Saturday, May 03, 2003

THE SAVAGE CYNICS IN THE WHITE HOUSE -- In case you thought U.S. military and foreign policy was being made with the best interests of the country in mind, "here is a little something to enlighten you.
Anna Perez, White House communications counselor, Friday sharply contested a United Press International report that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and political adviser Karl Rove shut down a Pentagon plan to expand the Iraqi ground war to Syria in closing days of combat.
...
UPI's report, published Friday afternoon, quoted unidentified administration officials as saying that a combination of Pentagon hawks and senior Israeli officials had been pressing the United States to expand the ground war to Syria. The officials spoke to UPI on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. strikes on Syria would have taken the form of brief across-the-border forays under "hot pursuit" rules of engagement, these sources said. They said contingency plans for such raids were being drawn up by Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, after the approval of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
...
According to a Haaretz report of April 13, [Israeli National Security Adviser Efrian] Halevy and another senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weisglass, were visiting Washington to "suggest that the United States take care of Iran and Syria because of their support for terror and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction."
...
In response to Halevy's entreaties for action, these sources said, Rice repeated an assertion that the White House did not want any further military campaigns for the rest of Bush's first term, according to the sources. They said Rumsfeld objected, and, at one point, turned to Rove and asked his opinion. Rove said the president agreed with Rice, and the meeting came to an end, the sources said.
...
Another source with close knowledge of the matter told UPI: "The hawks didn't understand the emphasis had all changed: Everything was focused, not on the war any more, but on the president's re-election."

This official added that Rove had handled the elections of 2002 on the basis that "the American public knew the economy was a disaster, but the president asked them to put the war on terror first, and to vote Republican. And the public voted Republican. We think he felt any movement into Syria was pushing his luck."

I think most intelligent people believed political considerations govern every decision the Bush regime makes. Now you know for sure.

Friday, May 02, 2003

BILL BENNETT: GAMBLER ANONYMOUS -- You might have known that Bible-thumper moralist and well-paid professional scold Bill Bennett gambles--but did you know how much? I didn't think so.
HOORAY FOR CANADA! -- Canada is moving closer to legalizing gay marriages. Well done, you delightful hosers! The American Right Wing, I suspect, will be singing their own version of "Blame Canada." How long before the Canucks make it on to the Axis of Evil?
SHAME OF GEORGIA -- A whites-only prom? What century are these people living in? Their own, apparently.
CARTOON OF THE DAY

By Ruben Bolling.
TAX CUT MAN IS HERE! -- And dedicated to the job of finishing off America. All he needs is another four years.
GOP TURNS ON "MODS" -- "Bitter about the success" of Republican moderates "in whittling down" the original $726 billion tax cut, party conservatives "are planning to exact a political price for what they consider to be economic heresy," the New York Times reports. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., "is already facing an aggressive primary challenge" from Rep. Pat Toomey, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "may also face a primary challenger" in Rep. Jeff Flake (R). (coverage compiled by The Hotline, April 24)

REPUBLICAN DEFICIT HYPOCRITES -- "As Republican Members of the House of Representatives … we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives. That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print."—The "Contract With America," 1995

"By the year 2002, we can have a federal government with a balanced budget or we can continue down the present path towards total fiscal catastrophe."—Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, 1995

Ah, that was then. With world record budget deficits now staring us in the face, this is now.
AUSSIE BROTHEL GOES PUBLIC -- The Daily Planet, an Australian brothel company in Melbourne is on the stock market. Shares were offered at 31 cents and climbed to 59 cents later in the day. The company plans expansion to Sydney, where prostitution has been decriminalized.
U.S. RAID IN TIKRIT KILLS ONE -- While the fighting is allegedly over in Iraq, the U.S. raided Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown yesterday. One died there and two people were arrested in Najaf after bullets and grenades were aimed at U.S. soldiers there.
FACTS ARE UGLY THINGS -- Dullard Nation might have been seduced by Mr Bush's star spangled extravaganza last night, but the economic data trudges on remorselessly and Wall Street has no mercy for losers.

Stocks were headed for a flat open on Friday after the U.S. economy shed jobs for the third straight month in April and the unemployment rate hit a 4-month high, highlighting the tentative recovery.

"This is not a confidence builder that shows the economy is on a growth track," said John Person, head financial analyst at Infinity Brokerage Services.

The Labor Department said before the opening bell that the jobless rate climbed to 6 percent in April from March's rate of 5.8 percent. Private economists had expected a rise in the rate to 5.9 percent.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

OUR FRIEND IRAN -- Just how repulsively right-wing the Bush regime is becomes clearer and clearer every day, but nowhere is this more true than in the subject of social policy. In fact, the Bush regime is so conservative that, as Newsday notes:

at the United Nations, Iran is one of our new best friends, at least when it comes to women's rights.

The United States sided repeatedly with Iran and other repressive regimes at the annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women last month. The commission's agenda was to address women and technology, and violence against women.

The first topic wasn't controversial. The second was.

The American delegation joined with Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya and others in efforts to delete a phrase - included in previously agreed-upon UN statements dating back a decade - that calls on countries to condemn violence against women and "refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration" to avoid the obligation to stop the violence.

It joined objections to a passage about women in armed conflict, aligning itself with fundamentalist regimes in trying to change a reference to "forced pregnancy" - listed along with murder, rape, systematic rape and sexual slavery as by-products of war and societies emerging from conflict. The term "forced pregnancy" is seen by some anti-abortion groups as a pretext for promoting abortion.

"I don't think we're aligning ourselves with countries who have bad records on human rights," said Ellen Sauerbrey, a former Republican candidate for Maryland governor and President George W. Bush's chief representative to the commission.
...
In fact, the controversy over halting violence against women disrupted the proceedings and no final statement was issued - for the first time ever. It so happens that the changes pushed by the ayatollahs dovetailed with attempts by American social and religious conservatives who were appointed by the White House as representatives to the UN commission.


I wonder if American women know about this? I wonder if they would care.
GOP RALLIES AROUND SENIOR BIGOT -- Senator/Homophobe Rick Santorum (R-PA) held on to his #3 post in the Senate leadership and survived his brush with political death for his viciously anti-gay and anti-privacy remarks. The reason: A political party that agreed with his views stood by him.

"I think Senator Santorum took a very courageous and moral position based upon principles and his world view," said Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader from Texas.

Mr. DeLay said he was proud of Mr. Santorum for "standing on principle."

And if that doesn't make you sick, this will:

Officials said Mr. Santorum thanked his fellow Republican senators for their support in a closed strategy luncheon and received a round of applause.

What a miserable gang of cretins these Republicans are.
ASHCROFT LOOKING OUT FOR YOUR FREEDOMS -- Attorney General John Ashcroft, as required by law, has reported on electronic surveillance and physical searches carried out under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). All government requests for surveillance and search go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which either approves the request or does not. In 2002, 1228 requests for surveillance or search were made to the Court and all 1228 were approved (two after modification).

Let me ask you: What the hell kind of court approves every single damn request for surveillance or search made by the government? Answer: the kind of court John Ashcroft likes.

Jeebus, what a disgrace.
CARTOON OF THE DAY, PART 2
The Roadmap to Peace, Dubya Style


By Steven Bell
BUSH TURNS UNCLE SAM INTO UNCLE BULLY -- Peter Beinart of The New Republic breaks it down and explains why it matters--in Iraq and everywhere else.
ARE BRITISH MUSLIMS DRAWN TO TERROR? -- British authorities and the public are stunned by the revelations that two Islamic suicide bombers in Israel carried British passports.

As on previous occasions when British Muslims were found to have been fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan or planning terrorism in Britain, the two British suicide bombers appear to have grown up in innocuous, middle-class or blue-collar environments far from the conflicts they came to espouse as their own. That seemed to differentiate them from the more usual image of suicide bombers molded by the hardships of Gaza or the West Bank.
GRADING THE NFL DRAFT -- I love the NFL Draft for some reason and every year I hand out grades to every team for how well they did. My grades mean no more than anyone else's, of course, and it is far too early to really know how well or poorly teams did, but I enjoy doing it and it does pass the time, so here it is:

NFC Draft Grades and
AFC Draft Grades
BUSH CONTINUES ASSAULT ON U.S. ECONOMY -- With Mr Bush's popularity currently somewhere between 65-75% in most polls, why should the Democrats feel any confidence at all about throwing him out of the White House next year? Well, U.S. elections are determined by the state of the economy and even if Mr Bush's optimistic economic predictions come true this year and next (and none of his predictions have come true so far), his administration will be the first since President Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss in jobs.

The seasonally adjusted figures for the past decade should jar the tax-cut supporters who insist marginal tax rate reductions create jobs. Orthodox economic theory holds that raising taxes kills jobs and cutting taxes creates them. But in the 16 months after the passage of the 1993 Clinton budget plan, which raised marginal income tax rates on the highest earners, payrolls rose from 110.96 million to 115.92 million. In other words, the biggest tax increase in American history "created" nearly 5 million jobs in less than a year and a half. In the 22 months since President Bush signed his tax cuts in June 2001, the number of payroll jobs has fallen from 132.11 million to 130.41 million in March 2003. In other words, the biggest tax cut in American history has so far "cost" us 1.7 million jobs and counting. (Bush supporters, with more passion than evidence, insist that job losses would have been worse had the tax cuts not been passed.)

The good news for Bush is that with a base of 130 million jobs, adding 1.4 million in an 18-month period isn't out of the ordinary. In fact, 1.4 million jobs would still be below average: Over the past 84 years, the economy typically adds nearly 2 million jobs every 18 months.

The bad news for Bush is that even if the economy does add 2 million jobs by October 2004, he will still have presided over the only job-losing presidency since Hoover. And as Karl Rove surely knows, that name is never good company for a president seeking re-election. Since 1900, the only incumbent Republican presidents to lose second-term bids have been named Hoover and Bush.
ENRON EXECS FACE MORE CHARGES -- Former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow faces 109 charges relating to the 2001 collapse of the Houston-based energy trading firm. As if that isn't enough, Mr Fastow's wife Lena faces six charges of her own. That's 115 criminal charges between. The couple that swindles together, stays together. So far, at least.
FIGHTING IN IRAQ FINISHED...EXCEPT THIS STUFF -- Seven American soldiers were wounded early today when Iraqis using grenades and small arms attacked a walled compound in the city of Falluja. The attack followed two incidents in the city this week in which United States forces shot and killed a total of 17 Iraqis.

Funny way for them to show their gratitude.
ISRAELIS KILL AT LEAST 10 IN GAZA -- Israeli helicopters and tanks stormed into Gaza today killing at least 10 Palestinians, including a two-year-old infant.

Residents of the Shajaia neighbourhood outside of Gaza City said Israeli troops raided the area after midnight and laid siege to the house of the family of a member from Hamas, named Yusuf Abu Hein, known as a bomb-making expert.

Wait, wait! I thought the TRANSFORMATIVE EVENT of the Iraq War was going to put a stop to all this?! The Palestinians were going to come to their senses and realize that they'll be lucky to eat the crumbs out of Ariel Sharon's hands and knuckle under quietly. Surely, the neocons couldn't have been wrong, could they?
CARTOON OF THE DAY


by Chris Weyant.
HAPPY MAY DAY, YOU CAPITALIST PIG -- All over Europe and Asia, May 1 is being celebrated in traditional fashion. We don't really do May Day here. In America, we have Labor Day, which we celebrate by going to the beach one final time before the end of summer. As far as May celebrations go, we Yanks prefer to mark Mexican independence on May 5 by getting drunk.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

RICK SANTORUM: PET SHOP BOY? -- Thanks to Atrios for clearing things up.
WAXMAN QUESTONS RUMMY RE HALLIBURTON AND TERROR -- Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has written a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the close ties Halliburton--Dick Cheney's old firm--maintains with countries which sponsor terrorism. Halliburton is already benefiting from new contracts in Iraq being handed out by the Bush regime. Read the letter here.
WILL THIS BE A PROBLEM FOR DEAN? -- The battle of words between former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is heating up, but the greatest threat to Governor Dean's candidacy may come from his own past.

Dean did not serve in the military during the Vietnam War because he received a medical deferment for an unfused vertebra in his back. Several articles in the last year have noted that after his deferment, Dean spent 80 days skiing in Aspen, Colo. ''It was a great time to be a kid and do something relatively fun,'' the Aspen Times quoted Dean as saying last August.

I think this is a problem. Democrats are not likely to hold it against Governor Dean, but it doesn't look good, especially in comparison with Senator Kerry's own heroic wartime record in Vietnam. In addition, I suspect many Democratic primary voters, who bear Dean no grudge for avoiding service in Vietnam, will believe the general public will hold it against the Governor, and vote for another Democrat in the primaries to avoid that problem in the general election. We'll see.
WHITMAN MISUSING EPA AGENTS -- Senior managers at the Environmental Protection Agency have told The Seattle Times that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is misusing highly-trained agents by having them perform menial tasks, often involving things having nothing to do with their actual job description.

EPA agents assigned to investigate environmental crimes have been ordered at times to perform more personal tasks, such as returning a rental car for Whitman's husband after a trip or sitting at a table until the administrator arrived for a restaurant reservation, according to interviews with several EPA senior managers.

The lists of do's and don'ts instruct agents who chauffeur the EPA administrator to ensure they rent only a Lincoln Town Car, tune the radio to smooth jazz or classical music and set the volume low, and keep an eye out for a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble.


And as if they isn't enough...

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, senior managers in EPA's Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training were instructed to help with homeland security and Whitman's protection detail by providing agents who normally investigate environmental crimes, according to memos written last year by office heads.

The agents are pulled from offices across the country for several days at a time depending on where Whitman travels, and the added duties are straining already-overtaxed resources in the crime unit, the managers told AP. They spoke only on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal.

One manager said an agent on a security detail was directed by Whitman to return her husband's rental car to the airport so the Whitmans could catch a flight together.

A second manager said an agent, paid $100,000 a year, was told by the head of Whitman's personal security team to hold a reserved restaurant table until Whitman arrived for dinner.

With agents already designated for homeland-security tasks, regional offices sometimes are left without investigators for days at a time when Whitman is in town.

"Up to a week, all work will shut down in an area office to facilitate the protective-service detail," one manager said.


And for goodness sakes, don't waste Ms Whitman's time...

For instance, one memo told agents to limit their chitchat: "Expect Governor Whitman to ask you how you are doing. This is not an opening to tell Governor Whitman your life story, your hobbies, your most interesting cases ... or what is wrong with the Bush administration."

And to think people once spoke of this woman as a serious national candidate. What a joke.
SUICIDE BOMBER A BRIT -- According to the Israelis, the most recent suicide bomber, who killed three and wounded 60 was a British citizen. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it acted with Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
MORE SHOOTINGS AS RUMMY DROPS IN -- U.S. troops opened fire on anti-American demonstrators for the second time this week as Iraqis marched Wednesday to protest the previous shooting. At least three Iraqis were killed, reports said.

The gunfire came less than 48 hours after a shooting during a demonstration Monday night that hospital officials said killed 13 Iraqis. About 1,000 residents were marching down Fallujah's main street and stopped in front of a battalion headquarters of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. They were carrying signs condemning Monday night's shooting.

When some protesters started throwing rocks and shoes at the U.S.-held compound troops inside suddenly opened fire, according to Associated Press.

"Why? The demonstrators didn't use guns, so why should the soldiers start attacking them?" asked the imam of the Grand Fallujah Mosque, Jamal Shaqir Mahmood.

He said the Americans should pull out of Fallujah — or at least cut back their forces. "There is no (Iraqi) military presence here. Why is there an American military presence? We just want a reduction in the numbers," he said.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq early Wednesday to thank U.S. troops for toppling the government of Saddam Hussein.
Oddly enough, Rummy didn't bother to mention any of this during his monologue with the troops. Rummy even boasted that none of the things that could have gone wrong in Iraq have gone wrong--another chiding reference to critics of the Bush regime's Iraq policy.

None of the things that could have gone wrong have gone wrong? Really? You mean the killing of over 15 Iraqi demonstrators in two days by U.S. forces was part of the plan? What's more, still no mention of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by Rummy. I guess that's been forgotten for now.
NO WMD IN IRAQ WILL HAUNT RIVALS, DEAN SAYS -- Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean says that if no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, it will damage not only the White House, which used the alleged existence of WMD in Iraq to justify the war, but also his Democratic rivals for the party's presidential nomination.

"I'm going to give them some more time to find the weapons," Dean said. "They (the administration) sure did claim they had them before."
SORRY, I'M NOT AUTHORIZED TO ARREST YOU -- U.S. forces refused to arrest former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahaf, who tried to turn himself in, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

U.S. troops rejected his surrender attempt because he is not on the U.S. Central Command's list of the most wanted top 55 Iraqi officials, an unidentified Kurdish official told the newspaper.

Al-Sahaf feared for his safety in the Iraqi capital and sought protection by giving himself up, the report said.

I guess that deck of Iraqi scoundrel playing cards wasn't big enough.
EGYPT REJECTS NEOCON VISION FOR MIDDLE EAST -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally, rejected the Bush regime's neoconservative view of the Iraq War as a transformative event and declared his opposition to the forced imposition of democracy in Iraq, saying it would not work. This isn't exactly a surprising viewpoint coming from President Mubarak considering some of the more hotheaded neoconservatives (that is, the one's actually making policy) have said they would not be displeased to see the Egyptian government fall, as well.

In an annual speech in Cairo marking Labor Day, Mubarak said that imposing foreign standards on Iraq would not necessarily lead to democracy and reforms in the Arab and Islamic world or lessen fanaticism.

He said the perpetrators of such thinking were "intentionally ignoring ... that Arab nations are working hard to achieve democracy according to their own standards." "We reject the philosophy of imposing democracy by force," Mubarak said.
GEPHARDT LEADS IN IOWA -- Congressman Dick Gephardt has widened his lead over his Democratic presidential rivals in a new Zogby poll of likely Iowa voters. Gephardt has the support of 25% of likely Iowa Dem voters, easily outpacing the runner-up, John Kerry with 13 percent. Howard Dean improved to six percent.
ANTI-GAY REMARKS ROIL ROCKIES CLUBHOUSE -- This is what Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Todd Jones recently told The Denver Post about the possibility of having a gay teammate:

"I wouldn't want a gay guy being around me. It's got nothing to do with me being scared. That's the problem: All these people say he's got all these rights. Yeah, he's got rights or whatever, but he shouldn't walk around proud. It's like he's rubbing it in our face. 'See me, Hear me roar.' We're not trying to be close-minded, but then again, why be confrontational when you don't really have to be?"

Feeling his oats, Mr Jones--who is not considered a very good player by anyone, also told the paper that a gay player would have to be a great player to be accepted by his teammates, "Because if (the team) thinks for one minute he's disrupting the clubhouse -- if he doesn't hit 50 homers or win 20 games -- they're not going to put up with that."

Apparently, Mr Jones regards being 'confrontational' as merely coming out of the closet, a neat way of defining behavior so that anything you find icky is never presented to you. Anyway, the Colorado Rockies wasted no time telling the world that Mr Jones does not reflect the views of the team.
SADDAM TELLS IRAQIS TO RESIST U.S. -- Is Saddam Hussein still alive? The Bush regime appears to have as much public interest in this question as it has in the question of whether or not Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Nevertheless, someone claiming to be the deposed Iraqi dictator instructed Iraqis to resist the American occupation of their country, in a letter sent to a London-based Arab newspaper.

Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi said the message to the Iraqi people is dated April 28, coinciding with Saddam's 66th birthday.

Is this for real? Reasons to doubt the veracity of this letter are many and obvious, but Mr Atwan says, "I think the letter is genuine. We can't verify it because we don't know where he is, he is on the run. I have seen his signature before and it looks like it. I think it is authentic."

Here is the full text of the letter:

“In the name of God, the most merciful, the most sympathetic”

“And yet they had already covenanted with Allah not to turn their backs, and a covenant with Allah must (surely) be answered for.” (a verse from the holy Koran)

Iraq, April 28, 2003.

From Saddam Hussein

To the great people of Iraq,
And the Arab and Islamic nations,
And noble everywhere.

Peace be upon you, his mercy and blessing. (Assalamu A’laikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatoh)

As I perceive it, like woodworm and more [than woodworm], criminal Bush entered Baghdad like Hulagu did

They were not victorious over you; [you] the people who oppose occupation and humiliation and whose hearts and minds are filled with Arabism and Islam, however [they were victorious] by betrayal.

I swear by God that this in not victory as long as resistance remains inside you.

What we said before has now become a fact; we will not live in peace and security as long as this deformed Zionist entity exists on Arab land. So there is no dissociation in the unity of the Arab struggle (referring to the Palestinian struggle).
DEMS BATTLE FOR EARLY ADVANTAGE -- The nine (so far) Democratic presidential candidates have been off and running for some time, but now they're off and running against each other, not just George W Bush.

''The season of attacks has been accelerated really by Howard Dean, which is to say, Dean has gone after Edwards, Kerry -- and nobody sits still and takes that lying down for very long,'' said a Democratic pollster, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''Dean brought it on himself by deciding he was going to use very sharp elbows to force himself onto the national stage. Eventually it would have happened anyway and eventually it will happen with even greater ferocity.''

During a speech in March to California Democrats, Dean took the stage and declared that Kerry and Edwards had voted to support war with Iraq while in Washington, only to travel cross-country and tell the crowd in a largely antiwar state that they opposed it. It was a blatant falsehood, considering that both senators had been booed by the audience for affirming their vote, but Dean saw fit to apologize only to Edwards, which he did in a handwritten note.

Of Kerry, Dean said he was ''trying to have it both ways'' by authorizing war while railing against the administration's diplomacy that preceded the fighting.

Last week, when Gephardt unveiled a sweeping plan to provide health insurance for all Americans, Dean took aim at a fresh target. He issued a statement declaring: ''What we don't need is another pie-in-the-sky radical revamping of our health care system that has no chance of ever being passed.'' Dean, a physician by training who helped provide near-universal health coverage in Vermont, went further, saying the country could not afford Gephardt's plan because ''Congressman Gephardt and too many in my party support huge tax cuts -- tax cuts that make his own health care plan unworkable,'' even though Gephardt led the House opposition to the president's tax cut.

With the war essentially over, the scars still fresh on their hides, and Dean potentially becoming an icon to populists across the country, many of the campaigns have decided the time is ripe to challenge the free-speaking former governor. They feel Dean has avoided the scrutiny they would face if they made comments similar to his.

A story posted on Time.com over the weekend quoted Dean as saying, ''We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military.''

The Kerry campaign gleefully seized the moment. Chris Lehane, Kerry's communications director, issued a statement that said: ''Howard Dean's stated belief that the United States `won't always have the strongest military,' raises serious questions about his capacity to serve as commander-in-chief.''
GREENSPAN FAVORS DIVIDEND TAX CUT -- Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan awoke from his slumber long enough today to tell Congress that he is in favor of Mr Bush's plan to eliminate "double taxation" of dividends. On the other hand, Mr Greenspan also said he is concerned about the country's budget woes. Really, Alan? And you don't see any connection between those two issues?

Mr Greenspan also assured Congress that an economic rebound is poised to happen, but he doesn't know when or how much improvement there will be. The Sphinx strikes again.
OZZIE'S BOY IN REHAB -- Apparently, Jack Osbourne, son of decomposing metalhead Ozzie Osbourne, has checked himself into a rehab clinic to detox. It's drugs. It's booze. It's a big shock, I know. I really thought that ugly little troll would have learned from his dad.

"Jack, if you take drugs you'll wind up just like me--stinking rich and beloved by millions of people who cannot understand a single word I slur."

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

NEW PALESTINIAN CABINET APPROVED -- Mahmoud Abbas, the new and first Prime Minister of Palestine, was approved--along with his cabinet today, by Palestinian parliamentarians.

The Bush regime has promised that after the cabinet is confirmed, it will release a Middle East "road map" aimed at ending two and a half years of Israeli-Palestinian violence and paving the way for an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Excerpts from Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' speech are here.
ANGER AGAINST U.S. BOILS OVER IN IRAQ -- Iraq is in ferment right now after U.S. troops fired into a crowd of protesting Iraqis. Iraqi doctors and witnesses say 13 people were killed and 75 wounded. The American authorities refused to confirm this. The U.S. military said their soldiers were fired upon, but there is no evidence of this and Iraqis insist the demonstration was peaceful and no weapons found on the protestors. Three of the dead are boys under the age of ten.

The reaction wasn't long in coming. The shooting outraged local people who, like many other Iraqis, welcomed the removal of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led forces but now want the American troops to leave. It is likely to fuel anti-American sentiment elsewhere in Iraq.

U.S. helicopters hovered overhead as angry mourners buried the dead on Tuesday. The white walls of houses near the school were pock-marked by bullets, bullet-riddled cars stood by the roadside and traces of blood marked the ground.

"Our soul and our blood we will sacrifice to you martyrs," hundreds of mourners chanted as they carried at least four simple wooden coffins shoulder-high through the town.

Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Falluja general hospital, confirmed the death toll was at least 13 and said the hospital had carried out about 30 operations in the past few hours. "Some were wounded by shots. Some were wounded by shrapnel," he said.

"They are stealing our oil and they are slaughtering our people," said Shuker Abdullah Hamid, a cousin of one of the victims, 47-year-old Tuamer Abdel Hamid.

"Now, all preachers of Falluja mosques and all youths...are organizing martyr operations against the American occupiers," said a man cloaked in white, using the term often used to describe suicide attacks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


It no longer matters exactly what happened during that protest and we may never know the full truth. The fact is, the Iraqis blame us for the tragic deaths and injuries inflicted upon the crowd. This plays completely into the hands of the more radical (read: pro-Iranian) elements among the Iraqi Shiites. Our battle against Iran for influence among Iraqi Shiites just took a severe hit and it is unclear how or if we can recover from things like this.

The Iraqis who want U.S. troops out of Iraq should get their wish. As quickly as possible--meaning very soon--U.S. troops should be replaced by the blue helmets of U.N. peacekeepers. These troops would be drawn from several, possibly dozens, of nations and lend international credibility to the occupation. It might not lessen Iraqi resentment of the occupation, but could. It's possible and that's better than what is going on now.

The problem confronting the U.S. occupation in Iraq is the same problem that has confronted colonizers for centuries. Radical anti-American elements need only to continue to stir up tragedies such as this one and wait for an over-reaction from jittery U.S. troops placed in unfamiliar conditions and facing a foe they have never trained against. The blame here lies not with our troops, who are doing the best they can in a very bad situation, but with the decision-makers who put them in this predicament. Dictatorships can afford to be brutal colonizers, but as the British learned in India and the French learned in Algeria, democracies make bad colonists and the occupation inevitably brutalizes both the occupier and the occupied.

The U.S. media is and will continue to downplay the protests and shootings in Iraq for fear of being branded as traitors by the administration and its allies in the right-wing media. The media outside the U.S., however, is not downplaying these events and they are receiving particularly close attention in the Arab world. Sooner or later, the U.S. public is going to have to confront what is going on in Iraq and what their soldiers are facing. When the people finally do realize what is happening, the Bush regime better have a good answer ready. Sooner or later, relying on Rush Limbaugh and FOX News to quiet all opposition isn't going to suffice.
RUPERT MURDOCH, MEDIA LEVIATHAN -- On June 2, the FCC, headed by Bush Administration appointee Michael Powell, plans to vote on whether to relax the rules for owning American news media. In light of that, I wanted to make sure you have seen this 1998 Columbia Journalism Review about just one example of the ramifications of relaxing media ownership rules. This article, from a non-partisan academic journal, is about how Rupert Murdoch has used a vast media empire to enrich himself, and destroy voices of opposition - all under the auspices of "news." The FCC's impending decision will either exacerbate this imbalance or preserve some level of regulation.


U.S. ALLOWS TERRORISTS TO KEEP WEAPONS -- The Bush regime signed an agreement with an organization knows as the People's Mujahedeen, a guerrilla group classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, that allows them to keep their weapons and not surrender to American occupying forces in Iraq.

The motivation for this agreement for the U.S. was to use the anti-Iranian People's Mujahedeen to pressure Iran, which is battling the U.S. for influence among the 60% of Iraqis who are Shiite Muslims. Over 90% of Iran is Shiite. But [the agreement] represents a conundrum of sorts for the United States, which has classified the Iraq-based group as a terrorist organization. The United States went to war against Iraq in part to dismantle what it said were terrorist networks supported by Saddam's regime.

U.S. officials had said they were working out a capitulation by the left-leaning group, also known as the People's Mujahedeen. But on Tuesday, a U.S. military official said the deal doesn't require the group's fighters to surrender to coalition forces — at least for now.
STAR WARS GANG BACK TOGETHER -- George Lucas is bringing back the classic characters Chewbacca the Wookie, C-3PO and R2-D2 for the upcoming "Star Wars Episode III."

The director has already hired actors Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniel and Kenny Baker (news) to reprise their respective roles as sprightlier versions of their characters for the prequel in preproduction.


Now, Mr Lucas only needs a decent script and some acting. Good luck.
CONDI RICE ON WMD IN IRAQ -- Earlier this morning I was part of a group meeting with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. On the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Ms Rice said she believed none had been found so far because the Iraqis either destroyed it or kept it in a "just-in-time" state, so that it could be weaponized quickly, but otherwise remain inert and out of sight.

When directly questioned on the subject twice, Ms Rice refused to say she believes weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.
FOX POLL: BUSH SLIPPING -- According to a new FOX News poll, Mr Bush's approval ratings have fallen from 71% to 65 percent. The losses came from declining popularity among Democrats and women.

Beyond the job rating, another signal the wartime bounce may be short lived is President Bush’s re-elect numbers, which have also dipped. Today, 47 percent say if the 2004 election were held today they would vote to re-elect Bush and 31 percent for the Democratic candidate. That is a small decline from polling conducted in early April, when 51 percent said they would vote for Bush and 26 percent favored the Democrat.

When asked which issue will matter most in their vote, respondents clearly choose the economy over Iraq. More than six times as many voters say the candidate’s position on the economy and taxes will matter most in deciding their vote for president and Congress, as say the candidate’s position on war with Iraq will be most important (65 percent to 10 percent). Fifteen percent say Iraq and the economy will be equal factors in their vote.

Despite the economy being the more important factor, the candidate’s position on war with Iraq will be a factor in voters’ decision making. A majority (55 percent) says they will be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq, and 20 percent say more likely (14 percent say it will make no difference to their vote if a candidate opposed the war).

Monday, April 28, 2003

WHY DID WE GO TO WAR WITH IRAQ? BECAUSE THE BUSH REGIME WANTED TO, THAT'S WHY!
Reason for War?
White House Officials Say Privately the Sept. 11 Attacks Changed Everything

By John Cochran, ABC News

W A S H I N G T O N, April 25 - To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war - a global show of American power and democracy.

Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.

"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."

Officials now say they may not find hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve agents and maybe not thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins. But U.S. forces will find some, they say. On Thursday, President Bush raised the possibility for the first time that any such Iraqi weapons were destroyed before or during the war.

If weapons of mass destruction were not the primary reason for war, what was? Here's the answer officials and advisers gave ABCNEWS.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything, including the Bush administration's thinking about the Middle East - and not just Saddam Hussein.

Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate - and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.

Europeans thought the solution was to get a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But American officials felt a Middle East peace agreement would only be part of the solution.

The Bush administration felt that a new start was needed in the Middle East and that Iraq was the place to show that it is democracy - not terrorism - that offers hope.

Sending a Message

Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.

Officials deny that Bush was captured by the aggressive views of neo-conservatives. But Bush did agree with some of their thinking.

"We made it very public that we thought that one consequence the president should draw from 9/11 is that it was unacceptable to sit back and let either terrorist groups or dictators developing weapons of mass destruction strike first at us," conservative commentator Bill Kristol said on ABCNEWS' Nightline in March.

The Bush administration wanted to make a statement about its determination to fight terrorism. And officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target.

Other countries have such weapons, yet the United States did not go to war with them. And though Saddam oppressed and tortured his own people, other tyrants have done the same without incurring U.S. military action. Finally, Saddam had ties to terrorists - but so have several countries that the United States did not fight.

But Saddam was guilty of all these things and he met another requirement as well - a prime location, in the heart of the Middle East, between Syria and Iran, two countries the United States wanted to send a message to.

That message: If you collaborate with terrorists, you do so at your own peril.

Officials said that even if Saddam had backed down and avoided war by admitting to having weapons of mass destruction, the world would have received the same message; Don't mess with the United States.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey said on Nightline this week that although he believed Saddam was a serious threat and had dangerous weapons, going to war to prove a point was wrong.

"I don't think you should go to war to set examples or send messages," Woolsey said. Get the transcript of the Woolsey interview.

Sept. 11, 2001

But what if Sept. 11 had never happened? Would the United States have gone to war with Iraq? Administration officials and others say no, at least not now.

The Bush administration could probably have lived with the threat of Saddam and might have gone after him eventually if, for example, the Iraqi leader had become more aggressive in pursuing a nuclear program or in sponsoring terrorism.

But again, Sept. 11 changed all that.

Listen closely, officials said, to what Bush was really saying to the American people before the war.

"I hope they understand the lesson of September the 11th," Bush said on March 6. "The lesson is, is that we're vulnerable to attack, wherever it may occur, and we must take threats which gather overseas very seriously. We don't have to deal with them all militarily, but we have to deal with them."

Has the war done what the officials ABCNEWS talked to wanted?

It seems to have improved the behavior of the Syrians and maybe the Iranians, they said, although there is still concern that Iran will meddle in Iraq. And it may have even put some fear in the North Koreans, they added. Plus, they said it probably has helped the Middle East peace process.

But will Iraq be the model that can persuade young Arabs there is more to life than hatred? Too early to know, they said.

Their point: We are deeply worried about the Shiites. It will be a tragedy if radical, anti-American elements gain control in post-Saddam Iraq.

One official said that in the end, history and the American people will judge the United States not by whether U.S. officials find canisters of poison gas or vials of some biological agent.

History will judge the United States, the official said, by whether this war marked the beginning of the end for the terrorists who hate America.
TOUGH CHICKS -- The Dixie Chicks have endured boycotts, death threats, insults, and public destruction of their albums for telling a London audience that they're embarrassed that George W Bush is a native of Texas--their home state. They've begun to fight back in interviews with Republican media queen Diane Sawyer and in Entertainment Weekly. Here's the...provocative cover.
NOT YET ON THE CHEMICALS -- Someone needs to tell the Bush regime to stop announcing they've found chemical weaspons in Iraq until they've actually found chemical weapons in Iraq. They still have not.
REPORT: N. KOREANS OFFER TO SCRAP NUKE PROGRAM -- North Korea offered to scrap its nuclear programme during talks with the United States in Beijing last week if Washington dropped its hostile attitude, Western diplomats briefed by a Chinese official said on Monday.
...
North Korea also offered to suspend ballistic missile tests and stop missile exports, said the diplomats who asked not to be identified.

Pyongyang also offered to let nuclear inspectors into the country, they quoted the official as saying.

Will the Bush regime seize this opportunity or squander it? The first thing to do is find out what the North Korean's mean by "hostile attitude."
RETURN OF THE 45? -- 45s, those old byproducts of the pre-digital age, might be making a comeback in a new, technologically-correct, format. The music industry, in the midst of a prolonged economic slump, is hoping DVD singles will pump some life into the industry. Will they? I don't know, but I'm already intrigued.

DVD singles — digital videodiscs that typically include two music videos along with extra features — represent a market that is just beginning to be charted by the music business. Some record labels — in an industry suffering a two-year sales slump — hope that the new format can become the modern-day successor to the vinyl 45 single. Retailers, however, are unsure whether to place them in video or audio departments, in part because there is no standard packaging.
CARTOON OF THE DAY


Wolverton.
AM NEWS ROUNDUP -- Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) said he will not agree to more than $350 billion in tax cuts. This is a direct defiance of Mr Bush, who was campaigning for his tax cut in Ohio last week.

This year’s White House Correspondents Dinner was far more somber than in the past. President Bush cracked no jokes at the dinner, instead honoring journalists who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq. (For a serviceable news report of the event, read this.) No one, it seems, was in much of a clowning mood. Take the exchange we heard about between comedian/smart-ass Al Franken and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:

Franken: “Clinton’s military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?”

Wolfowitz: “Fuck you.”

Syria is expelling Arab volunteers who fought in the Iraq War and subsequently fled to Syria.

DEM PRESIDENTS ARE BETTER FOR THE STOCK MARKET -- A lot better. Thanks to Atrios for pointing it out.