Israel," Sharon said.

"Now it is a very difficult problem because of the absence of a fence. The minute the fence is closed, the activity to remove them will be much more vigorous, and their ability to return will be greatly reduced. Now, when they are found [and expelled], they come back."

I had begun to trust Sharon a bit more, believing somewhat in the old axiom that you can trust your enemy; I hope that Sharon was actually concerned for the well-being of Israel, and not just for its dominance over the Palestinians. If it is the former, than he must see that a peace settlement, including an independent Palestine is in Israel's bestin interest. If, though, he is more interested in eradicating the Palestinians, which this last statement certainly seems to bear the colorings of, than talk of assassinations could be real. I supposed we'll have to wait and see what happens. What a feeling...

(Again, keep in mind that I have no idea what it's like to actually live on either side of this situation. I have Israeli and Palestinian friends who have told me, but I've never lived it. These are my thoughts, desiring a peaceful settlement.)

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Contracting in Iraq -- and Everywhere 


We talked briefly yesterday about the private contractors whose charred remains were dragged through the streets of Fallujah. About how the privatization fever which has bitten everything from health care to prisons is also hitting the mililtary. About how last May's Saudia Arabia bombings were aimed at a compound for the Vinnell Corp, one of these private mercenary/contractor/training companies.

Turns out, the contractors killed this week worked for Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based training center. This company was featured in the Mother Jones article I linked to yesterday (sorry, you need to subscribe to read the whole thing; or buy a copy), and I also came across this article on the killed employees through a commentor on damfacrats. I believe this privatization of war should become a mega-issue. Let's blog until it does.

The four civilians who were killed and dragged through the streets of an Iraqi town Wednesday worked for a North Carolina subcontractor that is providing security in a hostile area of Iraq.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that it was a government subcontractor providing security for the delivery of food in the Fallujah area.

The names of the four victims were not immediately released because family members had yet to be notified, U.S. officials said. Jubilant Iraqi residents dragged two of the charred corpses through the streets and hanged them from a bridge, which the United States denounced as "horrific."

Privately owned Blackwater USA's range of paramilitary services include providing firearms and small-groups training for Navy SEALs, police department SWAT teams and former special operations personnel.

The company's security consulting business connects former special forces troops with jobs that may involve protecting people or places, or training foreign militaries.

[Assistant trainer Chris] Epperson said the company's contractors provide protection to Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq.

Another job offer said Blackwater USA had a Defense Department contract "to train, equip, and permanently establish a Naval Special Operations Unit in the Azerbaijan Armed Forces." The manager responsible for getting the job done would be paid an annual salary of $130,000 to $150,000.

Much like Kellogg Brown & Root, it looks like wherever the US military goes, one can expect Blackwater to follow -- or perhaps even lead. This is exactly the kind of revolving-door, military-industrial scenario we're all supposed to believe only liberals believe in. Conservatives, in a way, are right to think it's a figment of my imagination: it's the free market, it's capitalism, it's profit at all costs, the foundation of our society. Except it's not exactly "free" market, since only ex-Navy SEALs with access to the White House and Pentagon rolodexes get these contracts; and it's not exactly the way our economy works because our Armed Forces -- men and women sworn to the flag -- shouldn't have to rely on people with no (outward) allegiance beyond their next paycheck.

Can we break this at all? Can we paint Bush as unpatriotic and opportunistic for turning over so much of our military to the private sector? I haven't heard of an instance in which employees from one of these companies sufficiently screwed up and endangered lives; but I'm not sure it hasn't happened. Would that be made public if it did? This, to me -- and perhaps because I'm already way (way) to the other side of Bush's political, um, spectrum -- rings hard and deep of the very thing that is wrong with this Administration and the direction the country is going. Everything is for sale. Everything.

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Mean Streets 


I saw Harvey Keitel today on Carmen street. It was cool. He was wearing sneakers, talking on his cell phone. I was talking on my cell phone. We made eye contact. I kind of followed him.

New York is great. Because I was on the phone, ambling through the village, I felt as though Keitel and I were on equal footing. I felt as though I could give him a neighborly head nod, maybe chat with him for a second about where he got his jacket, perhaps walk into the same coffee shop.

New York is great. Especially in the village, where all kinds of celebrities, artists, rich people and normal me-types can intermingle and co-exist, all at the whim of swirving taxis and pigeon shit, all shopping for the same bagels, all sitting on the same church steps. It's like... it's like... it's like the capital of the world, or something.

So I kind of followed him. Because I had nowhere to be right away I sort of kept ambling, just twenty yards behind him. It felt a bit like a movie. I followed, he stopped to lean against a wall and do that preoccupied-talking-on-the-cell-phone thing. I walked by, did my own cell phone dance. He passed me, and I stayed leaning on the hydrant. He looked back to see if I was still following. (I was also still on the phone with my friend in Milwaukee, so I had to pay some attention to him.) At one point I saw a tall young man, in a trench coat and baseball cap bouncing excitedly around Harvey, pointing at him with both hands, as in "you're the man!".

And he is. Harvey Keitel is definitely the man. I kept following him. Over to Sixth Ave. I sat on the bench in Father Demo Sq., while he crossed Bleecker, and took one last glance to see if I was still following. I stopped then, but felt like I took a little piece of him with me. And he would remember, at least for a couple hours, that some young guy was kind of following him today.

Harvey: It was me, and we should really do coffee some time. I do a great impression of you in Reservior Dogs -- you know, the scene with Tim Roth bleeding in the backseat? -- and I'd like you to hear it.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Bob's Your Uncle -- And Wife 


Those stuffy Brits have moved one step ahead of us -- again -- with new laws recognizing gay marriage coming out (ahem) today.
Under the Civil Partnerships Bill to be published on Wednesday, same-sex couples will be able to sign a register held by the register office in a procedure similar to a marriage. Although the Govern ment will insist it is not officially a 'marriage' but rather a contract between two people, the fact that couples will have to announce their intentions beforehand in a similar way to the reading of the banns before a wedding reveals its true effect.

Couples will have rights to pensions similar to married couples, will not have to pay inheritance tax on property passed between them when one dies and will have access to hospital records similar to that allowed for a spouse.

The Government has decided not to demand that gay couples should go through an official ceremony as heterosexual couples do but will leave it to the discretion of local authorities. It is likely that most councils will allow ceremonies to take place.

Couples who then want to split will have to go through a dissolution in the courts, similar to a divorce. If there are children, maintenace payments will have to agreed.

As we should in America, the British recognize that same-sex couples deserve the same rights, entitlements and benefits of entering into marriage as those with two separate sets of genatalia. It's that simple. Yet we allow our blood to boil over an issue that has no relevence whatsoever to any heterosexual couples. None. Zero. Zilch. Nohing will be take away from dick and Jane, nothing will be unfairly given to Dick and John. Nada. Rien. Yet, it's somehow a legitimate "moral" issue.

Some fundies actually think gay people marrying one another will somehow affect them, as if some kind of evil gay vibes will creep into their own, divine and holy matrimony. Are they worried about more shows like Will & Grace (except with real gay people)? Do they think any gay person gives two shits what they think?

Can those who caim to defend marriage not see, in the simplest possible terms, that they are, in fact, discriminating against a group of people and actively seeking to restrict their citizenship? It is one group telling another it has fewer rights. That's discrimination on the level of the civil rights era -- in fact, this is a New Civil Rights Era. And if one out of ten people is not safe, than none of us are.

But this is just another reason for me to hurry up and get that Irish citizenship. Just in case things go sour. Do it, England.

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On the Fence In Israel 


Protests over Israel's new "security fence" turned wild today, with 25 demonstrators injured in scuffles with the Army.
Hundreds of Palestinian residents and Israeli and foreign left-wing activists were protesting next to the construction site in the village located south of Ramallah.

The demonstrators attempted to reach construction bulldozers, which had caused damage to Palestinian property when they inadvertently caused boulders and slabs of bedrock to slide down a slope.

The demonstrators began throwing stones at Israel Defense Force soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber bullets in response.

This fence, sometimes as thick and tall as a maximum security prison perimeter wall, is causing more harm than good. I don't know how either side -- and especially the Israeli government -- could consider living this way. Physically divided from one another? Like some kind of terrible sci-fi film? And the Palestinians must feel as though they're in prison, or worse, a zoo. I understand the concern in Israel over the incessant bombings. But this is demoralizing to both sides, and will only stir up more resentment and violence. (Though I hope I'm wrong.)

On March 21, more than 25 protesters were hurt during a similar demonstration. Now the Israeli Supreme Court has stopped construction of the barrier in some areas until Sunday, after receiving several petitions to that effect.
In some of the conflicts involving the fence, the court has intervened, and the government has agreed to stop working on the infrastructure and has reconsidered the original plan.
In other cases, the government has agreed only to postpone the construction so that the residents could explain their reservations regarding the fence before a management committee. This process is required before petitioners are allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

High Court Justices Aharon Barak, Eliyahu Mazza and Mishael Cheshin Wednesday were discussing nine petitions filed by residents of the villages of Bet-Sorek, Almidea, Nealin, Dir Kadis and others.

The villagers are demanding that the route be moved from its current planned course. They are trying to make sure that it does not pass directly by the houses of Palistinians and does not come between the Palestinian residents and their agricultural lands.
Meanwhile, Sharon continues to talk relative sense, saying Israel must pull out of areas it will not control when (and if) a peace deal is reached with the Palestinians. Sharon says more inaction will only hurt Israel, as world opinion is generally unsympathetic to their calls for an end to terrorism.

Israel does have the superior army, the support of the US, and nuclear weapons. Not to mention the fact that most of the Palestinians were there first, be they Jewish or Muslim. But Sharon, who has historically been a major proponent of settlements, says they have no Palestinian peace partners. This seems to be true, at least so long as the old guard is in power. The Palestinians are corrupt, and the people get little help from other Arab states. so if Sharon is serious, he should go ahead with his plan -- even if he is thinking only of Israel's long-term, it will still make progress.

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Jurisdictional Problems 


It's funny: the World Court thinks it has jurisdiction over the whole world. And it does. Just not in America. You see, America isn't "the rest of the world." The rest of the world is the rest of the world. Nonetheless, the International Court of Justice ordered the US today to review the death-row convictions of 51 Mexican nationals.
The court ruled that Washington had violated international law by not informing the Mexican nationals that they were entitled to consular assistance or legal help from their government as it is obligated to do under the 1963 Vienna Convention.

The decision, which is legally binding although the court has no means of enforcing it, was welcomed by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) which said it "could save lives".

...Lawyers for Mexico hailed the decision as "a triumph for international law".

In an unusual move, judges at the ICJ, the United Nations highest judiciary organ, expressly said that their ruling concerned the general application of the Vienna Convention and also applied to "other foreign nationals finding themselves in similar situations in the United States".

Interesting. I wonder if that could be in reference to the illiegal prisoners in waylay over on Cuba.

The Mexico case has was filed over a year ago, and lawyers say the foreign prisoners, many of whom did not speak English, were denied basic rights. The 51 are spread out across the country, and some states had earlier agreed to stay the executions of prisoners awaiting appeal.

It would be unthinkable for another country to deny an American consulate advice. Well, not unthinkable, but not what we would expect from a civilized country. But we see time and time again, we hold the rest of the world to a different standard on a good many things. Let's invade Mexico!

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This is Why Contractors Make So Much In Iraq 


Four of them just got killed, along with another five US soldiers, in two separate incidents in Fallujah, north of Baghdad.
The soldiers were killed when their convoy hit a roadside bomb northwest of the US military base in Habbaniya, 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of the Iraqi capital, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a press conference in Baghdad.

It is thought to be the worst single incident involving coalition troops since a US military helicopter was downed on January 8 near Fallujah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad, killing all nine people aboard.

The latest deaths brought to 291 the number of US soldiers killed in action since US President George W. Bush declared major hostilities over on May 1.

In Fallujah gunmen ambushed two four-wheel-drive vehicles, killing the four American contractors.

Coalition forces were not immediately able to identify the victims and Kimmit, deputy operations commander for the US-led coalition, could only say they were contractors.

And what exactly does a contractor do? Vinyl siding? Landscaping? Or are they more like the Vinnell Corp. contractors killed in Saudi Arabia last year? You know, the private mercenaries being used more and more by the US to operate everything from mess halls to weapons systems?
As the U.S. military wages the war on terrorism, it is increasingly relying on for-profit companies like Blackwater to do work normally performed by soldiers. Defense contractors now do more than simply build airplanes -- they maintain those planes on the battlefield and even fly them in some of the world's most troubled conflict zones. Private military companies supply bodyguards for the president of Afghanistan, construct detention camps to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, and pilot armed reconnaissance planes and helicopter gunships to eradicate coca crops in Colombia. They operate the intelligence and communications systems at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, which is responsible for coordinating a response to any attack on the United States. And licensed by the State Department, they are contracting with foreign governments, training soldiers and reorganizing militaries in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Equatorial Guinea.

And, in a sign that things are actually getting worse over there -- not protests and the occasional report that Iraqi patience is wearing thin -- like, really, really worse -- read what they did to these poor contractors.
The contractors were passing through central Fallujah when they were stopped by a group of armed men who opened fire and set the cars ablaze before fleeing.

What happened afterwards was particularly gruesome.

The two vehicles had burst into flames, and young men threw rocks and stones at the blazing wreckage. One body was seen burning inside one of the cars.

An AFP correspondent on the scene saw two charred bodies dragged from the vehicles, hacked up with shovels and strung by their feet from a nearby bridge, where they were stoned by residents.

Residents shouted: "Down with the occupation, down with America" and "Long live Islam."

"Fallujah will be the cemetery of the Americans," said one man, his face hidden by a scarf.

"Revenge, revenge for Saddam," others shouted, the Iraqi president whose ironfist regime was ended by the US-led war.

What's the difference, really, between this and a terror attack here in the US? Really? Well, that's a war zone filled with soldiers. It is volatile. People are upset with the US. They have access to sensitive areas, and can inflict real damage with explosives. Okay. That's all true here, except that it's harder to get to important places in Iraq, and a lot more civilians can be blown up over here. I don't understand why this isn't treated like a terror attack at home. We should be concerned. We should look at what is going on. We should do something to stop it.

But if we did all that, we'd have to stop the war, and reverse about 50 years of foreign policy. So we'll glide on blindly, thinking, again, Oh That Happens Over There.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Hi-ho, Bush Lies Hit The TV! 


You got to check out this ad on moveon. Man alive. Upper-left corner, "He Ignored Terrorism". They got a pretty quick turnaround, using Richard Clarke's testimony to punch Bush in the face. Complete with melancholy music, and shaky, "Se7en" style graphics. The kids will love it.


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Condi Comes Around -- But What About George? 


Dr. Condi Rice has finally been demoted to regular old American citizen and will have to testify before the 9-11 Investigative Commission in an open public hearing. But the White House agreed to allow Georgie to testify only if Uncle Dick can be in the room with him. Unbelievable. This is the leader of the Free World?
Bush also acceded to the commission on a second point, agreeing to appear before all 10 of the panel's members in a private session. But the White House stipulated that Bush appear jointly with Vice President Cheney, and that only one commission staffer be present to take notes. Neither Bush nor Cheney would testify under oath.

In agreeing to the session, Bush backed off his previous demand that questioning be conducted only by Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton in an appearance that the White House originally said would take no more than an hour.

In a brief statement he read to reporters at the White House this afternoon, Bush said his agreement to appear jointly before the commission with Cheney and to let Rice testify was part of extensive White House cooperation that recognized "the exceptional nature of this inquiry." He said more than 800 members of his administration have already been interviewed and that more than 20 White House officials have appeared before the commission or will soon do so.

Clearly, W. thinks this commission is important. Yeah. He waited months to okay it, is only funding it chicken feed, and has fought them every single step of the way. At his press conference today he looked like a, well, a spoiled little brat who finally had to do what others told him to do, leaving the room in a hurry, without answering a single question. The arrogance is truly unbelievable. He also looked a bit nervous.

Why is it that Clinton had to testify, under oath, about semen stains, and BushCo. has no accountability in the worst tragedy in our country's history? And why does Georgie continue to lie about the "Consitutional right" he has to insulate presidential advisers? There is no such protection; rather, it's been practiced by presidents and honored by Congress.
While there is precedent for the White House argument that incumbent national security advisers and other White House advisers should not be required to testify in public, constitutional scholars say that the position is based only on past practice, not law, and that presidents have repeatedly waived the privilege, especially at times of scandal or other intense political pressure.

[A White House] adviser said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior adviser and political strategist, wanted to move the election away from questions like "Were there intelligence failures?" and to put the focus instead on which candidate could better protect against any future efforts by terrorists to attack the United States.
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"If we're going to have a discussion about W.M.D. and intelligence failures and Osama bin Laden, that's not an election George W. Bush wins," the adviser said. "If it's about who keeps you safer, that's the ground we want to be on."

This is the real reason why the White House doesn't want Condi to go on record; they are claiming this would be the first time that an NSA had testified before Congress, screaming Chicken Little. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, and Sandy Berger have all done it, for much less serious affairs.

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From the Russian Loony Bin 


Now, Pravda may not be the best newspaper in the world. Okay, it's a bit of a rag. But I ran across this analysis on the entry to Nato of seven former Eastern Bloc countries. The tone is rather, shall we say, up front, but it's worth reading.
The original intention [of Nato] was to form an alliance in which the parties to the agreement would support each other in the event of an attack (from the USSR, which never came). What we saw yesterday was an expansion to the east which does not fit into any of the Articles constituting the organization. NATO quotes Article 10 to justify its move: "The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty", however the article continues: "and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty".

If the original principle for this treaty was a defensive block to counter the wrongly perceived threat from the USSR, in European States, for the security of the North Atlantic, how to justify the fact that NATO's borders stretch well into Asia, and other areas of Europe thousands of kilometres away from this area?

The real reason for NATO's expansion to the East is visible in the rhetoric of US President George W. Bush yesterday, at the ceremony at the White House, after Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were admitted into this organization: "As witness to some of the great crimes of the last century, our new members bring moral clarity to the
purposes of our alliance...They understand our cause in Afghanistan and in Iraq...because tyranny for them is still a fresh memory".

If President Bush is referring to great crimes and moral clarity perhaps he would like to explain what is happening at Guantanamo, where prisoners are being held without trial or accusation, in cages, and have been tortured.

Perhaps he would also like to explain why his regime flouted international law, breaching the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the founding principles of NATO itself, by carrying out an act of mass murder in Iraq, in which war crimes were committed.

I mean, you gotta admit...

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Left Wing Radio Genesis 


The much-anticipated Al Franken radio network (also known as Air America Radio) launches tomorrow, with such stars as Jeneane Garofolo, Randi Rhodes, Chuck D., and Franken himself. Here's a list of the stations and the programming.

WLIB 1190 AM in NEW YORK
KBLA 1580 AM in LOS ANGELES
WNTD 950 AM in CHICAGO
KPOJ 620 AM in PORTLAND, OR
KCAA 1050 AM in INLAND EMPIRE, CA
CHANNEL 167 - XW SATELLITE RADIO
COMING SOON to SAN FRANCISCO

Monday-Friday
Morning Sedition: 6:00-9:00am
This is a fast paced morning show that will entertain and engage audiences with wit and political satire. It will feature the latest news, offering up to-the-minute interviews with newsmakers, analysis and strong opinions.
Co-Host: Marc Maron
Co-host: Sue Ellicott
Co-host: Mark Riley

Unfiltered: 9:00am- 12:00pm
Air America's midmorning program is a showcase for conversation about the political and culture state of the union. Unfiltered introduces listeners to fresh new voices not available in mainstream media.
Co-host: Lizz Winstead
Co-host: Chuck D
Co-host: Rachel Maddow

The O'Franken Factor: 12:00-3:00pm

After debunking right-wing propaganda in his bestselling books Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Al Franken is taking the fight to America's airwaves--and he's doing it drug-free. With his co-host, veteran radio personality Katherine Lanpher, Franken will deliver three hours a day of fearlessly irreverent commentary, comedy, and interviews. Franken and Lanpher have a mean streak a smile wide. The O'Franken Factor will energize fans, infuriate liars, and deliver the truth--in what Al Franken likes to call the Zero Spin Zone.
Host: Al Franken
Co-host: Katherine Lanpher
Producer: Billy Kimball

The Randi Rhodes Show: 3:00-7:00pm
Randi Rhodes has spent the last 20 years burning up the airwaves in southern Florida with her pointed and provocative brand of talk radio. Combining live interview, call-in and commentary, Randi engages her audience with a passionate presentation.
Host: Randi Rhodes

So What Else is News?: 7:00-8:00pm
Based in Los Angeles, this is a one-hour program showcasing the intersection of politics, media and popular culture. This program will feature analysis and reports from the presidential campaign, as well as a daily reporters' roundtable on how the news of the day is affected and reflected by the media. Marty will also cover the spinning of the news with a regular segment called "The Corrections." This is also the place to hear the political voice of Hollywood, with celebrity guest interviews from the entertainment industries.
Host: Marty Kaplan

The Majority Report: 8:00pm-11:00pm
This program will introduce new, younger voices and opinions, with live guests from the world of politics, the arts and entertainment.
Host: Janeane Garofalo
Co-host: Sam Seder

Saturday and Sunday
Air America Radio's weekend line-up will offer more original programming, like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papatanio's "Champions of Justice," a program that brings a fresh and entertaining perspective to talk radio from the top legal and social issues focused minds in the country. Additional programming will include Best-of Air America Radio and Best-of-O'Franken Factor as well as other original programming to be announced soon.
Programming will start with "The O'Franken Factor" which will apparently feature a Zero Spin Zone. It looks like they're actually trying to get sued by Fox. And good for them.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

It Would Be Too Easy to Make A Fox News Joke Here 


In its finest defense of freedom yet, US forces closed down an Iraqi newspaper accused of spreading lies to inflame readers. Ahem.
Thousands of outraged Iraqis protested the closing as an act of American hypocrisy, laying bare the hostility many feel toward the United States a year after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
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"No, no, America!" and "Where is democracy now?" screamed protesters who hoisted banners and shook clenched fists in a hastily organized rally against the closing of the newspaper, Al Hawza, a radical Shiite weekly.

Many Iraqis said closing down a popular newspaper at such a crucial time would not curtail anti-occupation feelings but only inflame them.

"When you repress the repressed, they only get stronger," said Hamid al-Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a prominent Shiite political party. "Punishing this newspaper will only increase the passion for those who speak out against the Americans."

The American authorities said Al Hawza could reopen in 60 days. The paper's editors, however, said they had been put out of business.

"We have been evicted from our offices, and we have no jobs," Saadoon Mohsen Thamad, a news editor, said as he stared at a large padlock hanging from the front gate. "How are we going to continue?"

Among Iraqi journalists, Al Hawza was known for printing wild rumors, especially anti-American ones. A broadsheet of about eight pages, the paper is considered a mouthpiece for Moktada al-Sadr, a fiery young Shiite cleric and one of the most outspoken critics of the Americans.
Would we ever shut down a member of the free press here, just because they were radical, or inclined toward rumor? Of course, their democracy is not as developed as ours, but what kind of a message does this send? If nothing else, it says We Know Better Than You, reaffirming the imperial occupation status so many Iraqis already resent. What possible good could it do to padlock a popular newspaper? I do not doubt this is a tough situation to be in: you want to build democracy and maintain stability. So there are some difficult choices. But this is just silly. Of course, I can say this sitting at my desk in Brooklyn, not dodging hand grenades in Baghdad. It's just that they do so much to invite criticism, and we have to be on top of the process, at least as best we can with our own tainted press.

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More on Empire 


Seven more former communist states have joined Nato, stretching the US's military presence right to the Russian border. Amazing.
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia became members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in a ceremony at the US Treasury, cementing the largest expansion in the now 26-member group's 55-year history.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell presided over the ceremony marking the first time NATO has embraced former Soviet states -- the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- and firmly shifted its focus eastward, raising concerns in Russia.

"To the seven heads of states here assembled, I say to you and to your people: Welcome to the greatest and most successful alliance in history. Welcome," he said.

Powell said the expansion was a "historic step" in achieving a vision to extend "Europe's zone of freedom and security from the Baltics to the Black Sea."

It's a dead horse I never tire of beating the crap out of. America is moving in on all former and potential allies, ie. Russia and China, as it makes a move toward global dominance. This is just one more incredible step. All parties win here. The seven get military protection and favored status with the world's most powerful country, and the US gets to remind Russia who won the cold war. Russia is not exactly thrilled.
"Without doubt, NATO's expansion touches Russia's political, military and, to a certain extent, economic interests," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a terse statement.

In addition to the fact that the Baltic states are still home to many ethnic Russians, the expansion deals a blow to Russia's international prestige as former Warsaw Pact nations that once bowed to Moscow now turn to the West.

But de Hoop Scheffer, who is to visit Moscow on April 7 to 8, said he did not believe the enlargement would create greater difficulties in relations with Russia although he acknowledged there were "some nuts to crack" in relations with the Russians.

"NATO needs a partnership with the Russians," he told defense reporters here. "It's in NATO's interest and at the same time it is in Russia's interest that we have a strong partnership."

He said Russia understood NATO had "no ulterior motives" in policing the Baltic airspace.
I hink Mr. Scheffer is being diplomatic, because even I think there are at least one or two ulterior motives involved. The chariman of Russia's Dumas is even threatening to destroy Latvia for joining NATO.
On March 24 Mr. Zhirinovsky expressed criticism to Latvia"s joining NATO and the reform of Russian language schools in an interview to Latvian TV.

Zhirinovsky predicted terrorist attacks on Latvia and said, "Latvia will be destroyed. Empty space will be there. Absolutely nothing will remain from Latvia. Everybody will forget the words "Latvia" and "the Latvian language". There will be nothing in Latvia, forever. We will destroy everything. If you touch Russians and Russian schools. I assure you. Nothing will remain".

So as you can see, everything looks hunky dory as far as this is concerned...


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From the Book of John 


The White House has apparently forgotten that the Bile is in the public domain, and that there is more than one interpretation of the Good Lord's thoughts beyond the fairly skewed one taken by the Radical Right. John F. Kerry, a good Irish Catholic boy, offered his own take on the Scripture while campaigning in Missouri, and the Administration doesn't like it.
Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech at New North Side Baptist Church, but aimed his criticism at "our present national leadership." Kerry cited Scripture in his appeal for the worshippers, including James 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?"

"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."

Kerry told worshippers in the largely black congregation that the country's leadership has served the privileged while ignoring people across America who live in neighborhoods like theirs.

"Today we are told that, after 3 million lost jobs and so many lost hopes, America is now turning a corner," the pending Democratic presidential nominee said. "But those who say that, they're not standing on the corner of Highland Street, where two 15-year-old teenagers were hit in a drive-by shooting last week."

Funny, this seems more reasonable to me than to say, "God says gay people should be discriminated against, and Jesus thinks we should kill evil doers and invade Iraq." That could be just me. It's also reassuring to hear Kerry speak about Jesus's teachings, to say that the Radical Right does not own morality or religion -- that, in fact, they're corrupting both of them. There's been a bit of a trend developing lately in which religious people are actually taking a look at the Scripture, and finding some room for compassion, for welfare, for help to the poor, and for a stance against war. I think the Big Guy is on our side on this.


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Sunday, March 28, 2004

WWIII On the Front Page O' the Times 


The boys at the New York Times are starting to pay attention to geopolitics, with a great cover story today which spells out the next 50 years of international strategery.

You see, all the hubub over Iraq, 9-11, what could and should have happened obscures the underlying fact of the matter: the big boys of global politics -- US, China and Russia -- are are already knee-deep in the Endgame. And it's all about Central Asia. Oil, politics, and control of the world. This is why we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, why we have military bases all up in China and Russia's junk, and why we're drawing lines of "with us or against us." It's the future of the world, baby! And the Times says it's okay to notice now.
China's western ambitions do not end with the purchase of huge amounts of energy, the main products that Central Asia has to offer, international political analysts, Chinese and regional officials agree. Beijing's bid to secure vital fuel supplies is part of a bold but little noticed push to increase its influence vastly in a part of the world long dominated by its historic rival in the region, Russia.

China's thrust into Central Asia comes as an almost natural extension of its ambitious efforts to populate and develop Xinjiang, a far-western region the size of Texas with 18 million people, which seems underpopulated compared with much of China. In doing so, China hopes to neutralize a threat of separatism by the region's Uighur minority, whose Turkik language and Islamic faith draw them toward kinsmen in Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics of the region.

With Russia in sharp relative decline, a booming China looms as the economic locomotive, and even the model, for the entire region. That means China finds itself in a position to call the tune in a way that it has scarcely felt confident about in the past. Most immediately, this means being able to hold China's neighbors to pledges not to support Islamic militancy or Uighur separatism.

Increasingly, there are signs that Chinese influence is spreading. In November, at an international conference on Kazakhstan's financial reforms, representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank found that the governor of the People's Bank of China was the most sought-out guest.

The Chinese have their eyes on this region of the world, as a chance to expand and set up shop (and oil) for the future. The US has its eyes on China, trying to outthink and outmaneuver them, and Russia has its eyes on both of us. And look: all three are battling an enemy within - terrorism here, and separatism in Russia and China. First things first, each of these three powerhouses has to clean up at home, consolidate power and influence, and then start sniffing around for the right moment to strike, as it were. China is playing a daft game, content to leave the menacing military might to us. We'll trip and fall with all these bombs sticking out of every pocket, while China plays the smiling communist, gaining partners with a wink and a nod ("Yes, yes, those Americans are a bit brutish, aren't they? Well, just stick with us, and we'll leave some things unsaid."). Meanwhile, they still have the world's biggest army and what will soon be the world's biggest economy Wouldn't you be nervous if you were in the White House?
Meanwhile, China has been busily building new security relationships in Central Asia to match its growing economic ties in that region, an area of increasing strategic competition involving China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. The United States has not been absent from this competition, having acquired a military base, known as Camp Stronghold Freedom, in Uzbekistan, as well as a presence in Afghanistan.

China has increased its security ties through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a six-member group founded in 2001 that includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. China has committed itself for the first time to a regional collective security agreement focused on enforcement of borders. Beijing has followed up with joint military maneuvers with Kyrgyzstan, and with the continued development of rapid deployment forces based in western China, which could be used to put down trouble in Tibet or Xinjiang, or to help enforce border security along with other members of the Shanghai group.

This must be especially troubling, all these military maneuvers. What's more, we already have a standoff in waiting over Taiwan: the US wants to defend freedom, China wants to defend its self-respect. Bing, bang, boom.

This article is important, so read it. (And note that the US gets only one mention, as if it weren't part of all that.) Then read everything on From The Wilderness. Think what you will of Mike Ruppert, but he's at least a year ahead of the Times, if you know what I mean. It's all right in front of our faces.


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