Friday, July 08, 2005


"Any government that supports, protects or harbours terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes."

Who said this? George W. Bush - maybe old DUBYA ought to read this:

West turns blind eye as police put Saddam's torturers back to work

By James Hider / Times Online

IRAQI security forces, set up by American and British troops, torture detainees by pulling out their fingernails, burning them with hot irons or giving them electric shocks, Iraqi officials say. Cases have also been recorded of bound prisoners being beaten to death by police.

In their haste to put police on the streets to counter the brutal insurgency, Iraqi and US authorities have enlisted men trained under Saddam Hussein’s regime and versed in torture and abuse, the officials told The Times. They said that recruits were also being drawn from the ranks of outlawed Shia militias.

Counter-insurgencies are rarely clean fights, but Iraq’s dirty war is being waged under the noses of US and British troops whose mission is to end the abuses of the former dictatorship. Instead, they appear to have turned a blind eye to the constant reports of torture from Iraq’s prisons.

Among the worst offenders cited are the Interior Ministry police commandos, a force made up largely of former army officers and special forces soldiers drawn from the ranks of Saddam’s dissolved army. They are seen as the most effective tool the coalition has in fighting the insurgency.

“It’s a gruesome situation we are in,” a senior Iraqi official said. “You have to understand the situation when the special commandos were formed last August. They were taking on an awful lot of people in a great hurry. Many of them were people who served in Saddam’s forces . . . The choice of taking them on was a difficult one. There was no supervision. There still really isn ’t any, and that applies to all the security forces. They’re all doing this.”

“This”, said Saad Sultan, the Human Rights Ministry official in charge of monitoring Iraq’s prisons, includes random arrests, sometimes without a warrant, hanging people from ceilings and beating them, attaching electrodes to ears, hands, feet and genitals, and holding hot irons to flesh.

Four of his 22 monitors have already quit their jobs, leaving a handful of lawyers to inspect scores of prisons.

“Two months ago I could go into a prison and more than 50 per cent of the people had been ill-treated,” Mr Sultan said. Six months ago the situation had been even worse.

Reports of torture and abuse are commonplace. Omar, a 22-year-old student, said that he was picked up in a night raid on his home in Baghdad by police commandos, who dragged him away from his family to a detention facility. No one told him where he was or what he was accused of, he said. As he was marched into prison, policemen lined up to beat him and his fellow detainees. The prisoners’ handcuffs were tightened until the men screamed.

The next day, he and his neighbour were blindfolded and transported to another facility, where his neighbour collapsed unconscious during a beating. He was then led into an interrogation room, where a policeman attached electrodes to his thumbs and toes. “I immediately asked what they wanted and he said something like, ‘You have been targeting police and national guardsmen’. Without waiting for my response, he switched on the electricity, then kept on turning it off and on until I could hardly breathe.

“I screamed under torture,” Omar said. “It’s not a place to prove your courage. These guys are trying to kill you for nothing.” He was released without charge after 12 days.

The abuse has not gone unnoticed by the coalition, but little has been done to address it. A US State Department report in February stated that Iraqi authorities had been accused of “arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions — particularly in pre-trial detention facilities — and arbitrary arrest and detention.” A Human Rights Watch report also noted that “unlawful arrest, long-term incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees (including children) by Iraqi authorities have become routine and commonplace”.

Evidence of extra-judicial killings by the security forces has also come to light. Mr Sultan is investigating the case of three members of the Badr Corps, the paramilitary wing of one of the main Shia parties in government, who were arrested by police, handcuffed and beaten to death.

An Iraqi official said that the Iraqi National Guard, the US-trained paramilitary police, regularly disposed of the corpses of its victims by throwing them in the river. “The problem is that some people have still got that training from the past,” he said. “You have ten or twelve of them in the same unit working, and if they seize terrorists they will torture or kill them.”

He added that while the de facto death squads were not part of government policy, little was being done to counteract them. “These are exceptional times. It’s an emergency.”

General Adnan Thabet, the commandos’ commander and a special adviser to the Interior Minister, was a senior officer under Saddam. He was sentenced to death for plotting against the former dictator and was tortured after his sentence was commuted.

He denied any allegation of torture, but admitted: “This is a dirty war. We are the only ones with the nerves to fight it.”

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Brave New World - Faux News tells us the facts on Bush's judicial appointments.





I sure am glad they are fair and balanced. I mean these facts are just facts right, not political jigos or anything... just pretend they are nice furry little fuzzy facts and everything will be o.k. I can just barely hear that deep slow subliminal message being pumped out.... Sleep.... Sleep... Sleep....



Culture of Death: Republicans want quicker executions; and hey let's throw out 300 years of Jurisprudence along the way.

Republicans want to speed up death penalty

By Alan Elsner / Reuters

WASHINGTON - Republicans in Congress have launched a new effort to speed up executions in the United States by limiting the ability of those sentenced to death to appeal to federal courts.

The "Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005," introduced into the House of Representatives by California Rep. Dan Lungren and in the Senate by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, would limit the ability of defendants facing the death sentence to have their cases reviewed by federal courts in what are known as habeas corpus appeals.

"You see delays in death penalty cases where they are allowed to drag on for 15 or even 25 years. Defense attorneys have come to believe the longer they delay, the better it is for their clients," Lungren said in an interview.

"We're trying to ensure that habeas corpus is not used as a reason for interminable delays and that defendants get one bite of the apple and not multiple bites," he said.

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee considering the bill, conceded there was little chance of blocking it in the House.

"The House has been very supportive of anything that would strip the innocent of a fair hearing. This bill will ensure that more innocent people will be put to death," he said in a telephone interview.

Death penalty opponents say the law would strip the ability of federal courts to review most claims in capital cases.

"It seeks a radical cutting and slashing of our existing process of habeas corpus reviews of state convictions," University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt said last week in a hearing before the House subcommittee reviewing the legislation. "This new bill would effectively gut habeas corpus review where states have imposed a sentence of death."

Habeas corpus -- the phrase in Latin for "you have the body" -- has been a centerpiece of Anglo-American jurisprudence since it was first developed over 300 years ago in Britain. It gave a defendant the right to have their imprisonment reviewed by a court.

In U.S. death penalty cases, defense lawyers consider the right to have federal courts oversee state court decisions as a vital weapon in their armory.


"It is critical. Often, the defendant's original lawyers are so poorly funded and so overworked that they cannot do the basic research that the case requires. That's why the error level is so high in death penalty cases," said one California defense lawyer, who asked not to be named.

A study headed by Columbia University statistician and political scientist Andrew Gelman of all 5,826 death sentences imposed in the United States between 1973 and 1995 found that 68 per cent were reversed on appeal.

The most common reasons were "egregiously incompetent lawyering, prosecutorial misconduct or suppression of evidence, misinstruction of jurors or biased judges or jurors," said the study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

Federal courts examining habeas corpus appeals overturned 40 percent of the cases that had previously been upheld by state appeals courts -- a fact the authors called worrisome.

The number of death sentences handed down in the United States has fallen to around 150 a year from around 300 a year in the late 1990s, according to figures compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Last year, there were 58 executions in the United States and there have been 27 so far this year. The average time a person spends on death row before execution is 11-12 years.

Ronald Eisenberg, a deputy district attorney from Philadelphia, said federal judges often threw out death sentences for frivolous reasons. In Pennsylvania, they have overturned 19 of 20 habeas corpus cases litigated in the past 10 years.

"Whether or not they actually reverse a conviction, federal habeas corpus courts drag litigation out for years of utterly unjustifiable delay, creating exorbitant costs for the state and endless pain for the victims," he told the House subcommittee last week.


Man these guys are so fucking dirty.

For Lobbyist, a Seat of Power Came With a Plate

An email message from the lobbist Jack Abramoff instructed the Signatures restaurant staff not to charge Tom DeLay and his guest for a meal.

Subject: Tom and Christine DeLay

Want to come in Thursday May 9, 7PM. Table of 6, put it where I sit and remove that other table. Their meal is to be comped. Thanks

By Glen Justice / New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 5 - The lobbyist Jack Abramoff mixed business with business at Signatures, the upscale restaurant he opened here three years ago. Playing host at his private corner spot, Table 40, he courted Republican lawmakers and talked strategy with subordinates while eating rolls of sushi and firing commands to the staff on his BlackBerry.

Signatures appeared to satisfy several ambitions for Mr. Abramoff, who is at the center of two widening fraud investigations. By most accounts, he reveled in the role of celebrity restaurant owner. His expense account restaurant, which offered a $74 steak and a $140 tasting menu, packed in Capitol Hill staffers and prominent politicians.

Mr. Abramoff could patronize his own business - his meals were sometimes prepared in a special kosher kitchen - while billing clients thousands of dollars. And he could generate good will by offering free food and drink to guests including Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, now the majority leader, and other members of Congress, according to restaurant records and interviews with former employees.

For example, Mr. Abramoff wrote an e-mail message to three restaurant managers in May 2002, instructing them not to charge Mr. DeLay, his wife, Christine, and four others when they came in a week later.

"Table of 6," Mr. Abramoff wrote, "put it where I sit and remove that other table. Their meal is to be comped."

In the restaurant's early months, a customer list noted who could dine for free, according to two former managers. A copy obtained by The New York Times shows handwritten notes next to 18 names - lawyers, lobbyists and eight current or former lawmakers - designating them as "FOO Comp," for friend of owner, or "A-Comp," for associate of owner.

Often, guests dined with Mr. Abramoff and did not receive a check, employees said, though Congressional rules prohibit lawmakers from receiving expensive gifts, including food.

"They would come in for lunch with Jack and they wouldn't get a bill," Laura Clifton, a former dining room manager at Signatures, said of Mr. Abramoff's guests. "It was a showplace and it was for business," Ms. Clifton added. "It was all business all the time."

Mr. Abramoff was in the restaurant almost daily, often treating a table full of guests to hundreds of dollars worth of food, wine and liquor, financial records show. Over a 17-month period in 2002 and 2003, the restaurant gave away about $180,000 in food and drink, with Mr. Abramoff's tab roughly $65,000 for himself and his guests, the records say. About a dozen former employees and managers, including three who provided records, described Mr. Abramoff's activities at Signatures. Most would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the investigations. Several acknowledged that they had left on poor terms, while most said they simply moved on.

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Mr. Abramoff, disputed some of the employees' accounts, including one that a list was kept identifying customers eligible for free food.

"Every restaurant tries to avoid giving complimentary meals and drinks, but it does happen at virtually every restaurant," Mr. Blum wrote in response to written questions. "Nevertheless, there has never been a comp list at Signatures authorized by Mr. Abramoff."

Mr. Blum also disputes the accuracy of the financial records describing the amount of money attributed to free meals. "It is possible that information is being provided by unreliable sources," he said. He did not provide a number for the value of free meals.

Spokespeople for Mr. DeLay and the other lawmakers all said they had complied with ethics rules.

A Who's Who Spot

Mr. Abramoff, who was once a top lobbyist for the Greenberg Traurig law firm, is under investigation by a Congressional committee and a federal grand jury, which are looking into accusations that he defrauded four Indian tribes that paid him more than $80 million by inflating expenses, collecting kickbacks from consultants and diverting money intended for lobbying to pet projects.

His dealings at Signatures, it increasingly appears, are figuring in the inquiries.

A Congressional official who is monitoring the Justice Department's investigation of Mr. Abramoff said his use of Signatures in promoting his lobbying work was among the issues being examined by the grand jury. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the investigation, said Mr. Abramoff was known to entertain lawmakers who might assist his lobbying clients.

Documents released by Congressional investigators show tribes got hefty bills for meetings at Signatures. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians was billed more than $5,600 for Mr. Abramoff's meals with public officials and other lobbyists in 2002, records show.

On a good day, Signatures, on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol, was thick with well-known figures. The White House strategist Karl Rove, House speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have all dined there.

"It was a who's who, and that's the way they wanted it," Michael Rosen, who worked as chef at Signatures when the restaurant opened, said. "Jack loved the attention of everybody being there."

Mr. Abramoff usually entertained at Table 40, former employees said. He had a preferred chair, a few favorite servers and his own set of hand-washed pots, dishes and silverware. Other times he ate in one of the restaurant's two private rooms, which have a rear entrance that allows guests to come and go in privacy.

Though some former employees described Mr. Abramoff as detached when it came to the details of restaurant operation, many others said he was engaged in the matters that concerned him. He instructed the staff about who could sit within earshot of him, for example, one former employee said.

And when the restaurant was opening, some workers said, he and his family were involved in everything from the menu to the décor. The walls were lined with signed historic documents - hence the restaurant's name - including a copy of former President Richard Nixon's pardon that later sold for almost $5,000.

The tables were set with Christofle flatware, custom Villeroy & Boch chargers, even special lint-free napkins. Guests could rent a wine locker to store their favorite vintages and buy cigars from the in-house humidor. The restaurant had a van for a while to chauffeur guests.

Mr. Abramoff's ownership in Signatures lifted him into an exclusive group of wealthy Washington lobbyists and consultants who owned a piece of their favorite hangout. He eventually had an interest in three Washington restaurants, though the two others, Stacks and Archives, closed. Signatures was his first, opening in February 2002.

Food critics delivered mixed reviews, dubbing it a place for those on an expense account, and the current menu shows why. A $36 beef filet tops the dinner entrees. A lunchtime hamburger served on brioche with the chef's own ketchup sells for $12 (goat cheese optional for an extra $2).

Still, Signatures, which advertised that it provided "Liberal portions in a conservative setting," became a favorite among Republicans. Dozens of lawmakers took advantage of its location to hold fund-raisers, parties and meetings. A few Democrats even became regulars, including the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who lived nearby and was honored with a plaque proclaiming his favorite table "Moynihan's Corner."

As Mr. Abramoff's legal troubles escalated in the past year, some lawmakers have scrambled to avoid any ethical questions that could result from their association with him or his restaurant. Earlier this year, for example, Mr. Hastert, the House speaker, and Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, paid the restaurant for fund-raisers held in 2003.

While Congressional ethics rules allow gifts from personal friends, lawmakers are generally limited to less than $100 in gifts from a single source each year, and any gift must be worth less than $50. Former employees say several lawmakers dined regularly at Mr. Abramoff's private table and at his expense. While some often insisted on paying, others made no such requests, they said.

Regular Visitors

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who said he had been friends with Mr. Abramoff for two decades and did not shy away from his hospitality.

Mr. Rohrabacher, whose name bears the "FOO Comp" designation on the customer list, said he ate at Signatures at Mr. Abramoff's expense once or twice a month and that the meals fell under the friendship exemption in House rules. He also said he tried to take Mr. Abramoff out regularly, paying for the lobbyist's meals in return.

"Just because you are a member of Congress doesn't mean you have to give up your friendships," Mr. Rohrabacher said, adding that "it was dinner with a friend and I didn't think of it as a gift."

Another regular visitor was Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the Committee on House Administration. Campaign finance records show Mr. Ney's campaign and his political action committee paid Signatures about $1,900 for meals and events between 2002 and 2004, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks political spending.

Former Signatures employees, however, say Mr. Ney also frequently ate and drank without paying as he spent evenings talking with lobbyists and Congressional staffers.

"There were times when meals and/or drinks were bought by him or for him by other members, lobbyists, or other persons, all within the limits of the gift rules," Brian Walsh, Mr. Ney's spokesman, wrote in an e-mail message in response to questions.

Restaurant records show a dinner for 18 was planned for Mr. Ney in April 2002. It was organized by Neil Volz, Mr. Ney's former chief of staff who was working with Mr. Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig at the time.

The cost of the planned event was listed at roughly $70 per person with a $1,500 minimum. Campaign finance records show no payment from Mr. Ney's campaign or his political action committee, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. Mr. Volz did not return calls seeking comment.

"We continue to search our records but are unable to confirm at this time whether there was an event that evening," Mr. Walsh wrote. "The congressman's schedule indicates that he may have stopped by Signatures that night, among other locations listed on his calendar. Absent additional information, we cannot provide further details."

Former employees also say Representative John T. Doolittle, a California Republican whose name appears on the list with the FOO Comp designation, was given free meals at the restaurant. But his spokeswoman, Laura Blackann, said Mr. Doolittle did nothing wrong.

"To his recollection, any meal the congressman had at Signatures was either paid for personally or paid for in compliance with House rules by someone with whom the congressman was dining," Ms. Blackann said.

Mr. DeLay was also a regular visitor to the restaurant. His longtime ties to Mr. Abramoff have come under scrutiny this year, and he could face an inquiry by the House ethics committee into whether an expensive overseas trip arranged by Mr. Abramoff violated House rules. Former Signatures employees say the Texas lawmaker, whose name appears on the list with the FOO Comp designation, usually made brief appearances for fund-raisers and other events but rarely lingered to eat. Restaurant records, though, show a reception and dinner for 16 - at $75 a person and a $1,500 minimum - were scheduled for Mr. DeLay's political action committee in a private room in April 2002.

The dinner was organized by Tony Rudy, a former DeLay aide who was working with Mr. Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig at the time, and Tom Hammond, a fund-raising consultant. Campaign finance records show no payment for the event.

Richard Cullen, Mr. DeLay's lawyer, declined to comment directly on the events at Signatures involving the majority leader, except to say Mr. DeLay could find no record that the May 2002 meal referenced in Mr. Abramoff's e-mail message took place. The e-mail and some other information about free meals at Signatures was first reported by Time magazine.

Plans to Cooperate

"Mr. DeLay has stated repeatedly that he believes he has at all times conformed with House rules and that he will cooperate fully at the appropriate time with those whose responsibility it is to review these matters," Mr. Cullen said. "But he will not engage the press each time a political opponent feeds reporters often incomplete, irresponsible or inconsistent information. To do so would legitimize these political attacks and would be inappropriate."

Other lawmakers whose names carried the "FOO" notation include Republican Representatives Roy Blunt of Missouri and Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey, as well as former Senators John G. Breaux, Don Nickles and Tim Hutchinson. But the Signatures employees did not describe them as having regularly eaten with Mr. Abramoff or as often receiving free meals.

Spokespeople for Mr. Blunt and Mr. LoBiondo said the lawmakers never received free meals at Signatures. Mr. Nickles and Mr. Hutchinson did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Mr. Breaux, a former Democratic senator who now works for a law firm, said: "I never got a comped meal there in my life. And I'm certainly not a friend of Abramoff."

While Signatures was popular, it struggled to make money, according to employees and documents.

Mr. Abramoff and his companies invested more than $3 million in Signatures from January 2002 to May 2003, records show. At the same time, he and his employees gave away tens of thousands of dollars in food, wine and liquor, the records show. That includes menu prices for Mr. Abramoff's own food and drink, as well as employee discounts and free meals given by restaurant managers and staff, according to the records. Nationwide, the median expense for marketing, including free meals and drinks, was about 3.5 percent of sales for expensive restaurants like Signatures that spend the most on such promotions, according to the National Restaurant Association. One national restaurant consultant, Clark Wolf, said the figure can go as high as 5 percent.

At Signatures, free meals and drinks for managers and guests alone were about 7 percent of revenues for the restaurant's first 17 months, according to former employees and financial records. Mr. Blum, the spokesman for Mr. Abramoff, disputed that percentage.

Though still busy, Signatures is no longer the power hangout that it once was. Mr. Abramoff is negotiating to sell his interest, said Bronwyn Jacoby, a restaurant spokeswoman. Many of the lavish features have been cut back. Signatures is no longer open for breakfast. It no longer operates the van. And the $74 steak has disappeared from the menu.

By the end of the lunch hour Tuesday, the restaurant was deserted. While patrons lingered at outdoor tables two blocks away at the fashionable restaurant Ten Penh, none were seated on the patio outside Signatures - or, for that matter, at the dozens of empty indoor tables. As usual, one of the upstairs tables had a "reserved" sign on it.


JUDITH MILLER: I say let her rot.

Op-Ed: The Judy Miller Media Hug-Fest

By Rosa Brooks / Los Angeles Times

In the midst of the media's love-fest for Judith Miller, 1st Amendment Martyr, it's easy to forget that Miller's questionable journalistic ethics left her in the doghouse only a year ago. Indeed, when it came to leaks, the only people busier than White House staffers last year were the denizens of the New York Times' newsroom, who fell all over themselves to excoriate Miller to competing publications.

According to a June 2004 story in New York magazine, for instance, one anonymous co-worker said: "When I see her coming, my instinct is to go the other way." By many accounts, Miller is rude, competitive and heartless, willing to pursue a hot story at any price. In at least one instance, she reportedly used the name of a source who had provided information only on condition that her name not appear.

It was Miller, more than any other reporter, who helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public. Relying on the repeatedly discredited Ahmad Chalabi and her carefully cultivated administration contacts, Miller wrote story after story on the supposedly imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Only problem: Her scoops relied on information provided by the very folks who were also cooking the books. But because Miller hid behind confidential sources most of the time, there was little her readers could use to evaluate their credibility. You know: "a high-level official with access to classified data." Ultimately, even the Times' "public editor" conceded the paper's coverage of Iraq had often consisted of "breathless stories built on unsubstantiated 'revelations' that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests."

That's what makes the Judy Miller Media Hug-Fest so astonishing. Miller's refusal to testify to the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name has catapulted her back into favor. Ironically, as it becomes ever more likely that she'll be jailed for contempt of court, the very affection for anonymous sources that landed Miller in hot water last year has become her route to journalistic rehabilitation. The Houston Chronicle rhapsodizes that "reporters such as Miller … are the front line in the struggle to maintain a free and independent press." Back at the New York Times, Miller's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., assures us that everyone is busy "supporting her in this difficult time."

I'm as big of fan of the 1st Amendment as anybody, but I don't buy the new Miller-as-heroine story. When Judge David Tatel concurred in the D.C. Circuit's refusal to find any absolute journalist privilege shielding Miller from testifying, he noted, sensibly, that "just as attorney-client communications 'made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime' serve no public interest and receive no privilege … neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate." Few legal privileges are absolute, and it's appropriate for the courts to decide in cases such as this whether the harm of requiring a journalist to divulge confidential information is outweighed by the public interest in prosecuting a crime.

Reasonable people can disagree on the appropriate scope of journalistic privilege. But we should keep the legal question — when should journalists be compelled by law to divulge their sources? — distinct from the ethical question: Is a journalist ever ethically permitted to break a promise and divulge a source? However we answer the first question, the answer to the second must be a resounding yes.

Should Miller have refused to offer anonymity to all those "high-level" sources who sold us a bill of goods on Iraq? Yes.

If it becomes apparent to a journalist that a source lied to him on a matter crucial to the public good, should he be ethically permitted to expose the lie and the liar, despite any prior promises of confidentiality? Yes.

If a source with a clear political motivation passes along classified information that has no value for public debate but would endanger the career, and possibly the life, of a covert agent, is a journalist ethically permitted to "out" the no-good sneak? You bet. And if the knowledge that they can't always hide behind anonymity has a "chilling effect" on political hacks who are eager to manipulate the media in furtherance of their vested interests, that's OK with me.

But Miller still won't testify. Even though, ethically, there should be no obligation to go to jail to cover for a sleazeball.

It's possible (though not likely) that Miller is covering for a genuine whistle-blower who fears retaliation for fingering, gee, Karl Rove, for instance, as the real source of the leak.

But I have another theory. Miller's no fool; she understood the lesson of the Martha Stewart case: When you find yourself covered with mud, there's nothing like a brief stint in a minimum-security prison to restore your old luster.


FAUX NEWS: FAIR AND BALANCED: We Report, You decide.

Just yesterday London won the race to host the 2012 Olympics. Fair & balanced FOX News anchor John Gibson reflected on this choice yesterday:

All day long people have been saying to me, "Wasn't it great they didn't pick Paris?" And I've been saying, "No, no, no."

Paris was exactly the right place to pick and the Olympic committee screwed up.

Why? Simple. It would have been a three-week period where we wouldn't have had to worry about terrorism.

First, the French think they are so good at dealing with the Arab world that they would have gone out and paid every terrorist off. And things would have been calm.

Or another way to look at it is the French are already up to their eyeballs in terrorists. The French hide them in miserable slums, out of sight of the rich people in Paris.

So it would have been a treat, actually, to watch the French dealing with the problem of their own homegrown Islamist terrorists living in France already.

I'm glad he's reporting and letting us decide.


(Un)Intelligent Design: Science Should Include a "Supernatural Component"

Debate over evolution shuts down IMAX film


WOODS HOLE - It seemed innocuous enough: a 40-minute movie about underwater volcanoes that briefly mentions life on Earth may have arisen from the sea.

But the 2003 IMAX film ''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,'' whose producer consulted with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and used its Alvin submersible to film the underwater volcanoes, has been banned by some theater owners and managers in the Bible Belt because it briefly mentions the theory of evolution.

The controversy, coupled with a nascent effort to include teaching ''intelligent design'' alongside evolution in public school curricula, has helped thrust the long-running battle between religion and science back into the limelight.

Proponents of religion argue that evolution is ''theory,'' not fact. Supporters of science point to the time-tested underpinnings of Darwin's theory of evolution, a pillar of the modern life sciences since it was introduced in the mid-19th century.

The evolution reference in ''Volcanoes,'' which includes footage filmed from Alvin at depths of more than 12,000 feet, prompted officials of more than a dozen IMAX theaters to ban the film. Previews indicated some audiences found the big-screen movie blasphemous because it contradicts the biblical account of how life on Earth began.

The Bible's Book of Genesis says God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. But the film purports that life on Earth may have started around hydrogen-sulfide-spewing hydrothermal vents located at the bottom of the ocean. Creatures that thrive in the super-heated environment have the same DNA as humans.

That sort of conjecture presented as fact, however, bothers supporters of both creationism - the literal belief in the Genesis account - and proponents of intelligent design, which holds that only the presence of an unspecified superior intellect could account for the complexity and diversity of Earth's living organisms.

The intelligent design concept has spread over the past 20 years.

However, many scientists, including members of the American Geophysical Union and the National Center for Science Education, say I.D., as intelligent design is commonly known, is merely religion masked as science. .

An unexpected reaction

The Canadian producer of ''Volcanoes'' said he did not set out to ruffle any feathers, though his film helped kindle the creation-evolution debate. It is part of an ongoing debate about the role of religion in secular society, fueled partly by faith-based politics and issues such stem-cell research, abortion and euthanasia, as evidenced by the Terri Schiavo case.

''The E-word - you know, evolution - was the one that triggered this response,'' Stephen Low, the film's Montreal-based producer and director, said of the uproar.

Low, who recently finished shooting an IMAX film about Air Force fighter jets, said about 15 IMAX theaters in the South and Midwest rejected ''Volcanoes,'' citing the film's evolution hypothesis and a general desire to avoid controversy.

IMAX currently has 250 theaters in 36 countries, including six in New England. Jackson Myers, a media relations official with IMAX, which is headquartered in New York and Toronto, said individual theaters determine which films to show. IMAX screens operate like franchises and are mainly located in museums, planetariums, maritime centers and aquariums.

There was no vocal opposition when the movie played last spring at the New England Aquarium's IMAX theater, according to an aquarium spokesman in Boston.

Low said he was not surprised by the reaction of creationists, who deny the tenets of evolution.

''Science is nothing more than a celebration of God, and all knowledge is simply a celebration of life,'' he said. ''But, you know, the creationists don't like that; they don't like the interchanging of the words 'God' and 'nature.' To me, that's what God is: God is nature, not a guy with a beard.''

Supporting an alternative

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a bipartisan think tank that supports the teaching of intelligent design in schools, does not specifically object to evolution.

Institute officials, however, strongly believe an alternative should be taught alongside evolution, particularly since the theory does not answer every scientific question about the origins of life on Earth.

''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea'' was not an issue for the Discovery Institute, said Robert L. Crowther, the director of communications for the organization's Center For Science and Culture. ''We certainly have no problems with films like that. We weren't actively involved in (efforts to ban the film).''

The organization does not want to ''get rid of evolution,'' he insisted.

Many of the ''pioneers'' of I.D. - a concept formed in the late 1970s and early 1980s - are associated with the Discovery Institute, founded in 1990. The Center for Science and Culture, which promotes the teaching of I.D., was founded in 1996.

To date, more than 400 scientists have signed the center's ''dissent list'' against Darwinism, Crowther said.

Members of the Discovery Institute believe many features of the natural world are best explained ''as a result of an intelligent agent, or agency, or cause,'' he said.

Crowther said I.D. does not use the word ''God'' and is scientifically based, while ''creationism is a religious assumption.''

Dr. Peter Folger, a Falmouth native and a hydrogeologist with the Washington, D.C.-based American Geophysical Union, gets angry when I.D. proponents portray the concept as science.

''Intelligent design is a half-baked idea that's being considered alongside real science,'' said Folger, a 1978 Falmouth High School graduate who played hockey and football there. ''It's dressed up creationism. It's the new medium being pushed at the state and local level very hard.''

Folger said I.D. is more insidious, however, because it attempts to camouflage its religious roots - that a greater entity or power created life on Earth, not a series of chemical and biological processes.

''Is it affecting the science we do right now? No. But it will affect how science is done if they (I.D. proponents) can influence people's understanding of how science works.''

WHOI so far has not seen a drop in federal funding for research because of faith-based politics, said Shelley M. Dawicki, the institution's director of public and community relations.

''We have no evidence of that at this point. It hasn't happened, but it's something we're aware of,'' she said, noting that WHOI receives about 75 percent of its funding from federal sources, including the National Science Foundation.

'Speak up for science'

''Volcanoes'' cost about $8 million to produce and more than three years to film. Sponsors included Rutgers University and the National Science Foundation.

American Geophysical Union members recently encouraged scientists to ''speak up for science'' by voicing their opposition to plans by the Smithsonian Institution to show a pro-I.D. film.

Fred Spilhaus, American Geophysical's executive director, said the movie ''A Privileged Planet'' promotes ''creationism in the form of intelligent design.'' and fosters the idea that science should include a ''supernatural'' component.

''By associating with the Discovery Institute, the Smithsonian Institution will associate science with creationism and damage its credibility,'' Spilhaus wrote in the June 14 edition of the American Geophysical Union weekly newspaper.

The film was based on a book whose authors are affiliated with the Discovery Institute.

Dr. David G. Gallo, the director of special projects for WHOI, said he was surprised by some people's reaction to ''Volcanoes of the Deep Sea.'' An oceanographer and underwater volcano expert, he served on the film's scientific advisory board.

A Roman Catholic who once considered the priesthood, Gallo said he does not have difficulty reconciling his faith with his profession.

''I don't see a conflict in what we're doing (as scientists) and what's said in the Bible. I just think that there's no need to have this kind of conflict.''

Low, director and producer of ''Volcanoes,'' said efforts to ban the film are misguided: ''To do anything to prevent children from looking at this spectacular place is wrong.''

Editor's Note:

Creationism: God created Adam & Eve, they had sons and daughters, so how are we here? Somebody had to fuck their sister.

Intelligent Design: The world is too complicated not to have an intelligent creator. Meaning that this intelligent creator decided plate tectonics was a good idea thereby intelligently creating massive shifts in the earth's crust leading to Tsunami's that would intelligently kill 300,000 intelligently created people in a matter of hours. Yeah, real fucking intelligent.

Evolution: A change in the frequency of an allele within a gene pool. This change may be caused by a number of different mechanisms: natural selection, genetic drift or changes in population structure (gene flow). In other fields evolution is used more generally to refer to any process of change over time. Does not attempt to explain the basic question of why. No matter how much scientific evidence you develop you can always ask why. Why is left to the philosophers and the theologians.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Who is protecting who??

Check this out from Dailykos:

So, if the Washington Post story is to be believed, there are TWO sets of leaks. The first is the obvious one which everyone has focused on. But, according to this story, there was another leak, and, more importantly, a WHISTLEBLOWER within the White House.


Send President Bush Your Heartfelt Birthday Wishes!


American Imperialism comes home: Foreign Mercenaries

RALEIGH, N.C. - Stuck in the Iraqi desert, fighting a war for a country not yet his, US Army Sgt. Leopoldo Escartin and other troops at Camp Dogwood hung a bit of home outside their desert-tan tent: the tricolor Mexican flag.

Making up about 7 percent of America's active fighting force, immigrants with green cards - Mexicans the largest group among them - are risking their lives not just for advancement within the Army, but for a leg up on the road to US citizenship. As America celebrated its 229th year of independence this weekend, immigrants offered their own breed of patriotic sacrifice, and their numbers are rising even as the Army has struggled to meet recruiting goals.

Their service is steeped in pride, but also in the paradoxes of allegiance inherent in serving under a foreign flag. "If I die over there, I'm not even dying for my own country," says Sergeant Escartin, who is based at Fort Bliss, Texas.

To the public, the role of immigrant soldiers is equally complicated: Even as the nation honors their exemplary service, there is ambivalence over how big a role noncitizens should play. Even the Declaration of Independence, in its litany of complaints about England, railed against the use of "foreign mercenaries." Today, the notion that America may be, in effect, hiring foreigners to do its dirty work, is an ethical quandary exaggerated by the quiet loosening of requirements - and increasing of benefits - for immigrants who will shoulder rifles for Uncle Sam.

"There are many stories ... about young men and women who signed up knowing that they would eventually gain their citizenship, who were subsequently killed," says Charles Peña, a defense-policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute. "The question is: Was their ultimate sacrifice worthwhile?"

Recognizing the growing importance of immigrants in an Army that has struggled to meet its recruiting goals, the government is hastening citizenship for those who serve in the Armed Forces long term. There were 28,000 immigrant soldiers five years ago; that number has climbed to 39,000 today, not counting the thousands of foreign contractors hired since 9/11. So far, 59 immigrant casualties have been granted posthumous citizenship - and a new rule allows their families to use the deceased as a sponsor for their own residency papers. Even illegal immigrants who enter the forces under false pretenses have a chance at legal residency if they see combat.

"There's very few of us [Americans] ... who really want to go out and fight, and it's a smaller number today than ever in the past," says Max Boot, a defense-policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, who has proposed a foreign "Freedom Legion" that would secure citizenship for foreign nationals fighting for the US, while helping the Armed Forces meet recruitment goals. Tapping into other cultures, he says, would "help the recruiting and it would bring some great people to the United States."

Some generals say that increasing the foreign presence in American ranks could dilute troops' sense of unity and common purpose. Yet many observers say foreign volunteers tend to be exemplary in the line of duty, and units of mostly Hispanic fighters are doing some of the heavy lifting in Iraq.

"[Foreign-born fighters] identify with the ideals of the United States and they are willing to fight and protect those ideals, even before they've secured all the liberties of citizenship," says Christopher Bentley, a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman.

In part, that's because the military offers a happy end to a classic immigrant story, even as an average of two soldiers a day die overseas: Work hard, sacrifice, and let faith and toil bring their own rewards. At the same time, some parents of fallen immigrant soldiers blame their children's deaths on Army recruiters.

"There's a long tradition of immigrants helping the United States ... yet all the time not knowing where to place their allegiance," says Nestor Rodriguez, director of the Center for Immigration Research in Houston. "It's hard for parents, too, because they bring these soldiers here as young children, and when the worst thing happens, they question themselves: 'Did we do the right thing in coming here?' "

Recent naturalization ceremonies in El Paso and Atlanta included dozens of soldiers. Escartin, who emigrated from Mexico City when he was 12, became a citizen inside the El Paso convention center on Wednesday. Over 7,000 foreign-born military grunts are naturalized each year, processed through a special immigration office in Nebraska in one-fourth the time required for a regular application.

"Americans sometimes take it for granted what they've got," says Escartin. "It's all pretty much there for [American kids], and that's why we try harder, because it's not given to us."

In a country where some are skeptical of immigration, yet most are hesitant to reinstitute the draft, ethical questions abound over immigrants' role in the Army - chiefly, perhaps, the idea of dying for a flag that is not one's own, compelled by opportunities for advancement. With thousands of immigrants in Iraq and elsewhere, the US, critics say, is outsourcing its war.

Though the British still have their Nepalese Ghurkas and the French their Foreign Legion, critics say that for the US to hire more foreigners harks back to the Hessian auxiliaries who once fought American colonists on England's behalf. "It is pragmatic ... but it does reflect in the long run poorly on America to hire foreigners to do our fighting," says Charles Moskos, a sociologist at Northwestern University.

For immigrant soldiers, however, the ethical lines aren't always so clear, even as they fly flags other than the Stars and Stripes, and pass up burgers and apple pie for the comfort foods of their homeland. Mr. Bentley at the DHS says most immigrant soldiers have been in the US since they were young, have grown up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school, and have acquired the language and mannerisms of Yanks. Many already feel like Americans; citizenship only makes it official.

"I've been here for a long time, I feel like this is my home," says Spc. Hector Bolly, a Mexican national who received his citizenship in El Paso on Wednesday. "If you think about it, you'd rather be in the US than Mexico - it's a better place over here, and when you're a citizen, it's easier to become whatever you want to become."


Revolutionary Media Coverage

From Dailykos - A little too close for comfort? ~somadude

Media Reaction to Yesterday's HUGE News from Philadelphia
by BriVT
Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 06:06:03 PDT
I am OUTRAGED by the media coverage of yesterday's big news out of Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence is a really big deal, imo, but you can't even get a sense of what's in the document from the news coverage. Let's take a look at what I mean ...
First, here's the lede of a representative article from the Washington Post:
{actual media coverage below the fold}
Diaries ::
BriVT's diary :: ::
In a move termed a "last-ditch plea for relevance from a defeated insurgency" by a British Army spokesman, the Continental Congress yesterday gave final approval of a Declaration of Independence.
The document, signed by the Congressmen, provides a brief introduction followed by a litany of what the Congress terms "injuries and usurpations" by King George III.
"This really is the last gasp of a dying insurgency," said British Army spokesman Larry DiRita. "With our fleets gathering outside New York to put the final touches on their rag-tag 'Army,' the rebels decided to make one final plea for attention."
The article goes on to give conflicting reports over the situation in New York.
The New York Times article by Adam Nagourney takes a slightly different tack, focusing on the authorship of The Declaration and exploring what it means. A snippet:
While [Massachusetts representative John] Adams was the head of the committee charged with the writing of the document, credit has been flowing to Thomas Jefferson. Some see evidence of a split in the leadership of the Congress over this issue.
"Adams is just a jerk," one figure connected to the Congress asserts. "No one wanted him to have anything to do with it." Some have even claimed that Abigail Adams, John's wife, holds too much sway over the young lawyer, bombarding him with a huge number of letters. Ms. Adams even so far forgets herself in some of these letters that she comments on the actual political situation in the colonies, some officials claim on condition of anonymity.
The AP runs a Nedra Pickler story, the basic thrust of which can be seen from this one line: "When the insurgents write, 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,' they fail to mention that most of the signers of the document are actually wealthy."
CNN picks up on the Adams-Jefferson angle from the Times, devoting their full political roundtable to speculating about this split. One commenter even goes after Abigail, saying, "Women like Hillary, um, Abigail really should remember their responsibilities at home." The rest of their news coverage is focused on the story of Chandra Schiavo, the young woman from the Vermont frontier that has been missing for two weeks. They speculate breathlessly that she was abducted by Native Americans.
MSNBC devoted one small piece to the entire story, ending with the anchor saying, "While one small group signed this letter of protest, the vast majority of colonists remain patriotic." They then went back to near constant coverage of Chandra Schiavo.
Fox News, of course, is the worst of the lot. Most of the coverage focuses on the "massive armada" under General Howe's command in New York. Here's a section of HANNITY & colmes:
HANNITY: King George is tough. I don't care what anyone else may think of him or what these "continentals" list in their little document, the King will press on with what he thinks is right. And I just don't see what that little rag-tag group under Washington can do about it.
colmes: Gee, I think the Declaration is quite a nice piece of writing.
HANNITY: You would. But you gotta admit that it doesn't mean squat. King George is gonna quash them like a bug.
colmes: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
O'Reilly devoted most of his hour to the same topic of the British Army's strength and eventual victory. But at the very end, he at least had on someone in favor of the colonists, and I think his bookers made a bad choice. They tried to grab a young, inexperienced flunky for Bill to beat on, but I think fresh-faced James Madison did quite well ...
O'Reilly: Look, Madison, you and I both know that there's been no big march to tyrrany here. Let's cut the crap: King George hasn't changed the administration of the colonies much at all.
Madison: I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
O'Reilly: Look, pal, you can leave the fancy language in the salons with your other wealthy friends. I know you people have a big problem with the Stamp Act and stuff like that, but let me tell you, the Mother Country saved our butts from the French and we owe her.
Madison: If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
O'Reilly: Shut up! Shut up! Get off my set! Go back to giving a loofah rub to your nubile, attractive, young ... uh, get out of here!
So far, the columnists haven't weighed in, although Bob Novak does have a column about the War. In it, he claims that a "Nathan Hale" is actually a spy working behind British lines in New York. This has caused a lot of speculation on where he got his information, with early rumors pointing to a General Arnold. Well, let's hope young Mr. Hale gets through this safe, anyway!
Finally, there are a couple of articles that take a more substantial look. Knight-Ridder newspapers run a story taking a closer look at the importance of the document:
In a document that has the potential to shake the foundations of the world's conception of government, the Continental Congress took the radical step of declaring the Colonies independence from Great Britain. This bold step immediately transforms the conflict from a simple rebellion over taxes into a revolution in human thought and governance.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," the document states. These radical phrases completely reverse traditional views of government, replacing the view that legitimacy of action comes from the King's consent with one where the legitimacy of government flows from the people's consent.
And in the Washington Post, Walter Pincus writes on some alternative views on how this event effects the prospects of British victory.
A few middle-level staffers in the British colonial government warn that the step taken yesterday great complicates the task faced by Britain.
"The people upstairs don't seem to realize this, but we are now faced with a revolutionary people fighting for an ideal. This kind of idea can't be defeated simply by a huge armada in Long Island Sound."
Other analysts point out the vast geography of the colonies and the relative lack of city-based infrastructure.
"Sure, we could take New York, and then we could take Philadelphia. I have no doubt about that. But the Colonial Army could just melt away and hit us when they want. They don't need the cities. And if they last long enough, they could get French help, and then it's ... well, I just don't see this ending well."
The story ran on page A18.
So, there you have it. Except for a little bit by Pincus buried in the Post and a few Knight-Ridder newspapers sprinkled across the land, I doubt anyone got much of an idea about what really happened yesterday.
But I'm sure they all know about Chandra Schiavo's plight and the grief of her family.


KARL ROVE: TRAITOR. Also known as Bush's Brain.

July 7, 2005

The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write in order to urge that you require your Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, to either come forward immediately to explain his role in the Valerie Plame matter or to resign from your Administration.

Notwithstanding whether Mr. Rove intentionally violated the law in leaking information concerning former CIA operative Valerie Plame, we believe it is not tenable to maintain Mr. Rove as one of your most important advisors unless he is willing to explain his central role in using the power and authority of your Administration to disseminate information regarding Ms. Plame and to undermine her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

We now know that e-mails recently turned over by Time, Inc. between writer Matthew Cooper and Time editors reveal that one of Mr. Cooper’s principal sources in the Plame matter was Mr. Rove. This has been confirmed by Newsweek and two lawyers representing witnesses involved in the investigation. Mr. Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, also has confirmed that Mr. Rove was interviewed by Mr. Cooper in connection with a possible article about Ms. Plame three or four days before Robert Novak wrote a column outing Ms. Plame as a CIA operative.

We also know that Mr. Rove told Chris Matthews that Ambassador Wilson’s wife and her undercover status were “fair game.” A White House source also appears to have previously acknowledged that Mr. Rove contacted Mr. Matthews and other journalists, indicating that “it was reasonable to discuss who sent Wilson to Niger.”

The above facts appear to be directly inconsistent with previous statements by you and representatives of your Administration concerning leaking in general and the Plame case in particular. For example, on September 30, 2003, you stated “there’s just too many leaks [in Washington]. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.” You also stated “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.” On October 10, 2003, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked if Mr. Rove or two other aides in your Administration had ever discussed the Plame matter with any reporter, and he stated he had spoken to Mr. Rove and the others and “they assured me that they were not involved in this.”

Regardless of whether these actions violate the law – including specific laws against the disclosure of classified information as well as broader laws against obstruction of justice, the negligent distribution of defense information, and obligating reporting of press leaks to proper authorities – they seem to reveal a course of conduct designed to threaten and intimidate those who provide information critical of your Administration, such as Ambassador Wilson.

We hope you agree with us that such behavior should never be tolerated by any Administration. While it is acceptable for a private citizen to use every legal tool at his or her disposal to protect himself against legal liability, high-ranking members of your Administration who are involved in any effort to smear a private citizen or to disseminate information regarding a CIA operative should be expected to meet a far higher standard of ethical behavior and forthrightness. This is why we believe it is so important that Mr. Rove publicly and fully explain his role in this matter.


The American People

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Journalist killed after investigating US-backed death squads in Iraq

On June 24, Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, was killed by a single bullet to the head as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. It is believed that the shot was fired by an American sniper. According to eyewitnesses, no warning shots were fired.


Rove named Source of Plame leak

Rove is getting ready to go down in flames. The Valerie Plame affair is tied to the Downing Street Memos and Rove has been named the source of the leak.

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