Friday, May 23, 2003

BACK TO EARTH -- Mr Bush's re-elect numbers are below 50% again. As Joe Conason notes, Mr Bush's re-elect numbers are not too good in any poll:
For instance, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows him with 47 percent, or a couple of points less than he got in the 2000 election. The Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report poll taken two weeks ago shows him at 43 percent. The CBS News/New York Times poll gives Bush 34 percent, the unnamed Democrat 21 percent, with 56 percent of independent voters undecided.
(Forgive the implication that Mr Bush was ever elected in the first place.)

Thursday, May 22, 2003

HOW DO YOU SLEEP? -- That was the question posited to Paul McCartney by an estranged John Lennon in one of the latter's songs. Mr Lennon would have been better of sparing his fellow ex-moptop and directing the question to the subhumans who managed Cutter Biological, a division of Bayer Corporation. Why them, you ask? Here's why.
A division of the pharmaceutical company Bayer sold millions of dollars of blood-clotting medicine for hemophiliacs - medicine that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS - to Asia and Latin America in the mid-1980s while selling a new, safer product in the West, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

The Bayer division, Cutter Biological, introduced its safer medicine in late February 1984, as evidence mounted that the earlier version was infecting hemophiliacs with HIV. Yet for more than a year, the company continued to sell the old medicine overseas, prompting a U.S. regulator to accuse Cutter of breaking its promise to stop selling the product.

By continuing to sell the old version of the life-saving medicine, the records show, Cutter officials were trying to avoid being stuck with large stores of a product that was proving increasingly unmarketable in the United States and Europe. Even after it began selling the new product, the company kept making the old medicine for several months more.

A telex from Cutter to a distributor suggests one of the reasons behind that decision, too: The company had several fixed-price contracts and believed that the old product would be cheaper to produce.
...
in Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got HIV after using Cutter's old medicine, according to records and interviews. Many have since died. Cutter also continued to sell the older product after February 1984 in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Argentina, records show.

Naturally, Bayer is denying any wrongdoing whatsoever, claiming that it "behaved responsibly, ethically and humanely."

And what was the Reagan administration doing while this was going on, you ask? Well, here's what...
Federal regulators helped keep the overseas sales out of the public eye, the documents indicate. In May of 1985, believing that the companies had broken a voluntary agreement to withdraw the old medicine from the market, the Food and Drug Administration's regulator of blood products, Dr. Harry Meyer Jr., summoned them to a meeting and ordered them to comply.

"It was unacceptable for them to ship that material overseas," Meyer said later in legal papers.

Even so, Meyer asked that the issue be "quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public," according to Cutter's account of the 1985 meeting. Meyer said later that he could not recall making that statement, but another blood-product company's summary of the meeting also noted that the Food and Drug Administration wanted the matter settled "quickly and quietly."
In other words, the Reagan administration knew what the company had done, but not only refused to prosecute them, but actively conspired to keep the disgraceful corporate malfeasance out of the news.
Li Wei-chun said her son, who died in 1996 at the age of 23, was one of the hemophiliacs in Hong Kong who got AIDS after using that product.

"They did not care about the lives in Asia," Li said in a recent interview. "It was racial discrimination."
Hard to argue with that assessment. And right-wingers have the nerve to wonder why so many people are distrustful of corporate decisionmaking.
S'NO JOB -- Peter Hartcher of the Australian Financial Review nails Treasury Secretary John Snow to the wall in a new article for that newspaper. Mr Snow has no policymaking role in the administration whatsoever, in stark contrast to the vast influence wielded by Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his successor Larry Summers.
About the kindest thing that can be said of Snow is that he is being likened to a salesman. But after he mishandled policy on the US dollar in the past week, there are doubts that he can even discharge that function.

Snow was savaged in the lead editorial of The New York Times yesterday under the headline "A weakened Treasury". It said: "His credibility in question, Mr Snow has had a difficult time in recent weeks explaining the administration's policy on the dollar, which has lost almost a third of its value against the euro in the past year."
...
A former governor of the US Federal Reserve and a well-regarded economist, Larry Meyer, offers an even tougher line: "It's not a question of credibility in the international community - it's a question of trying to establish credibility here in the US.

"The Treasury is not part of the policy-making team, and it's not clear that they're even part of the message team."

How is this gauged? The biggest item on the Bush Administration's domestic agenda this year has been the President's proposal for an 11-year $US726 billion ($1100 billion) program of tax cuts. This is audacious: it's less than two years since Bush persuaded the Congress to enact a 10-year $US1.35 trillion program of tax cuts. And it comes as the country labours under a record federal deficit.
...
Aides to senior legislators report that in negotiating the tax package with the Bush Administration they have bypassed him and dealt with the White House, specifically Bush's deputy chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and the most powerful of the White House staff, Rove. So Snow has been cut out of the policymaking process. What about the salesman function?
...
Perhaps he can console himself with this thought from Meyer: after the disastrous tenure of O'Neill, "The Treasury can't diminish relative to where it was". Oh dear.

Ouch. Ugly, but true.
THE EARTH AND THE MOON -- As seen from Mars.

HOW MANY CIVILIANS DIED? -- I know it is unpatriotic to even mention the subject of Iraqi civilian casualties in the Iraq War, but independent surveys now indicate that somewhere between 5000-10,000 innocents died in the conflict. It's early and those numbers are hardly definitive, but if they are accurate, it would mean the Iraq War was far bloodier for civilians than the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that took the lives of about 3500 Iraqi civilians.

I don't think we'll find the Dixie Chicks writing any songs about this, though.
YANKS WARNED ABOUT ULSTER GIRLS -- Apparently, the U.S. military warned its soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland during World War Two to be careful with the local female population because the girls were deemed "sex-hungry." For myself, I can scarcely imagine anything more likely to induce soldiers to check out the local girls than telling them the ladies are "sex-hungry."

I'd also like to know how the U.S. military came upon this information about Ulster girls. Previous experience, perhaps?
MORONS ON THE BENCH -- An Arab-American woman has filed a complaint against a Tarrytown, NY judge after he asked her in the coutroom she was a terrorist. The woman was in court to fight two traffic violation tickets when the remarks were made. She collapsed as a result and had to be revived. The judge admits making a remark about terrorists, but says he was only kidding.
BUSH POPULARITY FALLS -- Well, it was bound to happen after the phony high of the Iraq War and the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln television commercial, but Mr Bush's popularity ratings have dropped, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. The fall is nine points, from a 71% approval rating to a still-very-healthy 62 percent.

The poll also found little support for Mr Bush's signature domestic policy--Hell, his only domestic policy, tax cuts.
The survey, however, found little support for tax cuts among Americans, 57 percent of whom said the economy was their No. 1 concern. That compared to 36 percent who cited the fight against terrorism as their main worry.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 64 percent, said there were better ways to boost the economy than tax cuts. Twenty-nine percent thought tax cuts were the answer.

More than half, 55 percent, said they would prefer the government spend more money on providing health care coverage, compared to 36 percent who said they wanted taxes reduced for themselves and for corporations.

However, it won't be enough for Democrats to hammer away at Mr Bush's obvious weaknesses on the economy, tax cuts, and overall domestic policy. The Bush regime has failed the peace in Afghanistan and will probably do so in Iraq, as well. If, in the summer of 2004, Iraq is nowhere near a democracy or stable, and if no WMD have been found in the country by that time, the Democrats must forcefully attack Mr Bush in the one area the public seems to trust him--foreign and defense policy.
GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS IS RETIRING -- Just heard it on CNN.
ANOTHER BUSHISM -- Thanks to Slate, of course.

"All up and down the different aspects of our society, we had meaningful discussions. Not only in the Cabinet Room, but prior to this and after this day, our secretaries, respective secretaries, will continue to interact to create the conditions necessary for prosperity to reign."—Washington, D.C., May 19, 2003
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE, GIRLS -- The Dixie Chicks were lustily booed by the audience at the Country Music Awards last night. Big surprise, eh? Many liberals are outraged at the treatment the Dixie Chicks have received since lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience that the group was embarrassed by fellow Texan George W Bush. Admittedly, the reaction of the Right has been typically Leninist, but it is difficult for me to work up a lot of sympathy for the Chicks. What did they expect to happen? They are country music stars. Are they aware at all what their fan base is like?

And did they really think they could make a comment in London without it being noticed in Dallas? Are they unaware they are living in a Wired World? And it is pretty difficult to feel sympathy for the Chicks when they don't seem to have the courage of their convictions. Why did they apologize for what they said in London? If they believe it, stand by it. But they wouldn't--for economic reasons alone. If they had the guts to say something in London, they should have the guts to say it in Dallas.
POLL HAS MIXED REACTION TO SANTORUM -- Bluenosed Senator Rick Santorum [R (of course)-PA] made some comments not too long ago about sex, homosexuality, and the right to privacy that were repulsive to most anyone with a brain and a conscience. A new poll shows that Senator Santorum's approval rating back home in Pennsylvania remains unchanged at 55 percent. So the remarks didn't hurt him, right? Well, it is not that simple. Apparently, undecided voters went strongly against Senator Santorum, with his disapproval rating climbing from 20% to 33%, with virtually all the movement coming from undecided voters. Interesting.
LUGAR: IRAQ IS IN CRISIS -- Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most respected experts on foreign and defense policy on Capitol Hill. He also thinks the Bush regime is making a mess in Iraq:
But transforming Iraq will not be easy, quick or cheap. Clearly, the administration's planning for the post-conflict phase in Iraq was inadequate. I am concerned that the Bush administration and Congress have not yet faced up to the true size of the task that lies ahead, or prepared the American people for it. The administration should state clearly that we are engaged in "nation-building." We are constructing the future in Iraq. It's a complicated and uncertain business, and it's not made any easier when some in the Pentagon talk about quick exit strategies or say dismissively that they don't do nation-building. The days when Americans could win battles and then come home quickly for a parade are over.
Senator Lugar will be holding a series of hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about post-Saddam Iraq, starting today. He believes the total U.S. bill for rebuilding Iraq may be $100 billion and take at least five years, but he doesn't see that committment from the Bush regime. As the pro-war New Republic points out, the Bush regime is preparing to drastically reduce U.S. committments in Iraq at the very moment when we are needed the most.

I'll be interested to see what kind of hearings Senator Lugar holds. Will he justify his reputation for high-mindedness and hold the Bush regime's feet to the fire on Iraq? We'll see.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

BEHAVIOR MONITORS STRIKE AGAIN -- The Republican party wants to devote precious law enforcement resources going after states with legal medical marijuana laws. The GOPs rampant irresponsibility knows no boundaries.
WHILE WE WERE OUT -- Few people have noticed but the Congo has been gripped by a new orgy of nihilistic violence in the past few months. International aid workers are doing their best to ease the suffering of the innocents, but there is precious little they can do in many places, save giving the slaughtered a decent burial.

Human Rights Watch estimates 5000 people have died in Congo in renewed fighting from July 2002 to March 2003. Mr Bush's War ensured no one took any notice.
JOHN SNOW & THE BUDGET DEFICIT: DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS -- Below is a summary of information in the latest issue (5/26/03) of The New Republic.

"The budget deficit puts a hole in the pocket of every American every day of their lives. It threatens the very foundation of our culture, and we must seize and act upon this historic opportunity to solve this, the most pressing issue facing the country."
-- John Snow, CEO of CSX, 1995

When pressed about this quote by "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert last Sunday, Mr Snow responded thusly:

"In 1995, Tim, the deficit was on track to rise in absolute-dollar terms and as a percent of GDP. That's the important point, 'as a percentage of GDP.' And it was high in 1995, as a percent of GDP, and no prospect for coming down."
-- John Snow, Secretary of Treasury, May 2003

The Facts
1. In 1995, the budget deficit was 2.2% of GDP. This year is projected to reach about 3.8% and could reach 4.6%, more than twice its 1995 level.

2. In 1995, the deficit had already fallen by nearly half over the previous three years. Three years later the budget deficit would disappear altogether.
BLAIR ADVISOR: WE FOUGHT FOR OIL -- Sir Jonathan Porritt, head of the Sustainable Development Commission, which advises Blair's government on ecological issues, called obtaining access and control of Iraq's massive deposits of oil ``a very large factor'' in the decision to go to war.

What a surprise! Why didn't you say so in the first place, Mr Blair? After his participation in the lies of the Bush regime about war with Iraq, it should be difficult for any good liberal to trust a word Mr Blair says.
THANK YOU, ELVIS -- Elvis Costello is a smart man.
POINTLESS CYPHER RESIGNS -- EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has resigned. Note that this move will not diminish Ms Whitman's influence over environmental policy in the Bush regime, as such a development would not be possible.
WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? -- Matt Labash of the right-wing neoconservative Weekly Standard tells the truth...
JournalismJobs.com: Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel become more popular in the past few years?

Matt Labash: Because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat. We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually.

...and reveals the myth of the Liberal Media.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO SURGERY -- Now exists to sterilize puppies. It is a shot into the puppy's body and it seems to work almost as well as surgery at guaranteeing sterility. It won't do anything about aggression or roaming, though.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

CLOSER THAN WE THINK -- New research reveals that chimpanzees are so closely related to humans that they belong in the genus Homo--the same genus as human beings. Good news for this guy.
THE PART OF RESPONSIBILITY -- Which political party spent more in the states over the last five years? If you asked the man on the street, no doubt he'd say the Dems spent more because the Dems are "a bunch of liberal taxing-and-spending do-gooders." As usual, the man on the street would be wrong. Republicans spent more, but that isn't stopping them from blaming the current budget shorfalls in many states on Democrats. Some things never change.
NFL OFFSEASON POWER POLL

It has been an interesting offseason so far, with a host of trades in the draft and one team, the Washington Redskins, almost bypassing the draft altogether and rebuilding a team with restricted free agents. One development I see is the continuing rise of the black quarterback, with three of my five top-rated teams led by African-American signal-callers. Meanwhile, one rookie black quarterback, Byron Leftwich of the Jacksonville Jaguars, waits in the wings to punish the teams who foolishly passed over the man who will be the next Dan Marino. Numbers in parentheses indicate last season's won-loss record. Read on…

01. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The champs return almost all their key players and now must battle complacency and DT Warren Sapp moaning over his contract. I can see this team dropping a bit, but right now they are still the best in the NFL. (12-4)

02. Tennessee Titans: The only real question about the Titans is TB Eddie George and the team drafted TB Chris Brown--a George clone--to address that problem. QB Steve McNair is still a miracle-worker with the heart of a lion and ice water in his veins. Head Coach Jeff Fisher is smart and organized and knows that if he can keep games close in the fourth quarter, the valiant Air McNair will win a lot more than he loses. (11-5)

03. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly probably won't be as good as they were last year (no Hugh Douglas), but they still have QB Donovan McNabb, the best defensive backfield and the finest coaching staff--led by Head Coach Andy Reid and Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson--in the league. They'll find ways to win a lot. (12-4)

04. Pittsburgh Steelers: Can QB Tommy Maddox keep his Cinderella story going? Perhaps, but even if he can't, Charlie Batch can step in and keep things going. The Steelers have never relied on their quarterback to win games (not even when Terry Bradshaw was behind center) and this team will be no different. A tough running game and a bruising defense will keep the Steelers in the NFL elite. A miserable division doesn't hurt either--the Steelers were 7-0 against division opponents in 2002. (10-5-1)

05. Atlanta Falcons: Head Coach Dan Reeves finally leads the team back near the top of the NFL. If QB Michael Vick stays healthy, 2003 will be remembered as the year he took over the league and made it all about him. The Falcons still don't have a good offensive line and their defense has a few holes, but Vick, TB T.J. Duckett, and WR Peerless Price will make things happen. For those who don't remember John Elway at the height of his powers, watching Vick will be a chance to see what a true superman can do at the quarterback position. For those of us who do remember Elway in the mid-to-late 1980s, watching Vick will be a chance to see it happen all over again. One caveat: Vick must find a way to handle the Tampa defense, which brutalized him last year. Until he can do that, the Falcons will never leap past their NFL South rivals. (9-6-1)

06. Miami Dolphins: I know I'm going to regret this, but something tells me QB Brian Griese follows his father's footsteps to Miami in June and gets this team back into the playoffs. After two straight December flameouts, Miami must find a way to win on the road (2-6 in 2002) and it does not appear that QB Jay Fiedler is the man to get it done. TB Ricky Williams was everything he was supposed to be and more. The defense will be stronger with OLB Junior Seau joining MLB Zach Thomas. This year, I think it finally happens for Miami. They'll win the ferociously tough AFC East. (9-7)

07. Oakland Raiders: I was a believer in the Silver and Black all last year so why would I jump off the bandwagon now? It's been an offseason of turmoil so far as the Raiders have struggled to stay under the salary cap. Meanwhile, the team continues to rely on aging veterans like QB Rich Gannon and WRs Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. I see Oakland struggling a bit more with injuries and lack of depth this year and taking a step or two backwards. Last year was their best chance and they almost got it done. (12-4)

08. Green Bay Packers: The loss of DE Vonnie Holliday hurts, but re-signing DT Cletidus Hunt and DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila helped a lot. The Pack still has QB Brett Favre and they still play in a godawful division so Green Bay should easily advance to the playoffs again. Last year's week one playoff loss at home to Michael Vick and the Falconairres was a warning, though, that the title watch has ended in Titletown. (12-4)

09. New England Patriots: A superbly coached team will have to improve its run defense to make the playoffs this year. I think it happens. QB Tom Brady has a good rapport with a solid receiving corps, but more production must come from TB Antowain Smith and the running backs. The Patriots play in the league's toughest division, but I think they'll compete for the playoffs again, probably going down to the final week with Miami. (9-7)

10. St. Louis Rams: I see big improvements for the Rams this year, who added OL Kyle Turley, DT Jimmy Kennedy, and TE Cam Cleeland to their already formidable offense and defensive line. The problem for the Rams is pass defense. CB Aeneas Williams is fading and if he cannot hold it together for one more year, the Rams will have to score a lot to win games. They can probably do it. If QB Kurt Warner and TB Marshall Faulk stay healthy, they'll be much better this year, considering the addition of Turley to go with OT Orlando Pace should provide the St. Louis playmakers with much more protection than they got last year. The Rams must improve on the road, where they went 1-7 last year. (7-9)

11. Indianapolis Colts: When last we saw the Colts they were being waxed by the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs. I think QB Peyton Manning, WR Marvin Harrison, and TB Edgerrin James will be motivated by that humiliation and come back stronger. The defense should be improved slightly and I think this is the year WR Reggie Wayne makes his presence felt in the NFL. The Colts are still a pretty good team struggling to become very good and so far they haven't convinced anyone--not even themselves. Indy needs an injection of heart, something HC Tony Dungy was unable to give Tampa Bay. Can he do it right this time in Indy? We'll see. (10-6)

12. San Francisco 49ers: The Niners have done absolutely nothing to help themselves in the offseason and I didn't think much of drafting OT Kwame Harris in the first round either. QB Jeff Garcia has got to get back to his 2001 form and WR Tai Streets must step up and draw defenses away from WR Terrell Owens a bit or the Niners will begin to slide south again. The defense has not been helped at all and the division won't be as bad in 2003 as it was in 2002. (10-6)

13. New Orleans Saints: The offense is everywhere you look on this team, but where is the defense? Good question. I can't see much of it and I foresee pass defense problems that will look awfully familiar to Saints fans. New Orleans will score a bunch and give up a bunch. Will they fade down the stretch again? (9-7)

14. Denver Broncos: Pass defense will continue to be a problem for Denver this year, so it is imperative that HC Mike Shanahan do what Arizona never could: Turn QB Jake Plummer into a good player. Rarely has an NFL player gotten so much attention for doing so little as Plummer, who has either been an underachiever or never had much to begin with. Rookie of the Year TB Clinton Portis will make sure Denver remains competitive and WRs Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey will serve as security blankets for Plummer while the new guy learns to play in Shanahan's system. (And he'd better play in Shanahan's system because Mike won't tolerate the sort of brainless freelancing Plummer routinely engaged in with the Cardinals.) Adding DT Daryl Gardener might help a lot or it might be another bust. Keeping him motivated is the key. (8-8)

15. Buffalo Bills: The addition of LB Takeo Spikes and DT Sam Adams should help the defense enormously, but I still don't see enough pass rush. Drafting TB Willis McGahee when the team already has TB Olandis Gary and a host of needs on defense was a huge gamble. It might pay off eventually, but it won't this year. Expect another big year from QB Drew Bledsoe and WR Eric Moulds, but in the NFL's most brutal division that might not be enough. (8-8)

16. Washington Redskins: The defense was good last year and should be so again. The special teams were awful last year, but the additions of K John Hall and RS Chad Morton, as well as the return of FS David Terrell to full-time special teams duty, should yield considerable improvement. The offense looks a lot more potent on paper, with the additions of WRs Laveranues Coles, Taylor Jacobs, Patrick Johnson, OG Randy Thomas, and TB Trung Canidate. However, it all depends on QB Patrick Ramsey, who has started less than half a dozen NFL games. I think Ramsey will be a good pro quarterback, but will it happen this year? Who knows. HC Steve Spurrier must prove he's learned something from his disastrous quarterback merry-go-round last year and resist the temptation to insert backup QB Rob Johnson every time Ramsey makes a poor decision. (And he'll make plenty of poor decisions.) If Ramsey plays well, the Skins should win ten games and make the playoffs. If he does not, the Skins are in trouble. Again. (7-9)


17. New York Jets: Lots to like about this team--QB Chad Pennington, WR/PR Santana Moss, drafting DL Dewayne Roberston with the fourth pick overall. However, I think the loss of WR Laveranues Coles will hurt a lot and I think this is the year TB Curtis Martin finally begins to break down. The Jets are a good team, but the play in the toughest division in the NFL and there is no margin for error. Losing WR Coles was a big error. (9-7)

18. New York Giants: I underestimated this team last year and maybe I'm doing it again, but I don't like think the Giants have improved themselves this offseason. I'm probably wrong about this, too, but I don't see how this team wins 10 games again. (10-6)

19. San Diego Chargers: HC Marty Schottenheimer probably goofed by dumping LB Junior Seau and getting so little in return and the loss of FS Rodney Harrison will hurt, especially since he has not been adequately replaced. Adding WR David Boston to an offense that already features TB LaDainian Tomlinson and QB Drew Brees was a good idea, but those three will have to score a lot to make up for what appears to be a relatively weak defense. (8-8)

20. Kansas City Chiefs: This team depended on TB Priest Holmes to make things happen last year and he kept his side of the bargain until getting badly injured late in the season. Until then, he was arguably the best player in the NFL. Now it seems the Chiefs have doubts about Holmes' health and availability for the 2003 season, so they drafted TB Larry Johnson in the first round. Even if he pans out, Johnson still can't do the things Holmes has done the last two years and the Kansas City defense is still lousy. If Holmes can play and play well this year, the Chiefs will make the playoffs. Right now, things don't look too encouraging. (8-8)

21. Baltimore Ravens: Defense will be monstrous again, but I still don't see the offensive firepower. The offensive line is weak, the wideouts are ordinary, and TB Jamal Lewis needs more help than that. And who is going to play quarterback? If Chris Redman fails again, will HC Brian Billick turn to rookie Kyle Boller? If Baltimore had good quarterback play they'd be in the Super Bowl again, but they don't, so they won't. (7-9)

22. Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting QB Byron Leftwich was masterful and signing free agents LB Mike Peterson and DE Hugh Douglas were both good moves. However, the team still depends on the health of QB Mark Brunell and TB Fred Taylor, as well as the continued production of WR Jimmy Smith. If a few things break right for the Jags, they could easily make another run at the Super Bowl. Things have not been breaking right for this team lately, however. (6-10)

23. Seattle Seahawks: I like a lot of the moves Seattle has made, especially drafting CB Marcus Trufant in the first round this year. It seems getting HC Mike Holmgren away from management and back to what he can do well--coaching--was a smart move. Nevertheless, I'm a bit skeptical of a team that relies on QB Matt Hasselbeck--who is still untested--and TB Shaun Alexander--who mixes monster performances with long stretches where you don't hear from him at all. The Seahawks could win the NFC West or they could fail to make the playoffs again. Like Jacksonville, this is a boom-or-bust team. (7-9)

24. Cleveland Browns: Wait a minute, I thought the Browns were supposed to be a team on the rise! Wrong. The Browns have a bitter quarterback battle brewing, TB William Green must prove he can play consistently the way he did in the second half of 2002 and the team was devastated by offseason losses--including the entire starting linebacking corps and Pro Bowl defender Jamir Miller. Meanwhile, the Browns are still waiting for DE Courtney Brown to justify his selection as the first pick in the 2000 Draft. Lavar Arrington and Chris Samuels must be looking pretty good now. (9-7)

25. Carolina Panthers: I still can't figure out how this team won seven games last year and until I do, I won't give them the respect they probably deserve. TB Stephen Davis was a nice addition, but I'm not sold on QB Jake Delhomme. Drafting QB Byron Leftwich would have been a better idea. (7-9)

26. Dallas Cowboys: Bill Parcells is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but I don't think Vince Lombardi could make winners out of QBs Chad Hutchinson and Quincy Carter this year. The team is unsettled at tailback, the offensive line was terrible last year, and I'm not sold on WR Terry Glenn ever getting back to his level as a rookie. This team has some nice players and drafting CB Terence Newman was a masterstroke, but I don't see the offensive firepower here to win a lot of games. (5-11)

27. Minnesota Vikings: I love getting MLB E.J. Henderson in the second round of the draft, but the defense is still awful and WR Randy Moss will still disappear for games for reasons that make sense only to him. The Vikes have flubbed free agency badly and it will cost them this year. (6-10)

28. Chicago Bears: QB Kordell Stewart isn't going to work in Chitown either. (4-12)

29. Detroit Lions: Hiring HC Steve Mariucci and drafting WR Charles Rogers were probably good moves, but this team has problems on both sides of the ball and a rookie wide receiver won't change that this year. I expect another tough season for the kittens. (3-13)

30. Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis will get things turned around in Cincy, but he'll need three years to do it. (2-14)

31. Houston Texans: In their second year of existence, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars both advanced to the conference championship games. That won't happen to Houston, a team with far too many holes and still-developing talent. The offense will be a bit better and the defense will be a bit better, but they are both starting from such a low point that it won't get this team far. Nevertheless, baby steps are important steps and the Texans are on the right path. It's just a long path to walk and will take some time. (4-12)

32. Arizona Cardinals: Lost its best player in WR David Boston and replaced him with 49-year-old TB Emmitt Smith. The Smith signing is a clumsy marketing ploy and indicative of a team going nowhere fast…again. (5-11)
WARREN BUFFETT NAILS VOODOO ECONOMICS -- Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway and probably the greatest investor in U.S. history, has a thing or two to say about Mr Bush's tax policies--especially his dividend tax policies--and his remarks are as unkind as they are accurate.
Now the Senate says that dividends should be tax-free to recipients. Suppose this measure goes through and the directors of Berkshire Hathaway (which does not now pay a dividend) therefore decide to pay $1 billion in dividends next year. Owning 31 percent of Berkshire, I would receive $310 million in additional income, owe not another dime in federal tax, and see my tax rate plunge to 3 percent.

And our receptionist? She'd still be paying about 30 percent, which means she would be contributing about 10 times the proportion of her income that I would to such government pursuits as fighting terrorism, waging wars and supporting the elderly. Let me repeat the point: Her overall federal tax rate would be 10 times what my rate would be.

But Mr Buffett hasn't finished yet...
When you listen to tax-cut rhetoric, remember that giving one class of taxpayer a "break" requires -- now or down the line -- that an equivalent burden be imposed on other parties. In other words, if I get a break, someone else pays. Government can't deliver a free lunch to the country as a whole. It can, however, determine who pays for lunch. And last week the Senate handed the bill to the wrong party.

Supporters of making dividends tax-free like to paint critics as promoters of class warfare. The fact is, however, that their proposal promotes class welfare. For my class.

Well said, Mr Buffett. Class warfare is being waged in this country--by rich Republicans against everyone else. So far the War on Terror has distracted people from Mr Bush's outrageous domestic policies, but as the economy continues to stagnate during our jobless "recovery", people are bound to notice sooner or later. Mr Buffett has noticed. How long before the rest of America wakes up to the truth?
LITTLE GROWTH SEEN FOR ECONOMY -- The Federal Reserve of Philadelphia has cut its forecast for economic growth from 2.5% 5o 2.2 percent.
REGIME OF LIARS -- "I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that
Iraq had nuclear weapons."
-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, May 14

"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
- Vice President Cheney, March 16
TESS IS GONNA MESS YOU UP! -- Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is married to Teresa Heinz, heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune. Although Senator Kerry has vowed to do all he can to avoid using his wife's fortune for his presidential campaign, Republican hit men may change his mind. More to the point, they may change his wife's mind.
Uh-oh, now they've done it. Critics of Teresa Heinz Kerry's unorthodox and outspoken views have the fabulously rich wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry reaching for her $550 million can of whup-ass. Originally reserved to counter GOP sniping at her hubby, Heinz Kerry is now open to spending some of her ketchup fortune on a counterattack. "The assumption," says a friend, "was always that the attacks would be on him, not her." But now: "The attacks on her have exponentially increased the likelihood of her tapping the fortune." Heinz Kerry, previously married to ketchup heir Sen. John Heinz, who died in a plane crash, has been ridiculed by Republicans for recent statements promoting Botox treatments, prenuptial agreements, and feeding rabbits to kids. One critic compared her to egomaniac Donald Trump, calling Mrs. H.K. "the Teresa." If Republicans don't shut up, warns one of her friends, she'll give Kerry a war chest that would dwarf anything President Bush could collect. "It would be George Bush's worst nightmare," says the friend.
This is not a woman the GOP wants to mess with and judging by their pre-emptive attacks on Senator Kerry himself, they don't want a piece of her husband either.

Monday, May 19, 2003

NATIONAL SERVICE MEANS NATIONAL GREATNESS -- John Kerry (D-MA) today called for a "new era of service in America" and unveiled a plan to engage more than one million Americans a year in national service. Kerry delivered his remarks at the Sweeney Post American Legion hall and then addressed students at St Paul's School. St Paul's requires community service before graduation.

The plan's highlights include:

"SERVICE FOR COLLEGE" INITIATIVE will offer Americans the chance to earn the equivalent of their state's four-year public college tuition in exchange for two years of service. Kerry will set a goal within the next decade of enlisting 500,000 young people a year in Service for College.

HIGH SCHOOL SERVICE REQUIREMENT to ensure that every high school student in America does community service as a requirement for graduation. States would design service programs that meet their community and educational needs.

-- 100,000 OLDER AMERICANS IN SERVICE and a SUMMER OF SERVICE for thirteen to seventeen year olds.
-- A REBIRTH FOR THE PEACE CORPS by expanding the Peace Corps to 25,000 members.
-- RECRUITING MORE AMERICANS TO THE MILITARY
-- CREATING A NEW COMMUNITY DEFENSE SERVICE

Read the full text of Senator Kerry's speech here.
POT, MEET THE KETTLE -- New Zealand drivers are lousy--according to the Italian ambassador to that country. Writing as someone who has been to Italy, loves Italy, and will return to Italy, Italians should not be insulting the driving habits of people from other countries.
I'M GOING TO HELL, BUT IT COULD BE WORSE -- I came across one of those silly, but irresistable thingamabobs [or it might have been a doohickey] you find on the Internet every so often. I'm not much for these quizzes, but it promised to tell me what level of Hell I'm heading to. [There are nine levels in all and the worse you are, the further down you go.] I couldn't resist a sales pitch like that so I took the test. And I answered all the questions honestly, before any of you smart alecks wonders aloud. Here is the result of my score:
You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
First Level of Hell - Limbo

Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.


The rest of you stop pretending you've got better things to do and take the test yourself.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test
BENNET THE ADDICTED HYPOCRITE -- The wonderful Frank Rich neatly nailed Vegas afficionado Bill Bennett in a column appropriately titled Tupac's Revenge. Go read it now.
ECONOMY WILL BE SLUGGISH -- The Conference Board's latest Leading Economic Indicators report reveals the economy is sluggish and will stay that way for the forseeable future. The problem for the Bush regime is that if an economy is not creating jobs--and this one is not--then no amount of growth will impress the public or the media. They'll think you're just spouting deceptive numbers if you talk about 2.1% GDP growth if jobs are not more plentiful. That's exactly what happened to Bush Sr. and it looks increasingly likely now. The economy probably needs to grow by about 3.5% for there to be noticeable job creation and the U.S. economy is not anywhere near that. Nor is it likely to be soon.

Guess that means we'll have to invade another country soon. For their own sakes, I sure hope the Syrians are sleeping with one eye open.
IRAQIS RALLY AGAINST U.S. -- Angry Shiites held yet another rally against the U.S. today. The crowd numbered about 10,000 and the protest was held near a Sunni mosque, to demonstrate Islamic loyalty, organizers claimed.
The crowd chanted "No Shiites and no Sunnis, just Islamic unity," sang religious songs, and carried banners reading "No to the foreign administration," and "We want honest Iraqis, not their thieves."

As I've written before in this space, we should get used to a lot more of this. (And if this is as bad as it gets, we should count ourselves as very, very lucky.) The Iranians are organizing some of this, but all they have to do is provide organization and money--the feeling of disaffection exists all on its own. The U.S. was prepared to conquer Iraq and did so very quickly, but we were/are woefully unprepared to rule Iraq, a more difficult task which requires altogether different skills. The big question now is how long will these protests remain peaceful? How long do we have before the protestors start shooting at our troops or blowing themselves up near American-occupied buildings?
KERRY ON "FACE THE NATION" -- Below is a transcript of Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) interview on "Face the Nation" yesterday.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And with us now from Boston, Senator John Kerry. Joining in the questioning this morning, Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine. Part of our continuing series of interviews today with the various people seeking the Democratic nomination. A little later in the broadcast we'll be talking to Republican Pat Roberts.

But Senator, I want to start by asking you about this series of attacks. This morning now another one in Israel. Prime Minister Sharon has cancelled or postponed his visit to Washington because of that. Earlier last week we saw these attacks in Saudi Arabia, also in Morocco. It appears that al Qaeda is back in business. I wonder if you have some comments on that.

SEN. KERRY: Al Qaeda never went out of business, Bob, and I think that the triumphalism of this administration, the president's comments and others about al Qaeda on the run has really exceeded reality. What's happened is, we broke the beehive but we didn't kill the bees, and we certainly haven't killed the queen bee. I think it underscores the enormous strategic error that I pointed to many months ago at Tora Bora and Anaconda where we failed to capture and kill 1,000 al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden. And there is evidence that one of those people who escaped from Tora Bora was one of those who planned the Riyadh attack. We need to be stronger and smarter and tougher, and particularly, we've got to have a more effective outreach in our foreign policy to build the cooperation necessary to truly wage a war on terror.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Now Senator, last week on this very broadcast, Bob Graham, the senator from Florida who is also running for the --

SEN. KERRY: I do know him.

MR. SCHIEFFER: -- Democratic nomination said that he believed that the war to take out Saddam Hussein had turned into a diversion and in fact had made the United States less safe than it was before. Now you voted to give the president the authority to take military action in Iraq. Do you think Senator Graham is right when he says that?

SEN. KERRY: I think that it is good that Saddam Hussein is gone. I think it was right to want to disarm him. I supported that and I think the key, however, what I said all along from day one -- and the reason some people sort of said what's Kerry saying about this -- is I said you have to build a strong coalition in order to win the peace. Winning the war was never in doubt for a nation that builds a military to defeat the Soviet Union and another war in the Far East at the same time. Winning the peace is more complicated. And we've seen that this administration has been in complete disarray. They did not have a plan ready. They haven't built the kind of coalition to deal with the three parts of winning the peace: part one, security; part two, the humanitarian assistance; part three, the governance and infrastructure. I believe that those other two parts, governance and the humanitarian, need the rest of the world to be involved in order to reduce America's carrying all the risks and all the costs in order to reduce the targeting of American soldiers and in order to maximize our ability to wage a war on terror in that region and elsewhere. And I think the administration got overly focused on Iraq to the exclusion of building the kind of relationships in other parts of the world that do increase your ability to fight a war on terror.

We can do this tougher; we can do it smarter; we can do it more effectively, and we could be on the offensive, which is what we ought to be.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Karen?

MS. TUMULTY: Well, Senator, last October when you cast that vote for the war in Iraq, you said that your primary reason for casting that vote was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Specifically, you said, "We know through intelligence that he not only has kept them, but he continues to grow them." We've been looking for those weapons now for over a month. This morning's Washington Post points out that we went into the site that was number 26 on their list. What we found were vacuum cleaners. Does it matter that we haven't found those weapons? And what does the fact that we haven't found them suggest about the intelligence that you were relying on and that Colin Powell took to the U.N.?

SEN. KERRY: Well, it raises a lot of questions about it. What we did know, obviously, Karen, is that for the eight years we had inspectors there, what have we found? We found that the Iraqis were further along in the development of nuclear weapons and that they had more chemical and biological than we had ever seen before, number one.

Number two, they've been uninspected for four years, and we did know that they did have precursor chemicals and other efforts going on according to our intelligence. We also had evidence through the intelligence community that they were engaged in activities with other terrorist organizations and so forth. I mean, I think it does raise questions about the intelligence we got.

I will tell you this, our intelligence has clearly improved since then, and if there's one thing I will give credit for, it's the intelligence community. They knew that some of these attacks were going to happen in the last days. But what -- it's insufficient for this administration to say we notified them, but they didn't do anything. It's the obligation of this administration to make sure that they are doing something, and you don't do it by passing on a communication and then sitting there. You have to be engaged, and many people are wondering whether we have been tough enough in our relationship with Saudis -- with Saudi Arabia and whether or not we are beginning to face this great question -- is it the extremists who are going to be isolated or is it the United States? I believe this is a war of ideas and we need to be more in engaged in that war with a more robust and aggressive foreign policy. So it's intelligence and it's foreign policy.

MS. TUMULTY: Bringing up the Saudis, do you in fact think we have been tough enough on them because we've known for a long time that many of the roads to al Qaeda lead through our allies Saudi Arabia. And yet there have been reports as recently as this week that they are either, A, uncooperative or, B, incompetent.

SEN. KERRY: I think that we have not had the kind of engagement, not just from the Saudis but from other countries in the region. Our own foreign policy, our own State Department, our own administration has not been sufficiently focused and energized in terms of building those relationships. Osama bin Laden is probably in the North of Pakistan.

What is the relationship with Pakistan and the legitimacy of their efforts to ferret him out? What are we doing with respect to our overall effort to market the ideas and values of the United States beyond the military excursions that we engage in. And the war on terror, Karen, is not just a war that will be engaged in by the military. In fact it will be less engaged in by the military. It is much more an intelligence operation and a law enforcement operation and to win that war you have to have the most robust, aggressive, forceful foreign policy. This administration has been disengaged in the Middle East, lackadaisical about the relationship with Saudi Arabia and I think we can be tougher and we can be smarter in how we protect Americans.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, let's just talk about let's be tougher. Now, the United States sent five separate people over there to warn the Saudis that there was some trouble coming, including the Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Handley who went and called on them and said we need some help here. Apparently the Saudis did nothing in reaction to that. We have now dispatched scores of FBI agents to Saudi Arabia but we're now told that the Saudi interior minister - and let's all remember he is the one who has said on the record that he believes that it is the Jews who are behind the attack on 9/11 - he is now quoted as saying, yes, we're going to let them observe, but we're not going to investigate. Let's say John Kerry was president and he was confronted with that kind of situation. What would you say to the Saudis specifically right now?

SEN. KERRY: Well if John Kerry were president I would long ago have engaged in an effort to move America towards a different energy policy so that we aren't reliant as we are on 46 percent of the oil reserves of the world that come from Saudi Arabia.

This administration has no energy policy and moreover there are ways to raise and ratchet up the dialogue between nations.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me -

SEN. KERRY: Let me just say, Bob - you can public. You can go public and begin to ratchet up the cooperative level. The Saudis in the end also need the United States of American. I mean, remember, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, it was Saudi Arabia to a certain degree that was at risk in the long run in terms of the oil fields. It wasn't just about the liberation of Kuwait. It was also about the protection of the Saudi fields and the Saudi and Kuwaiti interests in the region.

We need to remind people of that linkage and we need to be more forceful and aggressive in that effort. That's what good diplomacy is about. These - you know, this administration walked away from the Middle East for about 14 months. And the Afghanistan job is not finished. Almost any observer will tell you that we're not rebuilding Afghanistan. The great test of this is Iraq. We have to win this effort now of the peace in Iraq. The entire direction and course of the war on terror, the entire direction of the Middle East will depend on our success in Iraq. We can win it. But it's going to take a longer, more sustained, more expensive effort than this administration ever acknowledged to the American people and we now need other people involved in this and we have to open it up.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Okay, but let me go back to my original question. Because if you do become president, the same energy policy that's in effect now will be in effect when you get to be president. You're still going to have to deal with the Saudis. What specifically would you do? How can you bring pressure on the Saudis to help in this?

SEN. KERRY: Two months ago, or around there, I gave a speech in which I laid out an alternative foreign policy vision. And in that speech I suggested we need a greater Middle East initiative that begins to engage in that region, not just in Saudi Arabia but Egypt and other countries, to help take nations where you have 65 or 70 percent of the population under the age of 30, 50 percent of the population under the age of 18, they are unemployed and they are unemployable. And as long as they are educated in schools which teach them to hate, to hate Israel, to hate us and to give them the capacity to become terrorists, we need to change that relationship. I suggested that we need to engage in a major transitional effort in their government's practices, in their economic policies and educational policies to bring them to a better place. That is now possible through what is now happening in Iraq. But clearly this administration didn't even understand the implications of it's own victory in Iraq.

MS. TUMULTY: Senator --

SEN. KERRY: I mean -- sorry, go ahead.

MS. TUMULTY: Well, Senator, a couple of minutes ago you suggested that we basically kicked over an ant hill in Tora Bora, how worried are you now that we've seen two major terrorists attacks in the last week? How worried are you about additional attacks in the United States?

SEN. KERRY: This administration has told us it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Those are their words. So if those words are true, it also raises the question of why firefighters are being laid off in America, why police programs have been cut, why frontline responders and trainers have not been trained, why they haven't been given the equipment they have. It raises the extraordinary question of why we have not fully funded communities in their efforts to have adequate homeland security and relieve the pressure on states instead of giving the wealthiest Americans yet another tax cut. The priorities and choices of this administration are wrong. And we need to move in the right direction in this country. In homeland security and in our efforts to be prepared for the possibility of those attacks.

I just read that of the fifty-five thousand screeners in our airports, twenty-two thousand have not been checked for criminal records. But the very reason we federalized it was to do that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator, let me ask you just one question on straight politics. Senator Lieberman who is also seeking the nomination, says that he would be in favor of a plan where all the Democratic candidates starting in July held a debate once a month. Would you be willing to do that?

SEN. KERRY: I think we have a lot of debates coming up. Look, I love to debates -

MR. SCHIEFFER: But I mean, would you be for that?

SEN. KERRY: I had nine one-hour televised debates with Governor Weld in my race with him. People know I love debates. But I also need to raise money, build an organization, move around the country. I don't know what Joe's strategy is. There's going to be a lot of time for us to debate -

MR. SCHIEFFER: Okay, well, let me just - I'm going to check it off here. Do I put you in the yes or the no column?

SEN. KERRY: I'm happy to have debates. We will have debates but I'm not sure my schedule will do it once a month.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Okay. Thank you very much, Senator. We'll talk to you again as we get further down the campaign trail.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

BEAUTY AND THE BONE -- The exquisite Halle Berry has broken her arm on the set of her upcoming film Gothika. I wonder if she needs some TLC.
IRAQ SLIDES INTO CHAOS -- The news media has lost interest in Iraq now that Baghdad has fallen and so, not coincidentally, has the Bush regime. Events in Iraq continue, nonetheless, whether or not CNN and Karl Rove still care. These events, of late have not been encouraging. For now, the American people are content to ignore it. Not for long, however. One day in the not-too-distant future, the catastrophe of Iraq will not be ignored.
Since the American takeover, Baghdad has turned into an Arab version of the Watts riots. Burning buildings dot the city skyline. Armed looters terrorize the population, tearing into homes and emptying them of their possessions. Petty crime has become rampant on the streets, virtually no one feels secure, and homes are never left unguarded at night.

The really scary part, however, may be yet to come. Thus far violence in Baghdad has been limited to unorganized gangs of looters carrying Kalashnikovs. But Iraqi security experts and other sources in the capital say that, under the nose of the American forces, Iraq's nascent political groups are forming armed militias and storing weapons as they prepare for a potential civil war for control of the country. In fact, The New Republic has learned, several Iraqis say even Hezbollah has formed a branch in Baghdad. Ultimately, if Baghdad's power vacuum is not filled soon, the rise of organized armed factions could turn Iraq's capital into a twenty-first-century version of 1980s Beirut.

General insecurity and looting has been the norm in Baghdad almost since the first Saddam Hussein statue fell. With small arms easily available from former members of Saddam's military and security services, many Iraqis have armed themselves and begun cleaning out the homes of Baghdad's wealthy and middle class. Street crime was infrequent under Saddam, but today random rapes, carjackings, and murders have become commonplace in many parts of the city, and as a result women have virtually disappeared from the streets.

Sound bad? Yes, but not bad enough, apparently. There is more.
Since the fall of Saddam, more than 30 different political parties have established themselves in Baghdad, ranging from the Kurdish People's Front to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a theocratic group under the authority of newly returned Shia leader Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim. This should be a healthy sign. Except that, according to security sources, many of these parties have formed organized armed militias ranging in size from 500 men for Hizb Al Dawa, a leading theocratic Shia group, to more than 2,000 fighters for SCIRI, whose armed wing is called the Badr Brigade. SCIRI, like several of these organizations, allegedly received training for their militias from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Even the long-repressed Iraqi Communist Party, led by aging Marxists, has supposedly set up a 600-man force.

Meanwhile, according to several security sources, even more dangerous groups may be setting up in Iraq. A group made up of former Baathists is attempting to constitute a militia of Saddam loyalists. And security sources in Baghdad say that Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, is forming an Iraqi branch.

Faced with events such as these, it is no wonder Americans do not care to take notice. When post-Saddam Iraq turns on America, however, and the country increasingly becomes a source of terror (far more than it was under Saddam Hussein), the television cameras will return to the country and all of Karl Rove's tricks will not be able to distract the world's attention from the mess we have allowed to gather there.