Friday, April 25, 2003

GOP: HUMAN DECENCY WILL HURT DEMS -- The avowed policy of the entire Democratic field of presidential candidates--that of treating homosexuals like human beings and deserving of equality before the law--will hurt them in a general election, says Republican political operatives.

Drawing particular fire from Republicans is former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who signed a civil unions law allowing homosexuals to obtain marriages in the state of Vermont. Governor Dean's signature on that law has made him a favorite of many liberals and homosexuals, but Republicans, particularly southerners, are chortling over the public perception of such a policy.

Richard White, a Republican state senator from Mississippi, said any candidate talking about gay rights might as well not even visit his state.

"The people down here, they are not going to put up with that kind of stuff," White said. "We're not prepared for all that in Mississippi or anywhere else in the southern states."

Hey, don't worry, Mr White. Any Democrat I'd support shouldn't be winning a state like Mississippi. States like Mississippi will have to change a lot before any decent liberal would support a candidate that can appeal to most southerners. I want the Democrats to win the White House and I want them to do it without the support of places like Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. That's not the kind of company a good liberal should be keeping.
BUSH BACKS SANTORUM -- In a move surprising to no one who is aware of Mr Bush's record, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told the media today that Mr Bush has complete confidence in Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, who made virulently anti-gay and anti-privacy remarks to the Associated Press earlier this week.

The White House said GOP Sen. Rick Santorum is doing a good job as party leader and is "an inclusive man," despite his controversial remarks on homosexuality.

"The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" and in his No. 3 Senate GOP leadership post, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday.

I wonder how Mr Andrew Sullivan and the other "but this Republican is sooo inclusive" brigade will react to this? They've seen the conservative. Don't bet on seeing the compassionate.

Thanks to Daily Kos for the heads-up.
TURKS MOVING INTO KURDISTAN -- Terrified that Iraqi Kurds in control of the rich oil fields around the northern city of Kirkuk will incite Kurdish separatism in Turkey, the Turks have sent special forces units into Iraq. About a dozen heavily-armed Turkish commandos, under cover of a legitimate humanitarian aid convoy, were captured by U.S. forces in control of northern Iraq.

The Turkish Special Forces team put up no resistance though a mean arsenal was discovered in their cars, including a variety of AK-47s, M4s, grenades, body armor and night vision goggles. "They did not come here with a pure heart," says U.S. brigade commander Col. Bill Mayville. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk."

The presence of the Turkish soldiers highlights the increasing possibilities of instability in the region, which has a sizable Turkoman population that has clashed with the Kurdish majority since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. In the first days after Kirkuk fell to allied forces on April 10th, Turkoman families and political parties were attacked by bands of Kurdish looters. In a dramatic display on April 11, an enraged group of Turkoman men dumped the body of a small boy, perhaps seven or eight years old, in front of the Daralsalum Hotel where international journalists had taken rooms. He'd been shot through the waist at close range by a PK light machine gun. The 7.62mm round travelled up through his torso and exited through his skull, leaving a hollowed shell where his little head was supposed to be.

American commanders in the city believe the covert Turkish team was meant to inflame these kind of tensions. "These [Turkish] forces are tied in to Turkoman groups in the city," says Col Mayville. The 173rd Airborne commanders suspect an amalgam of local Turkoman parties under the banner of the Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITF) were to be used by the covert team to wreak havoc. "In this first convoy was real aid. They'd do this two or three times then money or weapons would have started flowing in. We suspect their role was to strongarm or discipline the members of the ITF. What they're doing is crystallizing the ITF along the Turkish agenda," says Col. Mayville.

If you think the Bush regime has no real plan to deal with these tensions, you'd be correct.
WELL, DUH -- The head of the British Broadcasting Corporation thinks American media coverage of the Iraq War was biased and too loyal to the Bush regime. Hey, no kidding, Einstein.
ANDREW SULLIVAN IS FLIPPING OUT -- Right wing homosexual Catholic Andrew Sullivan has never been one to defend the principles of liberalism--unless he thinks they benefit him personally, of course. Not surprisingly, the right to privacy in his own home matters quite a lot to Mr Sullivan, so naturally he's all up in arms about the virulently anti-gay and anti-sex and anti-privacy comments of Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). Mr Sullivan seems genuinely suprised that "many establishment Republicans believe that the criminalization of private gay sex is a legitimate position, even when they personally disagree with it. That's how close they are to the fundamentalist right. That's how little they care about individual liberties. I guess, as so many gloating liberals have emailed me to point out, I have been incredibly naive. I expected a basic level of respect for gay people from civilized conservatives."

Well, yes, Mr Sullivan, you have been incredibly naive. And it isn't as if you were never warned. You write for a newspaper, The Washington Times, which is edited and financed by scandalously homophobic people--yet you never condemn them for their prejudice. You have been blindly loyal to a political party, the GOP, which is largely controlled by people that think you, Mr Sullivan, must repent your "lifestyle choice" or burn in Hell for eternity. And now you're surprised by Senator Santorum's words and the predictably muted response of the rest of the Republican establishment--save a few moderate Senators (Chaffee, Snowe) who are so out of the mainstream of the GOP that they cannot be called a part of its establishment? You're surprised? You're shocked?

As Atrios notes, as Governor of Texas, George W Bush supported and signed a bill that prohibited homosexuals from becoming foster parents or adopting children. If you didn't know this, Mr Sullivan, you're so shockingly uninformed that you've no business commenting on public affairs. If you did know this, Mr Sullivan, you're even more shockingly uninformed--but in a far worse way.
ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST QUITE MAD -- Although I'm not an animal rights activist, I do give money to various groups that support animal welfare, such as the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (See links to both sites below and to the right.) However, I think groups like PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sometimes damage their own cause with silly radicalism. Hey, I enjoy nude fashion models telling me they'd rather go naked than wear fur, but this latest story is just nasty.

The leader of a prominent U.S.-based animal rights group said she had drawn up a will directing that her flesh be barbecued and her skin used to make leather products in protest at man's ill-treatment of animals.

Ingrid Newkirk, 53, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said on Thursday she had chosen to donate her body to her organization for use in a variety of startling protests.

Newkirk also suggested her feet be removed and made into umbrella stands similar to those made from elephant feet that she had seen as a child.

"I want to find ways to have my work live on when I'm gone and this has been my first idea. I will make a stir when I am long in the ground," Newkirk told Reuters.

So far, the only thing stirring is my stomach.
BUSH WAR ON ECONOMY A SMASHING SUCCESS -- Proving that the defeat of Iraqi forces was no accident, the Bush regime's war on the economy has continued to strangle growth and employment with an iron fist.

The U.S. economy hobbled along at a weaker-than-expected pace in the first quarter as the war in Iraq and severe winter weather took a toll on spending and investment, a government report showed on Friday.

U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy's health, grew by an anemic 1.6 percent in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said. That was a bit faster than the 1.4 percent growth rate recorded in the fourth quarter of last year, but it fell well short of the revival in growth some economists had been hoping to see in this report.

Bond prices jumped after the report while the dollar pared its gains and stock futures prices slipped.

"It was a lackluster, disappointing number, below expectations," said Alan Ackerman, strategist at Fahnestock and Co. in New York. "The economy of late has given us mixed signals, and this number will take some steam out of recent optimism (in the stock market)."

U.S. economists in a Reuters survey had expected a 2.3 percent rise in GDP.

Not satisfied with his crushing defeat of economic growth, the Bush regime has turned its guns on the U.S. dollar, which slipped against world currencies as news of the administration's defeat of economic growth was reported.

With the U.S. economy on the run, analysts are now wondering which economy will be Mr Bush's next target. An already weakened Japan? Europe? A prostrate South America? Syria? Iran? The world awaits...

Thursday, April 24, 2003

SENATOR CHAFFEE ON CNN -- Below is the text of an interview Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) gave to CNN earlier today about the Bush regime's tax cut policy.

Bill Hemmer, CNN anchor: Senator, what is your rub to go with $350 billion as opposed to $500 billion or more?

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Rhode Island: We had big tax cut in the spring of 2001, and at that time, during that whole debate, nobody was talking about deficits. Everybody was saying, "Can't afford that big tax cut in the spring of 2001," and then of course, we got into deficits, so a number of us are very concerned about these deficits and are opposing any further tax cuts. We've been somewhat successful getting it at least down to $350 billion from $720 billion, but there is still some concern. I even voted against the $350 billion tax cut in the end.

Hemmer: You did vote against that in the end?

Chafee: I did.

Hemmer: So you will not support it if it comes back, is that what you are saying?

Chafee: Correct. I'm very concerned about the deficits, and we did such a good job in the '90s -- and at the same time, the economy was really doing well -- at controlling our spending with a balanced budget act and welfare reform, and at the same time, generating revenue we need to run the government; now back into deficits.

Hemmer: The White House suggests that if you have a bigger tax cut, you can have a greater opportunity to create more jobs in this country. Why do you disagree with that position?

Chafee: Well, fundamentally, in the beginning of the '90s, when President Clinton came in, despite all the criticism he got, he did raise revenues, he did address the revenue side of our budget and the economy took off.

And then when this administration came in, they had big tax cuts in the spring 2000 and the economy has been faltering, I don't buy the argument that these tax cuts are going to stimulate the economy.

Hemmer: What about arguments about the impact on your own party, knowing the White House has been so strong, with a popular president coming out of the war in Iraq right now. What is the impact on people like you and your party going forward?

Chafee: Well, I know, of course, as we look ahead to the elections of 2004, there is going to be a lot of discussion about the economy, and at least the administration is doing something by proposing these tax cuts.

I say the tax cut -- cutting taxes is easy for politicians, we love to cut taxes. It takes responsibility to make sure our revenues match our expenditures and we're not doing that right now. We have enormous expenditures with the war and with homeland security, and at the same time, we're cutting into our revenues. And to me, it just doesn't make sense.

Hemmer: Senator, we're told that part of the reason the president is going to Ohio is because another senator, another of your colleagues, George Voinovich, a popular former governor in that state, is essentially lining up with you, at this point, anyway, and proposing a smaller tax cut than the White House is offering.

What kind of pressure, what kind of impact can the White House put on your own colleagues, knowing that in the state of Ohio, George Voinovich is very popular, and so, too, is the president.

Chafee: I have a feeling this is going to backfire on the president. George Voinovich has been around a long time. He was mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio, in his second term, I believe, as a senator. And he's a revered politician in that state, and very responsible. He knows [about] making budgets, meeting budgets, as a mayor and as governor, and none of us like to raise taxes. We don't like taxes, but at the same time, we have to make sure we're doing the responsible thing and not getting into these tremendous deficits.

Hemmer: Senator, one final point. You said it's going to backfire on the White House. What's the chance of this backfiring on George Voinovich, [Sen.]Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], yourself, from the White House pressure?

Chafee: I think most Americans have the same questions that Senator Voinovich and Senator Snowe and [Sen.] John McCain [R-Arizona] and myself have about this: How can you be proposing more tax cuts? The big tax cuts, the $1.5 trillion in the spring of 2001, didn't stimulate the economy.

Now you're coming back for more? At the same time, we had these enormous expenditures in Afghanistan, with homeland security, with the war in Iraq. Just doesn't make sense.

Hemmer: Interesting to note when the first tax cut was proposed, a lot of people across Washington and the country had a lot of criticism toward the White House, but eventually it was passed. Many people have said, " Do not underestimate the message from the White House" in the end about possibly getting put through on Capitol Hill.
TARIQ AZIZ CAPTURED -- He was the foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Now, he's captured.
DAMNED IF WE DO... -- Less than two weeks after the fighting ended, the United States is coming face to face with a huge dilemma surrounding its efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Simply put it is this: the longer U.S. occupation forces stay in Iraq, the greater the risk of fueling anti-American Islamic fundamentalism in the country.

But the sooner they depart, the more of a mess they will leave behind, which could have the same result, as well as creating a power vacuum that anti-American forces could fill.

"The longer we stay, the more Iraqi nationalism will get organized and become a unifying force, which will be expressed in increasingly strident opposition to the American presence," said Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

"But if we leave prematurely, the risk exists that a Shi'ite-led clerical government will emerge that is allied to Iran and professes an anti-American theocracy," she said.
DOW DROPS 76 -- Concerned that stocks are overpriced after this week’s big rally, investors collected profits Thursday, sending Wall Street moderately lower. A surge in unemployment claims and disappointing earnings reports also fed worries that the economy wasn’t keeping pace with the market’s gains.
"MOD" GOP CRITICIZE SANTORUM -- "Moderate" Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (ME) and Lincoln Chaffee (RI) criticized Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) comments about homosexuals.

Discrimination and bigotry have no place in our society, and I believe Senator (Rick) Santorum's unfortunate remarks undermine Republican principles of inclusion and opportunity," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, according to a statement from her office.

"I thought his choice of comparisons was unfortunate and the premise that the right of privacy does not exist -- just plain wrong," Chafee said. "Senator Santorum's views are not held by this Republican and many others in our party."

Senators Chaffee and Snowe are the usual suspects, often referred to by Dittoheads as "Republicans in Name Only"--which is another way of saying they appear to have both brains and a conscience. It will be interesting to see if any Republicans, apart from the Log Cabin variety, come out against Senator Santorum's bigotry. My guess is that few will do so. The GOP is the party of bigots--pure and simple.
NK TO BUSH: YOU'VE GOT 'EM, WE'VE GOT 'EM -- The North Koreans have told the Bush regime that they have nuclear weapons. The Bush regime is playing down the announcement, saying they've known this all along.

Gen. Li Gun, North Korea's representative to the talks in Beijing, China, told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly "blatantly and boldly" that the country has nuclear weapons and then asked, "Now what are you going to do about it?"

Li said Pyongyang would consider dismantling its nuclear weapons program if the United States provides written assurances that it would not attack North Korea, according to a source. However, Li said it was not possible to dismantle a nuclear bomb, the source said
IRAQIS: U.S. FAILED TO PROTECT MUSEUM -- Dr Donny George, director-general of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and one of the last to leave the museum as fighting erupted, said U.S. forces had ignored appeals for help and failed to provide adequate protection.

"The American forces should have protected the museum because it contained the property and heritage of mankind," he said, standing under the frescoed dome in the entrance hall of the ransacked building.

"The question asked of American forces by everyone in Iraq is why did they protect the oil ministry and not this place?"

ANSWER: They were too busy protecting the Oil Ministry, Doc. We didn't come for your statues, we came for your petroleum. Get it straight.
STOCK MARKET UPDATE -- The Dow is down more than 1 percent.
GOP RADICALS TARGET GRASSLEY OVER TAXES -- House Republicans, infuriated by the role of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in cutting a deal with GOP centrists to reduce the size of President Bush’s proposed tax cut, are apparently looking for ways to punish him.

But most of the ideas floated so far, including preventing Grassley from chairing the conference committee that will decide the fate of the tax cut, or even from serving on the committee, appear to be either unworkable or ineffective, leaving House leaders, and even some Senate Republicans, frustrated with Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

This sort of GOP in-fighting is most welcome, especially as it pits the radical right wing of the party against the merely very right wing of the party. The Republican-dominated Congress saw plenty of Republican in-fighting during the mid-to-late 1990s, but Democratic President Bill Clinton was around then to play both Houses off against each other. This time, the GOP controls both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, but is at odds with itself over just how radical a party it should be: dangerously radical or insanely radical. This is the sort of thing that happens when you permit fanatics to take over a major political party.

Meanwhile, The American Prospect has a piece about what happens when a party in power refuses to compromise and those who differ from the party line are regarded with a passionate hatred more suited to the Spanish Inquisition than 21st century America.
PSYCHO -- The Boston Globe as a fascinating account of Uday Hussein, the wild and diabolical elder son of Saddam Hussein.

He preferred to keep his stolen billions in the form of jewelry and diamonds, not a bank account. He loathed the sunlight, working at night and sleeping during the day. He punished his employees regularly, shaving off the eyebrows of those who displeased him.

Uday Hussein, eldest son of Saddam Hussein, loved nothing better than to be thought of as an eccentric, brutal despot, according to a former top aide. Even his email address, shahrayar2000@yahoo.com, spoke to Uday's persona: Shahrayar was the bloodthirsty king in ''The Arabian Nights.''

Read it all.
DEEP THROAT UNMASKED? -- Students at the University of Illinois claim to know the identity of Deep Throat, the White House leaker who guided The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through the Nixon administration's Watergate cover-up. Who was it? Read and find out what the students think.
WINNIE MANDELA GUILTY OF FRAUD -- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, president of the ruling African National Congress' Women's League, was found guilty on 43 charges of fraud and 25 of theft in the Pretoria Regional Court on Thursday. She faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

This isn't the first time Mrs Mandela has been found on the wrong side of the law. In 1991 Ms Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of kidnapping and assault in the murder case of 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, who was killed on suspicion of being an informer for the apartheid regime. She was sentenced to six years in prison, but the sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal.
GOP FUNDRAISER IS CHILD PORNOGRAPHER -- A prominent Republican fund-raiser who once said former President Bill Clinton was "a lawbreaker and a terrible example to our nation's young people" pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to production of child pornography.

Richard Anthony Delgaudio, who was sentenced to two years' probation before judgment, admitted to taking lewd photographs of a 16-year-old girl he met in East Baltimore's Patterson Park in 2001. In some of the photos, he was engaged in sex with her, court records show.

Delgaudio, 50, of Burke, Va., is a frequent talk-radio guest and national figure in conservative politics. He is president of the Legal Affairs Council, a group that helped pay the legal bills of former Reagan administration officials Oliver L. North and Caspar W. Weinberger after they were charged in connection with the Iran-contra affair.

Well, well, well. Another Clinton critic has been shown to be a sick pervert, as well as an utter hypocrite. What a shock.
STUDENTS BATTLE ARROGANT PRIGS -- Prodded by a motley assortion of right-wing Republican bluenoses, the administration at the conservative Virginia James Madison University banned school distribution of the "morning after pill" and thought they would get away with it. The students had another idea and fought back to preserve their access to the valuable contraception pill. It's an inspiring story of youth and modernity battling arrogance and primitivism. Read it.
SANTORUM OPPOSES CHURCH/STATE SEPARATION -- Cold Fury brought to my attention a piece from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State revealing that Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) has denounced President John F Kennedy for his vow to take his orders from the American people and not the Roman Catholic Church.

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has blasted President John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 endorsement of church-state separation, saying that Kennedy’s vow not to take orders from the Roman Catholic hierarchy has caused "much harm in America."

Interviewed in Rome while attending an event sponsored by Opus Dei, a far-right Catholic group, Santorum told the National Catholic Reporter, "All of us have heard people say, ‘I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning. But who am I to decide that it’s not right for someone else?’ But it is the corruption of freedom of conscience."

According to Santorum, Kennedy was not the nation’s first Catholic president. That distinction, he said, belongs to George W. Bush, a Methodist.

"From economic issues focusing on the poor and social justice, to issues of human life, George Bush is there," Santorum said. "He has every right to say, ‘I’m where you are if you’re a believing Catholic.’"

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

FAIR NAILS "RELIABLE SOURCES" -- CNN's "Reliable Sources," the show by and about the media hosted by Rush Limbaugh's pal Howard Kurtz (also of The Washington Post), is tilted strongly to the right wing and favors white guests almost to the exclusion of everyone else. That's according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
SAIGON ON THE TIGRIS -- Our quick military victory in Iraq has led people to believe the "Vietnam Syndrome" is no longer a relevant part of the post-Saddam discussion. Wrong, says Slate.

Underestimating nationalism, importing unwanted political "leaders" from outside the country, chronic religious and ethnic tensions, and the imposition of a phony liberty all turned our democratic imperialist experiment in South Vietnam into a nightmare. The same toxic brew is bubbling in Iraq right now. The question is: Can we avoid it this time? To do so, we'll need some clever and far-sighted political leadership.

Oh, well.
MAKES YOU PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN -- A 7-year-old boy tried to rob a video store with a fake gun.
DOSHA THE DOG CHEATS DEATH AGAIN AND AGAIN -- Dosha was hit by a car near her owner's Clearwater, California, home on April 15. Next, a police officer shot her in the head to put her out of her misery. Then, presumed dead, she was put in a freezer at an animal control center.

Two hours later, when a veterinarian opened the door to the freezer, she was shocked to find Dosha, a 10-month-old of mixed-breeding, standing upright in a plastic orange bag -- the equivalent of a human body bag.
GOP MEMO PREDICTS BUSH POPULARITY FALL -- A GOP memo being sent to Republicans across the country predicts that President Bush's high approval ratings will soon "drop to more realistic levels" and that some polls may show him behind Democratic rivals, but cautions that such a development should not be cause for alarm.
...
The memo says the Democratic base can be expected to solidify in the months ahead, and that Bush's approval ratings -- currently in the high 60 percent to low 70 percent range, according to various polls -- are unlikely to stay so high.
DEATHS ON U.S. ROADS HIGHEST IN A DECADE -- Alcohol abuse and a refusal to use seat belts have contributed to the alarming rise in traffic deaths in the United States, but, to the surprise of no one paying attention, the popularity of sports utility vehicles (those SUVs that are almost never actually used for sports) is also a leading cause.

Deaths from U.S. road accidents rose to the highest level in more than a decade last year as alcohol abuse and widespread failure to use seat belts contributed to some 42,850 fatalities, federal safety regulators said on Wednesday.

Nearly a quarter of the deaths, or 10,626, occurred in rollover crashes involving highly popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a report.

It said the deadly rollovers, involving vehicles that account for most of the profits made by Detroit's automakers, were up 4.9 percent over 2001.
ATRIOS HAS GOT THE GOODS ON ARI -- In his daily press conference today, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dodged a question about Senator Santorum's anti-gay remarks--made in the context of the Texas sodomy case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court--by saying Mr Bush "typically" does not comment on matters before the Supreme Court.

Well, what was all that about the Michigan affirmative action case before the Supreme Court? Mr Bush sure had a lot to say then, didn't he?
THESE THREE KINGS BE STEALING THE GOLD -- It seems Halliburton and Bechtel are not the only ones determined to make a killing out of the new Iraq. Reporters and soldiers are getting in on the game, too. A number of U.S. servicemen and embedded reporters have been implicated in plots to steal Iraqi goods and smuggle them out of the country.

Benjamin James Johnson, who worked as an engineer for Fox News Channel, is the only person charged or identified by the government.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., charges Johnson tried to bring 12 paintings into the United States last Thursday. They were contained in a large cardboard box that was examined by Customs agents at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint says that Johnson, who accompanied U.S. troops in Baghdad, gathered up the paintings at a palace that belonged to Odai Hussein, one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons. The paintings depict Saddam and Odai.

An examination of Johnson's luggage also turned up 40 Iraqi Monetary Bonds and a visitor's badge from the U.S. embassy in Kuwait. Johnson, 27, of Alexandria, Va., has not been arrested but is to appear before a federal magistrate next Tuesday.

Johnson initially told Customs officials he was given the paintings by Iraqi citizens, then said he had planned to keep them "for decoration" and to provide one to his employer, the affidavit said. It is U.S. policy that all such items belong to the Iraqi people.

Johnson worked for six years as a satellite truck engineer for Fox, which fired him after learning he had acknowledged taking the paintings, a network statement said.

"This is an unfortunate incident and his supervisor took the appropriate action for this transgression," the statement said.

First The Boston Herald, now the FOX News. What is it with reporters for the right-wing media? Are they all thieves or just some of them?
TREASON THEN, REASON NOW? -- Kudos to WyethWire for noticing how criticism of State Department diplomacy was considered treason by the right wing a month ago, but now is considered not only acceptable, but necessary. Consider:

"I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."
-- Tom Daschle, 3/18/2003

"The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undo the effects of military victory."
-- Newt Gingrich, 4/22/2003

The cynicism and hypocrisy of these people is truly boundless.
IRAN AGENTS WORKING IN IRAQ -- According to U.S. officials, Iranian-trained agents have crossed into southern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein and are working in the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra to promote friendly Shiite clerics and advance Iranian interests.

"They are not looking to promote a democratic agenda," one military official said.

This is going to exacerbate our relations with Iraqis. The Iranians have enormous influence with Iraqi Shiites--far more than the United States does. The Iranians also do not want the United States to maintain a military presence in Iraq--from where an attack on Iran itself could easily be launched. The first two priorities for the Iranians are going to be ensuring the development of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad and the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The Bush administration is diametrically opposed to both of those things.

This bears watching.
FROM ROLL CALL
SHIITE POWER SURPRISES BUSH REGIME -- Anonymous members of the Bush administration admit they underestimated the power of Iraqi shiites in post-Saddam Iraq.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

"It is a complex equation, and the U.S. government is ill-equipped to figure out how this is going to shake out," a State Department official said. "I don't think anyone took a step backward and asked, 'What are we looking for?' The focus was on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein."


Although this was perfectly obvious to many war opponents and reluctant hawks, the power of Shi'ism and the roughly 60% of Iraqis who call themselves Shiites, comes as a complete surprise to many in the Bush regime.

U.S. intelligence reports reaching top officials throughout the government this week said the Shiites appear to be much more organized than was thought. On Monday, one meeting of generals and admirals at the Pentagon evolved into a spontaneous teach-in on Iraq's Shiites and the U.S. strategy for containing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.

The administration hopes the U.S.-led war in Iraq will lead to a crescent of democracies in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied territories and Saudi Arabia. But it could just as easily spark a renewed fervor for Islamic rule in the crescent, officials said.

"This is a 25-year project," one three-star general officer said. "Everyone agreed it was a huge risk, and the outcome was not at all clear."


It's not as if the Bush regime can claim it had no warnings about this possibility/probability.

Some U.S. intelligence analysts and Iraq experts said they warned the Bush administration before the war about vanquishing Hussein's government without having anything to replace it. But officials said the concerns were either not heard or fell too low on the priority list of postwar planning.

Chalabi's influence, particularly with senior policymakers at the Pentagon, helped play down the prospects for trouble, some officials said. "They really did believe he is a Shiite leader," although he had been out of the country for 45 years, a U.S. official said. "They thought, 'We're set, we've got a Shiite -- check the box here.' "

"We're flying blind on this. It's a classic case of politics and intelligence," said Walter P. "Pat" Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency specialist in Middle Eastern affairs. "In this case, the policy community have absolutely whipped the intel community, or denigrated it so much."


How can the Bush regime and the Pentagon possibly be taken by surprise? It's almost unimaginable--until one remembers that this is the same administration that claims more bad tax policy will fix the bad tax policy they pursued earlier in the regime. It seems like every anti-war blogger and commentator, as well as a significant portion of the hawkish liberal community, was concerned about this happening and that the Bush regime would have no answer prepared for it. Those fears were well-founded, it seems. The notion that Mr Chalabi, a man who hasn't been in Iraq in 45 years (since he was 13 years old) and has spent much of his time defrauding bank customers and lunching with right wing prince of darkness Richard Perle, could step in and speak for Shiites who have been brutally repressed by the Sunni majority for decades was laughable to anyone paying any sort of attention at all.

The future of Iraq belongs to the Shiites. The Bush regime better figure that out and come up with a plan to ensure that these Shiites don't loathe the United States. Unfortunately, that will almost certainly mean settling for an Iraq that is independent and sovereign--not a U.S. client state. Accepting such a scenario is contrary to every instincts the neoconservatives have--not to mention their goals for a grand re-design of the Middle East.

This bears watching closely.
THE BIGOT SANTORUM CONTINUES TO EMBARRASS HIMSELF -- Below is a transcript from a town hall meeting in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, earlier today.

Q Good morning. My name is Tom Donahue (sp). I am a 23- year-old student who resides here in Williamsport.

Senator, I found your remarks to the Associated Press being very hurtful to me, my family and friends. According to the 2000 Census, we have 21,166 same-sex partner households that were reported in the state of Pennsylvania. Senator, how can you effectively represent the people of Pennsylvania when you have made statements that affect the -- that attack the lesbian and gay Pennsylvanians? You attacked me for who I am, a constituent of yours, a proud, gay Pennsylvanian. How can you compare my sexuality and what I do in the privacy of my home to bigamy or incest? I live my life for me, not for you or for anyone else.

As President Bush said recently, we must continue to advance toward full equality for every citizen, which demands a guarantee for civil rights for all. I can have the same rights as a heterosexual rights. I should be able to marry, to join our armed forces or to adopt, but most importantly, to be proud of the person I am wherever I go or with whatever I do.

Let me be very clear, and I ask you how you can represent everyone in this state when you don't represent some 21,166 same-sex households, but most importantly, you don't represent me, and that's supposed to be your job. Senator, the Human Rights Campaign has requested your removal from the GOP Senate leadership, and these people -- some of these people who sit in this room who are Pennsylvania citizens, who apparently you don't represent, no longer want that. Most importantly, Senator, I no longer want you to represent me. I ask, as a constituent, for your removal of the GOP Senate leadership and as my senator.

SEN. SANTORUM: (Inaudible.) Oh, sorry.

Q You have embarrassed the Republican Party, which claims to embrace diversity under a big tent. I'm standing outside that tent. Senator Santorum, open the door and let me in. Once again I ask, how can you represent the people of Pennsylvania when you have made statements that attack the lesbian and gay Pennsylvanians? (Applause.)

SEN. SANTORUM: (Inaudible.) I appreciate your comment, I appreciate your making that statement. And I would just say a couple of things.

First off, with respect to the statement I made, the statement I made that was widely quoted basically is exactly what Justice White, in the Hardwick case in 1986, stated as the reason for the Supreme Court finding the sodomy laws that were in question before the court in 1986 to be constitutional. Justice White said virtually the same thing that I said, that if you allow any kind of exception -- excuse me -- if you do not prohibit -- excuse me -- if you tell the states that they cannot regulate in this area, because anything that is consensual within the home is not -- you can't regulate that, then you leave open the door for a variety of other sexual activities to occur within the home and not be regulated. That's what Justice White said.

All I did -- and by the way, that is the law of the land; that is the Supreme Court in 1986 in a majority opinion said that. I simply repeated that. And by the way, it was also -- I repeated that that was argued by the state of Texas. They argued the same thing that I just said. The Supreme Court -- the two justices questioned on that same issue. And so, to suggest that my comments, which are the law of the land and were the reason the Supreme Court decided the case in 1986, is somehow intolerant, I just would argue that it is not. It is simply a reflection of the law.

And to my ability to represent people in Pennsylvania, obviously, I can't represent everybody's viewpoint. I mean, there are a variety of different viewpoints, there are a variety of different viewpoints in the room. My job is to respect everybody's viewpoint, and I do. I respect your point of view, and I listen to it. I meet with, as I'm sure you know, a variety of different groups who represent your -- those opinions, and work with them on a variety of issues. But the fact is, there are times where I'm going to disagree, and there are times where I'm going to agree. And my job is to try to work together and do in the end what I believe is best for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for the United States of America.

And that's the wonderful thing about this pluralistic system that we have. We let people come up and speak, be heard in public forums, which I try to do, and let their voices be heard. I try to gather as much information as I can and I make the decision what I think is in the best interest of the country.

And I respect your opinion. I disagree with you on your interpretation of my remarks. I think they are reflective of, clearly, the Supreme Court precedent, and nothing more. And I'm -- it's unfortunate they were taken out of context and portrayed in a way that really didn't reflect the discussion, but that's the way the media sometimes acts.

COMMENT: Obviously, this is a flat-out lie. First of all, in the landmark and atrocious 1986 Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick, it was held that there is no constitutional protection for homosexual sex and that therefore, state laws (such as the one in Georgia) forbidding sodomy were not unconstitutional. This is not what Senator Santorum said in the now-famous Associated Press interview. Senator Santorum said that consensual sex should be regulated by the government because if it was not, all sorts of perversions, such as pedophilia and bestiality, would be legal. Although Senator Santorum specifically addressed homosexual sex--essentially equating it to a host of vile perversions--his comments actually suggested that all consensual sex could/should be regulated by the government. The Supreme Court, in Bowers v. Hardwick did not argue that homosexual sex or sodomy should be illegal, merely that they do not possess a constitutional protection. Senator Santorum argued that such private acts should be prohibited and regulated. That is something very different.
OUTSOURCING STILL BILKING TAXPAYERS -- Bush administration officials say that forcing federal employees to compete with the private sector for their jobs always saves money. But a decision to outsource 650 positions at the Defense Department could cost taxpayers $30 million, the department's inspector general found.

Department officials two years ago awarded Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services a contract worth as much as $346 million over 10 years to process monthly payments for military retirees and spouses of deceased retirees. They did so even though federal workers could have kept doing the job for $29.9 million less than the contractor, according to an audit released last month by DOD Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz.

A consultant hired by DOD overestimated the personnel costs of the government workers' bid, making the contractor's proposal appear to be cheaper by $1.9 million. ...

President Bush wants more agencies to follow the Defense Department's lead and allow the private sector to compete for work that does not have to be done by federal employees. Bush believes that allowing private contractors to bid for such work spurs efficiency and lowers costs whether or not the jobs stay in-house. Critics say the president merely wants to reward business allies and campaign supporters. ...

John Threlkeld, a legislative analyst for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, said the entire process puts workers at a disadvantage, even when agency officials act in good faith.

"We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the consultant or [Defense Finance and Accounting Service] or certainly the [inspector general], and all of them screwed up," Threlkeld said. "It makes us very concerned about how these A-76 competitions are being conducted in other agencies. . . . We're concerned that they are making similar mistakes and no one is out there to catch them."
ONE BIGOT DEFENDS ANOTHER -- Fellow Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter on Rick Santorum:

"I accept Senator Santorum's statement that his comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles," Specter said. "I have known Rick Santorum for the better part of two decades and I can say with certainty he is not a bigot."

Actually, Senator Specter, it is pretty clear Senator Santorum is a bigot and if you can't see that, it's probably because you're a bigot, too.
DOES JOURNALISM PAY SO POORLY? -- US Customs officials confiscated a large painting that a Boston Herald reporter, Jules Crittenden, brought back as a souvenir from the war in Iraq, but the artwork is not valuable enough to merit prosecution, a law enforcement official said yesterday. ...

''He didn't think it was a big deal,'' the official said of Crittenden. ''He said all the embedded reporters were doing it.''

Okay, so the Customs Department doesn't want to prosecute this guy. How about The Boston Herald firing him? Surely a conservative newspaper like The Herald doesn't want to encourage such values.
AM NEWS ROUNDUP -- Officials in the Bush regime are meeting to discuss ways to punish France for its shameless display of independence before and during the Iraq War.

U.S. Marines mistakenly killed three supporters of the U.S.-backed Ahmed Chalabi. The Marines were guarding a bank and Mr Chalabi's men were loitering nearby. Apparently, Mr Chalabi's group, the Iraq National Congress (which has virtually no constituency outside the White House and the Pentagon) is pretty cheesed off about the deaths. I can't imagine why.

Apparently, liberals are to blame for all those perverted Catholic priests who molest children and others in their spiritual care. This is according to Pennsylvania Republican Senator/Halfwit Rick Santorum.

Finally, a strategy paper prepared by the US Department of Defense foresees setting up American military bases in India, particularly airbases. I wonder if the Indians have been consulted about this. Probably not. None of their business anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

IDIOT REVEALS HE DID A 'DUMB' THING -- A drunken moron who attacked an umpire in Chicago during a recent Chicago White Sox-Kansas City Royals game says it was a "dumb" thing to do. Hey, what tipped you off, Einstein? The fact that you're facing up to five years of prison time or the fact that the players on the field whomped your ass good?
GREENSPAN FOREVER? -- Mr Bush intends to re-nominate Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for another term as head of that body. Mr Greenspan has served as Fed Chairman since 1987 and his current term expires in June 2004.

It was thought by many (including me) that Mr Greenspan would not get another term from Mr Bush because of comments Mr Greenspan made to Congress in January 2003, strongly questioning the need for the steep tax cuts the Bush regime is now trying to pass. I'm wondering if Mr Greenspan will be getting another term in return for support for Mr Bush's tax cuts, or perhaps the economy is viewed in the White House as being so precarious that the widely-respected Mr Greenspan cannot be thrown over the side just yet. I'm also wondering when the cult of Greenspan will come to an end. Mr Greenspan endorsed Mr Bush's disastrous 2001 tax cut and did almost nothing to defuse the stock market bubble of the late 1990s, apart from one remark about "irrational exuberance" he made to Congress in 1996. The fact is, Mr Greenspan's tenure over the last five years is nothing to boast about.
DEMS: SANTORUM SHOULD LOSE LEADERSHIP POST -- Senate Democrats called on the Republican party to fire Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) from his leadership post over his outrageously bigoted comments about homosexuals. Senator Santorum is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the No. 3 job in the party leadership.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry issued a statement criticizing Santorum's comments and assailing the White House for remaining silent "while their chief lieutenants make divisive and hurtful comments that have no place in our politics."

"Every day in our country, gay and lesbian Americans get up, go to work, pay their taxes, support their families and contribute to the nation they love. These comments take us backwards in America," said the Masschusetts senator.
LABOUR MP A SADDAM AGENT? -- The conservative London Daily Telegraph reports that Labour backbencher George Galloway, a leading critic of Anglo-American policy towards Iraq for a decade, accepted a cut of Iraq's oil-for-money program that would have netted him a tidy sum.

Among documents found in the foreign ministry was a memorandum from the chief of the Mukhabarat to Saddam's office on Jan 3, 2000, marked "Confidential and Personal".

It purported to outline talks between Mr Galloway and an Iraqi spy. During the meeting on Boxing Day 1999, Mr Galloway detailed his campaign plans for the year ahead.

The spy chief wrote that Mr Galloway told the Mukhabarat agent: "He [Galloway] needs continuous financial support from Iraq. He obtained through Mr Tariq Aziz [deputy prime minister] three million barrels of oil every six months, according to the oil for food programme. His share would be only between 10 and 15 cents per barrel."

Iraq's oil sales, administered by the United Nations, were intended to pay for only essential humanitarian supplies. If the memo was accurate, Mr Galloway's share would have amounted to about £375,000 per year.
MEN AT WORK -- Pop Matters has an interesting review of a new release covering the first two Men at Work albums, "Business as Usual" and "Cargo." Men at Work was one of my favorite bands of the early '80s and since those are the only MaW albums that matter, I think I'll be picking this one up.
WE NEED A FAVOR, YOU EVIL BASTARDS! -- The Bush regime wants Russia, Germany, and France to forgive the Iraqi debts they own. Maybe Paul Wolfowitz should have thought of this while he was demonizing "Old Europe" for the last six months.
GET RID OF RICK SANTORUM! -- The odious right-wing Pennsylvanian has been made a member of the Republican party's leadership team in the United States Senate. Here is what he has to say about homosexuals:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

Not surprisingly, Human Rights Watch and other groups espousing equality for homosexuals are demanding Senator Santorum's removal from his GOP leadership post, much the same way Senator Trent Lott (R-MISS) was removed as Majority Leader over his racist comments late last year.

As a Republican member of Congress, Senator Santorum naturally knows a lot about adultery. And if he doesn't, he could always ask Congressman Henry Hyde (R-ILL), or former Speaker of the House-designate Bob Livingston (R-LA), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), or any of probably several hundred of his Republican colleagues.
FOR SHAME: BUSH'S KIDDIE PRISON -- The United States is holding "more than one child under 16" at the detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
WHERE ARE ALL THE CHEMICALS? -- With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction concealed in Iraq, according to planners and participants in the hunt.

After testing some -- though by no means all -- of their best leads, analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list drawn up before fighting began. Their strategy is shifting from the rapid "exploitation" of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads.

Well, well. Isn't this interesting.
BUSH AND THE MOONIES: WORKING FOR EACH OTHER -- Meet our new Deputy of U. S. Trade.
WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' INSPECTORS! -- To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Bush administration opposes the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq. I wonder why.
NEED A BETTER JOB? -- Tell them how awful you are.
IRAQIS DENOUNCE U.S. "COLONIALISM" -- Iraq's Shi'ite majority, casting off 25 years of repression by Saddam Hussein, celebrated a major pilgrimage in a frenzy of religious fervour on Tuesday, but many demanded U.S. troops get out of their country. ...

In Baghdad, a Shi'ite anti-American demonstration turned into a celebration when followers of cleric Muhammad al-Fartusi hailed what they said was his release from U.S. detention.

Fartusi's cheering supporters paraded through the centre of the city. There was no immediate explanation for his detention on Monday, which U.S. officials have yet to confirm.

"We are against colonisation and occupation, we have finished with one oppressive regime and we don't want another," said one Fartusi follower, Ahmed Abdel-Zahra, 27. ...

"Yes, yes to Islam, no to America, no to Israel, no to colonialism and no to occupation," some pilgrims chanted, in another indication of stormy weather ahead for the postwar administration headed by retired U.S. general Jay Garner.
WAR RALLY FAILS ON WALL STREET -- Stocks fell on Tuesday as companies like Sprint Corp. cut their targets for the year, feeding investor worries over earnings growth at the height of the reporting season.

This week marks the busiest period of the first-quarter earnings season, but on Monday stocks ended almost flat. Many companies have topped expectations with the help of cost cutting, but they are hesitant to offer clear forecasts for the quarters ahead in the uncertain economy.

"The fact that the market has been unable to extend a rally will be a mitigating factor and will have analysts questioning whether there are any legs left for this market to run to the upside any time soon," said John Person, head financial analyst with Infinity Brokerage Services.
A DEFICIT OF RESPONSIBILITY -- BussinessWeek takes irresponsible Bush tax cut plan another well-aimed shot at the ---that builds upon his irresponsible 2001 tax cut.

A tax cut of between $350 billion and $550 billion would only add to what has been the biggest bout of tax-cutting in modern U.S. history. At the same time, lawmakers are preparing to approve costly new Administration spending requests, including a $400 billion Medicare drug benefit and a 35% increase for the Pentagon through 2013.

More deficit spending may give a sluggish economy a near-term jolt. But by cutting taxes and boosting spending on top of already hefty deficits, Bush and Congress are playing a dangerous game. Unlike the '60s, lawmakers can now hear the ever-louder ticking of a demographic time bomb, as those millions of boomers age.

And by spending and tax-cutting madly now, Congress and the Bush Administration are almost guaranteeing the need for draconian remedies down the road, in the form of huge tax increases or sharp cuts in government services. "At some point we're going to have to face up to the problem," says American Enterprise Institute economist Kevin Hassett.
ISRAEL'S IRAQI OIL PIPELINE -- Plans to build a pipeline to siphon oil from newly conquered Iraq to Israel are being discussed between Washington, Tel Aviv and potential future government figures in Baghdad.

The plan envisages the reconstruction of an old pipeline, inactive since the end of the British mandate in Palestine in 1948, when the flow from Iraq's northern oilfields to Palestine was re-directed to Syria.

Now, its resurrection would transform economic power in the region, bringing revenue to the new US-dominated Iraq, cutting out Syria and solving Israel's energy crisis at a stroke.

The problem with this sort of thing is obvious. It's an idea that has clearly been resurrected by the neocon chickenhawks in Washington and their allies in Israel. Any such deal between Israel and an American-installed Iraqi government will doom that government from the beginning. It will be seen, quite correctly, as a deal brokered not by the Iraqi people and for their benefit, but by the U.S. government, Israel, and a tiny elite of U.S.-dominated former Iraqi exiles who sat out the last 20 years of repression. Virtually the entire Iraqi nation, not to speak of the rest of the Arab world, will reject this deal and the prospects for any real rapprochement between the United States, Israel, and the Arab world will be demolished.

It's a terrible idea, but the greedy chickenhawks in DC are not constrained by decency or concerns for the true political desires of the Arab masses. This bears watching.
ETHNIC TENSIONS SIMMER IN NORTHERN IRAQ -- Some Arab families living in mainly Kurdish districts of Kirkuk said on Monday that armed Kurds had ordered them to leave their homes as ethnic tensions simmered in the northern Iraqi city.

Dozens of Arab men and women crowded outside the main administrative building in the centre of the oil-rich city of 700,000 to complain about mistreatment including looting and threats by Kurds.

Mithad Abdul Rahman Mohammad Amin, a 37-year-old taxi driver, said three Kurdish militiamen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles had given him three days to hand over his home or face the consequences.

"They said that they would kill us if we did not leave," he said at the house, where he lives with his extended family. "I built this home with my own bare hands, so how can I just abandon it?" ...

"The problem is that we don't know who is in charge of the city," said Amin. "Who do I turn to if I have a complaint?"
NEW POLL FINDINGS -- The gap between Mr Bush's personal approval ratings and the public's perception of the direction the country is heading is narrowing.
GOP FIGHTING OVER TAXES -- Some people in the Republican party have no sense or conscience about taxes. Others have a little sense or conscience about taxes. Right now, those people are fighting about the size of Mr Bush's preposterous tax cut proposal.
BACK FROM EASTER BREAK -- Took a few days off from blogging while I went to New York and back to DC again for the holiday. Hope everyone else enjoyed their Easter.