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:: 11.25.2003 ::  

News Flash - we'll be there for a while
Army planning for Iraq currently assumes keeping about 100,000 United States troops there through early 2006, a senior Army officer said Friday. The plans reflect the concerns of some Army officials that stabilizing Iraq could be more difficult than originally planned.
Thanks to Dave for the link to this New York Times story.

:: Deb 6:43 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

I think I'm going to puke

Last year the House of Representatives earmarked $896 million dollars for home-state (AKA pork-barrel) projects - including $1 million in the education budget earmarked for "The First Tee," a program to teach kids how to play golf (I am not kidding - read page 11 of the report). The sponsor of the earmark was that famous tax-cutting fiscal conservative Tom DeLay. Earmarking has soared since the Republicans took over the House in 1995 - running as the anti-pork party.

On the other hand, the local projects in districts represented by House Democrats will see none of the earmarked funds.
Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who chairs the subcommittee that controls spending on education, health and jobs programs, recently stunned Democrats by announcing plans to reject every "earmarked" project they are seeking in the final, compromise version of the bill, which funds the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor.
Why? Because they voted against the bill (which passed by only 7 votes out of 423) in July.

42 of the nation's 50 poorest districts are represented by Democrats.

Found on Calpundit, noted on Atrios.

:: Deb 11:32 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.24.2003 ::  

Um. Wow.
Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.
Franks earned three Purple Hearts for combat wounds and three Bronze Stars for valor. Known as a “soldier’s general,” Franks made his mark as a top commander during the U.S.’s successful Operation Desert Storm, which liberated Kuwait in 1991. He was in charge of CentCom when Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11.

Franks said that within hours of the attacks, he was given orders to prepare to root out the Taliban in Afghanistan and to capture bin Laden.

[emphasis added]
This was from a Newsmax article that Atrios pointed to on his site. Newsmax is a conservative news site. What surprised me most about the article was that Newsmax offered no editorial comment on Gen. Franks' quite astounding statements.

:: Deb 6:11 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

This is another picture from the orchid show I went to last year.

:: Deb 5:57 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Whoops! Looks like blogspot was down for part of the day...

:: Deb 5:55 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.21.2003 ::  

Quote of the Day
I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.... international law... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone.... [French intransigence meant there had been] no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein.
- Richard Perle, speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London yesterday.

Quote lifted from this article in the Guardian: "Mr Perle's view is not the official one put forward by the White House. Its main argument has been that the invasion was justified under the UN charter, which guarantees the right of each state to self-defence, including pre-emptive self-defence. On the night bombing began, in March, Mr Bush reiterated America's "sovereign authority to use force" to defeat the threat from Baghdad."

Thanks to atrios for this one.

:: Deb 5:52 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.20.2003 ::  

Someone please comment on why no-one's commenting :(

There's not much point to this if I'm not reaching anyone out there. And how do I know if I'm reaching anyone, if no-one responds?


:: Deb 7:03 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

China to Require Fuel Economy Boost
The Chinese government is preparing to impose minimum fuel economy standards on new cars for the first time, and the rules will be significantly more stringent than those in the United States, according to Chinese experts involved in drafting them.

The new standards are intended both to save energy and to force automakers to introduce the latest hybrid engines and other technology in China, in hopes of easing the nation's swiftly rising dependence on oil imports from volatile countries in the Middle East.
Read the rest in the New York Times. As the Daily Grist quipped, "Next thing you know they'll have a better human-rights record than the U.S., too." Sad, but all too likely.

Also in Tuesday's Grist, I found a link to this Washington Post story: "The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an important rule change that for the first time would allow the nuclear industry to store low-level radioactive material in ordinary landfills and hazardous waste sites." Whaaaaa???

The EPA is inviting public comment on the proposal: please participate in this process. According to the EPA's document detailing the proposed rule changes, "Comments may be sent by electronic mail (e-mail) to a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov, Attention Docket ID No. OAR-2003-0095." Please include your name, mailing address, and an e-mail address or other contact information in the body of your comment. More detailed information about the rules and suggestions for submitting comments are outlined in the same document - I recommend reading them! Please submit your comments no later than March 17, 2004.

:: Deb 6:37 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of Several Days Ago, Specifically Sunday
Well, freedom is a beautiful thing, I would first say, and it's - aren't you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind? And I value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to say.
- A disgustingly smug President Bush, in an interview taped last Wednesday with British TV reporter Sir David Frost, in response to the question, "what would be your message to those [anti-war] protesters?" (About 100K protesters were expected to throng the streets of London today, in response to Bush's visit to the city. Police put the final count at around 110K; Bush apparently managed to miss the entire demonstration.)

You can read the full transcript of this rather soft-hitting interview on PBS. You can watch some video clips of the interview on the BBC website.

:: Deb 6:10 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Let's hear it for the headline that sounds a lot worse than it is:
Congress OKs testing drugs in children

More than half of medicines taken by children have not been tested in them for safety and effectiveness, said Dianne Murphy, director of pediatric drug development at the FDA. The drugs often are prescribed "off-label," which allows medicine to be given to children if it's safe for adults. But researchers have long warned that younger bodies react to drugs differently.
From USA Today.

:: Deb 3:53 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Errol Morris' "The Fog of War": a film for our times

You can watch the preview on Apple's website, and you can read a review of it here. Excerpt:
The United States's most fundamental mistake in Vietnam — which McNamara analyzes accurately — was to misunderstand the ambitions of the Vietnamese people. To American cold warriors, Vietnam looked like a victim of outside communist subversion. It seemed natural that the people there would welcome our version of freedom, but we misunderstood the degree to which communism was a vehicle for Vietnamese nationalism and we had not grappled with the relatively new phenomenon of decolonization. Our efforts to stop Vietnam's national aspirations and impose our own despotic dictators only hurt our standing among the people we claimed we were saving.

Similarly, our leaders have foolishly assumed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. and British troops as liberators because of what we see as our essential goodness. We fail to empathize with the Iraqis — to recognize that our troops' occupation of their country looks different to an Iraqi than it does to us. We fail to see our own ambiguous history in world affairs and the causes we have given for Arab resentment. As long as we continue to blame Iraqi turmoil on sabotage by a few Saddam Hussein loyalists and not recognize the nationalist anger that we are provoking, we will let ourselves in for the same lasting anguish that we experienced because of our leaders' miscalculations 40 years ago.
You can also check out the film's Flash website here. In theaters Dec. 19th.

:: Deb 3:41 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.19.2003 ::  

The USDA Rides Again

This story about the Federal Food Commodities Program, under which the government purchases 30 million pounds of food for school cafeterias every year, sounds suspiciously similar to the Mother Jones story about the USDA covering up charges of meat contamination:
Weems and 43 other students and teachers from Laraway Elementary School were rushed to emergency rooms last November. Another 100 children became sick, as well -- all after eating ammonia-tainted chicken from the commodities program, Savini said.
"We obtained a list of Commodities food complaints from other Illinois schools -- records that detail choking hazards, such as wire and rubber pieces in hamburger patties," Savini said.

Savini said reports showed that students have found buckshot while eating their burgers, a cigarette butt in food, a metal screw in a French fry, a peach pit in diced peaches that stuck in one child's throat, fruit with worms and bugs in it, and bones in diced chicken.
Savini said records involving the Joliet incident showed that a warehouse ammonia leak tainted the chicken and other stored products, but cases of food from the warehouse were shipped to schools anyhow. Schools immediately complained about discolored and ammonia-smelling food, Savini said, yet they were not told about the ammonia leak.
After state and federal agencies launched investigations into the commodities program, records and photographs showed that some tainted food was destroyed, Savini said. But one document said that 361 cases of food that was considered unsafe were still shipped to 49 Illinois schools.

"The food that was deemed safe to eat was cleaned up, reboxed and shipped to lunchrooms -- again, with no warning," Savini said.

Savini said records showed that the schools were not contacted about the tainted warehouse food until a year after the leak -- and not until after the Joliet outbreak.

"Any system, of course, is not foolproof," Ron Vogel, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the commodities program, told Savini. "There are occasions where products we buy have defects ... We have the same safety guarantees for the food we buy that you might have, in terms of the food you purchase at the grocery store."
Savin said he obtained a federal document that shows an Illinois lawmaker got involved in the ammonia leak case -- not to stop the food from being sent to schools but to get the chicken reboxed and shipped out.
I don't know about you, but I can't imagine Safeway repackaging and reselling ammonia-tainted food and getting away with it.

:: Deb 5:20 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Rush on drug use, before he was outed:
And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.
What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too.

-- Rush Limbaugh show, Oct. 5, 1995

Rush on drug use, after five weeks of rehab for an addiction to pain killers:
Probably the most educational and intense five weeks on myself that I have ever spent. I would have had no idea how to do this myself.... This is not something someone can do alone.

Many liberals are calling for a re-examination of our nation's drug laws in the wake of Rush's revelation - here's Matthew Briggs of the Drug Policy Alliance: "As long as no one else was harmed as a consequence of his drug use, Rush Limbaugh should not face incarceration or otherwise be punished for what he chose to put into his own body. Neither should any other American, regardless of class, age or race."

However, they're not alone; Neal Boorz weighs in on the issue:
Well, now it's your call – it's time to step forward. What do you want for Rush Limbaugh? If the stories are to be believed, he's been illegally purchasing prescription painkillers on the black market. Federal law says you go to jail for this for many years, with no possibility of parole. Are you now willing to stand by that law? If Rush Limbaugh – this man you and I admire so much – has actually done the things the media is so enjoying telling us about, do you want him to go to jail? No parole? Ahhhhh. Things look just a little different to you now, don't they?

:: Deb 12:27 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.18.2003 ::  

Bush Approval at 50%, Tied for Lowest of Presidency
Public likes Bush but ambivalent about his policies

In response to an email I sent out yesterday about the poll showing a majority of Americans believe we "went to war on the basis of incorrect assumptions", Peter sent me the link to this article, about the most recent Gallup poll showing a drop in Bush's ratings:
The poll, conducted Nov. 14-16, finds Bush's approval rating identical to that measured two months ago, Sept. 19-21, 50% approve to 47% disapprove, which was the worst rating recorded during his presidency. Prior to that Bush's term-low rating was a 51% score in a poll conducted immediately before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

:: Deb 12:33 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Massachusetts court strikes down ban on same-sex marriage

BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- The highest court in Massachusetts ruled Tuesday it is unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples, a move that could make the state the first to legalize same-sex marriages.

In a ruling posted on its Web site, the Supreme Judicial Court said the state of Massachusetts may not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry."

The lawsuit Goodridge v. Department of Public Health was brought by several gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in Massachusetts.

Gay marriages are forbidden in the United States, although one state, Vermont, allows same-sex civil unions.

Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws, a move some conservatives said could open the door to gay marriage.

That decision and Canadian steps taken to legalize gay marriages earlier this year have intensified the debate.
From CNN; heard this morning on NPR.

:: Deb 10:06 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.17.2003 ::  

As Forseen
Iraq rejected the Bush ultimatum, saying that a U.S. attack to force Saddam from power would be "a grave mistake. Saddam warned that American forces will find an Iraqi fighter ready to die for his country "behind every rock, tree and wall."
From March's CBSNews.

:: Deb 5:25 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

New Poll Shows Majority of Americans Believe US did Not Have Reason to Go to War
[A] majority of Americans (55%) believe that the Bush administration went to war on the basis of incorrect assumptions. An overwhelming 87% said that, before the war, the administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, while a majority (58%) believes that the administration did not have evidence for this... with 61% saying that the US should have taken more time to find out if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and 59% saying it should have taken more time to build international support.

A majority of Americans believe that the evidence that the US had on Iraq did not meet the proper international standards for going to war without UN approval.
Full report can be read here; thanks again to Bob Harris. This poll goes a long way toward countering the administration's insistence that they did not make a case for "imminent threat".

:: Deb 4:27 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Colin Powell is On Drugs
Powell described his killer schedule in an interview Thursday with Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, a reporter for a London-based Saudi newspaper.

"So do you use sleeping tablets to organize yourself?" Al-Rashed asked.

"Yes. Well, I wouldn't call them that," Powell said. "They're a wonderful medication -- not medication. How would you call it? They're called Ambien, which is very good. You don't use Ambien? Everybody here uses Ambien."
This gem is from the Washington Post, full transcript (thanks Leslie) is here. Spotted on Tom Tomorrow's blog; poster Bob Harris noted:
Ambien's common side effects include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, and changes in thinking and behavior. Less common but reported side effects include confusion, emotional instability, and an exaggerated feeling of well-being.

Ambien addiction is also more likely among people who have been dependent on alcohol and can cause amnesia.

Gee. Sound like anybody we know?

And can you freakin' imagine the firestorm if somebody in the Clinton administration had gushed about a drug like this in the middle of a war?

:: Deb 3:53 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Here's another photo of that beautiful Silver City, NM sunset:

:: Deb 3:32 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day
And so millions of Americans are now seriously eager to hear a drug addict with racist tendencies defending an AWOL convicted of DUI over false statements, broken promises, and unnecessary war -- as a way to make themselves feel morally superior.
- Bob Harris, at www.thismodernworld.com, referring, of course, to Rush Limbaugh and our very own Village Idiot.

:: Deb 3:29 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.14.2003 ::  

My idea for a "Bush in 30 seconds" commercial (a la moveon.org):
As of March 2002 there were 2,690,149 Federal civilian employees with a total payroll of $11,599,033,843. One year before, just months after President Bush was chosen by the Supreme Court to be our President, there were 2,697,602 employees earning a total of $11,369,841,107. That means 7,453 Federal employees lost their jobs in the first year of Bush's Presidency, while the total government payroll went up by $229,192,736.

So we spent two hundred millon dollars more on government, while 1.8 million people lost their jobs. The following year, more than a million additonal people became unemployed.

At the President's Economic Forum in Waco, TX, on August 13, 2002, George W. Bush said "...job creation is the number one priority of economic policy out of Washington, DC." If that is true, Mr. President, why is the unemployment rate still at 6.1%, the highest it's been since 1994?

All this has been paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars.

Bush in 2004? Can we afford four more years?
The above would be voiceover, emphasized by stark white-on-black text - i.e. the total yearly payroll for Federal civilian employees. There would also be "powers of ten"-style graphics illustrating the vast number of people who have lost their jobs on Bush's watch - inspiration from this site; thanks to Leslie for the link. Other source: US Census data, for March 2001 and 2002.

Not only that, but the jobs lost in this most recent recession are unlikely to return

:: Deb 5:22 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Republican-Run States Cancel Presidential Primaries
Some Democrats Push Against Primaries

POSTED: 7:23 a.m. EST November 10, 2003

There's new fuel for the argument that the country's primary election system is in dire need of repair.

Kansas, Colorado and Utah have canceled their state-run presidential primaries next year. All three have Republican-controlled legislatures.

Some Democrats complain that cutting primaries hurts them especially, with their crowded field of candidates. President George W. Bush has no challenger.

But other Democrats are pushing to get rid of primaries. Maine dropped its presidential primary for next year, and New Mexico effectively did -- passing a law allowing parties to hold caucuses.

In most states forgoing a primary, the party-run caucuses will be used to choose delegates to the national conventions.

Some state officials say they can't afford the millions of dollars it takes to put on a primary. But critics of the trend say it freezes out average voters.
Not sure how to feel about this.

:: Deb 4:26 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.13.2003 ::  

Quote of the Day
I really think there's nothing more despicable … for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn't do anything about it.
- Senate Minority (at the time) Leader Trent Lott, who expressed outrage at attacks on President Bush in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Well, I can easily think of something more despicable: the President doing exactly what has been suggested. I think it's more likely that he in fact had no idea, but I wouldn't put that kind of thing past some members of his administration. Sad, isn't it?

For an overview of what was going on in the press around this issue on May 17th, 2002, read this ABCNews article and follow the accompanying links.

Here are some snippets from a piece titled "Bush administration Responsibility for the September 11 Terrorism Attacks":
Also, during May 2002, a Phoenix Arizona
FBI memo from summer 2001 was released that warned of the dangers of Middle Eastern men going to flight school and gaining skills to hijack planes, and the dangers of the al Qaeda network carrying out such hijackings. Moreover, the arrest of Zacarias Moussaouri, the alleged 20th al Qaeda hijacker, in Minnesota in late August 2001, who had been taking flying lessons and acting suspiciously, should have raised warning signals.
Philippine police subsequently warned the U.S. that Ramzi Yousef, who had helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, had schemes to hijack and blow up a dozen U.S. airliners and was contemplating taking over and crashing a plane into the CIA headquarters himself.
Furthermore, there had been a whole series of U.S. government reports on the dangers of terrorism and need for a coordinated response. A 1996 report of a White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security headed by Al Gore developed a report that was never acted on (see http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/212fin~1.html). A 1999 National Intelligence Council report on Terrorism specifically warned that bin Laden's al Qaeda network might undertake suicide hijackings against U.S. targets; the report noted that members of the al Qaeda network had threatened to do this before and that the U.S. should be alert to such attacks (see "1999 Report Warned of Suicide Hijack," Associated Press, May 17, 2001). And reports by former U.S. Senators Gary Hart and Howard Rodman, and by the Bremer National Commission, recommended consolidating U.S. intelligence on terrorism and organizing federal responses to prevent and fight domestic terrorist attacks on the U.S. (On the Hart-Rudman report, see http://www.nssg.gov/News/news.htm; for the Bremer National Commission on Terrorism report, see http://w3.access.gpo.gov/nct/).
Greg Palast had published an FBI memo that confirmed that the FBI was given orders to lay off the bin Laden family during the early months of George W. Bush's rule [See Greg Palast, "FBI and U.S. Spy Agents Say Bush Spiked bin Laden Probes Before September 11." The Guardian (Nov. 7, 2001). Palast's article is collected on his home page that has a lot of other interesting reports on Bush administration activities; see www.gregpalast.com.]
At the Treasury Department, Secretary Paul O'Neill's team wanted to roll back almost all forms of government intervention, including laws against money laundering and tax havens of the kind used by terror groups. At the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld wanted to revamp the military and push his pet project, NMD. Rumsfeld vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism.
You can read the whole thing yourself here.

:: Deb 12:53 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

In spite of the silly title, this is a pretty cool article:
Tama Zoo's animals together generate some 1,060 tons of droppings annually, which cost 30 million yen to dispose of.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which runs the zoo, recently adopted a plan to recycle the dung in the form of biomass energy to cut disposal costs and save on the use of fossil fuels.
Thanks to the Daily Grist for the link.

:: Deb 12:06 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.12.2003 ::  

CIA Report Says U.S. Losing Popular Support in Iraq
The report, warning of possible failure for Bush's efforts to establish Iraq as a democracy if the situation is not fixed, said aggressive U.S. counter-insurgency measures were leaving many Iraqis disillusioned and pushing them to support the insurgency, one U.S. official said.
Story in Yahoo News.

:: Deb 4:45 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day
Of course, it is ironic that a media company that should be seeking to protect the First Amendment is seeking to undermine it by claiming a monopoly on the phrase "fair and balanced."
- Hon. Denny Chin, District Judge, in the case of Fox News Networks, LLC vs. Penguin Group, Inc. and Alan S. Franken.

You can read the full, fairly amusing transcript of the session on AlFrankenWeb. Thanks to Atrios for the link.

:: Deb 3:05 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

I followed a link to a story about Texas schools holding onto violent students because they collect $15/day for each child enrolled (gah), and found this story:
AUSTIN -- More than 54,000 low-income children dropped off the rolls of a popular state health insurance program this year as new, stricter rules passed by the Legislature took effect.

From June 1 to Nov. 1, enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program fell from 512,986 to 458,166, the Center for Public Policy Priorities reported Tuesday.

Even before the 11 percent enrollment decline in CHIP, Texas led the nation in the rate of uninsured, with one in four residents lacking health insurance.

The center said that 49,000 of the children who would have been enrolled in CHIP are not enrolled because of policy changes that took effect in September.

Among the changes are a three-month waiting period for enrollment, the inability to deduct child care and child support payments in calculating income and a requirement to recertify twice a year instead of once.

Other changes are still to come, including a stricter assets test to qualify for the program.

Anne Dunkelberg, health policy analyst at the center, said the figures suggest that estimates of a 169,000 enrollment cut over the next two years is no exaggeration.
The assets test won't begin until January. It will apply to families above 150 percent of the federal poverty line -- $27,600 for a family of three -- and will limit a family's assets to $5,000. Assets will include any money in checking or savings accounts, plus certain values placed on vehicles.

[emphasis added]
Are we sure we want George W. Bush to "do for America what he has done for Texas"?

:: Deb 12:08 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Brand Names ... for Kids?

Is this for real? "Yes, parents are naming their children after cars, clothing, hair dye and even canned peas." Disgusting. Found at Fark.

:: Deb 11:54 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.11.2003 ::  

Rebuilding Iraq - at the expense of Gulf War POWs

The below was lifted wholesale from the transcript of a White House press briefing:
Q Scott, there are 17 former POWs from the first Gulf War who were tortured and filed suit against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And a judge has ordered that they are entitled to substantial financial damages. What is the administration's position on that? Is it the view of this White House that that money would be better spent rebuilding Iraq rather than going to these former POWs?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I view it in those terms, David. I think that the United States -- first of all, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal torture to which these Americans were subjected. They bravely and heroically served our nation and made sacrifices during the Gulf War in 1991, and there is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. That's what our view is.

Q But, so -- but isn't it true that this White House --

Q They think they're is an --

Q Excuse me, Helen -- that this White House is standing in the way of them getting those awards, those financial awards, because it views it that money better spent on rebuilding Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there's simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering --

Q Why won't you spell out what your position is?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm coming to your question. Believe me, I am. Let me finish. Let me start over again, though. No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was determined earlier this year by Congress and the administration that those assets were no longer assets of Iraq, but they were resources required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq. But again, there is simply no amount of compensation that could ever truly compensate these brave men and women.

Q Just one more. Why would you stand in the way of at least letting them get some of that money?

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with the way you characterize it.

Q But if the law that Congress passed entitles them to access frozen assets of the former regime, then why isn't that money, per a judge's order, available to these victims?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I pointed out that that was an issue that was addressed earlier this year. But make no mistake about it, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the torture that these brave individuals went through --

Q -- you don't think they should get money?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- at the hands of Saddam Hussein. There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate those men and women who heroically served --

Q That's not the issue --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- who heroically served our nation.

Q Are you opposed to them getting some of the money?

MR. McCLELLAN: And, again, I just said that that had been addressed earlier this year.

Q No, but it hasn't been addressed. They're entitled to the money under the law. The question is, is this administration blocking their effort to access some of that money, and why?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't view it that way at all. I view it the way that I stated it, that this issue was --

Q But you are opposed to them getting the money.

MR. McCLELLAN: This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there's simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein --

Q So no money.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's my answer.
[emphasis added]
I.e., no answer at all. Via Tom Tomorrow. I found a few stories on the subject: this one is about "the Justice Department's efforts to overturn a federal court decision upholding their claims to compensation"; and here's an article from this August, when the DoJ first stepped in to contest the ruling (also available on CBSNEWS.

:: Deb 5:12 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day

“How can leadership be talking about cutting back on quality-of-life benefits right now when the force and everyone supporting the force is at such a high stress level?”

- Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association. I found the above quote in an article entitled "An act of ‘betrayal’":
Defense officials notified the services in mid-October that they intend to close 19 commissaries and may close 19 more, mostly in remote areas.

At the same time, the Pentagon is finishing a study to determine whether to close or transfer control of the 58 schools it operates on 14 military installations in the continental United States.

The two initiatives are the latest in a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troops who die on active duty.
You can read more about the cuts, their repurcussions, and miltary families' responses in the Army Times. Paul Krugman's column pointed me to this article.

:: Deb 4:10 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

More Good News
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. military officials said three or four mortars hit Tuesday night within the Iraqi capital's "Green Zone," the center of most of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority's activities.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters that the number of daily engagements between troops and guerrillas has doubled from the mid-teens to 30 to 35 within the last two months.
Sanchez said more than 5,000 suspected terrorists of various nationalities are in custody and undergoing interrogation.
U.S. military officials said Tuesday that U.S. soldiers shot to death the chairman of Sadr City's governing council during a heated argument this week. Sadr City is a largely Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital, formerly known as Saddam City.
With U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush marked Veterans Day by telling families of those killed overseas that their sacrifices came in a just cause.
Full article on CNN. According to today's CNN poll, 84% of 115,000 respondents think the US does not do enough for its veterans.

:: Deb 12:28 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

I am feeling very angry today. I have been feeling more angry over the past 3 years, of course, but I have definitely felt more angry lately. Maybe because I've been reading a lot of Mother Jones, and most of what I've read in MoJo lately about the state of our nation makes me angry.

In last month's issue, there was a table listing bad news (mass layoffs, asbestos in home insulation, longterm budget shortfalls, an EPA report linking global warming to human activity), the Bush administration's reaction to the bad news (which was generally to hide it), and the fallout from their efforts. There was an article about the looting of Iraq's priceless and ancient archeological sites, unhindered by American forces; another about the administration's covert attacks on the environment, including appointing industry lobbyists to environmental regulatory positions.

This month's issue has pissed me off even more: "Washington insiders and their corporate clients are lining up to cash in on the world's biggest reconstruction project"; the Pentagon's ongoing refusal to clean up toxic sites, and newly energized attempts to exempt itself completely from such responsibilties; a profile of the former owner of a meatpacking plant that the USDA blamed for E. coli outbreaks that were actually the fault of a huge, self-regulated slaughter factory; "Earlier this year, after Bush slashed taxes to the richest Americans, his Department of Education issued a regulation cutting the amount that college students can deduct from state and local taxes under the financial-aid elegibility formula"; "The Christians do a lot of things the state used to do [for inmates], like vocational programs, but now they're only for believers." I could go on.

:: Deb 10:25 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.10.2003 ::  

More from Gore's speech:
Our government has ample authority under the Constitution to take those steps which are genuinely necessary for our security. At the same time, our system demands that government act only on the basis of measures that have been the subject of open and thoughtful debate in Congress and among the American people, and that invasions of the liberty or equal dignity of any individual are subject to review by courts which are open to those affected and independent of the government which is curtailing their freedom.
That's a quote from Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, during World War II. You can read the rest of Al Gore's speech here. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing. If only he had been this inspired/inspiring when he was running for President!

:: Deb 4:57 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Here's a photo of a beautiful sunset I got to see in Silver City, NM.

:: Deb 2:45 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day:

"It makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama bin Laden."

- Former Vice President Al Gore, on CSPAN Sunday. You can read an article about his speech onCNN, or you can watch it yourself. Thanks to Leslie fot the heads-up.

:: Deb 2:41 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

"These trials would be held in secret and even if found not guilty, the defendant could remain in custody indefinitely. "

This is a line that caught my eye in this article about the Supreme Court finally hearing appeals on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

:: Deb 2:37 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.07.2003 ::  

Time for some levity. I know I need it.

Check out the Wingnut Debate Dictionary. Have a laugh. Enjoy your weekend.

:: Deb 6:04 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Gah! Just saw this in yesterday's Daily Grist:
Administration pulls scientists off near-complete river project

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The long-running dispute over management of the nation's longest river took another twist when the Bush administration yanked government scientists off a project to study the waterway's ecosystem.

The team had been on the job for years and was within weeks of producing what could have been its final report. Conservation groups criticized last week's unreported decision to remove the scientists, which they said was to protect business interests at the expense of the Endangered Species Act.

The move may block changes to the Missouri River's flow, because the scientists had ordered the switch. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has resisted changing river operations but is under a December deadline to come up with a new plan that meets requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

A different team of scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will say whether the corps can avoid major changes - such as a previously ordered switch to a more natural spring rise and low summer flow - and remain in compliance with the act.
My favorite part is the quote from the Interior Dep't spokesman: "The bottom line is, this will go where the science leads. There is no predetermination." Uh huh. So, why then did you remove the scientists that knew the river best?

:: Deb 5:57 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

States Fight Back Against EPA Decision to Drop Power Plant Cases
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 — Democratic senators and attorneys general from the Northeast called on Thursday for an investigation into a policy change by the Environmental Protection Agency that lawyers at the agency say will lead it to drop investigations of 50 power plants for Clean Air Act violations.
More on this story in the New York Times. The lawyers announced yesterday that "the change grew out of a recommendation by Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, which urged the government two years ago to study industry complaints about its enforcement actions. The Bush administration has said its goal is to ensure cost-effective improvements to air quality." You can find the earlier story here. Both links thanks to the Daily Grist.

:: Deb 5:44 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day
"We now live in a climate of political correctness and false patriotism where anyone who goes against our president is immediately labeled as disloyal; unpatriotic; a traitor; a liberal."

Former Marine Corps Intelligence Analyst
The above quote is from a stunning letter the Sgt. wrote to The Item. He was brought up on charges of "Disloyal Statements" under Article 134 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) after a reader sent a previous letter of Mr. Ferriol's to the DoD. Once again, Tom Tomorrow's on top of it.

:: Deb 5:24 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Disgusting, indeed
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A simmering feud over prewar intelligence on Iraq erupted into open battle on the Senate floor Wednesday, triggered by a Democratic staff memo vowing to expose what it said were the Bush administration's "misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives" in making the case for war.

Angry Republicans accused the Democratic side of playing politics.

"It is a disgusting possibility that members of the Senate would actually try to politicize intelligence, especially at a time of war, even apparently reaching conclusions before investigations have been performed," said Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona.
This, from CNN, via Tom Tomorrow.

It gets better.
The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.
This is from today's Washington Post, via Josh Marshall. But remember, it's the Democrats who are playing politics.

:: Deb 11:30 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Philanthropist Leaves $200 Million to NPR
WASHINGTON (AP)--Billionaire philanthropist Joan B. Kroc bequeathed more than $200 million to National Public Radio--a surprisingly large donation more than double the nonprofit network's annual budget.
Wow. Here's the rest of the AP story.

:: Deb 10:04 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.06.2003 ::  

Who's spinning who?

Tom Tomorrow asks this question, and to be honest I'm not really sure. Here's a quote from a New York Times story about back-channel negotiations between Iraq and the US that never got off the ground:
The report also listed five areas of concessions the Iraqis said they would make to avoid a war, including cooperation in fighting terrorism and "full support for any U.S. plan" in the Arab-Israeli peace process. In addition, the report said that "the U.S. will be given first priority as it relates to Iraq oil, mining rights," and that Iraq would cooperate with United States strategic interests in the region. Finally, under the heading "Disarmament," the report said, "Direct U.S. involvement on the ground in disarming Iraq."
Then there's this other story, about a man named F. Michael Maloof who was involved in these back-channel communications, and who recently lost his security clearance at the Pentagon. Hmm. What do you think?

:: Deb 5:13 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Here's another image from Gila National Forest, on the trail up to the cliff dwellings.

:: Deb 10:45 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Saving Private Lynch

Jessica actually declined an offer to consult on NBC's biopic; she decided instead on a book deal. Nor was NBC the only network to salivate over the story rights:
CBS News was accused of appearing to overstep that very faint line between news and entertainment by also dangling a potential TV movie and book deal and an MTV appearance in front of the 20-year-old West Virginian to try to secure an interview, a move network execs later admitted might have been "over the line."
That was from the previous day's story.

Let's see, I've found this story on MSNBC about her rescue... but no, they didn't sign anything to retain the sole rights to broadcast the story.

One last tidbit - Pvt. Lynch eventually received 3 awards for her service: Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals. The Bronze Star is given for meritorious combat service, a Purple Heart is most often awarded to those wounded in combat, and the POW for being held captive during wartime. She also received an 80 per cent disability benefit after receiving an honorable dischage. In contrast, Specialist Shoshana Johnson learnt in mid-October that she will receive a 30 per cent disability benefit from the army for her injuries. She was shot through both legs and held prisoner for 22 days in Iraq - 11 more than Jessica. She "walks with a limp and has difficulty standing for long." She will also receive a discharge, and about $700 a month less than Pvt. Lynch. The other difference between the two women? Pvt. Lynch is white; Specialist Johnson is black. More at the Sydney Morning Herald.

:: Deb 10:12 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

More on Minnesota
For years, Minnesota law said that indigents could be charged $28 for legal representation but that judges could waive the fee -- and they routinely did. A recent law revamped the fees, so that they ranged from $50 to $200 depending upon the crime that was charged, and made them mandatory. Proponents, who include some public defenders, said it was needed because the state faced a $4.2 billion deficit that could force layoffs of teachers and cut programs for young people and the elderly.

Opponents said the law threatens poor people's access to a fair trial in a complex legal system that sometimes challenges even seasoned attorneys.

"The danger is that people will not avail themselves of the right to counsel to avoid the charge," said Norman Lefstein, dean emeritus at the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis. "It really is an effort to squeeze every last cent [from the poor] without regard to the consequences. It's inconsistent with the fundamental right to counsel."

The Gideon case, argued in 1963, involved a Florida man charged with felony breaking-and-entering who lacked money to hire a lawyer. He requested one and was denied because the state at the time provided counsel to the poor only in capital cases.

Gideon defended himself and was convicted. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the court found that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of counsel was a fundamental right and essential to a fair trial. Justice Hugo L. Black said in the ruling that "lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries."

That rationale, in part, was the basis for a ruling last month by District Judge Richard Hopper in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, that the Minnesota law is unconstitutional. The fees are still being collected across the rest of the state pending appeal.

[emphasis added]
Read the rest at the National Constitution Center.

:: Deb 10:06 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

A thought I had last night:

NBC got a two-picture deal from the Jessica Lynch story - the rescue, and the TV movie.

I'll need to check on that, obviously - which networks initially broadcast that sensational footage? How many of them now have a miniseries or movie based (loosely) on the story? NBC certainly does - I saw ads for "Saving Jessica Lynch" at every commercial break during the (much-diminished, post-Sorkin) West Wing.

On a completely different note - I heard on NPR this morning that Minnesota has passed a law that requires defendants to pay $50 for a public defender. I believe that is unconstitutional, but I'll have to check.

More on both issues as the day goes on...

:: Deb 9:41 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.05.2003 ::  

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a federal ban on certain late-term abortions from applying to four doctors in a ruling issued less than an hour after President Bush signed the ban into law.
Kopf replied that he could find no record that any doctor who performs abortions in the second and third trimester testified before Congress on late-term abortions. "Isn't that important if Congress was really interested in knowing about this procedure?" he asked.
Story on (ack) Fox News. Link thanks to FARK.

Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean urged the President not to sign the bill: "This law will chill the practice of medicine and endanger the health of countless women," the former Vermont governor said in a statement. Found in this Salon.com story.

:: Deb 4:31 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

More from Reuters:

U.S. Alerting More Troops for Iraq Duty
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed that the troops would be part of a 2004 Iraq rotation plan and that the 132,000 U.S. troops now there could actually decrease to just over 100,000 in May.

Senator Says Downed Chopper Lacked Protective Gear
So we were essentially flying around for five months with no anti-missile equipment. And for the life of me, I cannot understand what goes through the head of commanders that would load 30 soldiers into an aircraft with no protection against such a credible threat.
That's a quote from an email a US pilot sent to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. Durbin spoke out on ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday, saying helicopter crews have been forced to scavenge anti-missile equipment from other helicopters, and that he has asked our beloved Defense Secretary to look into the matter. More here.

:: Deb 12:08 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Bishops Publish Timely Study on Sexuality: "The new document calls on the Church to work to combat homophobia and homophobic violence and acknowledges that homosexuals have encountered hostility from the Church in the past." More in Reuters.

:: Deb 12:01 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

The Daily Show comes through once more.

Apparently, the Senate passed Bush's $87 billion aid package by a voice vote, not even bothering to take a formal roll call:
Leadership aides said it was passed by voice vote because the outcome was a foregone conclusion. That allowed members of both parties to avoid taking a recorded stand on a bill about which many were ambivalent. While support for the military funding was broad and bipartisan, the reconstruction funding was far more controversial and unpopular.
I'm not really sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, what pussies! On the other, well, I know that our representatives often back away from voting in a way that they think will be unpopular, precisely because their vote is public. I'm all for an open political process, but I can think of several Senate votes over the past few years (i.e. the resolution that allowed the President to unilaterally declare war on Iraq) that might have gone the other way had Senators not been so concerned about "appearing unpatriotic." Read more about how our money will be spent in the LA Times and CBSNews.

There was a second story on the Daily Show which I have been unable to find anywhere else. Jon Stewart showed a bunch of footage from a CBS affiliate (you can clearly see the logo in the lower right corner and on the mike in the reporter's hand) showing a reporter harassing people about the state of their American flags. Literally. He walked into a business and harangued some guy about being unpatriotic while said guy was in the middle of a transaction. I've done some Googling but I can't find it anywhere. Anyone else catch this story, and happen to get the reporter's name?

:: Deb 10:10 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.04.2003 ::  

"There's a downside, of course, which is that soldiers, because they survive, have to live with worse injuries than any soldiers in history. " Mother Jones weighs in on US soldiers wounded in Iraq.

:: Deb 3:36 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

The Daily Show beats out other cable "news" programs
Central to the show's sensibilities, and to its success, is Stewart's insistence that the news generated by Team Bush be treated on its own terms, not as news at all but as fatuous PR, ludicrously out of touch with reality.
Its core audience (73 percent) is the coveted 18-to-49 demographic. And here's some cheering news: More people (4 million) tune in to The Daily Show in a given week than watched Fox news at the height of the war (3.3 million).
Read the rest in The Nation; link thanks to Atrios. Check out the ratings for the other cable news shows here.

:: Deb 3:07 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Oh to be free of Linda Tripp and her lies.
This was the ostensible infringement of Tripp’s privacy. The government did not disclose her arrest record. The government attempted to suggest she had no arrest record. It was her step-mother who blew the whistle on her, not the government. And it was old-fashioned, factual reporting that disclosed that Tripp lied to get a top security clearance.
From Altercation, link courtesy of Atrios.

It seems the Linda Tripp story has been removed from CNN. That is, you can follow Altercation's link to the story (at least for now), but if you search on CNN's website for "government Tripp leaked," 3 words that appeared in that article, the most recent story is about Linda Tripp being treated for breast cancer, from March of 2002. As Atrios says, "CNN has done the honorable thing and disappeared its error-filled Linda Tripp story from its website, without any correction or acknowledgment that I can find." I don't think it qualifies as exactly honorable to retract a story without acknowledging your mistake... but retracting it is certainly a first step.

:: Deb 2:54 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Quote of the Day

"On May 1, the president declared `Mission Accomplished' on Iraq. Yet we still have no plan to bring peace to Iraq and protect our soldiers. President Bush seems ready to declare `Mission Accomplished' on our economy. I say: `Not yet Mr. President — we've lost too many jobs.' "

- Retired general Wesley K. Clark, in a written statement Monday. Read more about the candidates' shifting strategies, in the New York Times.

:: Deb 1:45 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Biodegradable trays that look like plastic but are made of water-soluble cornstarch polymer will be used for Cadbury's Milk Tray chocolates sold in Australia, the company said. Story here; links thanks to the Daily Grist.

:: Deb 1:42 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

How the Bush administration may lose the hunting & fishing constituencies over natural gas drilling in the West:

"To me, it doesn't make sense," said Carl Rappold, 51, a rancher on the Front who has always voted Republican but said he will not vote again for Bush. "We got all these species clustered in a little bit of space. It is almost like a last stand. And now we are going to develop it for a handful of gas?"

More at the Washington Post.

:: Deb 1:02 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Human HIV vaccine trial begins in South Africa.
The treatment, which is also being tested in the United States, is one of about two dozen potential vaccines being tested by some 12,000 human volunteers in experiments around the world. It is the only one that contains genetic material from the HIV strain most prevalent in South Africa, researchers said Monday.
Story on CNN.com

:: Deb 12:32 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Please vote today!

:: Deb 9:26 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

:: 11.03.2003 ::  

Yay, eyedot now has comment capability!

:: Deb 6:58 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Keep an eye on this one:
The case offers the Supreme Court an opportunity for the first time to spell out whether such secret judicial proceedings violate constitutional protections. It may also offer the first insight into how much deference a majority of justices is willing to grant the government in areas where the war on terrorism may tread upon fundamental American freedoms.
Story in the Christian Science Monitor; link (once again) thanks to ICH.com

:: Deb 6:26 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

"Last year alone, another 1.7 million Americans slipped below the poverty line, bringing the total to 34.6 million, one in eight of the population. Over 13 million of them are children. In fact, the US has the worst child poverty rate and the worst life expectancy of all the world's industrialised countries, and the plight of its poor is worsening." And we're supposed to believe that fanatical Muslims attacked us because they were jealous of our prosperity? Well, I guess Bush solved that problem. From the first in a 3-part Guardian series on the state of the US. Link thanks to InformationClearingHouse.com.

:: Deb 6:03 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Ah the FBI.
On Jan. 11, a Saturday, Butler noticed that 30 vials of plague cultures had gone missing, he said. He asked his lab staff and colleagues if they had moved or destroyed the specimens, but no one offered a clue.

He notified university officials first thing Monday morning.

On Jan. 14, FBI agents and local police officers fanned out across the campus and questioned dozens of possible witnesses.

Butler was questioned during most of the next 24 hours. He waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily took polygraph exams. Those tests, the FBI said, showed he had lied about the samples having disappeared.

Near the end of the interrogation, the FBI promised to release him if he confessed to the lie, Butler told "60 Minutes." Hours later, he was arrested.

"I was tricked and deceived by the government," Butler told "60 Minutes." "(The FBI) wanted to conclude the investigation and, they told me, reassure the public that there was no danger."
From InformationClearingHouse.com

:: Deb 5:39 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

An interesting idea
By shifting to a mileage-based auto-insurance system, people who drive less would save money on premiums and everyone would have an incentive to leave the car home more often. Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in British Columbia estimates that so-called pay-as-you-drive (PAYD) insurance plans would reduce driving by about 10 percent. Such plans are being pilot tested or offered in a handful of U.S. states and Britain. Oregon recently passed a bill that gives insurance companies incentives to offer PAYD policies; leaders and activists in the state expect that such policies would lead to drops in congestion, auto accidents, and pollution.
From the Daily Grist.

:: Deb 4:07 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Read this now.
Chief among these agencies was the so-called Office of Special Plans, set up after Sept. 11, 2001, reporting to Douglas Feith in the Pentagon. It was given such a vague name, by Feith's own admission, because the administration did not want to have it widely known that there was a special unit in the Pentagon doing its own assessments of intelligence on Iraq. ''We didn't think it was wise to create a brand-new office and label it an office of Iraq policy,'' Feith told the BBC in July.
Timothy Carney, a former American ambassador to Sudan and Haiti who served in the reconstruction team in Iraq just after the war, says that there was, in the Pentagon, ''a complete lack of grasp of Chalabi's lack of appeal for ordinary Iraqis.'' In the end, Chalabi sat out the war in the Iraqi desert and was taken to Baghdad only after the city had fallen and the Americans had moved in.
The Future of Iraq Project did draw up detailed reports, which were eventually released to Congress last month and made available to reporters for The New York Times. The 13 volumes, according to The Times, warned that ''the period immediately after regime change might offer . . . criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting.''

But the Defense Department, which came to oversee postwar planning, would pay little heed to the work of the Future of Iraq Project. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired Army officer who was later given the job of leading the reconstruction of Iraq, says he was instructed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to ignore the Future of Iraq Project.
"The Pentagon didn't want to touch anything connected to the Department of State."
Our foreign policy is being decided by 2-year-olds. From Blueprint for a Mess, by David Rieff of the New York Times. Link thanks to Tom Tomorrow.

:: Deb 3:27 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Estimates of the number of US soldiers wounded in Iraq range from 827 to more than 8,000, depending on who you ask. Why is it such a big mystery?
The consensus seems to be that the wounded are too depressing a topic -- and also that they might threaten Bush's popularity.
President Bush landed on the U.S.S. Lincoln on May 1 and declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. Since that overhyped media event, the president has repeatedly visited with troops that have returned intact, and he has issued statements honoring the dead.

But the president has not shown up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to shake hands with the recovering Robert Garrisons or Kenneth Dixons. Journalists should pay these visits for him, to tell us the stories of these men and women, whose problems will stretch into the coming years. And they should ask the president why he is so reluctant to see these troops he sent so confidently into battle.
[emphasis added]
Via Bill Berkowitz at TomPaine.com

Update: more on the topic here in the Toronto Star.

:: Deb 3:04 PM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

More news items:

The Supreme Court has rejected appeals from suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had argued that the Ten Commandments monument recently removed from his courthouse properly acknowledges "God as the source of the community morality so essential to a self-governing society."

Afghanistan has unveiled its much-delayed draft constitution, outlining a strongly Islamic basis for the nation's future government and paving the way for elections in 2004.

Saving Seeds Subjects Farmers to Suits Over Patent:
Monsanto's soybean seeds account for at least two-thirds of the American soybean harvest. The seeds are called Roundup Ready because they are resistant to a popular herbicide called Roundup, which is also a Monsanto product.

Mr. McFarling and Mr. Scruggs have been forbidden by court orders to use Monsanto's products. They said that conventional seed was perfectly good, but that effective herbicides had become hard to find.

The Senate on Thursday night voted 89-1 in favor of adding $289 million to President Bush's global AIDS initiative — over the objections of the White House, which did not ask for the money. The money would increase federal spending on global AIDS next year to $2.4 billion.

:: Deb 10:43 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

I was reading through my email this morning and found a link to a book excerpt that had been forwarded to me by vote.com. The book is Red, White & Liberal:
How Left is Right & Right is Wrong
, by Alan Colmes, cohost of Fox New Channel's Hannity & Colmes. Now, I am not overly impressed by what I've read so far, except for the following paragraph:
I unabashedly love my country and my family. As for God, my view of Her is none of your business, but I love Him, too. Don’t you dare tell me that you are more patriotic than I, a better parent than I, a truer husband, a more loyal son, brother, friend, or any other category you wish to invoke with your smug anti-American comments. Yes, you are being anti-American if you think you are superior because of political party affiliation, because of religious affiliation, or because you think your views trump mine in any way. This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are one nation, and it is you who want to divide us by attacking anyone who doesn’t share your narrow view of America. I have no obligation to worship your God, any more than you have to share my religious views. I am not obliged to blindly agree with a man just because he happens to be the president of the United States and the commander in chief of our armed forces. It is my right to speak as forcefully and as passionately about what I believe as you do. I am especially blessed to have a forum in both the print and broadcast media to do it, and I don’t for a second take that for granted. Wars have been fought and Americans have died so I can write this and you can read it, unworried by a knock at the door that would delete these words from my computer as I write them or rip this page from your hands as you read them. The brave men and women who made sacrifices didn’t do so to promote a political party or agenda. Some of them actually had Democrat registration cards in their wallets. And I don’t need to have served in the military to voice any opinion about war, peace, the government, or any other issue. You are not better than I because you are a conservative; you are not smarter than I because you speak louder; you are not specially placed in God’s firmament because you’re more pious. If you truly want to live up to the ideals our forefathers had in mind, if you sincerely care to embody the spirit of Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed, stop hating and start loving. Love even when you don’t really feel it, even when you think you’re faking it. Soon, you won’t be faking it anymore, and you’ll be a better parent, a better friend, a better American, a better person.
This passage was addressed to " some on the right (and the left) who have no tolerance for the other side." Hear, hear!

:: Deb 10:03 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

Happy Monday!

Here's another image from my recent roadtrip with my mom:

The is one of the cliff dwellings in Gila National Forest, in New Mexico. 700 years ago, a small group of Mogollon (pronounded "muggy-OWN") lived in these caves, leaving them for reasons unknown after a single generation. Here's some more info about the dliff dwellers, if yer interested.

:: Deb 9:57 AM :: permalink :: [0] comments :: links to this post ::

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